It's difficult to admit it but we sometimes get over-excited about football matters in this county. Indeed, it might be a sobering exercise to take a step back and ask yourself a straight-forward question: other than idle conversation and general gossip.
Are the people of Mayo truly interested in Gaelic football? As committed as we sometimes profess? I often get the sense we overstate our passion for the game, our desire to win the big prize, our commitment to excellence because the truth is we consistently make decisions that fly in the face of any type of plan, any class of a vision or even a sketch on the back of a cigarette box.
I got some big hits from readers concerning some of my analysis post the All-Ireland final. They were unhappy with the tone and suggested a more considered approach based on the idea that winning the title this year was beyond us. That we were not ready to win one just yet. I will return to that mailbag before the Christmas, as I am willing to listen to other angles. But the angle appeared a little defeatist to me. So, this week we will need to apply some smelling salts if the discussion is to go anywhere.
So, this team is not yet ready to win an All Ireland? We had five players in the twilight zone (football wise) and many others with a 2004 All-Ireland appearance under their belt. Did the senior team have a single rookie this year? One at most and the departure of John Morrison last week underlines this reality. When a seasoned team (football wise) gets hammered in a major final there is no hiding ground and the idea that management can return to a cold dressing room in early November and attempt to turn this reality around is nonsense.
As a football person, I feel sorry for management and the situation they now find themselves in. Other than win the cup, what more could they do? Readers of this column well remember a conclusion stated here many years ago: post John Maughan and his exploits of 1996/1997 the only win that matters for any new supremo is the ‘Big W’ – Sam Maguire or bust.
Some home truths then. As I write, we are today (Sunday, October 15) 28 days on from the trauma of defeat to Kerry. It is true to say that those tasked with reappointing the management, or otherwise, have yet to talk in any depth whatsoever to the present holders. Can you believe that? The county Chairman must take the rap here; the best he could come up with mid last week was a commitment to talk to Mickey in the next few days. Why did he not say the next few hours? Why did nobody insist on that? An excuse about a Special Congress was used. Did everybody have to go to it? Ever heard of a proxy vote?
Last Monday’s County Board effort at analysis made me smile. I once was that soldier (September, 1996 when I was marched straight into a minefield by our colourful Chairman of the time) and to bear the brunt of a runaway room of delegates is not a nice evening. A set-up? Your call.
But the fact is a meeting was called to review, among other items on the agenda, the current senior management. Imagine a boardroom facing their shareholders on the appointment of the Chief Operations Manager without having had in-depth meetings/discussions with him?
Today we know the family is breaking up and Mickey Moran’s position is untenable. I will be very surprised if he stays beyond Tuesday evening. The question then will be about who will get the kids.
I noted during the week that one commentator insisted that the three components of a senior football set-up (the players, the management and the County Board) must all row in the one direction if success is to be attained. And this is very true.
But it is not correct to say the only component at risk when matters go pear-shaped is the management. Officials and players can be stood down too if enough people feel that is the appropriate action to take. In Mayo, we all talk a great talk but stand back as the same old routines are repeated.
So, we get the team and the set-up we vote for. Or not. We seem to know everything that is wrong but few will come forward with what is good, what can be better and what must change now. Immediately. A master plan.
After all the disappointments and cock-ups of the last ten or fifteen years, one is surprised the Board has not convened with simple terms of reference a deep-rooted examination of football in the county at all levels. A white paper if you will. And make three immediate appointments: a full-time Secretary, a full-time Director of Football and a full-time fund raiser. Why do we not have a County GAA Lotto?
Last Monday’s meeting was a new low in the matter of football philosophy; coaching guidelines were announced that in years gone by would have meant some players never got beyond the start line. I guess the careers of Johnny Giles, Peter Canavan, Martin McHugh, Brian O’Driscoll and others would come under the stillborn category.
Well if it’s late autumn, we will probably be on the look-out for yet another new manager. How many is that now in the last ten years? Three-year contracts and all that? Do you know there is no such thing as the contract, no paper, no signing-on ceremony? Just have a lash and the whims of others will decide at the one-year review. Now there’s a plan.
But one matter is for sure, it appears we do not take easily to men from outside our border with some of the most high-profile controversies coming under periods of external command. So, it really should be a local this time, better for everybody all round. That would be a start. But without a supporting structure, it is an almost impossible appointment to succeed in.
A question of sport in Ros’
Last week we described a scene from the final minutes of the Roscommon senior final and posed a question concerning the rule. St. Brigid’s had put on a sub on (Senan Kilbride) near the end of the game and as he took up his position, the player coming-off (Garvin Dolan, but NOT yet off the field of play), struck an opponent. Dolan got an immediate straight red.
What happened then? The referee ordered Kilbride off also to ensure Brigid’s would only have 14 players. Correct decision?
No! As the substitution was complete once the fourth official was in receipt of the substitution slip and the player had entered the field of play, he should have been allowed to stay on.
Pose a question: ‘what wrong did Senan Kilbride do? Nothing, of course, but the problem arose when the sideline officials allowed Kilbride on without Dolan being off the pitch. Our soccer friends are ahead of us in this regard.