JOHN FOGARTY: Five don’ts for Mayo pundits ahead of All-Ireland final

Mayo in an All-Ireland final means one thing to most Mayo people and something extra to others — money.

It’s turned into quite the cottage industry for former players and managers as they spring up on radio stations, preview nights and launches to offer their tales of woe and prayers of hope. More power to them — they clearly have a market — but it’s a stale product.

They haven’t exactly exhibited themselves in the best light down the years — more of that anon — but then they wouldn’t see themselves as a collective. It’s a case of each to their own. 

There is no understanding like there has been for years in Kerry and most recently in Dublin that they can play a role in advancing their team’s mission.

It was James Horan who put it best about Kerry two years ago when he remarked: “When you take on Kerry, you’re not just taking on 15 men. You’re taking on the weight of their tradition, the clout of ex-players talking them up in the media and the impact which that can have.

Definitely with Kerry, it’s as if there’s an unwritten rule where everyone rows in behind the Kingdom juggernaut.”

Even if they weren’t all orchestrated, the remarks made by former Dublin players about Lee Keegan between the two finals last year proved Horan’s point can now be applied to Dublin. Mayo pundits, though? 

Their record has been as patchy as the team’s.

So how do they start to get it right?

Don’t be a misery guts

Yes, we get it — Mayo have lost finals again and again and again and again and again and again and again. 

Blathering on about how you were beaten in this one, humiliated in that one and could have won the other one only for you-know-who might work if you hadn’t already spoken about it. 

At this stage, there is little left to reveal about what happened in those finals. 

Heavens, wasn’t there a book about most of them, and didn’t you say enough in that? 

Bridesmaid may be stamped on your calling card but time has moved on, as should you.

Don’t add grist to the rumour mill

Who will ever forget David Brady’s faux pas before last year’s drawn All-Ireland final when he erroneously claimed Jim McGuinness had helped out Mayo only to minutes later retract his comment live on national radio: “I was told that Jim McGuinness was down in Limerick. I now know for a fact that he wasn’t. That’s put to bed there now and this (texter) wasn’t telling lies. I can categorically say now, Stephen Rochford has never spoken to Jim McGuinness in his life.” 

Martin Carney had made a similar claim the previous day when he said the 2012 All-Ireland winning manager had spoken to the Mayo group: “Jim McGuinness obviously isn’t coming down to talk about forward play... it has to be to look at defence.” 

On the day of the drawn game, John Casey incorrectly reported Mayo were waiting in the tunnel before Dublin emerged from their dressing room. Gossip-mongering isn’t done in Dublin or Kerry.

Don’t let things ride

What was almost remarkable about the attacks on Keegan last year was the relatively weak response from ex-Mayo players to counter them, considering they hold such a presence in the media.

In the end, it was the hashtag #thingsleedid curated by Mayo fans that served as the best answer to the focused criticism of their star player.

Four years ago, Horan claimed RTÉ favoured Mayo’s opponents, saying their proclamation of Donegal was not fair. 

He may have been overegging it but he didn’t get much backing from his fellow county men in the media. 

To be fair, Horan did the best job of cutting through the proverbials surrounding Aidan O’Shea’s Selfiegate earlier this summer but he had little competition.

Don’t poke the bear

Four years ago, Liam McHale suggested Mayo would prefer if Ger Brennan was to play at centre-back only for Brennan to put in one of his best displays in a Dublin jersey. 

Brennan afterwards intimated he was motivated by what McHale had said. Granted, it’s difficult to upset this Dublin group in that regard when they are strong in so many departments but hopping a ball about Diarmuid Connolly’s fuse or why the likes of Bernard Brogan or Michael Darragh Macauley can’t make the team wouldn’t be advised.

Don’t make this about yourself

Don’t mention some hare-brained, attention-seeking stunt you will pull off should Mayo win on Sunday. Don’t declare that you’ve spoken to a priest who has lifted the so-called curse. Don’t make some ill thought-out attempt to put pressure on the referee.

Don’t predict that Dublin will be blown out of the water. Don’t predict Mayo will be blown out of the water. Don’t use this game as an attempt to put yourself in the frame for Stephen Rochford’s job in the future.

Don’t repeat history.

Rule will finally hit the mark

The incremental change favoured by Croke Park that frustrates the Club Players Association is easily identifiable in the “club motions” being brought forward to Special Congress on September 30. 

But there is more evidence of it in the Gaelic football playing rule proposal insisting all kick-outs must travel outside the 20-metre line on top of being at least 13m in distance.

It wasn’t brought forward with the mark as it was felt the two had to be considered in isolation, that delegates would rally against what they perceived as too much change and one would likely fail.

The mark has been deemed a success by many but were that truly the case, there wouldn’t be a need for this addendum. We repeat what we’ve pointed out here before: it can’t truly be claimed to incentivise the art of high-fielding when a clean catch, be it between the knees, at chest level or above the head, inside the 45-metre lines from a kick-out is deemed the same thing.

At least with this motion, which will only need 60% support after the rule change at Congress earlier this year, goalkeepers will be compelled to restart the game with a forward kick instead of to the side or in some cases behind them. 

If it is passed, Kerry’s Brian Kelly will never again find himself in the situation where he kicks the ball behind his own end-line to hand the opposition a 45, as he did in last month’s All-Ireland semi-final.

Unlike the 13m rule which is largely a subjective call for a referee, the 20m whitewash will make it easy for him to determine. It should be a slam-dunk motion that could ultimately do even more to safeguard high fielding than the mark itself.

Dubs staying mean

Those hoping that Fergus Connolly, who worked with Jim Gavin in 2013, provides some insight into his time with Dublin’s footballer in his recently published book, Game Changer — The Art of Sports Science, will be left disappointed. The only mention of Dublin is in an Irish fable quoted by Connolly.

That’s not surprising given it’s a read aimed at the American market and that’s not to say that the book isn’t a good read — the Monaghan-born sports performance consultant has compiled a veritable treasure trove of useful information on achieving success.

It’s easy to see why Gavin was keen to recruit his services when so much of what he preaches would resonate with how the Dublin manager goes about his business.

Connolly doesn’t address the whole subject of siege mentality but Gavin may provide him with the manual after this season as Dublin have never left the war-footing they’ve been on since their first weekend of the championship when Diarmuid Connolly pushed linesman Ciarán Branagan in Portlaoise. 

In the aftermath, they refused to give a one-on-one interview to RTÉ and cancelled “walk-up” graphics with the national broadcasters. The word is relations between the two parties are still icy.

Neither have Dublin forgotten that it was the GAA that handed down the retrospective ban to Connolly. 

Supposedly, when the named team was leaked online prior to their All-Ireland semi-final against Tyrone last month, the All-Ireland champions’ camp were furious and quick to contact Croke Park to complain. 

Responsible for a team of a county that has well and truly realised its size and stature, Dublin have a management group that haven’t been afraid to throw their weight around. Staying ahead also means staying on top of things.



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