Tuesday 21 November 2017

Strong-willed Mayo players left management no option but to leave

Noel Connelly (left) and Pat Holmes have decided to stand down as joint-managers of Mayo
Noel Connelly (left) and Pat Holmes have decided to stand down as joint-managers of Mayo
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

As player heaves go, this was relatively smooth, relatively straightforward. Judged by the recent time-frames in Cork and Limerick, it was quite bloodless. The intricate details of 'why' did not have to be laid bare.

Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly should be commended for that.

Think of the entrenched and emotive positions taken during the third of the Cork strikes or the misery that the Limerick hurling team endured in the 2010 League and Championship when a skeleton team ploughed on in the absence of so many established players after the squad had been split over Justin McCarthy's handling of a player cull.

Mayo GAA can be thankful that it's all over after just five days. These things have a habit of getting nasty and personal.

Save for the publication of names of some of the seven players who apparently were supportive of the management team continuing and the damage has been limited.

Holmes and Connelly might not concur with that. They had a lot to stand up for and hang on for - passionate Mayo players in their day, a successful All-Ireland winning partnership in the past and heads of a management team now that has delivered virtually an identical set of results as last year. But in the end they bowed to the inevitable conclusion that they couldn't fight the tide.

When some 28 players convened for a review meeting in Castlebar on Thursday night, all turned out in official squad tops, the game was up. Once there was no engagement or platform to negotiate, it was over.

There have been several player heaves against management over the last 25 years and all come to the same conclusions, one way or another. If the group is strong enough, it doesn't change.


Any prospect of division, any inkling of dilution in the original stance, evaporated in the 10 minutes that it took for the players to walk in, reiterate their position to the board officials present and walk back out again.

Did anyone really think that a group of such strong-willed characters that have taken their county so far over the last five years were going to change their stance once their position became public knowledge?

Simple mathematics underlines that the player position actually got stronger as the week went on. There were 28 players in MacHale Park for the review, four from Dublin didn't travel and two more were abroad.

Clearly, some of the 'seven', by their presence among the 28, felt strong enough to be part of a united front. They might have been indifferent to a heave, to the prospect of controversy but they weren't indifferent to the idea that they were in any way a divided group.

You can't help thinking that the names of some of the 'seven' making their way into the public domain had a galvanising effect.

For some the idea that players can have such a veto over a management that a county board appoints is unpalatable but it's a reality.

The Mayo players still need to outline their reasoning behind a move against a management. What was so wrong about them that they had to go after just one year?

Not enough to intimate that they don't feel the outgoing partnership just weren't the right people to give them the best chance of winning the All-Ireland. After so much upheaval they need some specifics to back up what they have sought or else the perception could become different.

But for now the portrayal of them as a single-minded, strong-willed group prevails.

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