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Sean Rice
FOOTBALL If the proposed Mayo GAA Strategic Plan does not work, what will? Do we face a future of bleak results?

There is no other Plan of Action


IF their season follows the pattern of every season for the past sixty years Mayo will crash out of the championship somewhere between the first round and the All-Ireland final. It could be as glorious an exit as against Meath in 1996, or as ignominious as in Longford last summer.
Either way disappointment will be intense. Censure will follow, and no one will escape the fury of those who year after year live in the hope of seeing Mayo rise to the pinnacle of Gaelic football.
Methods of training, administration, footballers, everyone involved, will all come under fire. You’ll even hear random calls for the resignation of the County Board, or at least a demand for action to change the Limbo atmosphere in which Mayo senior football exists.
It’s a recurring theme, and the more you dwell on the stark statistics that Mayo have competed in more minor and U-21 All-Irelands than any other county in the country, the more mystifying becomes the stagnant state of senior fare.
Defeat to Longford was not the lowest point of Mayo senior football in those sixty years, but the plunge was sufficiently steep to warn that Mayo were going nowhere fast, walking the same well-trodden treadmill… and that remedial action was imperative.a
In establishing a special committee of Mayo GAA people to develop a five-year strategic blueprint, the Mayo GAA Board took unprecedented action, and the plan published by that committee last week was equally unparalleled. It is the workings of the minds of 86 people each with a genuine depth of passion and commitment for the Green & Red.
Those 86 people do not hold the monopoly on passion for Mayo GAA, as their chairman Liam Horan put it. “We do not believe the report is the last word. What we hope is that this instead is the first word of a new chapter, and that many others will emerge to write the subsequent, never-ending chapters with a sweep and a flourish not seen in these parts since those glorious 1950s days… the 60th anniversary which occurs this very year.”
The recommendations for a five-year financial plan, and the appointment of a director of football coaching are innovative and far-reaching. A well of untapped resources is out there in the broad world waiting to display their allegiance to the county of their birth… to sell the Green & Red brand.
As the plan goes before the clubs of the county to be discussed on this Thursday night, Horan asks that it be carefully studied, that there are a lot of benefits to be had from change.
It was produced with the interests of Mayo football at heart; every member of the committee giving his and her time free and unstintingly because of their love of the Green & Red.
If this does not work what will? Are we destined forever to splash about in the same old quagmire for another sixty years, to face a future of bleak results and the recrimination and apathy they unremittingly evoke?

Lessons to be learned in Tuam

WE expected it to go down to the wire, and for most of the first half these old rivals clung closely together… until a depth charge by Jason Doherty separated them.
A goal by the Burrishoole man seven minutes from the end of the first half was the score from which Galway never recovered. It had its origins in the backline with a move set in motion by Ger Cafferkey.
Aidan Campbell and Kevin McLoughlin handled the ball before Doherty got his hands to it, turned, took on the defence and after a 30 yard run slid the ball under the diving body of Paraic Lally in the Galway goal.
It put Mayo into the lead for the first time, and all too soon effectively killed off Galway’s challenge for their opening points of the league.
Doherty, whose first appearance in this year’s competition was as a sub against Kerry, confidently carved out that score, and capped a good all round performance with an equally inventive finish seven minutes into the second half.
His goals were the highlights of a game that fizzled out before a full assessment of Mayo’s real strength was possible. There was no doubt about the authority with which they went about gathering the two valuable points, but the opposition was so ineffectual, so disorganised that Mayo were not fully tested.
No two sides James Horan has fielded have been the same since his first FBD match in January. On Sunday, as he moved his players like chess pieces in a bid to find their most beneficial positions, the learning course of action continued.
Thus Kevin McLoughlin, who had been at left wing-back against Down and Kerry, was on Sunday thrust into the left wing forward slot where he was no less industrious. Andy Moran was given the full-forward role with Aidan O’Shea (pictured) and Jason Doherty occupying the corner forward berths.
Their success can be gauged from the margin of victory which, but for a late burst of four points by Galway, would have been considerably worse than the eight points that finally separated them.
Performances throughout the team were pretty evenly balanced. And it was good to see Aidan O’Shea begin to reflect the confidence the selectors have in him. He is the muscle that has been so long missing from the forward line, and with a little more speed off the mark, and a bit more composure on the ball, his promise will be fulfilled.
Andy Moran’s versatility was once again in evidence, this time at full forward. Aidan Campbell, Alan Dillon, and McLoughlin worked extremely hard, and Doherty’s pace and ability to seize an opportunity added an edge to the attack.
It was a better performance by the forwards than against Kerry, and Ronan McGarrity liberally supplied them from midfield. James Kilcullen also added valuable presence in the centre, but his degree of fitness does not seem to have kept pace with the others.
To sum up, the forwards collectively had a good day. But they met a less ordered Galway defence that, in comparison to Kerry, lacked aggression and motivation, and as a result was much easier to handle. That’s not Mayo’s fault of course: you can play only what’s in front of you, and they made the best of it.
Richie Feeney, at right-half back, was the outstanding player in defence. Tom Cunniffe at corner-back was equally impressive.
Full-back Alan Feeney was wisely replaced by Cathal Hallinan at the interval after incurring a yellow card early in the game. Chris Barrett, James Burke and Ger Cafferkey were not seriously troubled, and all were well supported by a competent Robert Hennelly in goal.

Just a thought …
Anyone who witnessed Enda Kenny’s grit and determination in winning county football honours with Islandeady in the seventies will not have wondered that his leadership qualities has taken him to the pinnacle of politics in Ireland.

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