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Paul Earley hails Mayo’s ‘mental strength’


POPULAR Special guest Paul Earley is pictured during his very impressive speech at last Friday night’s Club Stars awards. Pic: Michael McLaughlin 

Special Guest

Daniel Carey

PAUL Earley hailed the ‘resilience’ and ‘mental strength’ of the Mayo senior football team, and described the local GAA club as ‘the heartbeat of the community’.
The former Roscommon footballer was the special guest at the Mayo News/O’Neills Club Stars 2015, held last Friday in the Knockranny House Hotel, Westport. He noted that ‘volunteerism has increased’ in recent years, adding: “People have rediscovered the traditional values that were always there, but were lost sight of during the boom times”.
Earley – whose late father and mother hailed from Castlebar and Lahardane respectively – was accompanied by his wife Mairéad, a Belmullet native. He revealed that of all the awards and accolades won by his late brother Dermot, being carried shoulder high by Mayo players off the pitch after the 1985 Connacht final, ‘was the one he valued most’, and it will, he assured the audience, ‘never be forgotten in our family’.
A former manager of the Ireland International Rules team, Earley said that he could not ‘speak highly enough of’ Aidan O’Shea, Lee Keegan, Kevin McLoughlin and Colm Boyle, all of whom had played under him, ‘in terms of attitude, ability, commitment and team ethic’. He added that how O’Shea hadn’t got the Irish man of the match award in the recent match against Australia was ‘mind-boggling’.
Suggesting that Mayo would have beaten Dublin if their midfield structure hadn’t broken down in the last 15 minutes of the All-Ireland semi-final replay, the Sky Sports analyst stressed: “In complete contrast to other commentators, I believe that the mental strength of this Mayo team is one of their biggest assets. The greatest sign of mental strength is resilience, and the current team has shown that in abundance over the last few years. And I know they have a huge appetite to learn.”
Earley, a first cousin of Castlebar publican Mick Byrne, cited the value of ‘marginal gains’ stressed by Dave Brailsford, the former performance director of British Cycling, and said ‘one per cent improvements’ in tactics, teamwork, individual skills, physical preparation and game-plan could lead to a big collective improvement.
“I hope and expect Connacht to be more competitive next year, with my own county posing a much bigger challenge this year, and that’s important to prepare teams to be more battle-hardened when they get to Croke Park,” he added. “I’m not making a prediction but I’m genuinely more optimistic about Mayo’s chances in 2016 than I was at the start of the year.”
The 51-year-old, who went to secondary school in Ballyhaunis, lived in Australia for two separate periods, and said lessons could be learned from the Aussie attitude to sport. He recalled that in 1983, Prime Minister Bob Hawke had declared a national holiday the day after Australia won the America’s Cup yacht race for the first time ever, saying on television: “Any boss who sacks anyone for not turning up for work today is a bum!” Smiling, Earley mused: “Wouldn’t you love to hear Enda Kenny come out with that line the morning after Mayo win the All-Ireland!”
Reflecting on that America’s Cup win and the sustained success of hockey coach Ric Charlesworth, Earley told an audience that included new Mayo manager Stephen Rochford: “What can we learn from the Aussies? We can learn that the gap between the very best and the teams that really want to win can be closed pretty quickly if the desire is there and the preparation is exceptional. That the coach or the manager is very often the difference – Mickey Harte, Jim McGuinness, Brian Cody. No pressure, Stephen! That consistent, high-quality, intense training is key for success. And that by supporting and encouraging our players, they are likely to perform better.”

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