Saturday 24 February 2018

No use in mutiny for the sake of it

If Mayo's footballers are unsure about which course to take, they could end up on the rocks

Keith Higgins leads out the Mayo team ahead of their semi-final replay with Dublin. But have they decided who their next manager is? Photo: Stephen McCarthy
Keith Higgins leads out the Mayo team ahead of their semi-final replay with Dublin. But have they decided who their next manager is? Photo: Stephen McCarthy
Colm O'Rourke

Colm O'Rourke

The Mayo footballers better be sure of their next move or they could end up like Fletcher Christian and his crew who took over the Bounty in 1789 and had to live out their lives in Tahiti and Pitcairn islands. Some were eventually captured and brought back to Britain so the Mayo footballers could hardly head for Achill and cut off all ties with the rest of the world now that they have wielded the knife.

Maybe they have already decided who they want as their next manager. It is a risky business having players who try to short-circuit the normal democracy of county boards. Of course the appointment group in any county would be very foolish if they did not, at the very least, have a fair idea of what players were thinking. After all, many have wide-ranging experience from third level of differing methods of running a team. Yet beware the bright boy who comes back from college with what he thinks are all the answers.

The bush fire has since spread to Galway. No manager is safe. The most important point of all is that every team, whether club or county, exists with some form of tension surrounding management.

Within all teams there is a rump of disaffected players. A new management group may often go for a new team. Some who are left out are not happy, those taken off go away and bitch about it, others don't get on at all.

Not only are they disaffected but so also are their parents, partners, extended family and friends. It does not take much of a stretch to move from the normal discontent to a few saying that it is all management's fault and things would be better with someone else. In clubs it will often go full circle - the existing management is dumped out and after a few years they are wanted back as the replacements were not the saviours expected.

The malcontents are often the most vociferous and it depends on whether the group involved have more leaders or followers.

There is an old story of the ship that's about to sink and the reactions of those on board. One third figure out very quickly how to save themselves, one third run around like headless chickens and don't know what to do and the third group just freeze, can't do anything and go down with their ship unless there are enough to hold their hands and get them off.

The same applies with a group of footballers. There are always leaders but the biggest group in the set-up will be the followers. In Mayo, if the leaders don't know what exactly the route ahead is, they will all go down with their ship.

Meanwhile, the GPA recently launched their answer to the championship system which King Solomon, who was supposed to be the wisest of men, could not sort out.

There are so many circles to square. Leagues, provincial championships and an All-Ireland series which in many ways are all viewed as sacrosanct despite almost everybody agreeing that it is all either unbalanced, unfair or both. In many ways it is like starting a journey and being told you should not be starting from here. And nobody is sure of the destination either.

Anyway, the great wisdom of the GPA has now added to the debate. Of course, the GPA is a body I have some history with, and therefore would not be impressed with in most of its shapes and forms. Yet players' views deserve consideration, even if the truth is that most do not give much attention to the nuts and bolts of running competitions so long as they are playing. In many ways they are isolated, and maybe to an extent insulated, from the real world. Fair enough too as I could not have cared less about the championship system when I was playing. All I wanted was to win a provincial championship and an All-Ireland. If that meant beating Kilkenny in the final then all the better (it is football I am talking about, not hurling).

The GPA want to get rid of pre-season competitions, run the league and provincial championship more or less as is and then have eight groups of four at All-Ireland level. Sounds pretty straightforward, which is certainly a benefit. It would give more games to weaker counties and there is no doubt that there would be some novelty value if Dublin were playing away from home. Wouldn't it be great to see them arriving in Waterford, Wicklow, Leitrim, Clare or 20 other counties on a nice summer's evening in June or July. Once they win a lot of these games by 25 points or more though, the novelty might wear off pretty quickly.

What these proposals would do to club fixtures in those months would be far more interesting, but then again the GPA make it quite clear all the time that their primary focus is not with the 99 per cent of players who toil away at local level.

The idea that weekends would be set in stone for club activity is fine in theory, but the practice is that county players with big matches coming up will be told not to play with their clubs. It has happened over time and won't change just because somebody puts a different colour on a fixtures' map to denote club-only activity.

The GPA's plan also proposes to finish inter-county activity in a shorter time span to allow more club activity in September and October. Good luck with that one. The problem in a lot of counties is that there is no competitions at all for clubs in the latter part of the year. The GPA model does not address that.

The GPA also state that there is no appetite for a second-tier competition. That is the same as asking a junior club footballer if he would like to play in the senior championship. It does beg the question whether participation in any competition is by right or should it be based on performance? A second-tier or third-tier championship works in counties because success means promotion and sets realistic targets for teams. It should be no different at county level.

Anyone who thinks that the vast majority of counties are going to be competitive in the race for Sam are living in a fool's paradise. With all population movements being in general west to east it means the unbalances, which were apparent this year particularly, are going to get worse. Is that the GAA of the future? A very small elite. Count me out if the GPA or anyone else thinks this is the model we should be promoting.

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