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It’s good to to talk …

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WATCHING BRIEFMayo manager James Horan, pictured with his former selector Tom Prendergast, watching the Mayo SFC Quarter Final between Knockmore and the duo’s native Ballintubber in Bekan. Pic: Sportsfile

The way I see it

Ger Flanagan

OVER a month on from that All-Ireland Final defeat and Mayo manager James Horan has spoken publicly for the first time since that day.
In a wide-ranging interview with Tommy Marren on Midwest Radio last week, the Ballintubber native sounded relaxed and upbeat as he addressed some of the many talking points that filled the vacuum to the point of explosion since that infamous day in September.
In the studio in Ballyhaunis he sounded positive, refreshed and excited about the year ahead. He even cracked a few jokes, sounding like a man just back from a sun-holiday in the Canaries and enjoying being free from the pressures of inter-county management.
Overall, there was a lot said in the interview, but when I sat down and analysed it – a novelty us columnists can enjoy – I feel there was actually very little knowledge gained in terms what is already out there.
So when the curtains came down, I left the theatre still with more questions than answers, none further down the road about the events from September 11 onwards.
One of the major headlines that flooded the media was confirmation from Horan that he, Ciaran McDonald and James Burke were already planning for 2022, thus confirming the return of the duo rumoured to have left a number of weeks back.
He then described those rumours or ‘untruths’ as ‘phenomenal’ and ‘bonkers’ and was perplexed at how many news outlets ran with it before adding that ‘I haven’t come out and said anything because there was nothing to say when there was so much going on’.
This explanation didn’t fully sit right with me and needed further pressing, I felt. If there was absolutely no truth to the stories published then why not come out straight away and rubbish them?
The most basic of media strategies in dealing with speculation is to get out there before it gathers momentum quench the flame early.
That is what would have quashed the rumour mill instantly and where he could have controlled the narrative.
Instead, the vacuum was filled with a deafening silence. Both the County Board and Ciaran McDonald himself failed to confirm or deny the rumours in the week after the story broke nationally.
There was a hung jury.
So I’d question why wait this long to speak out about such a pressing issue like that? I also found it bizarre but maybe somewhat unsurprising that his first interview since the All-Ireland Final was with a presenter of  a current affairs show. And on a station who were one of the outlets who carried the same story he said was a ‘complete untruth’ and one that perplexed him so much?
I was curious, along with many others, to hear Horan’s thoughts on how the much talked about review meeting with the County Board went. And what kind of questions clubs asked him.
We can only assume it was forgotten in the interview, which can often happy when there is so much to cover in a short period of time.
Horan described the review as a ‘very good meeting’ and Mayo GAA Secretary Dermot Butler has also spoken glowingly of it, in particular of McDonald’s input and ideas.
My hope is that the atmosphere in the review meeting room resembled more a parole hearing than an afternoon coffee date.
A lot of other topics were touched on in the interview, including what went wrong on the day, online abuse and commercial player engagements, with Horan tiptoeing around and speaking in a lot of generalisations.
We also found out he’s on Twitter – a phantom scroller – and that they are hoping to host a combine style skills event for club players next month.
Maybe some new players will be unearthed, or some current extended panel members discovered as to being not at the level and new crop brought in as replacements.
Either way, it’s a welcoming initiative and interesting idea that would make for a decent piece of video content and PR for Mayo GAA TV. I’d certainly watch it!

Failed Proposal B a set back
IT was frustrating but not surprising to hear of Proposal B’s failure to reach the required 60 percent vote to pass at last Saturday’s Special Congress.
The narrative seemed to turn in its favour during the few days leading up to the vote but I grew less and less confident as D-Day approached.
While there was initially good positivity toward the proposal, the GPA set their stall out early and it received almost unanimous backing from inter-county players which, to me, should have been the deciding factor.
Sure, it wasn’t perfect and had its flaws. The poorer performing teams in Division 1 and Division 2 would suffer a fate which probably seemed a little unjust, which, interestingly, could easily see a big hitter like Mayo or Donegal suffer.
But the current structure is absolutely strangling the smaller counties into a state that almost makes them irrelevant. More meaningful games is what they need to progress and to stop the brain drain of talent they are suffering.
There was genuine hunger and belief from inter-county players in those counties that Proposal B can positively impact them. So it’s a shame that GAA administration is still so ultra-conservative.
The fear of change is overpowering.
When I listened to Leinster GAA Secretary Michael Reynolds’ car crash interview on Newstalk’s Off The Ball, it was worrying to hear how out of touch he appeared in terms of his views on Proposal B, given his position within the GAA.
There are many like him too.
However, all is not lost. And I wouldn’t go as far as claiming that football is dead after thew weekend’s unsuccessful attempts to change the system.
If anything, it has highlighted the hunger for change that exists. Another opportunity to execute meaningful change is coming around the corner in February.
And I’m confident that there is enough smart people involved to get that over the line.

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