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No winners in this Mayo GAA saga

Sport

The last few weeks have not been easy for anyone involved with Mayo GAA

Comment
Anne-Marie Flynn

WHAT do lions, pigs and donkeys have in common?
In recent years, they have all featured prominently in the multi-series soap opera that is Mayo GAA, which hits mobile screens every October, and unfortunately, provides the rest of the country with a regular injection of mirth.
How did we reach this point?
Who knows, but what we should really be asking is how we move on. After all that has happened in recent weeks, that will be no easy ask.
Regardless of your feelings on the saga, and there is, understandably a lot of negative sentiment floating around, the last few weeks cannot have been easy on anyone involved with Mayo GAA.
The behaviour of the executive in refusing to answer questions and shutting out outsiders is a classic defensive mechanism; but the lack of apparent decisive action paints a poor picture.
This is likely because there is more trouble ahead; and fundamentally it appears that Mayo GAA may have erred in allowing money to be raised on behalf of Mayo GAA by a third party in contravention of GAA regulations.
The consequences are not clear, but it appears to be an error that could easily have been avoided had the correct governance procedures been in place.
Whatever your thoughts on the county board, if money is being raised for Mayo GAA, it is clearly the county board that should be controlling both the process and the narrative.
Now, the board finds itself under scrutiny once again, but without any control. It is hard to retreat from the stage when the spotlight is shining on you.
So it is hard not to feel some sympathy for the executive, if not at the very least for their own failings, which they appear reluctant to own. Volunteering is thankless. No matter what, they will be taken for granted, and there will always be someone who does nothing themselves telling you what you should be doing better.
For historic reasons Mayo GAA is very susceptible to that, and being honest, most of us are guilty of it.
It is important not to lose sight of the excellent work that has been done, for example, by the current county board, in terms of underage games development and coaching, for example.
The flip side of that is that as well as sorting out their affairs, Mayo GAA urgently needs to get far better at taking control of its own narrative and telling its own story.
PR is vitally importance to any organisation, from one-man operations to large corporations. Reading public sentiment is essential; addressing it more so.
It is a massive ask to expect a volunteer PRO to take responsibility for all of that on top of publicising games and other related news.
It is even harder to expect an amateur executive to control its own narrative when conflict is aflame within the group itself, and when other stakeholders continue to leak sensitive correspondence to the masses.
But in an era where corporate sponsorship is so vital, PR is vital; so too is professionalism. To find yourself in a situation like this is negligent at best.
But we are now simply at a point where the gap between what is expected of volunteers and what is possible is just too wide.
What is also apparent is that Mayo GAA feel they owe no explanation to anyone outside their executive and club delegates.
You can see why they might feel that way, but much like the contempt with which the executive holds social media, it simply does not wash – and is short-sighted.
As is well documented, the average Mayo GAA fan’s fanatical journey, particularly in the last decade, has been about far more than sport, reflecting our county’s spirit of determination and defiance in the face of adversity.  
Significant time and money have been spent following this team in recent years, and when people so often put their hands in their pockets, they justifiably feel have some skin in the game.
When things like this happen and people from outside the county pour scorn and ridicule upon us, we all feel embarrassment.
Rationally or not, we feel that what has happened is a reflection on our own identity. So yes, Mayo fans deserve better.
Perhaps those within Mayo GAA do not respect or value that passion quite as much as they should.

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