All quiet on Mayo manager front ...
IF the footballers have renewed their faith in him, if county board officials have given him their blessing, where’s the beef? Why is John O’Mahony procrastinating?
Could it be that Mayo’s underachievement of the past two years under his stewardship has begun to mist over the eminence in which he has been generally held as a football manager?
Whatever the reason a certain restlessness is stirring as if the county was tensing itself for the announcement of O’Mahony’s resignation.
Why that should be so is not difficult to understand.
Two seasons after being head-hunted, after officials and a grovelling general public went on their knees to him, Mayo football is not what they had in mind when John O’Mahony consented to their blandishments.
Mayo is still twitching in disappointment. There has been no miracle transformation. Groans of disillusionment resonate among those who were tempted to expect too much. The sun has not shone for them. Their persistent avid aspirations still dangle three or four games away from the holy grail.
Yet as a manager John O’Mahony has nothing to prove. Conor Mortimer sensibly said as much when he told The Mayo News last week that Mayo’s failure to Tyrone had nothing to do with the manager.
There was no point talking about managers anymore, the outspoken Shrule man said. Mayo was the only county to have had four managers within five years. The buck no longer stopped at the manager’s desk.
Conor shot from the hip as Conor always does. Those in the front line were striking back. A manager can only do so much. He cannot execute their passes or score their goals. The main actors have to look into their own hearts. The ball is in their court.
Liam Kearns, one of several inter-county bosses to have resigned this season, blamed unrealistic expectations for his departure from Laois. “I suppose it is a reflection of the society we live in,” he said. “Success is demanded instantly. Patience and loyalty seem to be a thing of the past in society these days.”
Unremitting underachievement in this county has not succeeded in erasing the exaggerated image we hold of our football virtues. In the pubs and on the streets everyone has the answer to our problems. No one will admit that our expectations are often out of proportion to the depth of talent at the disposal of managers. We have talent but not enough of it.
There is an argument to be made that better use could have been made of what talent we have. Maybe Johnno lost the plot a little in the Connacht final. Maybe we had expected too much of him as manager. He warned against unrealistic expectations. It takes time and effort to unlock potential.
Inevitably, questions arise about John O’Mahony’s ability to serve his footballers and his electorate with equal diligence. Getting himself elected to Dail Eireann last year guzzled huge chunks of his time and energy. And having got there he is faced with the reality that the exigencies of his constituents are far more demanding than he had realised.
That perhaps is what is occupying John O’Mahony’s attention just now and why he has delayed making a decision about his future as Mayo manager. Has he the energy for the twin tasks?
Can he give to each the full and undivided attention that each demands. Is the whole thing too much for a man who has to spend four days each week in Dail Eireann, attend zealously to clinics and clients, and at the same time oversee his footballers preparation?
Foremost in his mind will be the evaluation of the link between his high football profile and his election to the Dail. Will he still retain the confidence of those who voted for him if he decides to resign as manager?
There is, too, the Michele Mulherin factor. Ambitious and determined, the Ballina based solicitor would dearly love to capture O’Mahony’s Dail seat.
Thus John O’Mahony has got to decide whether his resignation as Mayo football manager would enhance Mulherin’s chances of displacing him in the Dail. Would resignation diminish his political popularity?
No doubt soaring esteem from leading Mayo to an All-Ireland victory would wipe away all threats to his political career. Two years of team building has brought that prospect no nearer realisation, however. The thing is has he sufficient time and energy to devote to that aspiration and still enjoy the combined loyalty of his football and political supporters?
Minors give us plenty to mull over
WE gave them no chance. We had consigned them to the scrapheap of so much other wreckage. Our minors, we thought, were not good enough to outshine the produce of the Kingdom. Martyrs for punishment was how the handful of supporters who made the journey to Croke Park were labelled.
Not good enough? Had we forgotten that our minors never see themselves as inferiors . . . even when Kerry seem invincible. Soon it became clear in this All-Ireland semi-final at Croke Park that Mayo were playing more like a side coming from Kerry.
And in the 13th minute, when Aidan Walsh flighted a perfect cross from the right wing, you knew by the way he ran onto the pass and rammed the ball to the net that Shane McHale suffered no pangs of inferiority.
In the end the joy of those who watched them outplay Kerry much of the time was mingled by the uncomfortable feeling that Mayo may have left their chance of qualifying for the final behind them.
They had the chances, a myriad of them, to kill off the game especially in the last minutes when Kerry began to realise that they were about to crash out of the championship. Their failure to make them count may come back to haunt them on Saturday when they meet in the replay at Ennis.
And as Ray Dempsey gathered his young charges around him in a circle immediately after the match it must surely have been to dispel any notion taking hold that victory was already assured in the replay.
Kerry are still Kerry. And Ennis is not Croke Park. Kerry have been let out of jail. And they know it. Mayo will meet a Kerry with greater respect for their rivals and with the criticism of their mentors still ringing in their ears. And Mayo will miss the scope of Croke Park.
Sunday’s performance was a team effort from Robert Hennelly in goal to Aidan Walsh at corner forward. The main talking point was the overshadowing of Kerry’s star full-forward Barry John Walsh by Kevin Keane.
The Kerryman with an impressive pedigree was their linchpin. On their way to the semi-final Walsh had amassed 6-19 in five games. Mayo¹s highest scorer was Aidan Walsh over four games with 1-14.
The task facing Kevin Keane seemed enormous. He made it look easy, however, with a powerful command of the prerequisites of full-back play. The pressure will come on him again on Saturday but he will be equal to the task.
He received unflinching support from the other five backs — David Dolan, John Broderick, the attacking conscious Cathal Freeman, Eoin Reilly and team captain Shane Nally.
James Cafferkey was their mainstay at midfield and together with Gerard McDonagh had the edge on Kerry for most of the game. The attack benefited from the drive and probings of Aidan O’Shea until he tired in the second half and was moved to full-forward for a breather. Shane McHale, Raymond Geraghty and Aidan Walsh were also confident and sharp.
For an hour on Sunday they lifted our hearts, and we’ll be hoping that come Saturday they will not have reason to rue those misses that have kept Kerry’s All-Ireland hopes still burning.