What direction will Mayo take?
ENSCONCED though he is in far away San Diego, Liam O’Neill has not lost touch with developments on the Gaelic football fields of this country.
A Galway man, who developed a passion for physical and mental fitness, even before losing three senior All-Ireland finals with his native county, O’Neill believes that a winning culture will be rediscovered in Mayo football only when a positive programme for under age players is fully implemented.
Elsewhere on these pages he advocates the appointment of a director of football to cater mainly for the successful transition of players from minor level to the higher grades. He lists the requisite qualities with which the director ought to be equipped and the development programme to be implemented in order to achieve the necessary level of excellence.
At first glance the programme — embracing players from sixteen and upwards — might seem an impracticable approach for young amateur footballers, but a similar system of development is the norm in many counties especially in the North of Ireland from which outstanding minor teams have emerged in recent years.
O’Neill claims his proposals are no different than those drawn up by Martin Carney, Kevin McStay, John Prenty, Seamus Gallagher and others five years ago after painstaking preparatory work, a programme that was never implemented.
I don’t know what stage the proposed County Board review of football in Mayo has reached, but serious consideration of those recommendations is vital in any review if Mayo football is ever to recapture old glory.
Meanwhile, the search for a new manager continues. In addition to John Maughan, James Horan, Anthony McGarry and Denis Kearney, it is understood the names of Tommy Carr and Tommy Lyons may be added.
They have had stints as manager of Dublin, and Carr has just finished up his reign as boss of Cavan. Only last week I was reminded by the eagle-eyed Billy Murphy in Castlebar that contrary to what I had stated previously, Tommy Lyons is not a native of Louisburgh. He was born in Castlebar; his father, also Tommy, came from Louisburgh.
Neither Tommy Lyons nor Carr are considered serious contenders for the Mayo post despite the managerial experience of each. It seems that Mick O’Dwyer and John Maughan are the front runners, with James Horan in close pursuit.
A meeting of Mayo GAA Board was due to be held last night (Monday) to update delegates on the progress made to select the new boss.
One eligible person, who has not been nominated, is Peter Ford. The word is that the former Sligo and Galway boss is not interested in the post, but his credentials are so impressive that it behoves those delegated to conduct the interviews to make serious attempts to win his interest.
In Galway, nominations from clubs for a new manager were to have been submitted by yesterday (Monday)-. Mick O’Dwyer is among those mentioned in what is regarded as a wide open race.
Former Laois and Limerick manager Liam Kearns is also being suggested as a possible candidate. Others include former Dublin selector Brian Talty, Alan Mulholland, Gerry Fahy and former Caltra and Clare manager, Frank Doherty.
The Neale caught out
THE shock of their defeat, more to the point, the manner of it, must still be reverberating round the townlands of The Neale.
The game had moved into injury time and they were heading for a place in the Mayo junior semi-finals until stunned by a sudden solar plexus punch from Lahardane in injury time.
As they concentrated on cutting out whatever danger was posed by Lahardane sub Kevin Mulhern who had gathered possession near the left corner flag, the men from the south forgot what they had left behind . . . a massive gap right in front of their goal.
It was the only real opportunity presented to Lahardane throughout the hour, and Shane Loftus made full use of the gifted cross from Mulhern . . . a goal that rescued them from the jaws of defeat.
It came against the run of play in a match that produced some fine direct football, and outstanding performances, notably from Eoin Hughes and Joseph Monaghan of The Neale, and Cormac Rowland and Mark Noone for Lahardane.
O’Connor saves day
ONE man stood between Castlebar and victory in the West Mayo minor football final on Friday evening. Just when they appeared to have rescued the match from the jaws of defeat at Islandeady the breath of fresh air that is Cillian O’Connor gusted up to deny them.
O’Connor had been the stumbling block all through a game that eventually made up in intensity what it lacked in finesse.
And when Castlebar peeled away a four-point deficit in the final minutes and looked like forcing a replay, the Mayo minor star drew on all his craft to carve out a deserved win for Ballintubber.
O’Connor’s performance was one of the few features of a game that despite the efforts of the players failed to stir the imagination.
Castlebar’s recovery was due in no small measure to the influence of midfielder Danny Kirby and centre half forward Fergal Durkan, two other splendid products from the recent county minor semi-finalists.
A heavy week of football engagements slowed their progress in the first half, but when they found their rhythm after the break the two fully reflected their county status.
Others to impress were Diarmuid O’Connor, the fourth of the O’Connor clan with equally impressive potential, Conor Finnerty, Joe Geraghty and Brian Murphy for Ballintubber; and another minor of recent vintage Cian Costello, Nicholas Jordan, Paul Regan and Shane Irwin for Castlebar.
Some minor final matters
FROM John McCormack of Castlebar comes the following observation: “Having read your article and watched the replay of the match, I couldn’t agree more with you on the magnificent display by our minor team. They deserve great credit for the way they conducted themselves and the tremendous enjoyment they gave to all their supporters with their attacking brand of football that was full of guts, character and determination.
“However, the match was still lost. We lost a replay against Tyrone two years ago and we will continue to lose until such time as we figure out what we are doing wrong, what we need to do to improve and who will drive this through.
“One area that we can look at is strength and conditioning. Our young footballers are not strong enough. For that matter neither are the senior players. Those progressive counties and indeed other sports are introducing strength and conditioning under strict monitoring to the 16 year olds and upwards. Are we doing this in Mayo and if not, why not? It is time that this county embraced modern sports science/coaching techniques, etc.”