Niall Carew: I don't miss the stress of it

17 June 2017; Sligo manager Niall Carew during the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Round 1A match between Sligo and Antrim at Markievicz Park in Sligo. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile


Niall Carew doesn’t miss the stress of being Sligo manager on weeks such as this.

Yes, he loved all the on-field work, which he now gets with Palatine in Carlow, but it’s everything away from the sod that broke his heart. Running around tying up one loose end while another was working itself open, it took a toll.

The Kildare native spent three years in charge of the Yeats County, and inter-county is a different beast when it comes to commitment levels and the juggling of plates.

One year ago, Carew was trying to prepare for a trip to New York, and received a big fright before winning by eight points, whereas this year it’s Cathal Corey leading the side into their clash with London at Ruislip.

“I don't miss it, number one,” says Carew. “I suppose the stress of it; this time last year we were getting ready to go to New York and the stress of that building up to that game, making sure everything was spot on, because you're responsible for everything that happens on and off the field.

“So, if anything goes wrong in terms of going to airports and things like that, it's very stressful. When you're training lads on the field, you're in full control, but once you're depending on other people to do x, y and z, the fear and stress of that is too much for an amateur organisation. It's not a full-time job.

“So, for that reason I don't miss the idea of going to London, but of course I miss the whole thing of the build-up and lure of the championship and trying to get everything right on the opposition. And making sure you’ve everything nailed going into it. If there wasn't the other side of it and it was just the football, then that would be great. I don't miss the other side of it.”

That brings us to a crazy situation that occurred before last season. A chain of events led to Carew taking a helicopter to their subsequent Connacht quarter-final clash with Mayo at Castlebar. He had been at Cooleragh Church in Naas attending his son Paidi's First Holy Communion on the morning of the game, but then had to take to the skies to meet the Sligo team.

Originally, they had organised with the priest moving the Holy Communion as it was on during the Big Apple trip, but then the next game was put on two weeks later rather than three. Again, it clashed.

“There was a myth out there that some big businessman or the county board paid for it, but I paid for that myself, every cent of it," Carew says of the helicopter. "But look, I had to be there when we were meeting at 11:30, and the only way I could do that was to get a helicopter across.

“That came up to about three grand. There was no one queuing up outside my door to give me that money, so that just came out of my expenses, and that was my own money. I might as well to clear up the mess that was out there: I paid every cent myself.

“So, you do things like that and you talk to any county manager...I heard Oisin McConville saying there are managers out there making between €80,000 and €100,000. I'd love to meet one of them because every manager out there is losing money. We get all the expenses and Sligo were very good to me, and my expenses would have been big because I was coming over from Kildare, but they were all legitimate expenses and that's what I got.”


Carew explains the myriad outgoings that teams have, and often the huge payment figures being mentioned actually go toward those. Be it training camps, physios, doctors, food, physical coaches, and so on. So peeved was he by the rumours out there, that for two years the Kildare man penned a column for the Sligo Champion.

It’s something he really enjoyed: “I was giving a true reflection of what was going on and it meant then that we were giving out facts rather than fiction, and that was it.”

“No, I wouldn't have the stomach for it,” he says of going back to inter-county management. “I'm actually training a team in Carlow called Palatine and it's so refreshing. Club football is exactly what it says on the tin.

“There's no microphone shoved under your nose after every game,” he adds. “You could be driving home after a National League game wondering 'jaysus what did I say to the media?', because you know it's going to be plastered all over the internet if you said something you shouldn't have. You might give out about a referee or a decision, or give out about the county board or say something, because straight after a game when you've 10 microphones shoved under your mouth... that, I don't miss.”

Ultimately, we come back to the part he does enjoy, the leather and the grass. His former charges have a trip to Ruislip this weekend, which they’ll be expected to win, and then it’s a meeting with big guns Galway or Mayo.

“Do Sligo have the same quality as Mayo? No, they don't. They don't have a half-back like Lee Keegan who can drive up the field and score 1-2. Obviously, Mayo is four times bigger than Sligo and then Sligo have Connacht rugby and Sligo Rovers to compete with there, so really their playing population... I'd say Mayo could have six or seven times more players.

“That's the hand that the likes of Sligo have been dealt with. On any given day, they can compete with them, but whether they can beat them is another thing. If you can compete then you have a chance of winning, just a chance. If you stop competing against your Galways and Mayos, then you're never going to learn, which is why I'm totally against a ‘B’ championship.

“Sligo are not too bad and on their day, I feel they can compete against anyone,” Carew concludes. “But when they're not on their today, like any Division 2 or 3 team, they can be beaten. If Sligo don’t perform (against London) it could be nervous for them, but I think they've too many experienced players not to win.”