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Club concern is scheduling

Kevin McStay
Typography
Louisburgh and Kiltimagh met in a Mayo Senior Championship relegation play-off last Sunday.
STILL WORKING Louisburgh and Kiltimagh met in a Mayo Senior Championship relegation play-off last Sunday. The season has been running for eight months now.

Club concern is scheduling

Kevin McStayKevin McStay

HARDLY a year is allowed pass in this column without reference to the excellence of our club competitions in Mayo. We celebrated All-Ireland finalists and winners over the past ten years or so and the spread of different clubs on that stage proved we were getting something right in Mayo GAA. So, if it is not broken we will hardly decide to repair it – will we?
The club scene in Roscommon is at the opposite end of the spectrum. Over the past fifteen years the committee in charge of competitions here has tinkered around every year with formats for a successful league and championship. But with no great success. And still, each year will see Convention examine yet another new proposal.
I realise the success of St. Brigid’s in this year’s Connacht club championship seems to contradict my thesis but a deeper look reveals this club is so far ahead of the rest of the pack in the county as to be frightening. Compared to Mayo over this period? One simply finds it difficult to analyse the gap in two such opposing positions. 
Mayo should be rejoicing that its club football can be measured on a national stage and that it is consistently in the top tier. It can match anything from Cork, Kerry or the Ulster clubs and in the recent past it matched them. Look at the list: Crossmolina, Ballina, Garrymore, Castlebar, Knockmore, Charlestown. Did I miss anybody else?
So why the rush to appoint a local committee to revamp what appears to everybody is a machine in perfect mechanical order? My own sense is that the target chosen was the wrong one. The problem was a scheduling one, not a status one. And that old story about the committee appointed to design a horse coming up with the blueprint for a camel springs to mind. When I read the kites in last week’s Mayo News alarm bells began to ring in my head.
It reminded me of the old days of the truly amateur rugby season when clubs toured the county and the country playing meaningless challenge matches that had as its main focus a successful social outlet. One could summarise the findings of the latest committee by declaring they formally changed the leagues into a series of weekly challenge games.
At a time when the club player was screaming for a schedule the main attraction (a highly competitive match) was removed in an instant. Yet many of the commentators urged support for the new proposals. And the strange thing is the committee had a strong cross-representation of players, managers, officials, referees and so on. What were they thinking?
The proposals were so skewed in favour of the strong clubs as to be dismissive of the ordinary five-eighths. Even the cash prizes had a touch of ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’ about them. 
And when the new divisions were filled without warning to the teams in the 2006 leagues, then there was bound to be losers. And thus dissenters. At least that lesson was provided free of charge by the new NFL/Qualifiers arrangements announced recently; the 2007 NFL season will dictate what will happen in the leagues and championships to follow. Proper order as now, each team is the master of their own destiny.
The arbitrary nature of the Mayo league cull provided a loaded gun and both Killala and Belmullet would not need any coaxing to pull the trigger.  I understand the shots rang out last Wednesday night. It all ended with the chairman calling a halt; it is good to know when a new kite simply will not fly and so it is back to the drawing board.
Can I suggest that the real problems to be addressed are ones we all have been too slow to tackle? And they are as follows:
(1) Poor planning and a lack of joined together thinking at the scheduling meeting. By this I mean the national fixture plan is used to pick out opening matches in a competition but we do not plan to get to finals of them - that must stop and is easily resolved by what organisations call contingency planning. In others words ask the question: ‘What if …?’ Plan to make it to the senior, minor and under 21 final in the same year.
(2) Non-adherence to the schedule and the cancellation of fixtures for ridiculous reasons.
(3) Too big an influence by county managers at all grades on the county fixture list.
Sean Feeney’s annual report to the Mayo GAA Convention fingers a major problem with scheduling – the introduction in recent years of the Qualifiers in nearly all competitions. He is correct in this assertion but there is a way around this development. If we accept the Qualifiers are here to stay then we need to look at the minor grade going to under-19 (county and national) and the abolition of the under-21 grade altogether at club level.
All these matters will need strong leadership and vision to set out and see through. If properly planned (let the 2007 results form the basis for reform in late 2007), the selection of the teams for the new divisions is taken out of the committee’s hands and decided where they should be – on the field of play!
It is time to change the direction of our investigation into the current health or otherwise of Mayo GAA Board plc.
 
MIKE MASTERS THE ART OF WINNING
IT would be remiss of me not to flag a growing concern for all true Gaels; the 2006 Mayo GAA accounts will reveal the arrival of an Abramovich-type approach to success in the county. It is as obvious as the nose on your face that Mike ‘Call me Roman’ Morris decided this year that he would buy success on the Masters (Over 40s) inter-county scene.
Unhappy with a quarter-final defeat in 2005 at the hands of Longford (and an annual spend of €584), the Hollymount tycoon decided to up the ante. With his CEO Cathal Hennelly pleading urgent caution, Roman went on a solo run and decided to go for broke. He ordered an immediate 1,600% increase in investment to €9,358 for the current year. The result? All-Ireland champions for 2006! Now that is what I call leadership and vision.
I am regularly asked what happened to Mayo in September 2006, how did matters go south so quickly. Prior to the publication of the annual accounts of the board I could not put my thumb on it but this morning all is clear to me.
The M&M Show simply underspent and this caution cost us ultimately. The 2005 figure of a miserly €360K was upped by a mere €120K under the northern brothers. In a time of Celtic Tiger confidence this increase in expenditure simply was not enough.
The lack of spend was a tell-tale sign; if we did not have the confidence to spend (see Mike Morris above) what was it saying about our confidence to win an All-Ireland senior? Only one thing for it then. We know John O’Mahony is a careful and cautious man so we can expect further tightening of the belt. Get him out quickly I say and get this visionary from Hollymount in quick.
The future is Orange!