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Pat Holmes was 'ill-equipped' first time round - now he's ready to lead eternal Mayo quest


Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly celebrate after Mayo win the 2006 All-Ireland U21 Football Final. Picture credit; Pat Murphy / SPORTSFILE

Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly celebrate after Mayo win the 2006 All-Ireland U21 Football Final. Picture credit; Pat Murphy / SPORTSFILE


Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly celebrate after Mayo win the 2006 All-Ireland U21 Football Final. Picture credit; Pat Murphy / SPORTSFILE

FIFTEEN years on from his first managerial foray with Mayo, Pat Holmes reckons he was wrong man for the role back then ... but now the timing is right to reclaim the mantle alongside Noel Connelly.

The duo's ratification on a joint-managerial ticket was shrouded in controversy over the botched appointment process that left fellow candidate Kevin McStay effectively high and dry before formal interviews had taken place.

However, none of this farce was of the new incumbents' making, and they've already hit the ground running by putting 20 potential panellists - who weren't part of James Horan's set-up - on strength-and-conditioning programmes.

They have now spoken to local media for the first time since their formal appointment, in late September, with Holmes admitting he was "ill-equipped" to be Mayo manager when the role first presented itself at the turn of the millennium.

"I've the same considerations as Noel has with a young family. But you have to weigh that up against the actual opportunity and I got involved with Mayo in 1999 when I was 33 years of age, never managed an U12 team ... and all of a sudden here was I managing a group of players, who I'd actually played with four weeks previously," he recounted.

"I was ill-equipped at that time to manage a senior inter-county team and just circumstances threw it my way, being young and having no fear, and I went and did it.

"I don't regret doing it but, looking back, it probably was the wrong decision and was probably the wrong decision to be offered it in the first place."

Holmes failed to win a Connacht title during his three-year tenure, ending in 2002, although he achieved what no Mayo manager has done since 1970 - land a national senior title for his county, namely the 2001 Allianz League crown.

He later joined forces with former teammate Connelly to mastermind an All-Ireland U21 title in 2006 and four consecutive Connacht titles. More recently, he led Castlebar Mitchels to Mayo and Connacht glory en route to losing an All-Ireland club final to St Vincent's last March.

"I just believe that I've learned a lot over the past number of years," Holmes reflected. "There's a gap where you're not managing players that you played with or whatever.

"I've experience working with Noel, which went very well, and we worked very well together. I don't believe we ever had a cross word in our four years together or a disagreement; we'd discussions all right but never a disagreement.


"When we started to discuss it (the senior vacancy) ... you can look about and say when is the perfect time to do this? Is it wait until the kids are grown up or wait until that or this happens or whatever?

"There is no real perfect time, this is as perfect as it gets for us, in that we have worked with all of these players or 85 per cent of these players for a full year (at U21 level) and it was (a case of) if we didn't do it now, it would be never do it. That's the reason we decided to go for it."

For all of Mayo's close Sam Maguire shaves, under Horan and previous managers over the past quarter-century, Holmes stated bluntly: "In 60 years Mayo haven't won an All Ireland and the bottom line is that the best team every year gets the silverware and the rest get nothing ... that just means we weren't good enough."

In trying to bridge that gap, the joint bosses have already identified 20 possible new recruits and placed them on strength-and-conditioning programmes. "We deliberately and specifically did this," Holmes explained, "because in the past what would happen is someone would be doing well with their club and you'd bring them in during December and January with really no training and having not kicked a ball in two months and have no physical work done ... and then they don't then live up to the mark, they look off the pace and they're discarded.

"They'll go through trial games in late December with a view to seeing how they measure up and compare that against what's on the panel last year and pick what we think are the best 30 or so guys to represent Mayo in 2015."