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Mayo need their own training base


TRAINING GROUND MOVES Mayo goalkeeper Rob Hennelly is pictured warming-up with selector and goalkeeping coach, Peter Burke, before an FBD League match in Roscommon in January. Pic: Sportsfile

Talking Tactics

Billy Joe Padden

THE last time I remember being involved with a team when a whole load of games were called off was back in 2001, the year of ‘Foot and Mouth’.
I was playing with UCG in the Sigerson Cup and it was a real mess at the time when those matches were pulled. But, in fairness, life was a lot less structured during those student days and it was a good excuse to go to the pub!
It would have been a very different story for all the inter-county teams who saw their games postponed last weekend due to the bad weather.
Take the Mayo players, for example, who would have just moved seamlessly from a weekend in Kildare for a league match to a training weekend instead.
They’re so focussed that if they had ‘a snow day’ off work last week, they’ll probably have hit the gym instead. They’d have been chomping at the bit to use the time wisely.
This squad has so much experience and knowledge in their ranks that they would have calculated very quickly that an extra week to get ready for Kildare is a good thing. It’s an extra week to get work done, get better, get stronger.
For a guy like Tom Parsons it’s a chance to catch up, and for Cillian O’Connor an opportunity to work on whatever tweaks and improvements he can find.
Hopefully Stephen Rochford will have got the players on to a pitch over the weekend to get some tactical stuff done, but even an astro turf would have allowed him to get some good skills work and conditioning work done.
With no game to analyse this week, the whole issue of pitches for Mayo to train on at this time of year is something that I feel is worthy of further discussion.
Over the last few weeks Mayo have been going between Bekan, Leitrim and Mullingar for their midweek sessions as Rochford tries to get his entire squad in the same place at the same time.
The bad weather has made the difficult job trying to get pitches even harder for Mayo and, the more I think about it, the more unacceptable it is really for an elite team that have come so close to winning an All-Ireland.
A solution needs to be found fast. Mayo GAA teams need their own patch where all the various groups can train on their own terms, and get the work done that will allow them to be the best they can be on game-day.
The County Board are still paying back the MacHale Park redevelopment, and those repayments are no joke, but we know they are also planning to build a Centre of Excellence as soon as they can get everything in order.
The likes of Meath, Tyrone, Louth, Monaghan, Sligo and Galway all have their own all-weather training bases with pitches, gyms, meeting rooms and so on.
That allows them to train when they want, get their medical work done, their gym sessions in, and eat their meals in an environment they can control.
To think that Mayo ended up training in Leitrim a few nights before they played the All-Ireland champions is a reminder of how badly they need their own all-weather set-up in a suitable location, near the good roads to Dublin.
I’d imagine somewhere in the general Castlebar area would be the ideal location, but wherever it is, it has to happen sooner rather than later.
I can only imagine the logistical nightmare it must be to find pitches for the Mayo footballers and hurlers, plus underage teams, at this time of the season.
For Stephen Rochford, with so many players based in Dublin, it’s a totally unnecessary headache, something he shouldn’t have to think about.
I think we’d all agree, he has enough to be going on with it. 

Coaching plan must develop players
ALL of us with an interest in Mayo GAA will be watching with great interest to see what becomes of ‘The Mayo Way’ coaching plan that was launched last week.
I only wish something like this didn’t get off the ground fifteen years ago as the Mayo senior squad could do with the arrival of a few young, gifted players soon.
I really believe that getting past players involved with underage coaching is a big step in the right direction, but this coaching plan will need people to drive it.
I see the 37 recommendations in the plan as being a manual for Mayo GAA, a methodology, but the document has to be ‘live’, something that can change and adapt as time goes on.
If I was living in Mayo I’d love to get involved, especially with elite level players.
I know from my own experiences that there is so much to learn from the age of 12 to when you finally hang up your Mayo jersey for the last time.
It’s so important to have people who can point you in the right direction.
Young lads can get conflicting messages; when you’re starting secondary school you want to play for Mayo and maybe go on to college.
But your club manager might just want you to win a county under-14 championship.
If you want to develop, and become a really top player, you need to be self-critical, be able to take criticism, take it on board, and improve as you go along.
Academies at soccer clubs in England don’t judge themselves on winning Youth FA Cups or leagues, they judge themselves on player development. On getting young players ready to play for their first teams.
So for Mayo GAA academies, the objective needs to be to find the next Cillian O’Connor or Lee Keegan.
We don’t know if this coaching plan will succeed where others have failed, but knowing Liam Moffatt, the new Mayo GAA Coaching Officer, it’s in good hands.

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