The draws have been made for the senior club quarter-finals and they have thrown up some novel pairings. Neighbours Castlebar and Breaffy come together in what should be a very interesting local derby, that should generate plenty of banter. However Castlebar are a better team at the moment and, in my opinion, should prevail. Ballina and Ballintubber go head to head and the outcome is a tougher one to predict. Pat Harte picked up what looked like a serious knee injury last Saturday playing for his club against Castlebar in the Michael Walsh tournament final and l would be surprised if he is fit to play next week. His loss would be significant, and for that reason I will opt for Ballintubber. Charlestown are wily old campaigners and probably too experienced to be toppled by Shrule/Glencorrib. That leaves Crossmolina v Knockmore. Now this is a tough one for me to call. What I do know is that both teams will go at it hammer and tongs as there are plenty of young aspiring footballers on each side to ensure we have a cracking game of football. Personally, I would not mind if it was a poor one, if we were guaranteed a safe passage into the semi-finals!
Who wants the Mayo senior job?
The speculation has started already as to who is going to be the next Mayo senior football manager. I have been asked for my views and to be perfectly honest, I don’t have a clue. My standard reply is ‘Who wants it?’ I have heard a few names mentioned that apparently have been nominated by clubs. Most of our clubs will have convened meetings this week to consider proposing someone they would like to see in charge of affairs. Before they forward the nomination to the county board they must have a letter from the candidate indicating his interest to be considered for the position. Funnily enough, I have heard of one or two who would not mind being considered for the position, but they won’t sign a letter. Incidentally, I cannot imagine any individual touting for the job as manager as it’s just not the way things are done.
Whoever the new man is, I can only wish him well. It is a tough task managing an inter-county team these days. Also it is a job that practically dominates your life. And, for some reason, we here in Mayo almost feel we have a guaranteed right to be contesting All-Irelands on a regular basis. Exceptions of immediate results under a new management team are unrealistic at best. What we need right now is to ensure that the appropriate structures are in place at every level, but most particularly for 12 to 18-year- olds. Many of these are lost to football during the all-important secondary school years due to minimum contact with an appropriate standard of football coaching during school hours. What is needed now here in Mayo is that the county board invest in quality coaches who will engage with all secondary schools. This should create the platform needed to produce a supply of footballers of the requisite standard who can compete with the best. This is not happening right now. A token coach with limited contact time just does not cut the mustard!
The new management team need to ensure that Mayo strive to compete with the big teams on a consistent basis, then an opportunity may present itself in the future to contest for national titles. But it is a while off at the moment.
Managing is no bed of roses. I am currently on holidays from work , but with my involvement with Crossmolina, I just could not consider straying too far from base. As it is, we have booked a week’s holiday in a neighbouring county from tomorrow afternoon. However, due to club football commitments, I won’t be spending too much time there. We have an important league match v Ballintubber tomorrow evening. I am then heading to Croke Park on Sunday. My son Johnny has an under-13 match on Monday evening. I have Crossmolina training on Tuesday and Friday night. So I will be yo-yoing up and down the road when I should have my feet up in the spa. It obviously begs a question as to why we have booked a week away at all. But this is the way it is with football managers. Inter-county managers have very little time that they can call their own. And if the new candidate has limited experience of management, then I expect he will be lonely on lots of occasions, and on others he will question the wisdom of taking the job in the first place. Then again, those who are involved at management do it for a reason too. There can undoubtedly be good days when the winner’s enclosure is yours to savour.
No minor matter on Sunday
I mentioned that I am off to HQ on Sunday. I am really looking forward to seeing our minors play. Let’s be honest, they haven’t really sparkled so far this year, yet they are in the All-Ireland semi-final. One big performance this Sunday would see them in dream land. Yes they are capable of that, as this minor team has a lot of good footballers. I had the pleasure of working with a number of them earlier this year, at St Gerald’s Castlebar. The best of luck lads, but remember there is something about playing in an All-Ireland final that a footballer never forgets.
I am lucky enough to have been offered a radio gig for the Cork v Dublin semi final. The prospect of this encounter has me fascinated for lots of reasons. Cork are many people’s favourites to win this year’s title, particularly now that Kerry and, to a lesser extent, Tyrone are both beaten. But we are placing our judgment on last year’s form. Cork look brittle this year. They have not played well despite their skill, experience, and squad depth. They are playing without confidence at the moment and with Graham Canty almost certainly a non-starter, I have a feeling that the Dubs could win it. And there would not be anything wrong with that at all!