Sean Deane was ratified as the new Mayo minor manager last week - the Breaffy clubman and Erris native is eagerly looking forward to his new role, alongside his management team of Gary Ruane, Shane Conwy, Shane McCann and Danny O’Toole.
Deane, who has been involved with the county's u16 teams in recent years, said that it was the opportunity of playing a small part in bringing through the next crop of potential senior players, that attracted him to the role.
“What spurred me to put my name forward was my love of Mayo football," he told the Mayo Advertiser, adding: "The opportunity to put a good management team together that could develop the next generation of Mayo senior footballers and have some small part in their development. Because ultimately, as I see it, the minors, these guys, are at u17, and are very, very young, so it is all about development at this juncture and creating the right environment for them, so that they have the right attitude, skill set and work ethic, to go on to be best that they can be for their clubs and ultimately the county.
"So it is a stepping stone from minor to u20, then senior, and to make sure that we have a little bit of joined-up thinking in those three areas - and obviously it starts with us trying to lay the first foundation stones."
Challenging first year in charge
This year is going to be a very challenging year to get up and running with the minors due to the current restrictions and no clarity on when they will be lifted - which is not allowing the management team to do things they normally would when getting their squad together, he explained.
"It will be hugely challenging. I met with the management team online on Wednesday and one of the things we needed to discuss is exactly what the process will be.
"What you want to have is a situation where trials can be held at regional level and that will culminate in the county cup. Failing that, you’d say look at some sort of a blitz stage that will come quicker; and failing that, there is a bit of discussion about how we will put a squad together.
"But hopefully, things will ease up a little bit and we can have trials, because that is what we want to do, so every young guy who has aspirations of playing for Mayo will get the opportunity to put their best foot forward
"We know a fair amount of the players - with myself being involved in club management at u16 level in the last few years - along with the Tedd Webb - as has Gary Ruane and a number of others in the management team for the past few years.
"Half the management team would have a very decent knowledge of players and the other half would have probably not so much, which is a good mix, so we will challenge each other to make sure we do the right thing in terms of picking a squad.
"With the restrictions from Croke Park, 32 is the limit on the squad number and that’s what we will have - we can’t have any more unfortunately."
Disappointing players is the hardest part
Picking a squad of 32 will ultimately lead to a number of young footballers being disappointed, and Deane readily admits that they might miss players - but advises it is important for them to keep going as there will be other opportunities for them to make the breakthrough with county sides down the line.
"That is the hardest part of the job, no doubt about it, and was also the case at u16 level, in terms of making decisions on players; and let's be very frank about it - when you look at trials and you see players, you’re not going to get it right all the time and you are going to make mistakes; there is no doubt about it. But obviously, what we are going to do is to try and minimise mistakes and do the best job we can do in terms of pulling a squad together - without having a huge amount of time to do it, which is the most challenging thing. The most difficult aspect of the job is disappointing aspiring young footballers and we will do that as delicately as possible.
"I had the privilege and pleasure to have dinner with Warren Gatland (Lions rugby coach ) about 18 months ago and he told me a little story about when he was making his way through and he wasn’t making different regional teams and his dad would ask him, how did he get on; and he’d say, dad I didn’t make it, and his dad would say to him, son that’s just one man's opinion; and fast forward to him making the All Blacks squad and he rings his dad and tells him he made it - and what does his dad say? 'But son, remember that is only one mans opinion!' So that’s what happens. If you make it, don’t think you’ve made it, and if you don’t make it, don’t think it's all over for ya."
Getting the right support
When it came to putting together his backroom team, having the right one in place was one of the cornerstones of his decision to put his name forward to be minor manager, Deane said.
"I’ll be honest; when I thought about putting my name forward, it was all predicated on having what I would classify as a well-balanced management team and that was extremely important; and I wouldn’t have put my name forward if I didn’t have the expertise around me. So every single member of the management teams brings a skill-set the other guys don’t have, so when you look at the team as a whole it is a very strong unit.
"You’re looking at strength and conditioning, coaching, logistics, analysing games - and everybody has a part to play and everyone has a strong skill-set in their area and the parts that go together to make a strong management team; and that is very important to me and I am very fortunate to get the guys I have with me and it is important that the players that are in the squad see it as a tight unit."
Looking after the whole of the player
Getting to know their players and not just the football side of them - is something that Deane and his management team will be doing as soon as they can - and he has a plan for how they will do that, he added.
"One thing we will be doing is when we have the squad together, we will be breaking it into pods of five or six players, and each member of the management team will work with those lads and get to know them on and off the field and help and support them on their journey; because life is very difficult for this age group and we have a responsibility to look after them from a football perspective but also in all other aspects of their life and breaking it down to those management pods will allow us to help and support them and get to know them much faster," said Deane.