In 2004 as All Ireland weekend approached the Mayo senior football management discussed the option of getting in a guest speaker to have a chat with the footballers before we lined out against Kerry. Certain individuals were suggested. . . the usual suspects from the various codes of sport. In recent times lots of teams have used big stars/names as they seek to gain the edge on match day. The likes of Roy Keane, Bernard Dunne and Keith Wood have all being invited to provide words of wisdom and reassurance on the eve of big matches. We invariably hear about the wonderful job these guys did if, and only if, the team manages to go on and achieve victory.
Not too many would have been aware that we had secured the services of Brian Cody on the eve of our final in 2004. I found him to be a thorough gentleman to deal with. He chatted freely with the squad on the Saturday night and could not have been more accommodating with his time. I have always held him in the highest regard. What he has achieved with the Kilkenny hurlers is nothing short of spectacular. After watching and witnessing the desire and hunger, not to mention the sheer class of this team, surely they are now, arguably, the greatest team in the history of sport in this country. And very significantly it has been overseen by one of the most unassuming personalities in the GAA. To see him leaping about the place after his most recent accomplishment last Sunday, you would swear it was his very first. He is a remarkable man and unbelievably year after year he just gets on with his job proving he is possibly the greatest motivator of a hurling team this country has ever seen.
Setting the record straight
A few of you may have read in the local papers that Crossmolina failed to play Ballintubber in the senior league last Sunday morning. I see where the PRO of the County Board, Aiden McLoughlin, is on record as saying that the league points will be awarded to Ballintubber based on the fact that Ballintubber were in Clogher while Crossmolina waited in Ballintubber! Sound a little confusing and strange to you too? As manager of the team I take issue with this as I had informed our players to be at the Ballintubber venue as per the notice received by our club from the County Board containing the fixture details. I feel a little uncomfortable arguing about who is right or wrong through the local media, but based on what I have read in the local press this week, I feel obliged to set the record straight from Crossmolina’s point of view.
I am aware that the Ballintubber club play matches at both venues and that is why I sought clarification last Friday as to the exact location of the match. The impression has been given in some quarters this week that Crossmolina did not want to play the match. It has been reported that we might have deliberately avoided the game due to Ballintubber’s refusal to accommodate us by moving the game to a 6pm throw in to allow for a number of players (seven ) to return from Liam Moffett’s wedding in Killarney. We also looked for the game to be played any evening this week or next, but for a combination of reasons, Ballintubber could not facilitate that either, nor were they obliged to. Twenty two players did not go to the trouble of travelling from all around the Crossmolina parish to Ballintubber last Sunday morning to sit in their cars. The Crossmolina club has always played fairly and by the book and thoroughly enjoys its football at all levels. We now await the decision of the CCC of the County Board. Furthermore, I fail to understand how the County PRO can issue a statement to local press indicating that Crossmolina had been deducted two points, when the CCC of the County Board had not yet convened, nor had the referee’s report been received at the time of he issuing his statement. Incidentally the Deel Rovers have no axe to grind with Ballintubber. All we want is fair play!
Natural justice for Connolly
Speaking of fair play, I mentioned in this paper two weeks ago that it would be a travesty of justice if Diarmuid Connolly was banned from participating in next Sunday’s All-Ireland final. The Dublin player had his appeal upheld this week and is free to play in the biggest sporting show piece of his life. Every GAA person in the country will be happy for the Dublin footballer as he should never have been sent off in the first place.
A man who just wants to learn
Donie Buckley is the current coach/trainer of the Kerry football team. A mutual friend suggested that Buckley wanted to push his players a little harder at training in recent weeks as he felt they could have done with even more hard work. Jack O’Connor, it seems, would not hear of it, conscious of the ageing legs of quite a few members of his squad. I know Donie quite well as he was trainer/selector of the Clare football team with me in 1994. Donie was based with Clare County Council as an engineer back then and had won an All-Ireland club medal with Castleisland Desmonds a number of years earlier. Donie is very passionate about his football and simply loved coaching and training teams. He retired a number of years ago from his job with the council at a relatively young age and more or less devoted himself totally to becoming the very best he could be as a coach. He worked with Mickey ‘Ned’ O’Sullivan in Limerick for a few years and also coached the Sigerson cup teams at both NUI Galway and GMIT.
It was not uncommon for Donie to sit in his car and drive all the way to a Tyrone or Armagh training session from Kerry/Clare to see if he could pick up any new ideas. He also spends quite a bit of time travelling around the world watching teams train. He has visited a number of US football teams during the winter months in recent years learning new ideas and concepts. He has also spent some time with the Australian football club, Carlton, and apparently emailed Ronald Koeman some time ago requesting that he be allowed spend some time watching him and his staff put Dutch soccer club, Feyenoord, through their paces. Now if that is not attention to detail, I do not know what is. The pursuit of excellence continues down in Kerry!