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Who really benefits from Holmes/Connelly interview?

Sport

BIG SPLASH A general view of the Irish Independent pages last Saturday carrying an exclusive interview with Mayo’s former joint managers.

Last Saturday’s interview with Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly failed to address some key issues

Opinion
Edwin McGreal

THERE are so many matters arising from Saturday’s sensational interview with Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly in the Irish Independent that it’s hard to know where to start.
But we’ll start with this – despite what Pat Holmes says early on in the interview, a 5,000-word ‘tell-all’ exposé in Ireland’s biggest-selling national newspaper is certainly not ‘in the best interests’ of Mayo football.
Revealing the inner workings of a dressing-room makes for great copy in a very sterile modern sporting environment, but it’s a code of honour that players and managers rarely break … and with good reason.
It can be extremely destructive for ‘in-camp’ material to be ‘out there’, and any issues that are there are issues for the management to deal with.
It was Holmes and Connelly in 2015, it’s Stephen Rochford now.
That said, it’s easy to see why Holmes and Connelly spoke out. They are still, clearly, hurting and angry from what happened last year, and nobody should attempt to argue that they should not be hurting. They are entitled to explain their version of events, but some of the confidences betrayed in this interview went beyond getting their side of the story out and seemed more about score-settling with particular players.
You would need almost 5,000 words to analyse all the content of the interview in full. Maybe, after they retire, some players will give their account of things. Certainly some of the stories told by Holmes and Connelly are in dispute. But I don’t think we need a ‘he said, she said’ drama right now either.
However, certain comments appear designed to effect maximum damage.
The former joint managers told Martin Breheny that Seamie O’Shea asked that Rob Hennelly, rather than David Clarke, get the goalkeeping slot as he preferred Hennelly’s kick-outs.
Only a fool could not see the inference, in light of Stephen Rochford’s selection of Hennelly for this year’s All-Ireland final replay and wild talk in the aftermath about certain players ‘picking the team’. It’s ridiculous enough that such nonsense continues to get traction, but that reference appeared designed to exploit that.
The criticism of Alan Dillon being angry he was not picked to start stands up to little scrutiny. Should a player be in a squad if he is happy to sit on the bench?
In fact, one of the criticisms of Holmes and Connelly in the immediate aftermath of the Dublin games was their failure to utilise Dillon for a single second of either game. It still beggars belief over a year later.
And that’s part of what we find bizarre in the interview – how Holmes and Connelly fail to self-examine, the very thing they criticise the players for not doing?
That Mayo’s failure to win the All-Ireland in 2015 is down solely to the players is a constant theme in the interview, from the get-go.
And lazy analysis from some would argue a Mayo team who have failed to win the All-Ireland in recent years have only themselves to blame.
It’s true that the players have been accountable in many ways.
But do you really think a group who brought Mayo back from the abyss of Longford in 2010 would really still be so close to the top, year on year, if they were not capable of looking inwards?
It is, I suspect, a lack of sufficient quality in attack, rather than any particular character defects on the part of the group, which have denied them the holy grail.
It’s sad that many people only register success and progress in All-Ireland medals.
Mayo, clearly, fall short in such analysis.
The reality is no group of Mayo players since 1951, including the teams that Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly played on, have been as consistent at this group.
Going the extra yard still eludes Mayo, but we’re not sure how Holmes and Connelly can lecture here. They do so sounding like men who have All-Ireland medals in their back pocket. The teams they played on fell agonisingly short too.
Should we lambast their lack of ultimate success too? Not in this writer’s opinion, but that’s what the former joint managers seek to do now of this current group.
The basic defence of Holmes and Connelly is that the team they managed got to an All-Ireland semi-final against Dublin, and only lost after a replay, and that it was the players who lost that game, when four points up, not the management.
The players certainly were very accountable for that loss. Closing out games has been an issue for this Mayo team far too often, and it is something we’ve flagged on these pages many times.
But the inference in looking at 2015 that way is that the management brought the team as far as they could and the players themselves could not get over the line.
It’s as if Holmes and Connelly took Mayo from obscurity to an All-Ireland semi-final.
The reality is they took over a team who were driven, were within touching distance, and would have been very confident at the start of the season of their chances of going all the way. There was little surprise about Mayo’s progress in 2015.
The article also refers to the notes on opposition player analysis left behind in the hotel before the drawn game with Dublin, and suggests that management should not be blamed as it was a player who left them behind.
We feel that misses the point; what is bad about that particular episode is not who left them behind, but some of the content of the notes (which The Mayo News has seen).

Losing the dressing-room
A LOT of us have been in dressing-rooms over the years where there are issues with management. Dissatisfaction might not be simply down to a ‘big bang’ moment that can crystalise the situation perfectly for outside eyes.
It could be simply that the manager or management is good without being great, is not overly impressive when talking to the group, is not on the same page as the players in terms of standards. Or maybe things just don’t gel.
The season over, the players had to look back on 2015 in totality.
We would be absolutely amazed if they failed to recognise where they, themselves, fell short.
But if there was a lack of sufficient faith in the management – a vote of 27-7 of no confidence clearly illustrates this – then the players obviously felt they had to act.
Holmes and Connelly infer that a group of senior players almost press-ganged the squad into siding with them.
This inference is an insult to leaders like Colm Boyle, Ger Cafferkey, Donie Vaughan, David Clarke and Diarmuid O’Connor, to name just five.
The unpalatable truth is that 80 per cent of the squad voted no confidence in Holmes and Connelly. The following year the players came within a kick of a ball of going all the way, as has been in the case in other years too. The players’ high level of performance have been the constant in recent years.
They know more than anyone the steps they have to take to win that elusive All-Ireland.

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