Can Mayo footballers learn from Connacht’s marvellous season?

Last Tuesday night most of the teachers who are involved in Extra-Curricular activities during the school year at The Jes on Sea Road in Galway city where we teach, went out for a bite to eat and a few beverages in An Pucán just off Eyre Square.

It is a lovely idea and a good way to round of the school year.

Such an occasion also allows any school Board of Management that wishes to do so, the opportunity to acknowledge those vital extra bits of voluntary work that many teachers engage in during the year that act as lubrication oil in the wheel of school life.

Whether it is any sport, debating, mountaineering, Science or Economics or Geography outings, a school show or yearbook, a chess club, music, the ploughing championships or whatever else floats the student’s boat, - they are something that facilitates student engagement and helps them to develop their non-academic skills and fosters a real positive atmosphere in any school community.

Such things matter.

Anyway - An Pucán is a venue that has become very popular with Connacht Rugby supporters as they amble up to the Sports Ground for their home games as it is only ten minutes from the ground and is a handy watering hole on the return trip too.

And there were a few of the successful Connacht squad in situ on Tuesday evening enjoying a few beers to celebrate their fantastic victory last weekend and their obvious unity even during their down time, reminded me of how any team or squad should be a greater force than the sum of its’ parts.

Which brings me neatly to the Mayo footballers who started their 2016 championship campaign last Sunday with an easy victory over London

They will now face Galway at McHale Park in two weeks time and many pundits expect them to win that game and go on and record an historic six-in-a-row of Connacht titles on the second Sunday in July.

Having been in All-Ireland finals in 2012 and 2013 and having been beaten by the eventual winners in 2014 and 2015 after replays at the semi-final stage, what will make the critical difference to win one under Stephen Rochford’s watch?

It is absolutely correct to say that the footballers are in Mayo to have another right good cut at winning some major national silverware in 2016 or 2017.

Men like Keith Higgins, Lee Keegan, Colm Boyle, the O’ Connor and O’ Shea brothers are as good as what’s around the country anywhere and when they gel Mayo are a seriously tough team to stop.

The group must come first

The thing that was obvious with Connacht and Pat Lam this season and epitomised by John Muldoon who is a marvellous captain and leader, is that they were all in it together.

Hook line and sinker.

Individual’s and their egos and personal agendas were completely secondary to the group’s needs and the squad’s objectives.

The Mayo footballers will have to totally buy into the mantra that Together Everyone Achieves More (TEAM ) - and regardless of what brilliant individuals there are in the group, unless everyone is rowing like hell and in complete unison, and on the same page, as regards achieving the objectives that they group have set, - they will not be reached.

After the very public ousting of Noel Connelly and Pat Holmes last Autumn, the entire panel of Mayo players have to step up and produce some serious performances all year that they can be exceedingly proud of.

Current Mayo panel are good enough to win the All-Ireland

Mayo have knocked hard. - Very hard in fact on the door of All-Ireland success over the past four years.

Now buoyed up by a new management team and the recent All-Ireland U-21 success there is a feeling that only Dublin have a better panel of players than them. And with the loss of Rory O’ Carroll and Jack McCaffrey for the year that is a debatable point.

As Connacht proved irrefutably over the past few months if everyone inside the whitewash and in the back room team sticks to the plan and gives it everything they have, both body, mind and soul, amazing things can happen.

Hopefully John Muldoon will not be the only Connacht man getting his hands on serious silverware over the next few months.


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