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‘The Mayo Way’ coaching plan to ‘integrate not separate’


COMMITMENT Mike Connelly. Pic: Conor McKeown


Mike Finnerty

More than eight months of painstaking work came to fruition last week when the recommendations of ‘The Mayo Way’ — Mayo GAA’s coaching plan for 2018 to 2023’ was presented to club delegates at a County Board meeting in Castlebar.
At first glance it’s an impressive, ambitious and extremely well-thought out document, consisting of 37 key recommendations that are designed to ensure that Mayo GAA follows best practice in everything they do in relation to coaching for clubs, schools and county teams.
More than 40 people were involved in its creation, many of whom are operating at the elite level in high performance sport when it comes to coaching and training individuals and teams. Others are among the best Mayo footballers ever to wear the county jersey.
Liam Moffatt (Chairman of the Mayo GAA Coaching and Games committee) has assembled an impressive group of former Mayo players to help drive ‘The Mayo Way’ project with Austin O’Malley (Academy Manager), Alan Dillon (Player Pathway Lead), and Kevin O’Neill (Club Coaching Lead) all joining his committee.
Others like David Heaney and Maurice Sheridan will be part of the coaching team that helps to shape the next generation of future Mayo footballers.
At long last, Mayo GAA have tapped into the benefit of their ex-players’ experiences.
By all accounts, Liam Moffatt’s presentation to delegates last Monday evening was as detailed as it was straightforward.
He cut to the chase.
Moffatt won an All-Ireland club medal with Crossmolina, played in two All-Ireland Under-21 Finals with Mayo, experienced Sigerson Cup tournaments with UCG, and lined out with the Mayo senior team too.
Since retiring, he has become one of the country’s most respected physiotherapists, is a qualified coach, and specialises in the area of injury prevention.
In essence, he knows what’s he talking about.
Out of everything he said last week, one sentence caught our eye.
“The ethos we are looking at is more inclusion than exclusion” he told delegates, “We want to integrate, not separate.”
Or to put it another way, united we stand, divided we fall.
There is no doubt that previous efforts to establish similar coaching programmes, player pathways and academies for young Mayo footballers fell down because of a lack of commitment,  support and vision from Mayo GAA’s top table at the time.
We can recall three such initiatives that were put together by some of the best and brightest minds in coaching in the country, launched with the best of intentions, and subsequently failed to get off the ground. For one reason or another.
The only way that ‘The Mayo Way’ will be different is if there is ‘follow through’ from the County Board from this day forward.
Week after week, month after month, year after year.
We know that the current Mayo GAA chairman, Mike Connelly, is a passionate believer in this latest coaching plan and he has invested a huge amount of time, energy and personal effort to drive it forward since early last summer.
He has been at the coalface since the idea was first floated, thrown his weight behind it, and been involved in everything from picking the name (‘The Mayo Way’) to signing off on the personnel who pulled it all together.
He is to be commended for his hard work and perseverance.
Connelly’s commitment to this coaching plan, allied to the calibre of people who have contributed to its content, and the quality of people who will be involved in its execution, make us think that this time it will be different.
This time things are going to change.
We couldn’t think of a better man for the job of Academy Manager than Austin O’Malley from Louisburgh, while the likes of Kevin O’Neill and Alan Dillon will command nothing but respect when they sit down opposite the Mayo seniors of the future.
The same goes for the scores of other people who have signed up to play their part in making Mayo footballers the best they can be.
“We want people to work together, but that ultimately leads to execution and review,” Liam Moffatt told delegates last week.
“The best stand in the world can look great on PowerPoint, but if you don’t execute it, stress test it, and find faults then it’s useless. “And we will review it.”
You can be assured he meant it.

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