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McStay’s experience counted


REFLECTIONS Kevin McStay is pictured with the Shane McGettigan Cup after managing St Brigid’s to the 2012 Connacht Senior Club FC title. Pic: Sportsfile

Talking Tactics
Billy Joe Padden

NOW that the dust has settled on the appointment of a Mayo manager, we can all breathe a massive sigh of relief that the long drawn-out process is finally over.
That all the back and forth and talking about it has come to an end.
I have no reason to believe that the process wasn’t carried out in the proper way and that every candidate didn’t have the same opportunity.
Kevin McStay was selected in a fair and transparent manner and, considering his experience and that of his management team, and what Kevin has achieved in the game as a manager, I think it’s a good appointment.
I don’t know Kevin personally, but given that he applied for the Mayo job a number of times in the past, I‘m happy that the powers-that-be have decided to give him this opportunity and that he’s put a management team together of the calibre that he did.
I know there’s been a lot of talk about all the respective backroom teams, but for me the buck stops with the manager. And it all comes down to the tone that man sets and the way he communicates his message and overall goals and objectives with his management team and the players.
It’s about getting buy-in from players, the backroom team, the County Board and the supporters. That’s one of the most important aspects of the job for Kevin McStay.
I’ve no doubt that he’s assessed the Mayo team closely over the last number of years, and I’m sure he has specific areas he wants to improve and a style of football he wants the team to play. Now it’s about him putting that into practice.
One thing we know for sure about Kevin is what he’s achieved as a manager in the past.
We can see it from his days managing Mayo underage teams, I was involved in some of those myself; we can see it from what’s he’s done in club management with St Brigid’s, and what he’s done in senior inter-county management with Roscommon.
He has a strong back catalogue there, and that’s something that would have been considered by the appointment committee.
He has experience and he’s had success, and that’s very important.
I noticed in his first interview last week, Kevin was quick to point out the experience of his management team. But it will be his job to identify specific areas to focus on to try and improve the team.
Everyone wants something shiny and new, but a coach that wants to grow and adapt is a huge positive too. So while the likes of Stephen Rochford and Donie Buckley may have a familiarity with a lot of this Mayo group, I believe they also both have the personality and mindset that will see them continue to develop and evolve as coaches.
But we can talk all we want about what’s written in newspapers or Kevin says himself in interviews, or his backroom team, but the real test won’t come until we see his first squad or we see Mayo out on the pitch.
It’s important that Mayo stay at the top table and remain All-Ireland contenders; to do that you have to be successful and the baseline has to be that Mayo are a Division 1 team, winning Connacht titles every other year, and finding their way into All-Ireland semi-finals and finals on a regular basis.
That’s the minimum, and I think Kevin McStay knows that.
And I think Mayo supporters know that.
As James Horan said a few years back, we’re not here on a Holy Grail quest where we win one and aren’t seen for 20 years.
That’s not what it’s all about.
It’s about being competitive and challenging for titles every year. It’s about being repeat contenders, year in and year out.

Hard work will have started already

THE next few weeks will probably be a relief for Kevin McStay.
I’m sure it was a stressful process, it dragged out time-wise, but now he can get down to what he wants to do.
He can focus on that.
He’s probably met with his management team at this stage and set out a strategy for the short-term and the overall long-term. I think he’s mentioned already about wanting to have a strong panel, that’s something that James Horan has developed well over the last number of years, so Mayo are in a better position in that regard than they would have been at the end of 2016 and 2017. That’s a positive.
If there are players that he has an idea about, that haven’t been involved with Mayo before or have come through the underage ranks, can they be involved?
He’ll have a good look at the club championships to scout for new talent; and the search for free-takers is something I think is going to be very important.
There will be a lot of conversations to be had with players too; from seeing how Tommy Conroy and Ryan O’Donoghue are coming back from their injuries to checking in with some of the more senior players.
He’ll want their feedback and he’ll be getting their views on the future, because I think he’ll want most, if not all, of those senior players to continue on.
I believe they have a lot to offer.
Talking to the experienced players at an early stage will be critical.
They will need to be made feel empowered and they will want to feel part of what Kevin is trying to achieve. Getting them on board as quickly as possible would be a great start.
We’re also waiting to see what’s going to be announced in terms of the additional members of the backroom team — strength and conditioning, psychology, nutrition etc.
Those roles will be filled out quickly. The next few months will fly by and the serious business will start then.

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