LAST Thursday night on our local radio station’s ‘Sports Talk Shop’, the now familiar problem for clubs of having no competitive fixtures was discussed. The views of some of the most prominent local local club managers were aired in the process with Paul Jordan of Castlebar Mitchels and Tommy Lyons of Ballina Stephenites both speaking frankly about the issue.
At this stage of the season, approximately 95% of the senior and intermediate club teams in the county have had four competitive fixtures so far this year. And with no games scheduled for the rest of June – due to Mayo’s game with Leitrim in Carrick-on-Shannon later this month – managers and players alike are having to remain focused by arranging and playing challenge matches, most often against opposition from outside the county. The vast majority of club teams have not had a competitive match since their championship opener in mid May and with the next scheduled fixture set for the weekend of July 2, a gap of seven weeks will have elapsed.
Club managers will have found it increasingly hard to keep players focused and for many club players an element of boredom may have set in a little. The schedule for the last few weekends will have been filled with the occasional night out (hopefully the summer drink ban has been lifted), topping up the tan, catching up on all the goings-on in the Big Brother house and, thankfully the World Cup has now come along to ease the length of a boring Sunday afternoon.
What most club footballers are used to doing during the summer weekends is training on a Friday night and playing a game on either a Saturday or Sunday. A Saturday night game represented a chance to have some small social life, a few drinks after the match or maybe even a trip to the disco (depending on one’s age or how far championship is away).
A Sunday game represents a very quiet Saturday night. Sunday morning is passed by indulging in your match day brekkie, usually something along the lines of porridge or scrambled eggs, followed by a quick scan of the Sunday papers, a text to one of the lads to ask what time are we heading off, get the gear ready and away you go.
These last few Sundays – depending on the night before – might not include the auld brekkie at all! And the afternoons have been spent with the remote control and the Sunday Game crew; for Club Spy it’s been like having scorching pokers put through my eyes, and that’s not too mention the quality of the football either.
The buzz and excitement of championship football that the summer months bring just hasn’t taken off purely because of the lack of games. Team managers would have been using games to try out new players, and maybe even try out some of the older players in new positions. But how many managers are going to take a chance on maybe a new player on the back of a performance in a challenge match? I have raised this issue already in this column earlier in the year but I feel that the idea of no games played for 95% of teams in a seven week period is something that has to be seriously addressed at the top level.
DURING the the county senior football team have been training away at the Brown Sports Resort in the Algarve in Portugal. This facility is a highly recommended sports excellence centre used by many of the top Premiership soccer teams and also many of the rugby union and league teams; Mayo were there last year too.
It’s amazing the way that team preparation has advanced over the last ten years. A weekend in Donegal or Kerry was as far as many inter-county teams were traveling back then and this was used as a ‘team bonding’ opportunity, another name for a good auld drinking session in may instances. Many club teams follow/copy patterns and training techniques used by inter-county teams; speed endurance, retain possession, scoring zone, crowded defence are now all common terms used by club teams, developed by inter-county teams. But, thankfully, says the local treasurer, the prospect of training weeks away in the sun is still a bit off for many club teams and the weekend in Bundoran or Kilrush is still the more likely bet.
NEXT weekend sees Westport take on Padraic Pearses of Roscommon in the Leo Kenny Cup Final, the Connacht Senior league competition, which is the curtain raiser to the Connacht championship clash between Roscommon and Galway in Hyde Park.
The competition offers Westport the opportunity to be the first team in Mayo this year to win a senior club trophy which is a little ironic bearing in mind that George Golden’s team have lost their 3 league and 1 championship game so far this year. Hopefully they can get a win here which will help the confidence in the squad.