TEAM EFFORT Mayo Under-17 selector Kevin Filan (centre) is pictured with manager Tom Morley (left) and fellow selectors Fergal Kelly and Kieran Lavelle. Absent from the photo are Tom Mulderrig and Paul Cunney. Pic: Michael Donnelly
Kevin Filan says Mayo’s minor management learned a lot last year
OVER 120 footballers tried out for a place on the Mayo minor squad this year, with manager Tom Morley and his backroom team whittling their championship panel down to 31 players ahead of next Friday evening’s Connacht Under-17 championship opener against Leitrim.
Morley and his selectors decided — ‘as an experiment’ — to work with a group of 90 lads and split that into three sub-groups of 30 – which they named ‘Development One’, ‘Development Two’ and ‘Development Three’.
‘Development One’ were the main squad who they felt had all the requirements to push for a starting championship position; ‘Development Two’ was a development panel who trained together until the early stages of 2019, with six of those players ultimately kept on as part of the main group; while ‘Development Three’ were footballers who were unlikely to make the final cut, but the Mayo management team felt they would benefit from the experience of an inter-county set-up.
“It was something that Tom [Morley] wanted to do to develop the younger guys” selector Kevin Filan told The Mayo News. “It was only an experiment, but we felt it really worked this year. We have a panel of around 31/32 guys now, while last year we had 36 at this stage, but we felt we had too many.
“What we did this year, and because of the set-up last year, where I was doing a bit with the under-16s, and another lad with the under-14s, we knew the players that were coming up and had a better sense of them.
“In January we decided on our 26, and we cut ‘Development Two’ down to around 10 players and it’s probably down to six now. They were coming in for games, training sessions and stuff like that and we feel it worked because we have three or four from that 10 who are now in the main group.”
Filan, who works alongside fellow selectors Fergal Kelly, Kieran Lavelle, Paul Cunney and Tom Mulgerrig, is enjoying his second season in Tom Morley’s coaching team.
He admits that they all learnt a lot from last year’s disappointing Connacht championship campaign, and says they felt they needed ‘nine or 10 lads’ nailed down on their starting team ahead of their first championship game this time around.
“We definitely learned from last year, mainly that it’s very hard to carry 36 lads – from a coaching commitment it’s more difficult,” he said.
“We found there was a big disappointment from the lads who didn’t tog out on match day.
“We’d bring them into the dressing room for 10 minutes before the game, but then there was a situation where they’d have to go back to the stands and that’s difficult, but we’d spent a lot of energy around the lads not togging.
“You were always debating who to leave out and who not to leave out and we wanted to make sure that everyone who togged out had a chance of playing, so we could have nine or 10 lads nailed down for starting positions.”
Filan also revealed that the Mayo squad spent time on Clare Island recently for a team-building weekend, to develop their character and provide them with an alternative perspective about what it means to play for Mayo.
“A big thing of what we’re trying to do is to show the lads what it means to be from Mayo and to play for Mayo,” he said. “It was also to show the lads what the people of Clare Island have to do to play football and support Mayo.
“These people on Clare Island have been trying to do so much down through the years, rowing boats across to the mainland just to play football and support Mayo, so it puts it into perspective for the lads.
“We camped out on the football pitch, the weather was atrocious, but it was a great weekend and we saw different leadership qualities in lads that you didn’t expect to see. Lads who would run around the pitch and not talk much, these guys really stepped up.”