herald

Saturday 10 December 2016

Curveball: Don't rush to pillory Mayo players over 'power games'

Cillian O'Connor
Cillian O'Connor

THE latest manifestation of 'player power' has elicited a typical range of reactions in Mayo and beyond.

Traditional GAA Man has screamed blue murder at the cheek of these green-and-red upstarts.

He has advised our Mayo mutineers that a manager never kicked a ball wide or, worse again, into Stephen Cluxton's hands. And that Noel Connelly and Pat Holmes aren't the reason why Mayo keep coming up marginally short over the past five seasons - why, they weren't even there for the first four!

It was you, the players! Not ruthless! No killer instinct! And now you're attempting to pass the buck. Shame on you!

You can see why GAA folk of a certain vintage favour a place where players played, managers managed and county boards stuck to playing politics. Whereas in today's world, you can't expect elite players to put lives on hold in pursuit of an All-Ireland that not all of them can win - and keep schtum regardless.

MISSES

This applies to Mayo players as much as their Dublin, Kerry or Donegal rivals, who have all supped from Sam in that half-decade of near misses.

Of course, we are still waiting to hear exactly why a sizeable majority of their panel (27 out of 34) pressed the nuclear button after just one season under Holmes/Connelly.

The flip side, of course, is that maybe the players didn't want this to develop into a public circus. Check out The Connaught Telegraph, one of two local papers to break the story, and specifically the article headlined 'Is player power going to kill Mayo football?'

Anyone with media savvy will read this and rapidly conclude that, whoever was the leak, it wasn't the players.

Holmes is described as Mayo's most successful manager in a "long number of years", having won a league title during his first tenure. Indeed.

IMPOSSIBLE

And we are told that if this ends in management stepping down, it would constitute "the start of player power and will leave county boards throughout the country finding it almost impossible to get management teams in the not-too-distant future."

Makes you wonder where the Telegraph have been for the last 25 years. Do they not recall 1992?

Suffice to say, player power was not invented this week.

Critics will complain of Mayo's temerity in voting 'no confidence' without detailing reasons for their disaffection. Fair point, and there's no doubt they have been blindsided in the initial PR battle.

But rumours of unrest were simmering long before their defeat to Dublin; they have lost faith in management and no amount of talking with the county board will change that reality.

The other key point is that a majority are now in their late twenties or beyond and they know the clock is ticking. They cannot afford to let another two years slip by.

A change of manager is absolutely no guarantee of success but, if the current incumbents dig in, this will only get worse.

 

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