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Mayo in need of a fresh start

Sean Rice
Sean Rice

Mayo need a fresh start

FRESH from their giant-killing act in Tralee, Armagh awaits the visit of one of the oldest inhabitants of Division 1 with buoyed spirit.
Their victory over Kerry is not the sole reason the Orchard County expect two further points from their brush with Mayo at the Athletic Grounds on Saturday evening.
The history of their league meetings down the years reveals an uncomfortable statistic for the visitors. Of their thirteen meetings going back to 1979, Armagh have won eight. There have been two draws, and Mayo have won on three occasions.
Mayo’s last success goes back to 1992 when they had three points to spare; Armagh’s was no later that last spring at McHale Park . . . by a similar margin.
At least nine of the northern side will feature at the weekend, and if Mayo have learned anything from that experience, it is the need to forestall the type of whirlwind start in which Armagh almost engulfed them.
The spontaneity of Armagh’s play and their flashing raids had Mayo struggling to cope in the opening minutes, and although they eventually weathered that storm it did not compensate for their sluggish start.
The Athletic Grounds has been greatly improved since Mayo’s last visit eighteen years ago, but the playing surface is still more confined than McHale Park, and might thus be of certain assistance to Mayo in reining in the mercurial running of Joe Kingham, Malachy Mackin and Brian Mallon, especially in the crucial opening quarter.
Having garnered so much knowledge about his players from the league campaign and their championship run last season, James Horan is unlikely to experiment quite so meticulously in the games ahead. So the likelihood is that many familiar faces will feature on Saturday.
David Clarke, Keith Higgins, Peadar Gardiner, Alan Dillon, Andy Moran, and Conor Mortimer of the old brigade, together with the O’Sheas, Lee Keegan, Donal Vaughan, Alan Freeman, Kevin McLoughlin, Enda Varley and Cilian O’Connor of more recent vintage will be in hot contention for places.
The hamstring that forced Ger Cafferkey to retire in their opening game with Laois may not have sufficiently healed to allow his return on Saturday, and the gap the Ballina man left at full-back is not yet adequately filled.
Last season Alan Feeney gave early notice of presenting a credible challenge to Cafferkey with some promising performances at full-back, but while he has not left the scene, the manager’s confidence in him has obviously waned somewhat.
No readymade alternative has appeared on the scene, and without a competent number three, Mayo are vulnerable to the probings of McVerry and Mallon and Kingham.
Three members of the Mayo defence of last season’s joust with the Orchard men will not field on Saturday. Tom Cunniffe, Cathal Hallinan and Ruaidhri O’Connor are not yet in the manager’s plans. Tom Parsons, Ronan McGarrity, on whom so much hope had been placed for the future, together with Aidan Kilcoyne are also out of the panel.
Barry Moran is now the midfield anchorman. His return to form has eased general anxiety about the loss of Parsons and McGarrity, and together with either Seamus or Aidan O’Shea ought to secure this crucial area in the coming months.
The manager has experimented with the Mitchels man at full-forward, but Moran is more at home at midfield and his work-rate is also more fruitful as was seen in the half-match against Dublin.
Charlie Vernon and Kieran Toner stoked much of Armagh’s fire last season from midfield. In recent games Kingham and Mackin in turn have successfully partnered Vernon. If Mayo could erase that threat on Saturday it will ease the pressure on a rather shaky defence.
Last year half-backs Kieran McKeever and Paul Duffy injected a lot of spirit into their attack with strong, decoying type of running which overstretched the Mayo defence, a problem that will not have gone unnoticed by the manager.
James Horan fielded no two similar sides last year, and no doubt there will be changes on Saturday to keep the squad alert and competitive. They’ll need to be at their very best, however, to take the honours at the Athletic Grounds. Essentially, they have got to be quicker off the mark.
We complain, of course, about their notoriously slow starts, yet, characteristically, Mayo generally come good in the second half. Against Laois they once again banished those first half foibles.
But Armagh could be a different kettle of fish.

Mitchels agm debate raises questions
OUTGOING secretary Finian Joyce pulled no punches in his report to the annual meeting of Castlebar Mitchels GAA club. Nor has his straight talking made many friends at the top table as he discovered when forced to produce his cheque book to prove that he had paid his membership fee before the end of March last year.
A contentious decision by the outgoing executive to refuse, for the first time, voting rights to those who paid their membership subs after March 31 caused embarrassment and no little upset to some long serving members of this old club.
The deadline decision was taken without the knowledge of the outgoing registrar Jodie Munnelly who for five years collected membership fees, some well beyond March 31. At no previous meeting was anyone barred from voting because of ‘late’ membership.
In fact, the registrar knew nothing of the proposal to confine voting rights to those who had paid up before March 31, otherwise he would have refused to register new members after that date. As a result the integrity of the registrar was called into question.
The hasty decision left the majority of the 188 membership ‘disenfranchised’ . . . unable to go forward for office or to propose any candidate for any office. Not all of the 188 attended the annual meeting. Even so, those whose subs were accepted after March 31 have a right to expect redress.
According to the club’s constitution, closing date for membership was July 31, but that date was subsequently changed, the meeting was told.
Was it any wonder the outgoing secretary questioned the efficiency of the executive of one of the leading clubs in the county?
“During the year our club executive met on only five occasions between January and November,“ said Mr Joyce.
“The recommended number of executive meetings per annum is ten. Some of our executive meetings were poorly attended.  In fact we had to cancel three executive meetings during the year because we did not have a quorum.
“If we had strictly applied Rule 7.24 of our Club Constitution then a number of members of our Club executive would have been deemed to have resigned.  A number of members who were elected to the executive never attended a meeting. This is not acceptable and should not be allowed to continue.”
(Rule 7.24 states: If any member of the executive misses three consecutive meetings without reasonable excuse he or she is deemed to have resigned from the executive)
The secretary went further: “It is fair to say that too much work is being done by too few and too many decisions are taken in advance of any discussion at executive level.”
The outgoing secretary had been nominated for the post of county board representative but the nomination was rejected because his nominator had not been registered before March 31.
The secretary was also informed that he could not contest the position of vice-chairman for the same reason . . . until he proved his credentials by producing his chequebook.

On the money

“AT present training regimes are driving players to the limit of their endurance. For how long more can they stand the demands being made of them by team managers. If we introduce regulated payments to managers I am sure that the demands of pay for play will follow, if not immediately surely in the near future.”
Connacht Council Secretary, John Prenty, in his brilliant annual report.

Just a thought …
“Write down how much you want, put it in an envelope and give it to the treasurer.“ Former Dublin manager Tommy Lyons on being interviewed for the post as Mayo manager.

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