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The four men in the hat

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Profiles
Edwin McGreal

Ray Dempsey

THE current Knockmore manager is aiming to lead his club to three Mayo SFC titles in-a-row this year.
After retiring from club football, he managed Lahardane in 2000 before coming out of retirement to play for Knockmore once more.
He has managed his home club’s senior team three times, along with coaching a plethora of underage teams in the club.
He took charge of Mayo minors from 2007 to 2009, leading them to back to back All-Ireland finals in 2008 and 2009. His class of 2008 narrowly missed out on ultimate glory, losing their final replay to Tyrone in extra-time.
He went straight from there to taking the Mayo Under 21s from 2010 to 2012 but they were knocked out by Roscommon each year.
Current senior players such as Lee Keegan, Aidan O’Shea, Rob Hennelly and Cillian O’Connor would have played county underage under Dempsey’s management.
In 2020 he led Knockmore to their first Mayo SFC title in 23 years – he was playing himself in 1997 – and followed it up with the 2021 title.
Dempsey enjoyed a lengthy Mayo playing career from 1989 to 1998.
He played in the All-Ireland finals of 1989 and 1996, scoring a goal in the drawn ‘96 final. He scored 7-35 in 22 championship games.  
A financial advisor by trade, Dempsey played Minor for Mayo in 1987 and ‘88 and U21 for four years, from 1988-91.
He has yet to publicly reveal the make-up of his backroom team.

Kevin McStay
The Ballina man was first involved with Mayo as senior team trainer under Anthony Egan in 1995.
He managed Mayo Under 21s for four seasons from 1999-2002, reaching an All-Ireland Final in 2001.
Living in Roscommon town, he has managed at all levels with Roscommon Gaels and also with Roscommon minors in the past.
He took over St Brigid’s of Kiltoom in 2012 and steered them to an elusive All-Ireland club title the following spring, surging back from nine points down to beat Ballymun in the final.
He went for the Mayo senior job in late 2014 but did not get the job after a process that was poorly handled by the-then senior officers of the County Board.
McStay went on to manage Roscommon from 2016-18, winning a Connacht title in 2017.
Like Ray Dempsey, he enjoyed a lengthy Mayo career himself, from 1983-1990, when a leg break spelled the beginning of the end of his playing career.
He scored 1-48 in 17 championship games and won an All Star at corner-forward in 1985.
He played Minor and U-21 for Mayo, winning an All-Ireland Under-21 medal in 1983.
A retired Irish Army Officer, where he attained the rank of Commandant, McStay is a well-known GAA analyst for RTÉ and The Irish Times.
His proposed backroom team includes former Mayo manager Stephen Rochford, former Mayo coach Donie Buckley, former Belmullet and Breaffy manager Damien Mulligan and former Mayo footballer, Liam McHale who worked with McStay at both St Brigid’s and Roscommon.

Declan Shaw
RAY Dempsey is going for three-in-a-row Mayo SFC titles this year and it is something Declan Shaw knows all about.
He led Castlebar Mitchels to three Moclairs from 2015-2017 as joint manager with Declan O’Reilly, before becoming manager in his own right for the 2018 and 2019 seasons.
In 2015, they won a Connacht club title, beating a Stephen Rochford managed Corofin en route, and beat favourites Crossmaglen in a riveting All-Ireland semi-final. However they lost the final in Croke Park to Ballyboden St Enda’s.
He served as a selector under Peter Ford at Castlebar Mitchels before taking on his first manager’s role out the road with Parke in 2012.
He managed Mitchels to a Mayo JFC title in 2014 before he and Declan O’Reilly took over the club’s senior team for the 2015 season.
He revealed his backroom team on Sunday to consist of former Dublin footballer and Tipperary coach Paddy Christie; former Mayo footballer and his Mitchels clubmate Richie Feeney; former Sligo forward and their current U-20 manager Dessie Sloyan; and Lahardane’s Cormac Rowland, who has coached Mitchels and Parke in recent years.
A tough defender in his playing career, Shaw was on the Castlebar Mitchels team that reached the All-Ireland club final in 1994, losing to Nemo Rangers.
Like Ray Dempsey, he is in a rare group of people who have won Mayo SFC titles as a player and manager.
Shaw played U-21 for Mayo in 1992 and runs the family landscaping business in Castlebar.

Mike Solan
Manager of the last All-Ireland winning Mayo team, the Under 21 side of 2016, Solan was in the running for this position in 2018, before withdrawing and leaving the route clear for James Horan.
The Ballaghaderreen man is the youngest of the four candidates – he turns 40 this year.
He was part of the Mayo minor squad which reached the 2000 All-Ireland Minor final, losing to Cork.
He played club football with his club for many years, typically as a half-forward and won a Mayo SFC title at wing-forward in 2008 alongside his brother Barry, the renowned strength and conditioning coach, but was injured for their 2012 success.
He also managed his club in recent years.
He coached the Mayo U-21s under Niall Heffernan in 2015 before taking over as manager in 2016. He led Mayo to an impressive All-Ireland title, beating Dublin and Cork in dramatic games in the All-Ireland series.
In the new U-20 grade he led Mayo to an All-Ireland Final in 2018, losing to Kildare. He finished a five-year stint as manager in 2020.
Current Mayo seniors such as Diarmuid O’Connor, Stephen Coen, Ryan O’Donoghue, Jordan Flynn, Oisín Mullin and Tommy Conroy would have played under him.
A national school teacher, Solan’s management team has been released and consists of former Armagh footballer and the performance sports manager at Queen’s University, Aidan O’Rourke, Shrule’s Mark Ronaldson, Ballinrobe’s Alan Murphy and Sligo’s Eamonn O’Hara.

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