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Some questions for the next Mayo manager

Sport

BIG CHARACTERS Former Mayo manager James Horan is pictured in conversation with Aidan O’Shea during the All-Ireland SFC Qualifier against Kildare at Croke Park last month. Pic: Sportsfile

Talking Tactics
Billy Joe Padden

SOME pundits and supporters may feel the next Mayo manager will be taking on a total rebuilding job, but I definitely don’t think that’s the case.
There’s too much young talent in the Mayo squad to say that a rebuild is required; just think of the likes of Mattie Ruane, Diarmuid O’Connor, Oisin Mullin, Ryan O’Donoghue and Tommy Conroy, along with the emergence of the likes of Enda Hession, Jordan Flynn and Jack Carney.
They are all players who haven’t reached their prime and some of the older players still have a lot to offer too; Rob Hennelly, Paddy Durcan, Lee Keegan. . .
So whatever this Mayo job might entail for the new man, it’s not a rebuilding exercise.
The new manager will also be looking to maintain, adapt and improve the things that this Mayo team does well. The strength of the half-back line, the running power around midfield, and the general strength of the defensive unit.
That’s something that any new manager will have to build on.
I read in these pages recently that all the candidates who allow their names to go forward will be interviewed by a committee, which will contain a former Mayo player.
It got me thinking about what kind of questions I might ask if I was on that committee.
Because the project will be about building on what’s there, I’d be asking each candidate how they intend to maintain the excellent standards in terms of strength and conditioning and preparation that have allowed Mayo to be a top four team for the last 10 years.
I think that’s your baseline, so I’d be asking how the new manager intends to maintain that, and how they intend to engage the squad so that the older players stay on?
How can you motivate them so that they will continue to put in the same effort that they have for the last decade or more?
Because if the new manager doesn’t get ‘buy in’ from all the players, it’s going to be very difficult. Players will form an opinion very quickly about a new manager or coach, and that will be a big consideration for anybody who has an input into picking the new manager.
And the new man needs make a good first impression and go from there.
In terms of specific questions around the football side of things, here are a few that I would like to ask the candidates if I got the opportunity.
The Mayo defence is already at a high level, so how are you going to maintain that level and what areas would you target to improve the defensive system?
One possible answer would be to find more depth and continuity in the full-back line, which has been so impacted by injuries to players this year.
We know that Mayo like to press high, but tell me how you’re going to set-up in games where Mayo need to sit back and get everyone behind the ball? How are you going to implement that? When are you going to practice it?
Who are going to be the key players when you’re executing that sort of game-plan?
Another question I’d like to ask would be in relation to midfield; you see the running power, the athleticism and the defensive responsibility, but we need to develop more playmaking ability and, even more important, is finding more physicality.
When kick-outs go long, there needs to be more physicality from a Mayo perspective. Since Seamie O’Shea and Tom Parsons retired, and when Aidan O’Shea isn’t in that area, Mayo have lacked a physical presence.
How could the new manager improve that aspect of Mayo’s game?
I’d feel the most room for improvement is in relation to the attacking side of the team’s game.
So a definite question for me would be, how can the new manager create a significant rate of improvement in relation to the offensive side of things?
I don’t see it as being entirely down to the six forwards who line out on a given day; it’s about the playmaking ability of the midfielders and the half-backs.
We know they can create opportunities through overlapping runs, and running the ball through the middle of the field, but I’d be asking someone who wants to manage Mayo, ‘Can you build on that? Can you make it more efficient? Have you got a better way of doing it? Can you improve the foot-passing ability, the quick passing movement through the lines from the half-back line into the full-forwardline?’
Another area that needs to be addressed is ball circulation among the entire forwardline when playing into a blanket defence. That’s something that Mayo have been inconsistent at, so I’d be asking a new manager, how would they go about improving that?
And how would it look for players like Ryan O’Donoghue, Tommy Conroy, Cillian O’Connor? How are they going to integrate and mesh together in an improved forward unit?
Another question would be in relation to developing a right-sided free-taker; how is the new manager going to tackle the issue of no left-footed free-taker?
I think that will be very very important in terms of developing as a squad.
But the biggest questions from an attacking point of view, in my opinion, revolve around, can we get better at kicking the ball into the forward-line and can we get better at playing against a blanket defence in terms of ball circulation?
I believe these are all very important questions that, hopefully, somebody will ask each of the candidates whenever they sit down with the interview committee.
Because their answers will reveal whether they are the right person for the job of building on the foundations that are there and finding the improvements required to challenge for the All-Ireland title again, and win it.

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