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Why always us? Why always Mayo?


CLOUDS ON THE HORIZON Mayo GAA teams have been regular visitors to Croke Park over recent years. But recent events off the field threaten to impact on the performances of county teams. Pic: Sportsfile

The latest Mayo GAA crisis is just that, the latest mess of their own making

Edwin McGreal

EMOTIONS about the current Mayo GAA fiasco are running high in the county.
Many people are angry. Others are frustrated, some are hurt, more disappointed, and some just ambivalent. And it is not just on social media, where such emotion is often dismissed as a natural by-product of online forums.
Talk to people on the ground — club players and officials and Mayo supporters — and the feelings do not take long to rise to the surface.
GAA people in Mayo are very put-out right now, and it would be wrong to ignore that.
It is true that often times, with such emotion, the first casualty is rational thought.
So it is often instructive to try to stand back from the fire and ask some pertinent questions.
Why do people feel like this? Are their feelings justified? What do people want?
There can be no escaping the reality that so much of this current saga is of the Mayo GAA Board’s own making.
From the deal that Tim O’Leary says was agreed in April about terms and conditions for the releasing of funds raised by the Mayo GAA International Supporters Foundation he chairs, to the snail-like pace of the reaction to the crisis in September and October and November, the County Board have been, at best, asleep at the wheel.
But people are not just annoyed or dismayed because of the current mess. This latest controversy sits atop a volcano of crises that a succession of Mayo GAA decision-makers have found themselves at the centre of for far too long.
If the stock of the Mayo GAA Board was high going into this current fiasco, they might stand a puncher’s chance of coming out of it.
But because their reputation was being questioned long before the events of recent months, you’d imagine they should ask themselves why that is instead of looking to pass the blame elsewhere.
In our lifetime we can recall far too many fiascos for anyone’s liking. From John O’Mahony being let go in 1991 after the board obdurately refused to allow him to pick his own selectors, Mayo have had a habit of making the news for the wrong reasons.
Poor handling of management appointments and removals including (but not limited to) Brian McDonald, Mickey Moran, John O’Mahony, Kevin McStay, Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly, and Stephen Rochford.
The failure to embrace plans with transformative potential such as the Jack Kenny development squads in 2005 and, most obviously, the Strategic Review Plan drawn up under Liam Horan’s direction in 2010.
And then, of course, there is the crippling €18m-plus cost of the MacHale Park redevelopment.
That’s before we even get to the current saga involving Tim O’Leary and the Mayo GAA International Supporters’ Foundation.
At the behind-closed-doors County Board meeting on Monday, November 4 (an audio recording of which has since been widely circulated), County Board chairman Mike Connelly pointed the finger of blame for the MacHale Park debt at previous Mayo GAA administrations.
He is right in the sense that few of the current regime were party to that decision.
That was a different County Board. And it was a different board who effectively dumped John O’Mahony in 1991.
But, lest we forget, Mike Connelly was vice-chairman when Liam Horan’s Strategic Review was binned. The chairman was Paddy McNicholas, who goes into next month’s convention as the sole candidate for Mayo GAA’s seat on Central Council.
Most of the current Mayo GAA executive were there when Stephen Rochford was shown the door. Many of them were centrally involved in the shafting of Kevin McStay and subsequently dealt spectacularly badly with the Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly episode.
And it is the current board who are neck deep in this latest episode.
It is not correct to blame the current officers of the County Board for what happened before them. Obviously.
But it is right and proper to ask this question – why, if we have different people at the helm, are we still getting the same outcome again and again? The current board have plenty of blood on their hands and so do previous administrations.
Linking them all are poor decisions, poor judgement and a lack of leadership.
The problems are deep rooted and systemic.
Any sort of decent excuse suffices and, like much affairs of Mayo GAA, the publicly-stated reason is often at odds with what officers say privately. A situation which allows rumours and innuendo to not only thrive but triumph. Often, as Kevin McStay pointed out in these pages recently, ‘there is no consideration for the human fallout’.

EMOTIONS are running high not just because people feel this is far from an isolated incident. It is because so many people also feel helpless.
If something keeps happening again and again, why expect things to change now? And even in clubs, people feel helpless because they are just one club.
They wonder do other clubs feel the same?
People look at how some Mayo GAA representatives have conducted themselves during these horrible few weeks and can’t help but pick up on the tone.
There was the sight of the County Board chairman walking away from Newstalk’s Eoin Sheehan, refusing to comment after the ‘in camera’ meeting on Thursday, November 7.
There might have been good reasons for him not to talk, but it didn’t look good. It was a perfect snapshot of events of recent weeks, the Mayo GAA hierarachy on the run.
Add in poorly-drafted statements from both of the ‘behind closed doors’ meetings and the lack of any cogent response yet to the Foundation’s claims, and it’s easy to see why so many people feel they are being told where to go.
Some of the criticisms on social media are out of this world. Too many people with self-publication rights don’t understand their responsibilities. Suffice to say there are enough credible issues to tackle the county board on here without descending to name-calling and personal abuse.
Such comments are best ignored and the focus ought to be on what needs to change.
The anger we see from decent GAA people in this county stems from passion and pride in their county, from a desire to see things done right. To stop the cycle of crisis after crisis.
For our affairs to be run properly, and for Mayo people not to despair almost every single year — ‘why always us’?
A key factor in all of this too is the current Mayo senior football team. While there may be differing opinions on them in some quarters, there is broad consensus that they have pushed themselves to the limit year after year this decade.
People see how the Mayo football team have changed the narrative of teams representing this county. No longer yo-yoing from very good to average to mediocre, the consistently competitive nature of the last decade has been built on the pursuit of excellence and the surroundings of a high performance environment and culture.
People look at the current team and wish for the same with the officials who run Mayo GAA.
Longford in 2010 was the nadir for the players, when enough of the Mayo footballers shouted stop and asked and demanded so much more of themselves.
The Mayo GAA Board are at a similar juncture. It is time for them to ask searching questions of themselves. Or for the clubs to do so in the absence of such introspection.


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