Mayo clubs pay the price for county success

With the busy schedule of National League games and Kiltane’s and Castlebar’s run to All-Ireland club finals, I have had very few column inches to discuss the importance of ‘the club’ and how GAA clubs have been severely hit in the last number of years. Charlestown, like every other club in the county, have lost lots of players to emigration because of the downturn in the economy. The only exception to the rule may be Kiltane, who had 44 players togged out for a championship game last year. However Shane Lindsay was commuting from Scotland pretty much every week.

Charlestown lost two big players in Tom Parsons and Paul Mulligan in the last couple of years, and the executive decision was made by the club to fly them home for almost all of the games, which is a severe strain on the coffers of an already strained purse string. The weekly GAA lotto sales helped to cover the expense. I’m not sure what would happen if the jackpot was won but a recent boxing event has helped boost the bank balance.

Charlestown would not have stayed up in division 1A and would not have qualified for the county semi-final last year if they didn’t bring them home.

The other big problem we have here in Mayo is the prolonged and drawn-out club year. This is a direct result of having a successful county team, who have been in one semi-final and two finals in the last three years. It is understandable that James Horan doesn’t want his players in club action in the weeks leading up to a big game, which in turn made the star games last year a good idea, particularly if you were playing against a club which had a host of county players.

I’m sure the clubs who couldn’t use their county players were none too happy. Most clubs start training in January and most have had to bring in an outside manager, who in turn has to be given expenses.

Here lies the problem; the club season lasted a full 11 and a half months last year, which meant you were paying expenses to a manager for pretty much a full year. This can range from €50 to €150 a session, so do the maths on three training sessions a week for 50 or so weeks of the year and you have a nice hefty sum.

If I was on a club committee, I would agree a total package for a manager rather than so much a session as it is likely Mayo will go on another good run and the club year will still be undecided by November again this year.

Before I receive the wrath of any manager who receives a few expenses, I for one would not take on the task of a club manger without receiving some form of expenses, and before I get the wrath of the other half, I know not every club manager gets or takes expenses.

There are a few senior clubs in Mayo struggling to fill their managerial hot seats at the moment, most notably Castlebar after Pat Holmes resigned last week.

I fully expected Holmesy to step down as after meeting him in Charlestown for lunch the Wednesday before the All-Ireland final. He was after driving from Belfast and instead of taking the N5 to Westport to see his wife Lorraine and four young boys, he headed on the N17 to the Connaught Centre of Excellence to train the Castlebar team.

Managing a team is a huge commitment. Those are big boots to fill there.

It’s in the summer months that the club suffers most; two Charlestown players went to New York last summer and ended up missing only one championship game.

A few others played soccer for Charlestown Athletic to have a bit of competitive action as there were only so many challenge matches you could play on the GAA pitch. It’s hard to find the correct balance but club players should have more competitive action in the summer months. It’s the price you pay for being a club player with a county team reaching the knockout stages almost every year.

Mayo travel to the capital tomorrow to take on All-Ireland champions Dublin, who have had a somewhat indifferent league campaign. This is the only Saturday evening game Mayo have in this campaign and, for anyone who hasn’t been at a game under lights, I would highly recommend it, especially as it’s in Croke Park and the opposition make it a little more inviting also.

As of late, Dublin seem to save big performances for Mayo and I expect Saturday to be no different. In the last few seasons Paul Mannion and Bernard Brogan have torn strips out of us and who knows what lies in wait with the new black card rule and defenders afraid to get too tight on their markers.

Kevin McMenamin looks like he will deserve special attention this time around. Mayo have the momentum but the Dubs are hard to beat, especially in Croke Park. The bookies can’t see Mayo winning but with Division 1 status secured, who knows what might happen.


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