On the outside looking in
Two former Mayo players like the look of the team
BOTH Trevor Howley and Mark Ronaldson saw the origin of James Horan’s management of Mayo in 2011. This year it’s different.
Howley is in Perth, Western Australia having decided to travel and work abroad and while Ronaldson is still in his native Shrule, he’s also looking in from the outside, having been dropped from the panel in the middle of last season.
Both retain a deep passion for the fortunes of the Mayo team though and have been watching the season progress with interest.
For Howley, who works in Henderson, just south of Perth, as a Quality Officer for the Chevron Gorgon gas project on Barrow Island, mainly from his base south of Perth, Mayo’s quarter-final draw against Down opens up a great opportunity to make inroads.
“I believe Mayo can reach the All-Ireland final this year,” he told The Mayo News.
“Looking at the draw I think we will have enough for Down. They will bring physicality to the game but if we move the ball fast, and don’t carry it into the tackle, and get the ball up to our forwards fast we will win. No question about it.
“And if you ever needed motivation to get to the final, well playing the Dubs in Croke Park would be it. If results don’t go Mayo’s way it will have been a great learning curve for the younger lads. Playing top teams in Croke Park, learning from the loss, and coming back stronger next year. But fair play to the younger lads in the panel this year. They have not been found wanting at any stage so far.”
Mark Ronaldson says it’s hard to know yet where Mayo are at after the Connacht Championship but he feels definite progress has been made.
“Mayo are ranked fourth or fifth but I think they’re in a good position. The big plus this year that has been a problem before is that so many key positions have been nailed down. We have definite numbers 1, 3, 6, 8 and 9 when Aidan (O’Shea) is fit. There’s a big solidity there, it’s not easy to score against Mayo now.
“All the backs are nailed down which is a big thing. The two Westport lads, Lee Keegan and Kevin Keane, have come in and been excellent. I wouldn’t have seen that coming at the start of the year.
“Going forward we haven’t been as fluid and it’s hard to know what the reasons for that are. Croke Park may suit this team better than the Hyde would. I don’t think there’s a definite knowledge of the six forwards or the best positions to play them in but the space in Croke Park will help.”
Knockmore’s Trevor Howley admits it’s tough being on the other side of the world, particularly in the run-up to big Mayo games like Saturday. He and his girlfriend Marina Lacken, also from Knockmore, fulfilled the urge to travel and visited Thailand, Malaysia and the east coast of Australia from November to February before settling in Perth.
“I’d miss my family, of course, especially on special occasions and helping out in the bog this time of year,” he chuckled. “Also I’d miss my friends since we left. A lot of them have got married and it’s special occasions like these that you miss.
“And the football of course. I miss meeting up with my mates three times a week for training, with both club and county. From a Mayo point of view I miss the lads, they’re a great honest bunch. Everyone gets on so well and playing football at the top level, no stone is left unturned and you’re always learning.”
BUT the 26-year-old did admit that he wasn’t enjoying his football with Mayo as much as he would have liked as a persistent ankle injury affected his form and work commitments took their toll too.
“I wasn’t really enjoying my football the last 12 months between injuries and not finding form,” he explained. “You can get very impatient and that shows then when you go out and play. I needed a break from it. With the operations I had on my ankle my body only allowed me to train when I could because my ankle got quite sore afterwards but that’s not always possible with how professional inter-county is gone.
“My job situation and long hours didn’t allow me to get to the gym as much as I should have either, whereas the guy you’re competing against for a position works 9-5 or is a student and is ticking all the boxes on his weights programme and core work.
“The last thing you want going into a big game is to be questioning yourself if you did enough hard work between training and gym work because then you start doubting yourself.”
Mark Ronaldson was struggling to combine work and inter-county football as well when he was working as a trainee auditor with KPMG.
Lots of driving meant late arrivals at training and very tight hamstrings, the bane of a fast corner-forward like the Shrule/Glencorrib dynamo. He added that the job was ‘as boring as it sounds’ and went down a different career route. He’s currently studying for a Primary Teacher qualification with Hibernia.
He (like Trevor Howley who was in Leixlip for a time) also praises the effort of people like Noel Howley in bringing players based on the east coast home from training but admits that, after a year living in Naas, it still isn’t easy for any players commuting down for training. Still only 25-years-old, Ronaldson feels he still has plenty to offer.
“I still feel I have a lot left. I haven’t lost pace or anything. It’s not happening at the moment but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen in the future. Hopefully I’ll get a job in teaching and that will be more conducive to inter-county football.”
Trevor Howley is far less certain about where his future lies. He hopes to be in a position to get employment back at home, perhaps on the Corrib gas project where he worked previously. But like many emigrants he knows it would be foolish to leave a good job in Australia for uncertainty at home.
He’ll be back in Belass, Foxford at Christmas for a break but can’t look any further into the future than that. For now he’s tipping away playing football with a gang of Mayo men with the Southern Districts club in Perth but is also keeping a keen eye on Knockmore’s progress. He’s full of praise for manager Ray Dempsey and the players for having made the quarter-finals of the senior championship despite the likes of Kevin O’Neill, Niall Canavan and Damien Munnelly, and himself, being unavailable this year.
Any calls from Ray Dempsey pleading with him to come back for the business end of the championship?
“Ray is too mean to make an international call but I have the occasional text, usually late at night, telling me he misses me,” laughed Howley.
On the outside looking in