Slamming Mayo is now fashionable and the more outrageous the statement, the better, writes John Fogarty
Fergus Connolly has a book coming out later this year. That’s best to keep in mind when considering the sports science and performance consultant’s claim in a Sunday Independent interview Mayo will not win an All-Ireland in his lifetime. When he lambasted Aidan O’Shea for appearing on a TV show because he has yet to win an All-Ireland medal. When he argued a media ban would be the first step to helping Mayo to their elusive goal.
Connolly might argue he would maintain such convictions regardless of his forthcoming publication but then he knows how marketing works too and that Mayo are the easiest of lays. In that regard, he could have been more original but there is an understandable inclination to be in the spotlight as he has something to sell.
A few months prior to Tomás Ó Sé’s autobiography two years ago, the former Kerry star levelled Cork, describing them as ‘underachievers’ and ‘untrustworthy’. He might live in Cork but the notoriety cultivated from those comments did his sales little harm.
In a way, such behaviour reminds us of how a GAA president, keen to make a bigger impression with a year to go in office, makes a declaration. In 2011, Christy Cooney flew the kite of the provincial boundaries being redrawn. In November last year, Aogán Farrell said the GAA may in the future need to reconsider the use of the tricolour and the national anthem. Cooney made his remarks in a Congress address but never followed them up. Farrell was answering a question about the meaning of the tricolour and national anthem to non-Irish playing Gaelic games abroad but brought his answer around to the island of Ireland (yet later sought to clarify his comments).
Put simply, each wanted to make headlines.
There was nothing different in what Bernard Flynn’s “I’m going to share it — I wasn’t going to but I’m going to do it” denigration of O’Shea following his appearance in Mayo’s recent challenge game against Meath in Mullingar. The former Meath forward was simply trying to reassert his relevancy. Condemning O’Shea for agreeing to pose for photographs and sign autographs while his team warmed down was indeed as, Flynn initially said on the RTÉ podcast, “a small thing” but he couldn’t help himself making it big.
Flynn mentioned he helped organise the challenge game, which took place in his club Mullingar Shamrocks’ Springfield pitch. What he neglected to point out was O’Shea was born in Mullingar. His father Jim was a former chairman of the club and was on the Shamrocks team that won two Westmeath senior county championships.
The O’Shea family’s connection with the club was not lost on the player and club officials have confirmed to us that his and his team-mates’ patience and cooperation with the children was the subject of much positive comment that evening.
Neither did Flynn care to divulge the game was broken up in two 45-minute periods and O’Shea had played the entirety of the first one after which he had joined a team huddle. He appeared in the second period but only for a short time.
It wasn’t a surprise that Stephen Rochford took exception to Flynn’s comments following Sunday’s game. He has a duty of care to his players and protecting their characters should be high on his list of priorities.
In 2011, Jim McGuinness felt compelled to defend his charges in the wake of Pat Spillane “running down” his team after their win over Donegal. A spotlight should be shone Mayo’s way but at times it seems it’s being done to blind them into crashing again. Mayo have far more reason to be aggrieved with how they are being portrayed than Donegal were. It will be said that they have brought a lot of it upon themselves but much of it is now so tenuous it’s laughable.
Connolly is about 40. All things going well, he has at least another 40 of them left. The arguments he sets out for why Mayo won’t win an All-Ireland in his lifetime are all short-term explanations. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is that slamming Mayo is fashionable and the more outrageous the statement the better.
Connolly criticises O’Shea for doing media work when off O’Shea’s back he is doing the very same thing to promote himself. Flynn rebukes O’Shea for being courteous to the kids of his own club to keep himself in the limelight. That’s more cynical than Kieran Hughes’ black card foul in Clones on Saturday. The actions of the pair are symptomatic of the obsession with Mayo. Just as there is a fixation with success, there is with near-success or failure, term it however you wish.
The slightest shortcoming is magnified to be something it isn’t, the merest mistake amplified to ridiculous proportions. Because other than not being good enough on the day, which probably should satisfy us, we can’t work Mayo out.
But the words of Connolly and Flynn, following on from others, illustrate that the obsession with Mayo has grown unhealthy. With preposterous declarations and character assassinations, people are making fame off their shame. That says more about those casting aspersions on Mayo than what they think about them.
“Up until the AFL Europe combine I had never seen footy in person. I had never watched a game and I knew nothing of the rules, positions, or even the number of players on each team. I really only knew of some of the Irish boys who had come over.”
The words of Westmeath’s Ray Connellan soon after signing for St Kilda last year.
Connellan, over the weekend, hit out at Tomás Ó Sé for a column criticising Tadhg Kennelly’s involvement in recruiting Gaelic footballers to the AFL. Directly addressing Ó Sé on Twitter, he wrote: “Love your passion for GAA but honestly you’ve not got a clue...”
Connellan hadn’t a clue about Australian Rules football. No love, no idea of the game yet the lure of a professional contract was enough to see him emigrate to Melbourne where he is understood to be making good progress. Not as much as Dingle’s Mark O’Connor, who has already debuted for Geelong. Asked what appealed to him most about AFL in November, O’Connor never said the game but the professionalism of it.
In a more expansive passage on Twitter, O’Connor also took exception to Ó Sé’s criticism of Kennelly but all Ó Sé seemed to be doing was reflecting the groundswell of opinion in Kerry and what his former Kingdom colleague Declan Quill told this newspaper before Christmas.
On Sunday, another ex-Kerry player Seán O’Sullivan bemoaned: “Involved with development squads in Kerry for 7 years. Now asking myself am I developing players for the @officialgaa or @AFL”
The point Connellan and O’Connor miss is that they never dreamed of being AFL players. They were never reared to be either. The sincere best of luck to both of them but money took them.
News on Sunday that Carlow confirmed themselves as Dublin’s Leinster quarter-final opponents brought back memories of Jim Gavin’s press conference after claiming his first All-Ireland title as manager in 2013.
“I know from speaking to other managers they are already setting themselves up for the 2014 season. You know, we are probably already behind that preparation being done behind the scenes,” he said before later adding on the challenge of the Leinster SFC: “Just look at the U21 campaign this year. Kildare look very strong, Longford look strong, Carlow look very strong. It’s great for Leinster.”
Over-cautiousness or uber-diligence, the quotes provided insight into why Gavin is the most successful manager of his era. They also should serve as a warning to Carlow although they won’t need to be told twice about the juggernaut coming their way on Saturday week. It’s just a pity they won’t have time to savour what should be considered a famous win over Wexford on Sunday.
At least Cork have a sufficient break to indulge in a great win over Tipperary. What Carlow wouldn’t give for one of their four weeks before they face Waterford but then the change of challenge they present should also prompt a gulp or two.
Don't miss the Paper Talk podcast - reflecting on Cork's win over Tipp in a Munster hurling thriller.
To get the latest episode of PaperTalk automatically, SUBSCRIBE ON iTUNES
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved