Eugene McGee: O'Mahony spat with O Se like a breath of fresh air
The GAA is full of people who tend to keep their counsel in public about Association activity. Instead, they beat around the bush or say nothing at all -- very much like politicians in this country.
But, hallelujah, this week saw a rare exception to this hyper-cautious approach and what better way to start us off in 2010 than a proper verbal set-to between two of the big-name managers in the GAA.
A couple of weeks ago, former Kerry star and manager Paidi O Se, in a column in The Sunday Independent, said -- among other things -- that, had he been in charge of Mayo or Dublin in recent times, he would probably have got them to win an All- Ireland.
As we all know, Paidi has never been one to hide his light under a bushel and this was somewhat typical of him.
He has been known to have made similar outbursts in recent years, the most notable of which was referring to Kerry football supporters as 'f****** animals', which went down like a lead balloon in the Kingdom.
Normally, other managers turn a blind eye in public to O Se's utterances, but his Mayo comments have elicited a swift response.
And what a reaction it was, with former Galway All-Ireland-winning manager and current Mayo boss John O'Mahony opening up both barrels on the Ventry man.
"I would like to think that if I had managed Kerry for eight years, I'd have won more than the two All-Irelands he did with them, especially considering they subsequently won four All-Irelands when he left," said O'Mahony.
"Unfortunately, unlike Paidi, I cannot predict or guarantee Mayo an All-Ireland," he added.
Apart from the direct slight on O'Mahony's reputation as a two-time All-Ireland-winning manager, O Se also described Mayo as "an underachieving county with buckets of football, but lacking self-confidence and a ruthless streak that can be implanted in a team."
Of course, lots of people will agree with at least some of O Se's comments about Mayo football, but it is rare for a high-profile personality like him to speak out in such dogmatic terms, although it is surely easier to do so when one is not involved as a county team manager at the same time.
O'Mahony's response is most interesting because, like the bulk of inter-county managers, he is prepared to use the media to talk about everything and anything, but usually in a non-confrontational way with his 'analysis' of upcoming opponents being a good example.
He will always praise opponents to the hilt, quoting history and tradition, regardless of the opponent's current form.
It is the same with all the other managers who indulge in this charade of mindless soundbites to the media, year-in, year-out, knowing that the GAA public pays little or no attention to what the managers say any more.
By contrast, Babs Keating famously stated before the Cork-Tipp 1990 Munster hurling final that donkeys don't win derbies. The Cork 'donkeys' won that game.
So, O'Mahony's comments about O Se are a welcome outburst of straight talking and, in fairness, he would be a poor manager if he did not come out fighting to protect his own good name and that of Mayo football.
It would be wonderful if this 'debate' was to kickstart a new trend in GAA game commentaries in which managers would have the guts to speak their minds about opposing teams without, of course, being deliberately antagonistic.
When was the last time we heard a manager before a big game saying: "I have no doubt we will win this match, barring a disaster. After all they have not beaten us in the championship for 15 years and I'm certain our team is perfectly capable of beating them again."
Following the O'Mahony response, it is interesting to note comments made by the Tyrone manager, Mickey Harte, recently, when discussing trends in Gaelic football. In a newspaper article, he expressed views on a video by members of the Down team that won All-Irelands in 1960/61, a side usually mentioned as being among the half-dozen best teams in GAA history.
Harte was unusually blunt in his comments relating to the remarks of several Down veterans about the standard of modern-day football vis-à-vis their own time.
"I think it is a pity that many of these great players have difficulty in accepting the excellence that prevails today.
"I found the general views, coming from these innovators of their day, somewhat narrow. We are invariably reminded of the perceived death of of high fielding and long kicking.
"As I have stated before, the initial flaw in this myth is that, because of the current nature of the game, it is impossible to compare like with like."
It was interesting that Down's Barney Carr, the first man to be given the title of team manager in the GAA, pinpointed holding on to the ball as the biggest flaw in modern football.
"They hold onto the ball for ages because they are afraid to lose.
"Our Down team were never afraid to lose, played on the edge and used the space well. It's too easy to retain possession nowadays," he said.
Harte countered these comments by saying: "Other negative vibes prevalent in those interviews suggested tactics nowadays were all about being destructive and solely about stopping others playing football. A glance at some of the high-scoring games in the 2009 championship negates that argument."
It is worth adding that games last 70 minutes nowadays as opposed to 60 when that Down team was in action.
Harte is seen by some as the defining guru of the modern game, which is, admittedly, a very different version of football to that played by former All-Ireland-winning teams.
However, one thing is for sure, and that's that more straight talking from people like Harte and O'Mahony would be a pleasant change from the balderdash we get from most managers at present.