Thursday 27 October 2016

Eugene McGee: Mayo players have no right to blame others for their own failures

Published 30/09/2015 | 02:30

Mayo captain Keith Higgins speaks to his team before the Dublin game
Mayo captain Keith Higgins speaks to his team before the Dublin game

Mayo footballers can expect very little sympathy because of the crude manner in which they set about getting rid of their joint managers Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly.

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In fact, I will be very surprised if their action does not come back to haunt them in the coming months. Mayo have been in the top four counties for the past five years and played in seven All-Ireland semi-finals and two finals but are still as far away as ever from bridging the All-Ireland gap going back to 1951.

They have, despite all the disappointments, the largest following for any county other than Dublin and many of these people will feel let down and angry over this latest development.

Read more: Player uprising will have an inevitable ending

Read more: Noel Connelly and Pat Holmes get ready to dig in against Mayo player heave

The implication of the players informing the County Board chairman that they had no confidence in the managers, one of whom Noel Connelly is a brother of the chairman, is quite clear. They are implying that it was the managers, not the players, who are responsible for their defeat to Dublin in the drawn semi-final this year. This is utter nonsense.

Former joint Mayo managers Pat Holmes, left, and Noel Connelly
Former joint Mayo managers Pat Holmes, left, and Noel Connelly

In the 53rd minute of the replay Mayo led by 1-12 to 0-11 and had Dublin on the rack. Then Lee Keegan went off on a solo run through the Dublin defence and had an easy point option not to mention a possible pass for a goal chance that would probably have sealed the deal for his county. Instead he hit a weak shot into Stephen Cluxton's hands.

Two minutes later, the score was Dublin 2-12 Mayo 1-12. Dublin won by 3-15 to 1-14, scoring 3-3 in the final quarter to which Mayo's token gesture was two points from frees.

This is just one of several examples of Mayo players being responsible for some of their many defeats which had nothing to do with their managers, including James Horan in the previous four years. The drawn semi-final against Kerry in 2014 when Mayo were leading by 1-15 to 0-13 with eight minutes to go only to concede 1-3 to 0-1 in that period was another example of players losing their concentration and making silly errors.

Players do lose matches, at least far more than managers do. With the number of near misses Mayo players have had over the past five years, it is clear it was they who are responsible for not going all the way. This year's joint managers Connelly and Holmes are the only ones in recent years to have brought Mayo to national success with an U-21 All-Ireland.

And anyway limiting a manager to just one season is total rubbish. James Horan's biggest achievement was that he changed the face of Mayo teams into real competitors rather than the 'soft touch' they had been labelled with for decades. He got them to play real football in the modern style and this was continued with the new men in 2015.

It has often been said that Mayo footballers lack the killer instinct required to actually win big games when the opportunity is staring them in the face and this has certainly happened to them in the past five tears more than once.

All the other top teams of the period, Kerry, Dublin and Donegal, have won the Sam Maguire cup and indeed Mayo have also beaten all those counties in the past five years but never when it meant actually winning the All-Ireland title, losing finals to Dublin and Donegal.

Read more: 'What manager in his right mind would want to manage Mayo now?'

All these excellent performances indicate that the managers of Mayo have done a fine job but despite what people think managers are not the ultimate decision-makers in big games. I did not score the winning goal against Kerry in the 1982 final, Seamus Darby did. That power rests with the players on the day and it is clear in recent years that not enough Mayo players have that ruthless level of concentration when the pressure is greatest in the final quarter of games.

Mayo, like other top teams, have been blessed with the best facilities and expertise that money can buy, including sports psychologists, and no stone has been life unturned to achieve All-Ireland success.

Therefore the only missing commodity is contained within the panel of players who have been representing Mayo since 2011. It is they and they alone who can bring Sam Maguire back to the county but this action probably ensures that this set of players will not achieve that target.

Player power used unwisely has done a lot of damage to several GAA counties in recent years and this is one of the worst examples of this. I believe the decision was not unanimous by the Mayo panel which means even more trouble ahead.

Irish Independent

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