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Mayo GAA need to harness ‘brand’

Sean Rice
Sean Rice

Board must use ‘brand’

IT would be nice to draw the curtain gently on the column for the season, but news of the inexorable slide of Mayo GAA Board into a morass of debt is a cause for concern.
As the board scrounges for enough money to keep the financial wolves from the door, the €12 million millstone threatens the growth of the game in the county.
At a time when money is scarce and every sort of philanthropic organisation in the country has the begging bowl out, wells have begun to run dry, and there is little appetite or support for any sort of systematic GAA fund-raising scheme.
Clubs can afford no more levies. They, too, are strapped for cash, some in serious debt, some barely able to continue to function as their resources dwindle and costs escalate by the day.
If no worthwhile fund-raising avenue is left open to them, the county board will have little option but to scale back on expenses, to cut costs, maybe as a last resort to cut back on the bare essentials that keep our games ticking over.
Only when the retrenchments are fully in force will the real effects be felt. You get the impression from the reported debate at board level that commitments to those owed money will be easily met, that there is no need for negativity.
It’s as if delegates were not surprised at the crisis confronting the board . . . and not too bothered. That it was for others to solve, a kind of detachment that suggested what the heck, the Lord will provide.
The purchase of McHale Park and its refurbishment as the county grounds and headquarters of Mayo GAA was an imaginative project that reflects progress of Gaelic games within the county, and provides modern training facilities for generations of young people to come. It is a milestone in the evolution of our native games.
Unfortunately, its purchase coincided with the world economic collapse, the consequent fall in the standard of living not only for the people of this country, but also for those all round the world.
When world leaders were unable to foresee the tumble in fiscal markets it would be hard to blame the county board for thinking that the good times would never end, that banks would continue to spew out their false generosity, and money would be doled out like confetti once at weddings.
Now, everyone is paying through the nose for that folly, and Mayo GAA Board is among the victims. That’s why it is hard to understand the board’s refusal to accept one of the main proposals in the Strategic Plan submitted by Liam Horan last spring, especially the recommendation to commercialise the Mayo ‘brand’.
In the wake of their All-Ireland success, Dublin County Board have realised the value of their new asset in proposing to invest in the commercial potential of the Dublin GAA brand. It is one of several recommendations in the ‘Blue Wave’ strategy for the development of Gaelic games in Dublin over the next five years.
No demurral from the powers-that-be about any such scheme breaching the tenets of the association’s amateurism has been heard.
In trumpeting their brand Mayo would have one advantage over Dublin. They have a Diaspora. Hundreds of thousands of far-flung Mayo people – scattered to every corner of the world with love for their native county ingrained in their DNA.
It’s a latent force with enormous potential, a powerful tool if operated properly.
You can visualise the effects of a worldwide movement of a Mayo Disapora grasping for whatever emblem represents their pride in their own county, transmitting that allegiance to their footballers and in turn themselves uplifted by the rising graph of the county’s success . . . each working off the other for the benefit of Mayo in general.
What a lost opportunity that has been! What a pity that foresight in purchasing the county grounds was not matched by a similar sense of enterprise in reaching out to Mayo people worldwide to share in the project.
Thoughts of the endless possibilities of a Mayo commodity exhibited around the world never fail to trigger the memory of Castlebar Mitchels’ fund-raising campaigns back in the lean forties when they made contact with every Castlebar native around the world to raise money for the redevelopment of McHale Park.
There were no computers then or iphones or televisions. World War 2 had just ended, and penury was widespread. Yet the money of Castlebar’s exiles went a long way towards building the stadium in those straitened times.
Think of what similar imagination could do today with the help of Mayo’s expats!


WE didn’t get the opportunity before concluding this column for the year to pay tribute to Mick Flanagan, one of the fastest players ever to don a Mayo jersey and whose contribution to the county’s success of the fifties cannot be overestimated.
No opportunity was missed by Seán Flanagan to refer to the influence his namesake had on the likes of Tom Langan in the full forward line during Mayo’s march to the summit.
Said the team captain: “Michael’s was the greatest single influence on Tom Langan’s football career. Through him he developed the deep confidence that brought his skills to their full and awesome majesty.”
Speed and perceptiveness marked Mick Flanagan’s contribution to Mayo’s achievements. Complaints that he over-carried the ball followed many of his performances, but the fact is that while Flanagan appeared to have over-carried, referees were often unable to keep up with the blinding pace of the corner forward.
“They talk about the open spaces they play in today’s game,” said Eamonn Mongey. “Tom Langan and Mick Flanagan played the open spaces. Anytime Tom Langan went out from full-forward to get the ball, Mick Flanagan started running for the goal and the ball was put in front of him. Joe Gilvarry did the same thing.”
Mick Flanagan won a number of county senior medals with Castlebar Mitchels. He was chairman of the club when he fell ill while preparing to travel on their legendary flight to America in 1960.
Poignantly, it was his All-Ireland colleague John McAndrew, a doctor in the County Hospital, Castlebar, at the time, who broke the news to Mick of his terminal illness. Mick died in 1961 at the age of 32.
Mick’s kindly nature will forever be reflected in the ring which had been reshaped from one of his All-Ireland medals to be worn by his only sister, a nun, who was unable to attend any of her brother’s games.
His name is also immortalised by Ballinrobe GAA club who decided to name their grounds after Mayo’s flying corner forward.
Are you coming to the Club Stars?
THE annual Mayo News/ O’Neills Club Stars awards has become a highlight of the GAA calendar in Mayo, and this year’s banquet on December 10 marks another year of outstanding achievement.
It’s a night to remember for club footballers in the county and the winners of the various awards will be announced at the function in Knockranny Hotel, Westport. The guest of honour is television pundit and former Roscommon star Paul Earley and live music will be performed by the Heebie Jeebies Band.
The proceeds from the event go to Western Care, and tickets, which are limited, are in huge demand, so get in early and avoid disappointment. Call (098) 25311 for more details.

Just a thought …
IT’S the final column of the year and I extend Christmas greetings to you readers in whatever part of the world you are celebrating the season, and may you all have a happy and prosperous new year.