In this week’s column I expected to be wallowing about the glorious weather and plethora of club games in Mayo last weekend, that is as much of a mention it will get unfortunately. Just when we thought the dust had settled on our 2015 Championship we were greeted with the earth shattering news on Tuesday morning that there were major problems in the Mayo GAA family. The first murmur I heard was when the principal of St Attracta’s NS in Charlestown (Brian McDermott, an avid Mayo supporter ) mentioned it to me in the school assembly yard at 9am. I walked back to work receiving texts saying “turn on the radio”. One message from England said “what the hell has happened”, I had no idea what was going on. For the rest of Tuesday my phone hopped as I spoke to countless journalists, radio stations, and even did a piece with Marty Morrissey for the Six One News. The media world was gone crazy looking for the story. The Mayo players had issued a vote of “no confidence” in the management.
At the time it did not shock me but when my phone rang for the 40th time before 1.30 I knew it was big news, a big deal but not good news for Mayo, and the whole country was on it. Every alley cat in the county had heard there was discontent, that some players had a few issues, and for the last few weeks that a certain letter had been drafted to try to get these issues rectified. Word had it; the “letter” was given to the county board to be passed on to the management so stuff could be sorted out. Plans were being put in place for 2016, we thought.
Where did it all go wrong
This “letter” never materialised .This vote of no confidence was of biblical proportions in GAA land; the players do not want the management in place for 2016. The fact that it was a vote of no confidence to me means that the players feel there is something drastically wrong with the set up, and as I type this no reason has apparently been offered to Noel Connelly and Pat Holmes as to why they lost confidence in them. Maybe it is a culmination of lots of small things, the players must feel it is a very valid reason as the county is dragged into the spotlight for the wrong reasons again just nine days after the All-Ireland final. It seems like it is an annual event for us as last year the very same time there was controversy over the way in which Noel and Pat were appointed. I still for the life of me cannot understand how this process was not conducted out of the public domain. There was word of discontent and disharmony last March and April that was apparently rectified on a training trip to Portugal. As a group they seemed very harmonious when they blitzed Sligo in the Connacht final, and even more so with a truly professional performance against Donegal when the management were described as tactically very astute for the way in which they nullified Michael Murphy. Their credentials were even more inflated by the way they came back against Dublin in the drawn game, rescuing a replay despite being seven points down with 10 minutes to go. So where did it all go wrong?
Clarity needed on what the problems were
We need a statement from the players to clarify this, reasons have to be offered. We are headlining the front and sports pages of every paper for the wrong reasons again. I appreciate Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly were not perfect, and when they took the job, they knew what they were taking on. You would need elephant hide and to be very open to criticism to be a top manager, but the last thing you would expect is for the most damning criticism to come from within your own camp. I cannot figure why this process was not conducted behind closed doors with some form of mediator to sort out any differences between the relevant parties, and if they failed to reach an agreement the county board would need to make a big call and take significant action and then issue a statement to put the story to bed. Instead we have aired our dirty linen in public and have to try to resolve the issue in the spotlight.
If as I am told Keith Higgins and Cillian O'Connor had a secret meeting with Pat and Noel to present them with a vote of no confidence then how did local papers have it before the issue was resolved in house. I am positive that meeting would have been a very awkward scenario. I do not imagine the players wanted this in the headlines if they had a secret meeting. Somebody must be leaking information to the press which will turn this mess into a nasty mess. Apparently of the 34 players' votes, 27 voted no confidence. I feel Noel and Pat’s job is now untenable. I could not walk into a dressing room and look players in the eye who did not want me there, my heart would not be in it. The players' hearts would not be in it. The players you want may not even be in the dressing room. The players are obviously very ambitious and I admire them for that, for many of them it is the last chance saloon and they obviously feel Noel and Pat will not help them achieve their goals (win the All Ireland ) and of course they are all entitled to their opinions, but I am very strong and opinioned on one thing. This mess needs sorting out immediately. Where is this going to end?