IF you think back a few months ago I praised Mayo for appointing one of their own as manager and now James Horan is only a game away from bringing the long awaited All-Ireland back to Mayo.
You will too recall how I said that Donegal might be the dark horses this year based on their league performances. I always have a soft spot for Mayo because they have produced great players over the years and haven't got the Celtic Crosses to prove this. It's amazing to think that one would have to go all the way back to the fifties for Mayo's last win. They also won it the previous year so it will be sixty years from the time of their last All-Ireland win when they take on Donegal.
Donegal, on the other hand, are the only county to have a one hundred percent record in All-Ireland Finals – they played in one final and won it so there are omens for both counties. Now a lot of people gave Mayo no chance against the Dubs and I for one couldn't figure that one out? Perhaps, it was because it was the Dubs at home in Croke Park, but for they failed to perform all year.
They got lucky the year before against Kerry and most Kerry people will agree that this was the one that we left slip. However, we all agree that the Dubs are good for the game, but this final will be something special. Tickets will be like gold dust for these competing counties. Mayo, for example, have a huge amount of All Stars for a county that have not won the All-Ireland in so long. I think they have something like twenty-four All Star awards.
Flanagan, Nallen and Willie Joe Padden will no doubt be sought out by the national media on the runup to this final, but I will always remember one of the best centre-half backs I ever saw – John Morley – they used to say that he was the best player never to have won an All-Ireland and I would agree with that. Mayo now have a team ethic and Horan has given them that and it would be a foolish man that would write them off against Donegal, who will start as favourites.
The hurling final was a cracker and no doubt the GAA will be happy with the extra revenue, but fair play to the top brass for the lowering of the price for the replay. This is only right and proper as the Croke Park hierarchy try to give something back to two great sets of supporters. No doubt Croke Park will be full again for the return clash, which will throw up another good game to back my analysis that hurling is the best field game in the world.
On the home front the pick of the next round matches sees the clash of the Black & Amber from Tralee and Killarney. The Stacks and Crokes will no doubt attract a big crowd. What the new manager will pull out of this championship remains to be seen.
Now while on the subject of Eamonn Fitzmaurice, I am not sure if he has put his management team together just yet, but there's a lot of talk doing the rounds out there and a lot of big names being mentioned.
Well a little word of caution Eamonn: big time players don't often make good managers and can sometimes even be worse selectors as they tend to judge players on their own standards and ideals. Remember too Eamonn, there can only be one boss! Too powerful a selection committee can be worse than a weak one. Remember that old saying "Too many cooks spoil the broth".
Be warned young Fitzmaurice – there can only be one voice in the dressing room and that has to be yours! There can only be one many laying down the rules and if players sense a division in leadership they will not respond. If dream teams of selectors were the end result of winning All-Irelands other counties would have won a lot more of them. Just think about it young man, the buck will fall with you.
County committees will try and cover their tail ends for votes at county conventions and dream teams of management help them do this. The manager is the one they hang out, so take time and think, young Eamonn Fitzmaurice, the fans want you to succeed and they are the ones that matter!