Ushering the past one way and welcoming the future the other wasn’t so easy for Barry Moran and the Castlebar Mitchels cohort on the Mayo panel in the closing months of 2015.
It wasn’t enough that as the players revolted against Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly, they were trying to focus on winning a county title and then a Connacht championship. Holmes had guided Mitchels to the 2013 All-Ireland final. It made things difficult.
As if that wasn’t enough, Crossmaglen’s Ulster success that followed Mitchels’ provincial final win over Corofin meant new Mayo coach Tony McEntee, former Rangers’ co-manager and brother of their current joint boss Tony, now walked among them.
If things didn’t get so heavy with the exit of Holmes, Moran might smile at the order of events. But he can only recall how onerous the stand-off was between players and management.
Moran said: “Pat was involved with the club for... I think it was three years. And he brought us to an All-Ireland here and it didn’t work out but I was involved with Pat as well when we won the U21 (All-Ireland) with Mayo. Then with the club for three or four years. So, including the year he was with Mayo as well, I’d say I have seven or eight years’ experience with him.
“From that point of view, it’s tough. You build a personal relationship as you would with any coach or manager and I suppose the way it ended up last year wasn’t ideal.
“But what happened has happened and we just kind of moved on. With the experience that you’ve gained with someone over that period, it’s a bit awkward.”
It says something of Holmes’ influence that it is still being felt in Mitchels. “We still have the core players so the style that suits us would be high tempo, trying to get the ball in as quickly as possible and runners off the shoulder. It’s quite similar to what we did with Pat as well.”
McEntee’s presence around Castlebar has meant Mitchels’ Mayo players have kept much of a respectful silence, if not a distance, around him.
“It adds a bit of spice to it, something different,” the 29-year-old says of the Crossmaglen man. “I’ve met Tony a few times there now but the last couple of weeks we’ve just been with the club.
We’re keeping our cards close to our chest when Tony is around the place anyway, just in case!
“Stephen [Rochford] and Tony and the lads have been very understanding with us — there have been one or two meetings but bar that we’ve been exclusively with the club.”
On the basis of their recent record against fancied teams, Crossmaglen’s pedigree won’t be a deterrent for Mitchels. Neither will their favour with the bookmakers. “I suppose if you look at this year with the club, and even two years ago when we got a run, we came across Corofin back then as well — and Dr Crokes,” recalled Moran.
“They were all favourites for the All-Ireland at the time and we got over them, so reputation wouldn’t be one thing that… I think it actually helps us as it allows us to keep our heads down and work hard.
“They’re a top class club with the history that they have and the amount of Ulsters and All-Irelands they have won. But we’ve never come across them, and while we respect them because of who they are and what they’ve done, it’s the same as going out playing any other team.”