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Action required Mayo County Board

Sean Rice
Sean Rice

Action required from county board

JOHN O’Mahony is irrefutable proof that no remedy for Mayo’s limitations, however seductive, lies round the corner. Four years or so ago when he took charge we asked what if . . . what if his appointment failed to fulfil our aspirations?
If O’Mahony can’t bridge the 60-years-old gap, who can?
There was a hint of desperation in the quaestion. Universally welcome though it was, you could not escape the feeling that a certain finality accompanied O’Mahony’s appointment.  If the best coach available could not lead Mayo on the golden road to glory no one could. That seemed to be the stark reality.
Thus we commenced with him a journey on a tightrope of expectation. We asked for patience as he set to work. But three years on we began to lose faith as the manager’s coaching skills became entangled in a heap of political obligations. The Johnno we got was not the Johnno we expected.
Unrest among the masses was inevitable.
In the light of his resignation the horizon is much more distant. To whom do we now turn? Who can do for Mayo what no coach has done for the past sixty years? If the Mayo question has failed the likes of O’Neill, O’Mahony and Maughan, who is there to follow?
As a consequence of John O’Mahony’s departure, a root and branch review of the state of football in the county is to be undertaken by the County Board. People ask, though, can any organisation investigating itself come up with a purposeful conclusion?
Articulating the problems will not solve them. Opinions inside and outside the board on how Mayo football might be transformed are manifold. But calls to have the board scrapped are not realistic. In appointing John O’Mahony the board had the blessing of the entire county. His credentials were impeccable.
No shortage of ideas is envisaged at whatever meetings are being planned. But without the will to implement them they’ll wilt and wither. The plan drawn up five years ago to improve underage football is a case in point.
Nine months of planning by concerned people went down the Swannee not for lack of money — although that was the excuse — but for lack of resolve to see the scheme through. There was no appetite for it at county board level.
The group was made up of Paddy Muldoon (chairman) Martin Carney, Kevin McStay, Johnny Carey, Seamus Gallagher, Aiden Brennan (secretary), Cathal Hennelly, Eamon Clarke and John Prenty. Dozens more pledged their help.
The basic idea was to instil a ‘winning Mayo style’ into a squad of young players throughout the county. Templates from other counties were studied, and Kilkenny’s plan for young aspiring hurlers was chosen.
If that plan, for which there was tremendous goodwill, had been implemented, some young players from the school would almost certainly be on the verge of county senior football now.
Instead, the game is at a crisis point. While they never reached the summit, Mayo held a place among the top seven or eight teams in the country ever since John Maughan, came within a hair’s breadth of leading them to an All-Ireland title.
They hold no such honour just now. If the present slide is not arrested we are in danger of drifting ominously into the abyss in which we languished so apathetically back in the seventies.
For that reason, a meaningful probe into the state of the game is imperative. Serious thought must be given to whatever fresh ideas are distilled from the forthcoming discussions.  The Board must listen and learn . . . and implement the best of the ideas if the chasm is ever to be bridged.
Particular attention ought to be paid to those who work with underage players. People in every club who give freely of their time to coaching and managing young teams know the value and potential of the players they handle. They have a lot to offer and their collective views ought to be a plank in whatever blueprint is drawn up.

What do you think of my Mayo team?

NO selection, past or present, has stirred more comment or reflection than the fifteen that represents my Mayo team of the past fifty years. No position has escaped the rigorous evaluation of those who know their football.
The time span has hampered comparisons for younger aficionados. Those who can’t weigh the performances of, say, Ray Prendergast with that of Kevin Cahill, or Willie Casey with Kenneth Mortimer can only conclude that my choice of defenders must have been excellent to deny the likes of Cahill and Mortimer places on that team.
Casey and Prendergast had their critics, and would have been hard pressed to hold their positions if competing against Mortimer and Cahill respectively.
In the All-Ireland semi-final of 1967 two slips by the the full-back cost Mayo a place in the final.
The detractors of Cahill might point to his slip in the final of ¹96 . . . although allowing the ball to hop over the bar for the equalising point was not generally regarded as a serious misjudgement.
Prendergast’s was a rare off day. He always had huge presence on the edge of the square, and under the high ball his handling was generally assured. He had the essentials, and the confidence he exuded filtered through his fans… and they had faith in him.
Casey was of an era far removed from the standard to which Gaelic football has now evolved. But he was an immense corner back and excelled at the skills that are now rapidly diminishing… high fielding, accurate clearances with both feet, and a physical presence that brooked no dandy opposition.
Arguments have been presented that Mortimer, even though out of position, ought to have elbowed out Dermot Flanagan in the other corner. But say what they like about him, Flanagan was a fine footballer.
Others claim that Johnny Carey, Mayo’s first all-star, might have been a better choice than Ger Feeney. But Feeney’s attacking qualities won it. And being the choice of the great Galway corner back Johnny Hughes on his best team never to have won an All-Ireland is for me further proof of Feeney’s worth.
It troubles me to have found no room for Joe Langan at midfield or in the forward line. But vying with the likes of McHale, Padden and Kilgallon left little room for manoeuvre. How could you drop any to make way for the Balla native?
From a multitude of 750, pick six.  It was a task bound to end in controversy. Mick Byrne’s compendium of statistics ensured that no forward who lined out for Mayo in fifty years was left out of the reckoning… all 750.
It was hard to leave out the likes of Johnny Farragher, John Nealon, Joe McGrath, Tommy O’Malley, Ray Dempsey, Henry Gavin, Willie McGee, Colm McManamon, Padraic Brogan and Kevin O’Neill. A forward line made up of that group might well have been more effective than my choice.
I think, however, I have got the balance right. Strong centres, intelligent flanks and penetrative corners. Opinion of the team in general will be divided principally on the forward selection.  My selection is that of just one person. The choice of others is no less valid
A reminder, once again, of my selection:
1. Eugene Lavin; 2. Willie Casey, 3. Ray Prendergast, 4. Dermot Flanagan;
5. Ger Feeney, 6. John Morley, 7. James Nallen; 8. WJ Padden, 9. TJ Kilgallon;
10. Martin Carney, 11. Liam McHale, 12. Joe Corcoran; 13. Ciaran McDonald, 14. Mick Ruane, 15. Kevin McStay.

Have you say
We’d like to invite readers to submit their best teams of the past fifty years to us. No explanation why you have chosen certain players is necessary if that is your wish. Write to: Sean Rice, The Mayo News, Westport, Co Mayo or e-mail seanrice@mayonews.ie

Just a thought …
They may have a long way to go, but as ever it has fallen to our county minors to maintain Mayo’s interest in championship football. Another Connacht final beckons, and we wish them luck.

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