BACK IN ACTION Tom Parsons is pictured after coming on for Mayo against Dublin in Saturday’s All-Ireland SFC semi-final at Croke Park. Pic: Sportsfile
FORMER Mayo footballer Kevin McStay has hailed ‘the honesty and bravery’ of the current team’s veterans who may decide to call time on their inter-county careers in the wake of last weekend’s defeat to Dublin.
Speaking on this week’s Mayo News Football Podcast, McStay said he expects a number of players to retire during the coming weeks and months given the long service they have given to the Mayo jersey.
The RTÉ analyst said that James Horan will now have to oversee a ‘rebuild’ of the team over his remaining three years in charge but added that the season just ended has yielded a plethora of positives for Horan, his players and supporters.
“That day we had in Croke Park, when Mayo won the National League, was brilliant. It was great to see Mayo win a national title, especially for this group. Imagine if they hadn’t?
“And we’re now looking at the possible departure of six or seven of them, and they had no national medal to their credit?
“They deserved that, and many other accolades. But they came along at a time when probably the greatest team of all time crossed their path. So I would say, it was great to win the league.
“Giving out eight championship debuts, using 32 players, retaining Division 1 status, James [Horan] is lined up for three more years, so that’s good continuity — he’ll have to start the rebuild now.
“There’s a lot of positives, but if I was to pick a hole in the positivity, it’s that the players who are likely to depart, or many of them, were the ones that a lot of these great big days were built with.
“I’m talking about Colm Boyle, David Clarke, Keith Higgins, Andy Moran, all those sort of players. They were the ones that made the massive contributions when these games were in the fire.
“It will take a while for us to see the likes again of some of the players who will be waving goodbye. Because they were heroic, there was huge honesty and bravery at all times. That was the one thing that marked them different to a lot of the Mayo teams I saw over the years. “Whatever they had they gave it for the colours, which is a lovely thing to say about a team.
“I would say that everybody who walks away from this group will be able to put their bag on their back, walk out the door of the dressing-room, and say, ‘I gave this everything I had’.”
The Ballina native, who won an All Star award in 1985, also paid tribute to Tom Parsons for ‘the resilience and willpower’ he has shown to battle back from a career-threatening leg injury. McStay was also keen to acknowledge James Horan’s decision to bring Parsons on for the closing stages of last Saturday’s game.
“I don’t want to sound alarmist, but I remember thinking when I saw that injury to Tom last year: ‘will that lad ever walk again?’ I had this thing in my head, that he’ll do well for that leg to ever be in its rightful place again.
“And to think that through his own resilience and willpower, and that of his medical team, and I suppose when it’s boiled down, and this is the lovely thing about that team, his love of putting on the Green and Red. And getting the feeling of playing for Mayo again drove him on over the 12 months to come out here today. It was hugely appropriate.
“And I would say to James, ‘well done’. There’s isn’t much sentiment left in Gaelic football these days, and Tom certainly wasn’t going to turn the match around [when he came on].
“But for him personally, and his family, for the Mayo supporters to get a chance to salute it, that was great. That was a lovely gesture from James Horan and the management team.”