I spent some time with a number of my former Mayo playing colleagues from 1985 last weekend. The Connacht winning side were guests of the Connacht Council last Sunday at the Connacht final. There were some giants of men on that team. TJ Kilgallon, Willie Joe, Padraig Brogan, Sean Lowry, Sean Maher, Noel Durcan, and Big Tom Byrne to name but a few. Anthony ‘Fat Larry’ Finnerty and Frank Noone were both around so laughter was guaranteed. The reunion afforded us an opportunity to reminisce and it got me thinking about the seriousness of modern football and in particular the kind of a lifestyle required from a current inter-county footballer. Thankfully we played in a different era when football was taken seriously but it did not completely dominate your life.
There was general agreement, understandably, that we are in a pretty low place right now. But there was also agreement that it would not take a lot to pick it up again. Most agreed that the appointment of a new manager was important, but all that the overall review which is going to take place was of far greater significance. We recognise that it is just not in the GAA culture to be open and transparent when it comes to dealing with issues like these. After listening to my playing colleagues last weekend I would strongly advocate that the review committee considers conducting some sort of a question and answer session with all former players, preferably after a few pints in some watering hole. That is when the honest opinions will begin to flow; at least that was my experience last Sunday!
It is recognised that there is a massive amount of money required to service the existing debt on McHale Park, and there is an acceptance that it has to be paid for. But not at the expense of a concerted effort to improve our lot at inter-county level. It was suggested that the appointment of a well financed competent individual to oversee all coaching and development throughout the county would have a huge beneficial effect. Perhaps some of our better known former stars could be requested to hit the road with a presentation that would encourage an investment in “Club Mayo”.
Cracking game of football
On Sunday at 5.30pm McHale Park belonged to the Rossies. Swine flu or BSE would have been easier to contain than to prevent the hoards of Roscommon supporters who wanted to get onto the pitch to hug their beloved team that had just caused an almighty shock in winning the Connacht title, their first in nine years. It was fantastic to witness happy, no that should be delirious, supporters bursting onto the field.
The final was a cracking game of football and one I thoroughly enjoyed. It had everything, a major upset, a grandstand finish, cracking scores from open play (particularly from Alan Costello ), and an exhibition of free taking from the Roscommon full forward, Donie Shine. There is a long, seemingly convincing argument that unless Mayo and/or Galway are contesting our showpiece final, well then it is going to be a pretty drab affair. Not so, on the evidence of last Sunday. Well done Roscommon, you were deserving winners on the day. But spare a thought for poor Sligo. After beating the two big guns of Mayo and Galway, they surely thought they would be crowned Provincial champions on Sunday. But this is sport and that is what makes it so unique.
After almost an hour’s play in the minor final, it looked like Galway would be the team that would walk away with the title. At that stage they were one point ahead and the clock was ticking down. But in a matter of minutes we went from being a point down to leading by eight. It was some comfort to see a cup presentation to a Mayo team in 2010. It guarantees at least another day out for the die hard Mayo footballer supporters. But improvement will be needed if we are to win an All-Ireland at this grade.