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Learning lessons from the past


FROM THE ARCHIVES Then-Leitrim manager John O’Mahony shakes hands with then-Mayo manager Jack O’Shea after the 1994 Connacht SFC Final at Dr. Hyde Park, Roscommon. Pic: Sportsfile

Seán Rice

It’s about the future of Mayo football, not about the novelty that comes with the changing of the guard. It’s not about self-importance; not about the anticipation of a change of style or who will find favour with the new man.
It’s about the experience the candidate and his team bring to the position; about his capacity to bring new vision to a subject that has defied every manager for more than seven decades.
It’s about good judgement, about perception and understanding and insight and leadership.
It’s about all of those things wrapped up in one simple word: ABILITY.
We would remind the board of mistakes made at previous selections and the ensuing discord that still rankles in certain centres.
We remember the excitement that Jack O’Shea aroused when the appointment of Kerry’s great midfielder as Mayo manager was announced back in the nineties. It was a coup.
We couldn’t restrain our delight knowing that one of the best midfielders of our era and holder of seven All-Ireland medals, was heading our way, bringing gifts from the kingdom to make Mayo great again.
We recall the Kerryman taking part in training sessions as being the brightest star of all among his charges, and a template for those with All-Ireland ambitions.
We remember, too, with sadness that Sunday in Roscommon when John O’Mahony’s Leitrim beat Mayo, led by the same Jack O’Shea, to win their second Connacht senior football title.
We would remind them of the dismissal by Tipperary GAA Board of their manager Colm Bonnar after one year at the helm because the county ended at the bottom of their provincial league table . . . a humiliation for the famed hurling county.
A wrong decision may have been made in selecting Colm Bonnar, but an injustice was done in firing him . . . because the pride of the county was hurt.
Bitter experience ought to have taught Mayo to get it right from the beginning, not to end up regretting their mistake. Club delegates must also be on their guard against any attempt by the board to bypass their right to sanction the new appointment.
Controversial managerial appointments have blighted football progress in Mayo down the decades. Evidence suggests that some past Mayo Boards failed to anticipate the problem or learn from it when there was a problem.
One manager who retained the respect of players and followers alike way back in the sixties was Seamus Daly who was in charge when Mayo began to pick themselves up and to make a decent effort at rehabilitation.
Seamie, as he was known, was a native of Castlebar, but worked in the Mulranny area as social welfare officer. He later set up a thriving business in the seaside village and joined the local Burrishoole club.
He was deeply involved in the football affairs of Castlebar Mitchels before moving to Mulranny, cycling all over the county to matches as a teenager. He played with the Mongeys and the McGowans and the Goldens, big noises in the Mitchels of the forties.
He won six county senior medals with the club, scoring a total of 4-10 and was captain of the team on two occasions. He was considered well qualified to take over a Mayo team struggling for some sort of recognition in the face of Galway’s three-in-a-row of the early sixties.
Seamie was among those who generated the tidal wave that swept through the county in the late ‘forties.
In a famous letter from players, the officials of the county board were asked in effect to wake up; to rid themselves of the apathy suffocating football in the county and to realise there was talent around them equal to anything in the country.
The players had taken it upon themselves to stop the rot. And Seamie Daly was a member of the subsequent championship side that set about recovering some of the glory of the previous decade.
‘Team trainer’ they called him when he took charge of the county’s senior side. After his time the epithet would change to ‘manager’. Training consisted of hard running, sprints, press-ups and drills of that nature, replications of the regimes current in the forties.
‘Strength and conditioning’ were words that had not yet reached the lexicon of Mayo preparation. Gym work and weight training would later be introduced by Liam O’Neill.
Seamie Daly treated every player with respect. And for the most part respect was returned. But he was too forgiving, especially when the discipline he called for was not fully observed by every member of the squad; those who took advantage of his forbearance . . . lesser men than their manager.
He wasn’t one to censure or reprove or to castigate which may have been a stumbling block to the success for which Mayo longed. Tougher demands might have prodded a squad with undoubted potential to greater endeavour.
Mick O’Dwyer had that ruthless streak in preparing Kerry for a slew of All-Ireland titles in the seventies. In Waterville, where Eoin Liston was appointed science teacher, O’Dwyer took him into a field every evening kicking footballs, then nine holes of golf, then food, then kicking practise, and finishing with a game of badminton.
Tommie O’Malley, a classy Mayo forward of the seventies, remembers Seamie as a manager who developed great friendship and built spirit and trust among the panel. There was great joy when after a lapse of twelve years Mayo, captained by Martin Carney, won the Nestor Cup in 1981.
“Seamie Daly was not a great trainer but he was sincere and frank,” Tommy recalled. “At that time Fr Leo Morahan, Johnny Mulvey and Paddy Basquill were officers of the board. As a group they were highly respected by the players.
“Joe Langan took charge for the ‘71/72 season. He was skilled and smart, one of the brightest of the sixties squad. When appointed manager, Joe acquired the services of Pat Stanton, an imminent physical training instructor, as fitness coach.
“Although only a year at the job, Langan had introduced methods that distinguished him from other managers. He resigned after a year, having become principal of Davitt College. In 1975, at the request of some players, Langan allowed his name go forward again. He was beaten by 18 votes to 12 for the job, “ said O’Malley.
“He had a great tactical brain. Seán Kilbride and John Gibbons would testify to his abilities, his natural teaching talent. He introduced team meetings before matches where tactics were discussed. He would bring you to your knees at those meetings if you did not live up to his expectations.”
“Players had asked for his return”, said O’Malley, “but one of the officials organised against him. I was captain and we wanted Langan because he was the best manager we played under.”


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