The widely anticipated County Board meeting passed off relatively peacefully last Thursday night with a few members of the board resigning over the process in which the new Mayo managers were appointed. The story had gained national headlines for all the wrong reasons and certainly it was a little embarrassing the way matters were conducted in appointing Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly. An apology was offered as there were and still are a lot of disgruntled people in the county. I am sure Kevin McStay and Liam McHale are bitterly disappointed at what happened, and some gesture or apology to both men should be offered as both are true Mayo Gaels who gave an awful lot to the green and red and they deserved at the very least an interview before been told they did not have the job. I am sure anyone reading this has heard the vile rumours about players not wanting McHale, which I am told could not be further from the truth. It is amazing how widespread the rumours went and pretty much to the point that people started to actually believe them. Liam McHale suffered a severe character assassination over the last few weeks and did not deserve it. Good luck to Pat and Noel; it is time to let them at it. The new management team along with selector Michael Collins and strength and conditioning coach Barry Solan from Ballaghaderreen were deep in discussion and taking lots of notes during the senior semi finals last Sunday. I am a little surprised a forward coach/selector was not incorporated in the set up, I guess they will be basing their team on a strong defence. I feel someone like Kevin O’Neill would have been a great addition to offer some insight into good forward play. I am delighted Barry Solan has finally been given a chance with his own county. Apart from working with Laois and Kildare he has also done a lot of work with Katie Taylor so there is obviously good pedigree there. If Hollymount/Carramore win the intermediate title on Sunday and get a good run in the Connacht championship, Noel Connelly’s wife Valerie and their children may not be seeing a lot of him for the next few months.
Shock and awe from Ballintubber
As expected Castlebar and Ballintubber qualified for the senior final which takes place in a few weeks. I expected Castlebar to win handsomely against Garrymore which they did not and I expected Knockmore to put it up to Ballintubber which they did not. The Castlebar and Garrymore game was a keenly contested affair with the current county and Connacht champions having to pull out all the stops and dig deep to come out on top. Garrymore had chances to get back on level terms during the second half only for some wayward shooting. Barry Moran and Danny Kirby were very impressive at midfield for the Mitchels with some excellent fetching while Moran also kept the umpire with the white flag busy. Along with the Castlebar midfielders another who would have impressed the watching Mayo management was Garrymore wing back Martin Maloney. He scored three from play, and if his team mates had their heads up on a few more occasions he could have scored three more, his box to box running was as impressive as I have seen from any club player this year and he was my man of the match.
I am sure anyone listening to the second semi final or reading the result the following day presumed they were hearing things or that there was a typo in the result. Ballintubber’s huge haul was as impressive as I have ever seen at club level. I felt sorry for the Knockmore players as what they came up against was simply not defendable. No matter what sort of blanket defence you adopted it would not have prevented a lot of Ballintubber’s goals. Shane McHale, Aidan Kilcoyne, and Trevor Howley were sorely missed for Knockmore. Their final tally of 2-12 would have won most games played in Mayo this year. Ballintubber’s kick passing, support play and finishing deserved a 10 out of 10 in the first half. Knockmore like a lot of other teams now realise it is dangerous to take the ball into tackle when Cillian O’Connor is in the vicinity, especially near your own goal, he is the most ferocious forward tackler in the country. In a game where we were spoilt for quality goals, my favourite was when Alan Dillon picked out Padraig O’Connor with a pin point 50 metre pass out near the 45 metre line beside the stand, Padraig then drilled a low flying cross field ball to brother Cillian which eliminated his marker and the Knockmore goalkeeper, Cillian coolly lofted the ball over Knockmore keeper Colm Reape without taking possession. It was a goal of beauty. Ballintubber have certainly given Castlebar something to think about for the final. What a remarkable achievement for the four O’Connor brothers to score goals in such a big game, I am glad the coaching I gave Padraig in Manhattan last May paid off.