The beauty of the National Football League is that you can dust yourself down after a particularly bad performance and within a week or two you are presented with another opportunity to redeem yourself. I know the Mayo lads were hurting after their defeat against Derry in Ballina two weeks ago, so there shouldn’t be too much energy expended in getting their heads right for this one. I was speaking to a few of the players after the Derry game and they were understandably annoyed that they didn’t get off to a winning start.
They players are smart enough to realise that they just didn’t play well enough to beat what was an under strength outfit that was there for the taking. So it was a case of two points dropped against what looked like one of the weaker teams in the division. In fact if I were asked to rank the teams in division 1, I would suggest that Derry, Donegal, and Westmeath are inferior to Tyrone, Kerry, and Dublin. And that is one of the reasons I feel we have an opportunity of picking up a couple of points on Saturday against Donegal. I realise that home advantage is normally worth a few scores but let’s be honest here, this current Donegal side are no world beaters themselves.
Conor Mortimer should be fit to start in Letterkenny on Saturday, so I expect he will start in the full forward line. Conor looked very lively when introduced two weeks ago and I think that if we had him on from the outset he would have kicked a few scores that might have seen Mayo get off to the perfect start. I cannot see too many changes being made to the Mayo team for Saturday, but I do hope we witness an improvement in performance that will hopefully see us back on track. Incidentally, I cannot understand why the game has a 2.30pm throw in on Saturday afternoon. This game was supposed to have been played under lights in Ballybofey on Saturday evening. This would probably have been a more favourable time for supporters as it seems that, in recent years, an appetite for night games has developed. I would assume there must be some plausible reason for the decision?
Rebelling against the rebels
RTE Radio 1 was fascinating last Saturday afternoon. I was en route to drop off my son Johnny to soccer training when I heard Marian Finucane mention that she would be speaking with Gerald McCarthy from Cork later in the programme. Johnny got a quick shift from the car with the promise that I would follow! Like most people involved in sport I am getting fed up listening to daily bulletins on the Cork impasse. But Marian has an uncanny knack of getting people to talk and her probing style was very engaging. She did, of course, pull a rabbit out of the bag, having already drawn Gerald on a number of issues, by introducing Donal Og Cusack who happened to be conveniently on stand- by at a Cork venue, where the players had gathered for a city rally to be held later that afternoon! I am sure Gerald wasn’t aware that Marian had lined up a member of the ‘opposition’ and, in the circumstances, I felt it was a little off side!
Nonetheless Gerald was very diplomatic in his answers and he calmly outlined his reasons for refusing to budge as the current manager. There were a number of contradictions made by both men regarding the quality of training sessions and his general suitability to manage the team. Gerald is one tough cookie though and I have to applaud his stance in hanging on in there for so long, but I wonder at this stage how much more can this man take? Having listened to Donal Og, (being prompted from colleagues on certain salient points ) I honestly feel there will never be an occasion when these men will sit in the same dressing room again. So I feel it’s time to relieve us, the sporting public, from the burden of listening to more breaking news from the banks of the Lee.
Not so faithful in Offaly
This week’s managerial conflict was in Offaly. The hunt is on up there for a new football manager after another escalation of player power. Players will differ with my interpretation and suggest that they have a right to take greater responsibility in the way they are managed. I can understand that players deserve the best in this regard and I can appreciate fully why they should be consulted on certain issues. Indeed, I have kept players up to speed on my thoughts with regard to training schedules to be implemented throughout a season as much as I possibly could during my involvement with various teams. However, I honestly feel things are going a little too far here. The way things are going I believe that managers these days will be looking over their shoulders expecting the heave-ho if they lose a few games. I suggest that we now need some sort of a template of definite procedures to be followed before county boards appoint a manager. It’s just not good enough for a county board to conduct a process of appointing a manager and within a few months undergoing the same process again. Ritchie Connor had made changes to his lifestyle to accommodate a new routine for the coming 12 months. Within a few weeks of making those changes he finds himself tendering his resignation because players don’t want him! I picked up the phone to him last Sunday afternoon to offer my support. I have met him on a few occasions and have always found him to be a most pleasant man. I know he is terribly hurt by what has happened leading to his resignation last weekend. This is a man who captained Offaly to their last All-Ireland football success in 1982 and who is held in very high regard by all football loving supporters in Offaly and further afield. His forced resignation has tarnished his reputation somewhat and I think it is unfair. I am not in a position to comment on his ability to manage a team, never having seen him in action, but I am suggesting here that county boards must and should look at the way they are appointing managers. That’s all!