FOR the umpteenth time - and certainly not the last time - the main talking point in the county this past week has been the management of the Mayo senior football team. Why did Mickey Moran go? Why did the county board not make efforts - at least more obvious ones - to keep him? Who will take over? And, most pertinently of all, who would want to take over this team?
The answer to the first question is relatively straightforward, though it may have two separate parts. Mickey Moran may have decided that, out of personal pride, he had to depart. After a 14-point drubbing in an All-Ireland Final, and a performance that lacked heart and left little hope, he may have deemed his position untenable. Would he have had the respect of the players, the goodwill of the fans or the backing of the county board, he may have asked himself - and may have concluded that the responses to all three were in the negative.
Or he may have been pushed. The sentiments expressed by many delegates at the county board meeting two weeks ago more than hinted at a vote of no confidence in the Derryman and his style of management. Which probably answers the second question. The county board officials did nothing to offer an alternative view or to dissuade the delegates from holding their negative opinion of Moran, probably because it suited them to have negative comments from the floor. They had lost faith in their man, but letting him go was easier to do once they knew that’s what the grassroots wanted.
Contrast that to the show of support for John Maughan when he faced the troops on the ground in a county board forum after the debacle that was his team’s defeat in the 2004 final. Back then, Maughan attended the meeting and addressed the delegates - and he received their blessing to remain at the helm. It was all done and dusted with a spectacular - and rare - display of efficiency. Had the county board officials not wanted Maughan to remain on, would they have allowed him that platform one wonders.
If one didn’t know better, one might be tempted to suggest that the delegates’ views are sought rather selectively, when the board knows the outcome it wants. One might even be so bold as to go a step further and wonder if the delegates are used at times to absorb the negativity that might attach to difficult decisions if the officials made such decisions on their own.
In any case, Mickey Moran, and his family values, is now another chapter in Mayo football’s funless history. And there can be no doubt that the merit of him remaining on had to be questioned. He has to shoulder much of the blame for what happened on September 17. It had to be asked if there was anywhere left for him to go with the players after such a disastrous year end. But the county board should have met with the management team before they did (or the management team should have endeavoured to meet with the board). And the county board should have told them their bottom line as soon as they decided on it.
Nobody has benefitted from the delay or the uncertainty that always seems to surround managerial change-overs in this county. Not least the prospective successors to Mickey Moran. In seeking to answer the question: who will take over, one is immediately faced with the ‘who would want to’ puzzler. There are many good reasons to take it: pure love of Mayo, the desire to be a history-maker, the challenge of finally making that breakthrough, the lure of the immortality it would bring. But there is an equal number of compelling reasons not to take it: the huge weight of expectation, the impatience of the people after so many unfulfilled promises and the quality of the players. And, of course, the questionable nature of the county board’s loyalty. There are many good people on the board, and their commitment to Mayo football is great, but displaying the courage of their convictions openly on a more regular basis would gain them more trust. And make the job of appointing managers - the ones who shoulder the dreams of the entire county - a little easier for everyone.