Last Friday, The Irish Independent ran a blurb promoting their interview with Noel Connelly and Pat Holmes. Truth be told, the Mayo players knew this day was coming long before the newspaper did.
Some bought it on Saturday morning, some chose not to. Some still haven’t brought themselves to reading it, relying on what team-mates have told them.
Not many have lost much shut-eye since then.
Yes, some of the claims they consider outrageous and the ramblings of two scorned men but it will be a long time before anyone admits as much on record.
There will be no official response. To do that would only fan the flames and Mayo has been burnt enough.
Deep down, they know Connelly and Holmes would never have had the chance to sabotage them — and let’s be truthful that is exactly what they have done — had they beaten Dublin in the All-Ireland final replay.
The pair mercilessly preyed on that fact. Of course, they were entitled to have their say but to insist they did it in the best interests of Mayo football was incredibly lousy.
Connelly and Holmes had been lauded for their dignified departure 14 months ago but it was obvious to many in Mayo the coup stung them deeply long before they acknowledged it in print on Saturday.
What wasn’t contemplated was how low they would go to jeopardise existing relationships between players in the camp.
They alleged the selection of Andy Moran in last year’s Connacht semi-final was challenged by Alan Dillon. They also maintained Seamus O’Shea asked that his Breaffy club-mate Rob Hennelly be chosen ahead of David Clarke as he preferred his kick-outs. Plenty of unsubstantiated versions of that tale are already swirling around though none has gained any firm credence.
While most of the reaction to Saturday’s interview has been balanced, some of it has been misguided.
On Sunday, Eamonn Sweeney wrote in the Sunday Independent that Aidan O’Shea “has been utterly peripheral in four All-Ireland finals”.
When TG4 show this year’s replay in the coming days, Sweeney may consider and admire O’Shea’s contribution to Lee Keegan’s goal. Only three Mayo players had more possessions in the drawn game.
The finals may not have gone O’Shea’s way but “utterly peripheral” is an exaggeration.
The attempted character assassination of O’Shea is arguably the most shameful aspect of the pair’s tirade. Their portrayal of him as a distracted sportsman doesn’t hold much water when you factor he enjoyed arguably his best season in 2015. It’s obvious that with O’Shea’s 40,000-plus Twitter followers Holmes’ line “it won’t matter how many Twitter followers you had during your playing days” is directed at him.
Bernard Brogan has over 90,000 followers; Colm Cooper 66,000; Michael Murphy 48,000. Obviously, they all have won something O’Shea hasn’t yet but to suggest he has prioritised fame ahead of football is incredulous. There has never been any indication his popularity has affected his game.
Mayo supporters on social media seem to regard Connelly and Holmes’ words for what they are: Full of spite and bitterness. Some of their ranting is understandable. If they couldn’t bring themselves to cheer on the county’s seniors this year, that was okay.
If they muttered curses under their breaths every time the likes of the O’Sheas and Dillon were shown on camera during games, that was fine too but to undermine Stephen Rochford’s preparations for 2017 is contemptible. They were jilted from coveted positions, the appointment process of which prompted the resignation of two executive members in disgust and the former chairman to step down.
They know the man or men who guide Mayo to the summit will be canonised in the county.
That it will be somebody else will rankle with them for a long yet.
As one learned Mayo observer told us on Sunday, the players’ heave against the former co-managers came too easy. There was bound to be a bite-back.
What Connelly and Holmes have said may, in time, inadvertently inspire their former charges to consign 1951 to the past but they should be given no credit for it.
What they have sought to do is not serve Mayo football but harm it.
But like before they might discover the players are more formidable than they thought.
McCaffrey too good to lose
If Jack McCaffrey is worried that Jim Gavin has yet to contact him about returning to the panel, he’s doing a good job of hiding it.
Not for GAA purposes but for his sense of humour, the 2015 footballer of the year is a recommended follow on Twitter.
After Arsenal lost 2-1 away to Manchester City on Sunday having gone a goal ahead, he posted: “I will forever curse the day my mam bought me arsenal slippers and I decided I needed to support them to justify wearing them.”
Witty as he is intelligent and talented, not only would McCaffrey have already been welcomed back with open arms by every other county in the country but many would have asked him to re-join when he returned to Ireland from Africa this past summer.
It’s been reasoned that Gavin hasn’t yet made contact as Dublin are not permitted to return to collective training until the end of the month.
Yet as Kieran Shannon of this parish reported last Tuesday the three-time All-Ireland winning manager’s plans for the upcoming season are well underway.
McCaffrey, though, like Paul Mannion and Rory O’Carroll, is his own man. He had no problem recently revealing he is available again in 2017 but may not be around for half of 2018. Such an independently-minded man is a credit to Dublin.
For their sake as the targets on their backs grow, he simply must be back in a blue jersey next year.
Sheehan the next for goal?
News Joe Sheridan is being considered as a goalkeeper by new Meath manager Andy McEntee might have been a turn-up for the books if those Bryan Sheehan rumours weren’t everywhere prior to the All-Ireland semi-final.
Meath also have a tradition of being inventive when it comes to their netminders. Current first choice Paddy O’Rourke started his inter-county career out the field. Brendan Murphy was known more as a soccer goalkeeper and David Gallagher came out of retirement having recovered from injury. Attention will again turn to Kerry in next month’s McGrath Cup against Tipp (Austin Stack Park, January 8) and Cork (Mallow, January 15) to see if Éamonn Fitzmaurice again alternates between Brendan Kealy and Brian Kelly or does he opt for Sheehan.
The player admitted in August he hadn’t trained in goal and Fitzmaurice laughed off the speculation while not denying it. Trialling this year’s U21 goalkeeper Eoghan O’Brien of Churchill and Rathmore’s Shane Ryan may also be an option, while Shane Murphy could be considered when Dr Crokes’ interest in the All-Ireland Club championship finishes.
Still, the idea of former under-age goalkeeper Sheehan moving back is an intriguing one given the high quality of his kicking.
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