Time to look at the big picture
I know Mayo supporters reading this will want me to dissect the match, but there’s a bigger story behind Saturday – a bigger conversation about where Mayo are at.
More of that anon.
Going into the match in too much detail is probably nonsensical. This team are dead men walking. They’ve taken massive hits in the last few years – especially the more senior players – and it has knocked the stuffing out of them. And I can totally understand that. If you were coming out of Croke Park getting slaughtered in an All-Ireland final – not once, but twice – it’s very hard to stay positive when you get into dodgy positions.
Where to from here? I’d say there are a lot of guys you won’t see again – a lot of the older guys, you won’t see again in Mayo jerseys. The thing has to move on, because the way it is, it can’t work.
Somebody told me that Mayo had nine different starters from last year’s Connacht final last weekend. Sure what sort of transition is that? This is a four-year project.
In year four, you’ve ten changes from the previous Connacht final. Now, you’ve somebody at meetings somewhere saying ‘yes, yes, yes’ to everything. Nobody is standing up and saying ‘Ah, hang on a minute, lads. Where are we going with this?’
Paul Grimley is in with Monaghan this year, and one of the big things he brings to the party, according to ‘Banty’ McEneaney, is he demands answers – from management and from players. He puts in the dirty question all the time. He makes you argue and debate why you’re doing something. And sometimes by doing that, you actually realise how silly the short view you’ve just taken is.
Wasn’t there to be a detailed debrief of where we are and where we’re going after last year’s efforts against Meath? We have ten different players starting a championship match within almost 12 months – and this after three years of rebuilding or transition. I’m absolutely not pointing the finger at John O’Mahony, but what I am pointing the finger at is the whole Mayo ship.
WELL done, Sligo. The best team by a distance on the night won. And ask the question now – does the league count? Damn sure it counts. Because from our perspective, we knew we were vulnerable and wobbly, and Sligo took massive confidence going into it.
We’ve been talking about the spine of the team for a long, long time now. After all the league matches – which went very successfully until the final – we ended up with a centre back who hadn’t played competitively for Mayo for 14 months. We ended up with a centre forward who’s not a forward. Seamus O’Shea can’t play in the forwards – he has no attacking instinct.
Putting Alan Freeman at full-forward was also a gamble, and that gamble paid off. But the other two didn’t. After how many months and years now, we still haven’t got that sorted out. These are most important positions!
Up to now, I’ve always been saying ‘one plus McGarrity’ for midfield. But it’s obvious now, McGarrity plus Parsons doesn’t work. And in fact, maybe it’s time for us all to stop saying ‘McGarrity plus one’. Have a look at any two.
The lack of passion and enthusiasm and desire after all the effort put into them was depressing. Because I know for a fact, and it’s important to say this, the training they’re getting – in terms of preparation, analysis and critique the management have provided – is top class. I’ve been at one or two of the sessions from a distance, I know people who are intimate with the sessions in there, and it’s as good as what’s around. So they can have no complaints there.
I’m just disappointed that Mayo didn’t ask any questions last weekend. Their whole body language and attitude to the game told people that they just weren’t up for it.
The Long Term
SO, where does this defeat leave the Mayo project? The bigger story is that, in terms of structures, Mayo are at nothing. And I’m talking about the county structures.
Obviously, nothing is going to happen until the qualifiers are finished one way or the other. Maybe this defeat by Sligo will actually bring together people who will do an audit of where we are.
Personally, if it was up to me, I would choose three men and give them a six-month window, and ask them to produce by the end of this year a fit-for-purpose audit of Mayo GAA Inc. We need somebody to do a professional report into structures, clubs, administration, a Genesis-type report. And we develop a strategy – a five-year strategy, or wherever it’s going to be, with achievable goals.
The schools of excellence and the coaching are miles off. The schools of excellence, in their day, were cutting edge, but things have moved on dramatically since then. And the problem is not the school of excellence, it’s the coaching. For instance, if I asked you how many Mayo footballers can kick easily with two feet and fist pass with two hands, you’d struggle to answer. That’s what I mean by coaching.
The management at all levels is too ad-hoc. Guys are being elected or selected. We should be going out head-hunting who we want to be manager of the under-16 or under-18 team and all the way up – and having our best people. I look around the country and Mayo seem to box way beyond its weight division in terms of people we can put out front – Peter Ford, TJ Kilgallon, Martin Carney, Liam McHale, etc, etc. But none of these people are involved at underage level, bringing through 16-year-olds or 18-year-olds or whatever age-group. And I often wonder: why is that? Most of these guys are living in or around the Mayo area. They have massive experience.
As for the team, the bottom line is, in my opinion, we don’t have enough talent. And don’t let anyone cod you. People say ‘Ah, the footballers are in Mayo’. My understanding is that all the best players who are around Mayo are either on this panel and were on panels in the last year or two. There isn’t very much more floating out there at the moment.
ON the evidence of the last four years, have we made progress since 2007? Absolutely not. In 2006 we were in an All-Ireland final. In 2010 we were beaten in the first round above in Sligo by a Division 3 team. Is that progress? I don’t think so.
I’d like to see Mayo get the hardest possible team we can get in the qualifiers – Armagh, up in Crossmaglen … and let’s see what we have. There’s absolutely no value in getting a Carlow or somebody. Away from home, against a good team, and if there’s anything in these guys – and you’d have to start wondering now at this stage, if there is or not – well let them go up and play Derry above in Celtic Park or Armagh in Crossmaglen, and let’s see have they any bit of balls at all.