Saturday 18 November 2017

Line between triumph and disaster is wafer-thin -- just ask Micko

Paidi O Se

'THE result is all that matters. The rest is only gossip,' Jimmy Sirrel, Notts County manager, used to say. Another famous soccer manager, Bill Shankly, said: 'After all, football is not a matter of life and death. It's much more serious than that.'

There in a nutshell are two searing insights into the crucible that is football management, whether it be Gaelic or soccer, in the modern media age. Mayo's John O'Mahony is the latest manager to fall on his sword, and I sympathise with him because he had a good track record over the years.

Back in the New Year, when winter talk was at its height, I had the temerity to criticise John and he, in turn, took umbrage at my opinions. We made it up afterwards, but it is with no pleasure that I now consider John's fate after another ignominious performance by Mayo.

You cannot take away from him the two All-Irelands he won with Galway and the progress he brought to the minnow of minnows, Leitrim. But the line between triumph and disaster is wafer-thin, as my good friend Mick O'Dwyer knows full well.

Micko's Wicklow seemed to have Cavan beaten in Breffni Park last weekend but they mentally blew up and threw the game away at the end, allowing Seanie Johnston to clinch it.

Mick is a superb man-manager and I know there are many counties who would love to have him on board in some form of consultancy or advisory capacity. These counties are still in the championship and they won't emerge from the woodwork until the die is cast one way or the other. It was heartening, and not a bit surprising, to hear Micko during the week confirm he has no intention of quitting the game yet. So even if it's not with Wicklow, we can look forward to seeing him on the sideline again in 2011.

Another manager on a bit of a hot seat at the moment is Dublin's Pat Gilroy, who has to take his share of the responsibility for a pathetic performance against Meath last Sunday.

Dublin are a huge asset to the game; they bring colour and big crowds wherever they perform, but they are in the searching spotlight of constant media attention. There is a degree of bullshit about some of their practices, such as holding training matches at 6.0am. The real heat of battle is out there in the arena and this kind of gimmickry is more suited to the corporate world.

Bullshit is the same thing whether it's delivered by a guy in an expensive suit or in a designer tracksuit, and it doesn't impress those who see through this posturing and demand the real thing. Mick Doyle used to say: "Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect," and there was a lot of wisdom in that.

But anyway, I look forward to Dublin in the qualifiers and to their mass of passionate followers taking to the road.

Neither am I much impressed by the carry-on of the Kerry team in their petulant and petty-minded boycott on giving interviews to RTE. I have been critical already of the carry-on of The Sunday Game panel in acting as judge and jury on the Paul Galvin affair. The GAA should be stronger-minded than to react in kneejerk fashion to the winding up of this issue by pundits who are only looking for attention and ratings.

Having said that, it does the game no service for the Kerry players to withdraw their availability to RTE, especially when there are people all over the world whose only source of information about these games is RTE.

It is a mercy that Paul Galvin himself was big enough to accept that what he did was wrong, and has decided not to appeal, thus avoiding the dark cloud which hung over Kerry two years ago as the GAA's interminable appeals process dragged through a season which culminated in defeat to Tyrone in the All-Ireland final.

In the meantime, Kerry's players will hopefully have 'media bans' far from their minds today in Killarney. I predict this Munster final will be far from the pushover many people expect and so the Kerry players need to be 100 per cent mentally ready, with no distractions or sideshows.

That Limerick are serious in their intent is evident, and the months of discontent in the hurling half of the county mean the footballers now have the undivided attention of players like Stephen Lucey and Mark O'Riordan. I would say my old comrade Mickey Ned O'Sullivan has certainly benefited from the hurling 'strike'.

Many of the mental attitudes that can be found in Kerry football are not unknown in Limerick, a county which has close connections with Kerry and a lot of blood relationships with the champions.

I give Limerick a good fighting chance, but at the end of the day I am taking Kerry to win.

If Kerry do not win, it will be tantamount to a repeat of their disaster against Waterford in the Munster Championships of 1957, when the Kerryman journalist John Barrett travelled to the match as a reporter and ended up playing in goal because Marcus O'Neill couldn't make the journey.

That catastrophe has gone down as a black day in the annals of Kerry football, but I don't expect it to be repeated today.

Sunday Independent

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