The year before he took over, Mayo County Board called for a “root and branch” review of their structures and called on Ballinrobe clubman Liam Horan to create a strategic plan. He engaged a 19-man steering committee to oversee a working body of more than 50 people which targeted 10 key areas including finance and funding, coaching and games development and harnessing support of Mayo people worldwide. The main recommendations called for the creation of directors for football coaching and finance.
The board rejected it in 2011.
A document with the words Galway Strategic Plan crossed out was adopted instead and a ticking time bomb was set. They deemed Liam Horan’s plan too radical. Sound familiar?
Kevin McStay received a call from McNicholas on Saturday morning telling him he was not being considered for the Mayo manager’s job, that his plan to win Sam Maguire was deemed too radical. When Kevin received a second call hours later asking him to still interview for the job, the comic element never far away from Mayo football hit the headlines.
Tonight Paddy faces the wrath of the clubs. Typically this doesn’t amount to much. Mayo club delegates are little different to other counties. Stay quiet. Keep the head down. Save yourself for tribal issues you’re there to defend. Leave the big picture to the top table.
This time though there’s an appetite for change. Should he go? Probably. Is he the root cause of all Mayo’s ills? No. Those failings land on clubs and players too but they start with the board.
Paddy and some of his colleagues’ biggest failing is their inability to grasp the big picture. Finance and fundraising has taken up far too much time while everything else has suffered. After the trip to New York this year, the board had to defend collecting money using a biscuit tin from fans entering a pre-match gathering. When collective debt from MacHale Park required €400,000 per year in interest alone, that small-time thinking lands you in trouble. Kerry, for instance, travelled to New York and raised €163,000 in 2013 and €290,000 this year. If ever there was a need for a full-time director of finance, this was it.
The result of the constant fundraising on the volunteer executive is time and energy are drained and the big picture forgotten in the grime of the daily torture. Coaching at underage level in the county is becoming the first casualty. The systems which led to the development of the players which contested seven senior All-Ireland finals in the past 25 years are being overtaken by other counties. Just two weeks ago Michael Fitzmaurice, an academy coach involved in the winning All-Ireland minor team last year, stepped down from his position, citing disillusionment with the overall strategy.
The series of long-term failings stems from a lack of understanding about roles, responsibilities and accountability in Mayo GAA. That in turn leads to constant aggravation between the playing core and board executive. James Horan’s parting shots and the board’s retorts unveiled an environment where achieving unified goals seemed highly improbable.
However the main fall guys are not the county board; they are not even Noel Connelly and Pat Holmes, who have now inherited the most unenviable role in the GAA landscape. The players at all levels in the county are the ones who will suffer most.
Ignoring the plan laid out by Liam Horan will bite Mayo hard for years. That process was started after Mayo had lost to Sligo and Longford in the championship. Where must the county go until the big picture becomes the goal for everyone again?
Mayo chairman Paddy McNicholas is expected to deliver a detailed address to board delegates this evening to explain his role in the managerial process.
With the possibility of McNicholas facing a “no confidence” motion, he will attempt to explain why Noel Connelly and Pat Holmes were appointed as successors to James Horan.
Last Friday, it had been agreed by members of the executive that the pair as well as Kevin McStay would be interviewed for the position early this week ahead of this evening’s meeting. However, McNicholas informed McStay early on Saturday morning that he had been unsuccessful.
Speaking on Today FM yesterday evening, Aidan O’Shea said it was disappointing that the protocol of appointing a manager hadn’t been followed and that Mayo were appearing in the media for the wrong reasons.
Writing in his The Herald column yesterday, McStay was philosophical: “The problem for me was the opposition was pretty decent also and threw impressive CVs onto the table themselves. In the end, the committee went for them and I can have few complaints.”