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Kevin McStay on Mayo’s annus horribilis

Kevin McStay
Kevin McStay

Good Ship Mayo runs aground

Kevin McStay

THE Mayo psyche has Longford in a drawer marked ‘We don’t lose to them’. And that was always going to be the danger last weekend, because anyone looking at Mayo closely would have said they’re vulnerable. That deep vulnerability was a result, not of the Sligo match, but of the National League. That was where the Good Ship Mayo ran aground.
Mayo had got some fantastic results in the league. But when it mattered, in the first championship rehearsal, where there was a national title at stake, they were absolutely blown away. That must have been an awful blow to their confidence – and, evidently, one that they didn’t recover from.

So who’s accountable?

WHERE does responsibility lie for the Longford defeat? With players? The manager? The County Board? It’s a mixture. Players left the dressing room in tears, and obviously, they have a passion for the Mayo jersey.
But their inability to bring that across on the field of play is the responsibility of each individual player. And of course, the management have their role to play in trying to get that passion out of them, and get that display on the field. That obviously didn’t happen in this year’s championship. There was a failure on all sides.
I don’t know what role the County Board plays in this, because no one has ever attempted to measure it. We should now sit back and examine Mayo GAA Inc.
That way, at least some good might have come out of an annus horribilis. Because this year’s championship hasn’t moved any player forward, bar Alan Freeman, and the only other positive it has confirmed is that Alan Dillon is our best player.
How John O’Mahony could think Mayo are on the cusp of winning something seems extraordinary to me. Mind you, when confidence is low, you see players at their very worst in terms of the performance, and certainly if their confidence grew, they would improve. But I’m not so sure that they’re at a stage where they’re about to win something big.

Johnno’s departure
I WAS surprised by the timing of John O’Mahony’s announcement, but it seems to me that he had obviously considered it. The lack of improvement after another full year’s hard work might have deflated him. And obviously, his job is very busy as well. Maybe he’s just tired and he needs a break.
Ultimately, his four-year term will be remembered with disappointment. In 2007, everybody felt there was only one man to do the job. I think now we realise that the team probably did over-achieve in 2004 and 2006. A lot of that older crew then left, and ultimately, the squad of players that he has just weren’t good enough to make a major breakthrough.
There was so much expected because of his winning record, but I think we have to come to terms with the hard truth that we don’t have enough good players. We have a few good players, but we don’t have enough top-class players. If you look at the teams that set the standards – and that’s Kerry at the minute – four of their forwards are among the best in the country. Unfortunately, we have only one forward who might get a run with the Kerry team.

The dual mandate

IS it possible to combine the job of a TD with inter-county management? That’s a question for John O’Mahony, but I would say no. The role of Mayo manager is such a busy one.
If you’re going to be involved at county level, you nearly have to be on secondment or have no full-time job. People can do that if they’re near retirement age. Self-employed people can delegate things. That’s not an option for a TD. His workload must be savage.
I wouldn’t envy him for ten seconds, the sort of life he’s been living for the past three or four years – driving, organising, carrying out the responsibilities of a TD, and having to perform in the Dáil. There aren’t enough hours in the day for him. So maybe that informed his decision too.
He gave it his best shot. It wasn’t to be. If you’re doing a tight audit of it, the players at his disposal at this time are simply just not up to winning national titles. They’re very young, a good few of them came off the U-21 set-up, and they will obviously improve and get more experience. But in an overall sense, the panel he had at his disposal just didn’t measure up. It wasn’t good enough.

Post-match comments

JOHN O’Mahony had a cut in his post-match comments at people who are ‘paid to comment’. But there are a thousand fellas out there who are paid to comment – including everyone who had a dictaphone in front of him last Saturday. It’s always better in these situations to come straight out and say who it is that’s annoying you, rather than leaving things half cocked. Saturday night was about the performance and the defeat to Longford. The attempt to fob us off is a bit silly at this stage.
Where do we go from here?
THERE’S no rush in appointing a senior manager. What needs to happen now is an audit of Mayo football. We should appoint people who know what they’re about, get them to look at things in depth, and produce a plan for the future. That means looking at structures, senior clubs, the work that has to be put into players from minor level onwards, who’s going to look after younger teams, headhunting people rather than electing them.
The fact that we’re at such a low ebb affords us a chance to stand back and take our time. The audit could take six or even nine months. Director of Football is a more important job now than county manager. That would be a full-time paid position for someone who’s going to direct where we’re going. Because normally, we’re going around in the dark from door to door. We should be trying to build up something akin to what they’ve done in Kilkenny.
That audit should be the immediate priority. The conversation about Mayo football has to be about that where we’re going, not about ‘Is it going to be Mick O’Dwyer?’
That’s only oul’ nonsense. Let’s get away from the scenario where we take out a piece of paper, write seven names on it and ring around to see who’s available. Let’s put down the job spec. Let’s figure out what the job is about. Should the Mayo senior manager have a role with the U-21s or minors? Do we want an ambassador? Let’s talk about it.
Everything needs to be looked at, because we’ve spent 60 years getting it wrong. It was, after all, 1951 when we won the All-Ireland. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.