Friday 24 February 2017

Martin Breheny: 'It appears taking personal responsibility doesn't arise, but there's safety in numbers'

Galway and Mayo rebels need to look at themselves in blame game

Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Galway players in a huddle prior to the 2012 All-Ireland final
Galway players in a huddle prior to the 2012 All-Ireland final

So here's how it goes. Mayo footballers and Galway hurlers came close to winning All-Ireland titles and, when they didn't, somebody has to be blamed.

Of course, that ignores the most obvious explanation, which holds that they weren't quite good enough, but that's never accepted anywhere nowadays. Whatever the sport, defeat is almost always attributed to factors beyond the players' control.

Even when there's an admission that the opposition was superior, it's qualified by a reference to "on the day", implying that there would be a different result if the teams met again.

Since neither the Mayo nor Galway squads have publicly explained why they are unhappy, it remains a guessing game, played under the vague rules which apply when players decide they have lost confidence in management.

Apart from players and management, nobody knows the dynamic that applies in any dressing-room. And since the Mayo and Galway squads haven't told the public why they wanted a change of management, one theory is as sound or as senseless as the next.

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What's beyond dispute is that the Mayo squad were prepared to work under Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly, two men who have given immense service to the county, for one year only.

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

It was a harsh call by a squad not always noted for sound judgement under intense playing pressure.

Anthony Cunningham's situation is different, since he has been in charge of Galway for four seasons. Still, ten of the 26 players on the All-Ireland final day squad were promoted in 2014 and 2015.

If they have lost confidence so quickly in the man who introduced them to the panel, then they need a short, sharp lesson on the realities of life. Of course, they could be coming under the influence of longer serving colleagues, including some whose days are very nearly at an end, if indeed not actually there.

Whatever the background, Mayo and Galway players have neatly packaged the blame for All-Ireland setbacks and left it outside their managers' doors.

It appears that taking personal responsibility doesn't arise, but then there's safety in numbers.

However, that doesn't hide the clear evidence from the past four seasons that it was players, rather than management, that didn't deliver for Mayo and Galway at the most crucial times.

Both Mayo and Galway blew winning positions on quite a few occasions. Indeed, there is an uncanny similarity in some of the experiences.

Mayo led Dublin by four points at the three-quarter mark in this year's All-Ireland semi-final, only to be outscored by 3-4 to 0-2 from there on.

How can Holmes/Connelly be blamed for that?

Mayo led Kerry by five points after 66 minutes in last year's semi-final, only to be held to a draw. They led the replay by seven points after 25 minutes but were beaten in extra-time. In 2013, they led Dublin by three points - it should have been much more - after 23 minutes but lost by a point.

Galway led Kilkenny by four points after 27 minutes in this year's hurling final but were out-scored by 0-17 to 0-6 over the next 43 minutes before Joe Canning scored a stoppage-time goal.

How can Cunningham be blamed for such a catastrophic power failure? After all, he wasn't inside the white lines.

And how could he be blamed for last year's qualifier defeat by Tipperary, when Galway led by six points after 50 minutes, only to be outscored by 2-10 to 0-1 from there on?

Presumably, there are leaders presiding over the Cunningham coup now, so where were they when needed on the pitch that evening?

Galway led Kilkenny by seven points after 32 minutes and by five at half-time in the 2012 final but managed only one point in the third quarter.

They led the replay by three points after 17 minutes but conceded an answered 1-6 in the next nine minutes.

The facts show that both Mayo and Galway put themselves in a position to win really big game but didn't see it out, probably because they weren't good enough.

Trying to improve is a laudable aim but dumping on others as they go is a sign of weakness rather than strength.

A more constructive policy might involve fitting large mirrors in both dressing-rooms.

Irish Independent

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