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GAA COMMENT: "Mayo need a boss who starts from the bottom and builds his own team"

Story by Aiden Henry

Thursday, 5th July, 2018 6:55pm

GAA COMMENT:

NO matter how good a team is, there comes a day when the players have given their all and are no longer able to compete at the level required to take on the best sides.

That day has arrived for the present Mayo senior team – a side which has given their massive band of supporters great joy for the past six or seven years.

It is generally regarded that the Mayo team of the last seven years is the greatest never to win an All-Ireland championship. They have gone so very close to winning Sam, but for one reason or another they were always caught on the line.

Year after year the big question was would Mayo be able to come back after suffering heartbreaking defeats in All-Ireland finals and semi-finals. As the history books will show, they did keep coming back - sometimes against all the odds.

However, after losing to Kildare in the third round of the qualifiers last Saturday evening and bowing out of the 2018 championship, it is now very hard to imagine seeing this Mayo team challenging for honours again. Indeed, for many of the current team, last Saturday night might have been the last time we see them playing in the red and green of Mayo.

These Mayo players owe the county nothing. On many occasions they gave everything for Mayo and as a unit won many great games against all the odds.

However, while the members of this team will receive plenty of plaudits, and rightly so, let's take a close look at why these Mayo players have not got an All-Ireland senior championship medal in the back pockets and are unlikely to get one now.

I feel there are a number of reasons why, and if Mayo supporters don't let their hearts rule their heads I think they might agree with some of them at least.

The big problems started at the end of October 2015, when both the Mayo County Board and the county senior panel were at fault. At that time, members of the Mayo senior panel felt they weren't happy with the joint management of Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly, even though they went very close to winning the All-Ireland months earlier in their first year in charge. The players called on the pair to resign and delivered a letter to the county board saying they wouldn't play under the management of Holmes and Connelly.

It is here that the Mayo County Board fell down by allowing the players get their way and giving them their say in who should and should not be the county senior manager(s).

From that day onwards the players had the power and it was always going to be very difficult for anyone coming in as the team boss to manage in the way he wanted.

While Stephen Rochford was appointed the new manager, with the players' blessing, one wondered if he was going to be able to stamp his authority fully on the job in hand.

The reality now is that he wasn't, and to this day it is still hard to fathom who the real boss was. Many Mayo supporters have questioned is it Rochford, Tony McEntee, Donie Buckley, a select band of the players, or some outside influences.

You have to question who has been responsible for making many strange Mayo selections for the past three years, which in some cases have cost Mayo dearly. Indeed, some of the decisions that were made were mind-boggling.

I think most Mayo supporters will agree that there have been players on the panel who shouldn't be there, and some that are not on it should be on it.

On Saturday evening, Mayo let Kildare go five points clear in the opening quarter. In fairness to them they dragged themselves back to be level at the interval. However, in that sweltering heat this took an almighty effort by the players and was bound to have an effect on them later on in the game, which it did.

Yet it was 12 minutes before the end of normal time before Rochford and his selectors brought on their first substitute.

Now tell me, playing a game in such extreme conditions, do you not need to use your six substitutes in the final quarter?

One could just go on and on about the events of the last number of years and why Mayo have come so near to winning Sam and yet so far. The bottom line is that a team boss must have full power and be allowed to manage to the best of his ability. For the last three years, the Mayo senior trophy cabinet is bare.

These current Mayo senior players have given it their all. However, I wonder in years to come will many of them not feel they might have an All-Ireland senior medal if they didn't take the law into their own hands at the end of 2015.

Going forward, Mayo need a boss who starts from the bottom and builds his own team.

Don't let most of the All-Ireland winning Under 21 team of 2016, and the present Under 20 team which recently won the Connaught championship, go to waste.

The Mayo County Board have a duty to the supporters to put things right - and right the wrong they made at the end of 2015.

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