Friday 27 April 2018

Enduring O'Dwyer could have tipped Mayo scales

Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

A few weeks ago, Kevin McStay, 'Sunday Game' analyst, reacted to reports linking Mick O'Dwyer with the Mayo team manager's job by stating that his age was a negative against him. "It's not a personal slight against Mick O'Dwyer but the man is 74. The contract (as team manager) is two or three years so he would be 77 (by the time his term expires)," said McStay.

As a former Mayo footballer and a man with a deep interest in his county's future, McStay is perfectly entitled to express his opinion. However, quite what O'Dwyer's age had to do with anything was unclear.

Surely, it's all about a manager's qualities rather than his birth cert. And since O'Dwyer followed up on his remarkable success story in Kerry by presiding over substantial improvement in Kildare (first Leinster title win for 42 years, followed by a second two seasons later), Laois (first Leinster title for 57 years) and Wicklow (first ever championship win in Croke Park, a Tommy Murphy Cup win and an extended qualifier run last season during which they beat Fermanagh, Cavan and this year's All-Ireland finalists, Down) nobody can argue with his consistently positive influence wherever he went.

He is to continue with Wicklow for another year, so speculation as to whether he was headed for Mayo, Monaghan or any other county where a vacancy arose is over. McStay will, no doubt, be relieved that Mayo won't have a 74-year-old manager, even one that might provide that little extra required to end the long wait for an All-Ireland title next year.

Little extra? Are Mayo really that close to the big time? Quite possibly. There are many who will ridicule such a suggestion at the end of a championship where Mayo lost to Sligo and Longford, but here's a question: in real terms, how much better than Mayo are Down? Are they better at all?


To Down's immense credit, they re-launched their season impressively after losing to Tyrone in Ulster, whereas Mayo didn't really function in this year's championship. Still, Mayo won six of seven games in Division 1 before losing the final to Cork and were Connacht champions in 2009.

Despite what happened in this year's championship, they're not the mess portrayed by some. The idea that they need a long, painstaking re-build simply doesn't hold up.

They won four of the last five Connacht U-21 titles (plus one All-Ireland) and the last three Connacht minor titles. Their seniors have consistently remained in Division 1 and won two of the last five Connacht titles. More was expected of them at All-Ireland level but, nevertheless, when you put the overall senior/U-21/minor package together, it's a whole lot more impressive than many counties.

Interestingly, too, John O'Mahony, a man whose opinion deserves respect, insists that the scene is healthier than it might appear.

"I knew my term was about building a bridge between one team and another and I think time will prove that bridge was built. But, for a bridge, you have to get to another side and in my term, we're not getting to the other side. Still, it's not all gloom and doom for Mayo," he said after the defeat by Longford.

Yet the view is emanating from Mayo that the whole house needs to be renovated. Why the negativity?

There may be broad structural issues to be addressed but ultimately the biggest boost in any county is provided by a successful senior side.

Talk of two and three-year plans in Mayo make no sense. The season to win the All-Ireland is 2011 and, given the county's resources, that's what Mayo should be vigorously targeting.

Appointing O'Dwyer wouldn't have been a backward move as characterised by some. Instead it would have been an ambitious call, where the sole aim was to land Sam Maguire next year.

Of course, O'Dwyer might not even have considered the job if it were offered to him but there was certainly no chance he would become involved unless the county was fully united behind him. It became increasingly clear that wouldn't be the case in recent weeks.

It's Mayo's right to appoint whoever they want but to what degree did ageism inform, or rather misinform, the view on O'Dwyer?

Final thought on age: Micko was 15 years old when Mayo last won a senior All-Ireland title. He's done rather well since then as a player and manager. The same can't be said for Mayo.

Leinster's wait for place in final reaches nine years

The advance to the senior semi-finals by Dublin and Kildare raised Leinster hopes of ending the long wait without being represented in the All-Ireland final, let alone winning it.

However, both were beaten, which means that it's now nine years since Leinster had senior finalists (Meath 2001) and 11 years since they won it (Meath 1999).

The scene isn't much better at minor level, where Leinster haven't had finalists since 2003, when they were double-handed with Laois and Dublin. Truly, an inexplicable blackout for Leinster, but they have done better at U-21 level, where Dublin won the title this year and Kildare (2008) and Laois (2007) reached the final.

Irish Independent

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