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Kevin McStay in his own words


TALKING POINTS Kevin McStay is pictured at the launch of his book, 'The Pressure Game' in Ballina in 2019. Pic: John O'Grady


Edwin McGreal

As he takes over Mayo, we’ve been looking at some of the instructive comments Kevin McStay has made in his book and in the media in recent years.

1 His pride in Mayo

“The honour of wearing the Mayo jersey was not lost on me … When I wore those beautiful rich colours of the green and red jersey embossed with our county crest I did indeed feel special. To this day, our colours stir me deeply.”
Kevin McStay, The Pressure Game (2019)

2 What football means in Mayo
“Mayo football will always define us as a people … I can only go back to my own time when there was a very close connection with the supporters and we had a great support then.
“They’re an incredibly loyal bunch of people. But of course they’ve got incredible value as well. Bar the final piece look at the fun of the last 10, 12, 15 years. It has been terrific.
“Whether I’m in Roscommon or Mayo or up in Dublin or over in Spain on a holiday or whatever I’d say a day in my life does not go by but someone will ask me ‘will Mayo win the All-Ireland this year’? Maybe around Christmas time when I don’t come out of the house too often!”
Mayo Football Podcast, 2022 League Final Preview

3 His Mayo team

“In my day we gave the ball away as fast as we got it. We’d kick it somewhere. It didn’t worry us, because we knew we’d every chance of getting the ball back into our possession, ten, 20 seconds later. In the modern game, you don’t get the ball back for minutes on end.
“The Mayo team I played on was riddled with that flakiness. Myself included, and if a goal went in against us at the wrong time in a game, most of the team would go into hiding.”
Kevin McStay, The Pressure Game (2019)

4 The modern game
“The modern game is about aerobic fitness. It’s about the pair of lungs inside the footballer as much as anything else. It’s about tracking. Pressure. Legal pressure and illegal pressure. Tackling and tackling.
“And it takes a magnificently athletic team, from A to Z, to play the modern game to absolute perfection.
“Two thirds of the Roscommon squad was not ready for the Super 8s. All those individuals had not done the four or five years of deep conditioning necessary.”
Kevin McStay, The Pressure Game (2019)

5 Mayo’s cultural change

“In years gone by, Mayo did have fellas who skipped the gym and were going off and eating junk food regularly and so on. It changed when management demanded a change and a new culture developed.
“When you hear that the team in Mayo is leading from the front, you know they are on a good thing. That’s when you have an All-Black type culture in place and you are in good shape.”
Mayo News interview, All-Ireland preview supplement 2017

6 Mayo not producing enough top-level forwards
“But do we cultivate and create forwards in Mayo? Why have we not gone about fixing the absence of elite Mayo forwards over the past 30 years? It surely has to start down at academy level where we begin to produce and coach specific types of forwards rather than just another fine all round player who often gravitates into defence and becomes these marauding attacking defenders.”
Irish Times, September 14, 2021

7 Attacking importance
“Defence is easy. The hardest thing about building a winning team in this day and age is the offensive structure.
Kevin McStay, The Pressure Game (2019)
“Up front we haven’t resolved … but we haven’t resolved that for about 50 years so it is a long piece of work. The forward work isn’t as polished as the other top teams. It just isn’t.
“You’ve heard me go on and on about the way we are butchering goal chances. That was evident once again on Sunday (final league game v Kildare). Evident because it is a very difficult piece of the game to correct.
“Every game I see Mayo play I can see three or four goals left behind. Not half chances, these are fully loaded chances that you are expected to get.
“I think systems and processes is all fine from one to nine … but you need three or four fellas who can get the scores and every winning All-Ireland championship team at All-Ireland level has them. I would argue at the minute we don’t have enough of them.”
Mayo Football Podcast, 2022 League Final Preview

8 Having Tommy Conroy, Ryan O’Donoghue and Cilllian O’Connor available
“That full-forward line that we all dream of … That could be what defines another All-Ireland year for us. The what ifs. Sometimes when you don’t have them you just can’t get the job done.
“Tommy Conroy is the real deal. Cillian O’Connor is absolutely the real deal. They are top, top players and we don’t have them available to us.
“Ryan O’Donoghue hasn’t been far off a one man show in the league. He has been absolutely outstanding … It’s unbelievable the ball he’s winning. He’s incredibly brave, he’s going after everything.”
Mayo Football Podcast, 2022 League Final Preview

9 Where to play Aidan O’Shea
“Rob will tell you my position on Aidan O’Shea, it has been the same for ten years! Full-forward and build your team around it and good luck.
“If I had him in front of me in a panel I was running, I’d say Aidan ‘we’re going to build this team around you, we’re going to bring this as far as we can. You won’t be going out to midfield and you won’t be going as a false six and you won’t be doing any of that fire brigade stuff. You’l be in there and we’re going to play slightly differently’.
“If you’ve the two O’Connors healthy, in form, going well, you’ve Conroy and O’Donoghue and Aidan O’Shea at 14, there’s five now and I’d be happy to go into any major game with that five. I’d find another workhorse somewhere to tidy up the game for me.”
Mayo Football Podcast, All-Ireland Quarter Final 2022 Preview

10 Losing to Tyrone in 2021
“But there was a sense that as a group, they were afraid to go and win the All-Ireland final: that they found it hard to muster up the courage to take responsibility and make the right pass and do the right thing.”
Irish Times column, September 14, 2021
“Last year did knock the stuffing out of all of us … It is still technically unexplained, our underperformance. I know they’ve had workshops … but nobody that I have read or heard has explained that flat, underperformance in an All-Ireland Final that could still have been won.”
Mayo Football Podcast, 2022 League Final Preview


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