MOST people are of the view that this is the best Mayo team in modern times to contest an All-Ireland final. Maybe some other teams had more flair or glamour and a couple of ‘marquee’ names but the 2013 vintage seem to tick a lot of boxes that serious teams must possess.
It’s well balanced, has strength in depth but most importantly, the team ethic appears to be everything. Getting individuals to buy into the team isn’t as easy as it should be but once it’s achieved anything is possible. Undoubtedly, it’s the most difficult aspect of team management but the Mayo management seem to have nailed it. So, well done to them.
Of course, having that togetherness is no guarantee of success and at the very top level the one ‘given’ is that every team has that sense of unity. Both Mayo and Dublin have displayed it in their respective semi-finals when some serious questions were asked of both teams.
It will be an intriguing game and one that will probably not be decided until the closing stages. Certainly, it’s hard to see either side having comfortable winning margins as they look so evenly matched. Anyone for a draw?
Though Mayo appear to have a more solid look about them defensively than Dublin, it’s hard to escape the view that both teams look on attack as the best form of defence.
And yet, when it’s analysed closely in the context of next Sunday, the chances are that the defensive systems of both teams will be really tested and getting it right at the back will be vital.
Will that team be Mayo? There’s no arguing that it’s time, well past it actually, that Mayo won a final but romance very seldom wins out in sport. Dublin will be as hard-nosed as they have to be and let’s not forget that while here in Mayo we have our own demons to deal with, it’s worth remembering that the Dubs could now be going for a three in a row were it not for Mayo beating them last year.
Anyone then that thinks we have the monopoly on motivation; well it’s time to think again. In any event, there’s not a lot to be gained by looking back for inspiration. Though players and management cannot afford to get romantic and sentimental, the rest of us are allowed to wonder what victory would mean to our county. After so long waiting, one can only imagine the outpouring of emotion.
It would definitely shorten the long winter months and we might even stop talking about the weather and the economy and the dreaded budget.
We’d definitely get as far Christmas out of it and then the nights would start getting long again and we could start looking towards to 2014. Too much to hope for? We’ll see.
A changed game
THE game has changed so much in recent times. Someone who was associated with inter-county management only a few years ago said recently it was impossible to compare his time with what’s happening today. People talk about budgets of €10,000 per week during championship season to prepare a team.
It’s mindboggling stuff but when you look at the size of a championship back room team, it’s probably not too far off the mark. The manager manages but then there are selectors, coaches, trainers, physios, masseurs, doctors, nutritionists, opposition analysts, video analysts, statisticians, kit people, water people and all sorts of other people who contribute to the overall package.
It’s a serious operation that’s on a par with most professional sports teams and what that type of preparation does is to allow players concentrate on playing. Some years ago a Mayo manager spoke of the professional athlete having their every need cared for, which allowed them focus solely on playing their sport. He was comparing the full time pro to the inter-county footballer who had to fit in his sport alongside college, work or family issues.
That’s still there to a degree but it does seem that today’s top inter-county players prepare more like professional athletes.
Today, it’s all about setting in place the right environment for players to thrive and prosper.
Tactically, the game has changed beyond all recognition too. Just look back at any old footage and games that we grew up thinking were classics were far from that.
Certainly, the semi-final between Kerry and Dublin was equally as good as some of the games between the two teams that were regarded as classics from the ‘70s and ‘80s.
The third midfielder was as innovative as it got back then but today’s game is so fluid and so much thought is given to the tactical approach to the game. Ahead of next week’s final, Mayo supporters are spending as much time talking about the option of playing a sweeper and who will match up against who as they are trying to predict the starting 15.
That’s the way the game has gone and there’s no going back.