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Club delegates will have final say on Mayo manager

Sean Rice
Sean Rice

Club delegates will have final say

Seán Rice

THE formalities have not yet been completed . . . and Mayo followers are still in the dark. Sometime later this week, perhaps, a recommendation will be made to the County Board, and if it is accepted, the new senior manager will be announced shortly afterwards.
But the County Board have the power to turn down any recommendation from the committee set up to interview candidates for the job.
And this is one occasion when it is incumbent on every member to voice his opposition to any proposal with which he disagrees. Mayo football demands that much from those who represent it.
Favourites have changed like the weather . . . from Mick O’Dwyer, to John Maughan, to James Horan to Tommy Lyons.
Odds on Maughan had been hardening because no other manager made a better attempt at dragging Mayo over the parapet. But the selection committee were not enthused, it seems, about a second recall.
And sensing their coolness, Maughan pulled out.
That’s a pity. Maughan’s experience of Mayo football cannot be easily dismissed. And there is a widespread opinion in the county that the knowledge and understanding he had gained from previous years at the helm would have benefited a new Mayo in his third term.
A common perception persists also, though, that for some reason he is not the flavour of the month with the selection committee. Mayo News columnist Kevin McStay told our website last Friday that he was not surprised that the former manager had pulled out. He felt he would withdraw once he read the signals from the County Board meeting.
“John hasn’t revealed his reasons publicly yet for pulling out but I would say he figured out that support at County Board level had drained away. I think he got a sense that, once he saw the make-up of the selection committee, it wasn’t one that was going to propose him.
“I’m just speculating, of course, but what disappoints me is that John Maughan seems to have pulled out because he felt there was ‘shennanigans’ going on, that the process is not being conducted in the manner it should be.”
In the aftermath of his withdrawal, speculation mounted that Tommy Lyons, who figured in no one’s thoughts when first nominated, has become the new front-runner.
Lyons, who led Dublin and Offaly to Leinster titles, and Kilmacud Crokes to an All-Ireland is of course a native of Mayo, and has a firm grounding in the Mayo game.
But while the former Dublin manager may be recommended, to suggest that his selection is a foregone conclusion is to underestimate the potential power in the hands of County Board representatives.
James Horan is now a strong challenger. He will have enhanced his chances after guiding Ballintubber to the county senior final. The manner in which they went about dismissing Shrule/Glencorrib is a credit to his handling skills.
And if a majority of the delegates feel that Maughan’s candidacy ought to be reconsidered, they have the power to demand that, too.
Come to think of it, they could also ask for a genuine consultation with Peter Ford, the favourite of many people, long before he guided Castlebar Mitchels to the county final last Sunday.
It’s about time a decision was made, and it is in the hands of the Board members to make the final choice . . . not the selection committee who make the recommendation.

Old foes set up a fascinating final

CASTLEBAR MITCHELS inch their way back into the limelight. In dismissing favourites Knockmore, they have reached a unique final which not even the imagination could have fashioned when the season began.
Vibrations from the stirring of the Mitchels and Ballintubber have been growing in recent years and while each has laid claim to high championship ambitions this season, their clash in the final was scarcely ever a topic of expectation.
Only when Ballintubber had fought off a second-half rally by Shrule/Glencorrib on Sunday did the reality dawn that for the first time in their history they would confront an old time-honoured foe in the final.
That’s a topic for another day. How both qualified for the final is the story of the week, a pair of semi-finals that never quite ignited despite an exciting finish to each.
A single point separated favourites Knockmore and Castlebar. Having lost the final last season, the north side were not the kind of team to slip up again. Their traditional toughness was at the heart of predictions that this time they would renew their acquaintance with the Moclair Cup.
As they steadily pared back the Mitchels’ lead in the last quarter, their hopes surged, especially when Mayo star Aiden Kilcoyne cut loose for the equaliser in the final minutes.
That’s when the mettle of the Mitchels was tested. And when veteran sub Kevin Filan, barely on the field, played hero in plucking a point from the most difficult angle, and then turned villain by getting himself sent off, any sort of finish was possible.
It remained to one of their most consistent players over the past couple of seasons to finally nail victory, and appropriate that the chance fell to full-back Richie Feeney.
More to the point he created the chance in skipping down the left wing to gain possession, and showed nerves of steel in drilling the ball over the bar from an angle.
Knockmore were surprised by the fury of Castlebar’s opening onslaught. And they were unlucky to lose Declan Sweeney with a serious injury barely seven minutes into the game.
Sweeney, their regular centre-back, had been moved to the full-back position to counter the threat of Barry Moran. I¹m not so sure it was a good move by the Knockmore backroom men, because Moran had already grabbed two points, and flicked in the goal that was to establish the quality of Castlebar’s challenge.
Moran got his hand in the long centre from the brilliant Daragh Sloyan, and as a cluster of players bore down on the goal, Sweeney got injured and was taken to hospital.
The goal was Knockmore’s stumbling block all through the hour, and apart from one timely intervention by Shane Fitzmaurice during the final quarter, the North Mayo forwards found no similar opening.
Castlebar, on the other hand, had couple of goal chances to seal the win long before Richie Feeney did. They were the better side, but they are not there yet.
The sight of midfielder Jason Gibbons thundering through the centre, taking a pass from Ruairi O’Connor, and sticking the ball in the Shrule/Glencorrib net was the highlight of Ballintubber’s win in the other semi-final.
His performance is proof that there is latent talent in Mayo, and the manner in which the young midfielder competently traversed McHale Park, left no one who watched in doubt about his possibilities as a future county midfielder.
There were other large contributions also . . . notably from Alan Plunkett, Gary Loftus, Tom Earley, Michael Nestor and, of course, Alan Dillon.
But Gibbons trumped all in a powerful performance that must be honed and promoted by whomever takes the reins of Mayo senior football.

Just a thought …
With the defeat of Knockmore, the powershift to the western end of the county was complete. The titles of all major championship competitions rest this year in the west. The wheel has turned, but for how long?

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