As they prepare to face Fermanagh in Elverys MacHale Park, he says it’s vital people don’t write them off on the basis of their shock semi-final defeat against Galway.
“The sense in Mayo is one of bewilderment, for the most part. There have been quite a variety of ridiculous rumours floating, which are largely understandable, given the nature of the defeat.
“While it was totally unexpected not only in Mayo but across the country, I suspect, given the history of both teams, I would be calling for caution and calm on the Mayo side. Okay, it is one unexpected, poor performance but if you take into consideration that this is a team that has pretty much delivered at the business end of the championship for the previous five seasons, they don’t just collapse into being a poor team overnight. There are some structural issues that need to be addressed but that is largely reflective of the fact that there is a new management in place and they’re trying new processes. There is always going to be an element of education prior to that and it’s simply not going to happen overnight.
“The players in the group have been participating at such a high level such a long time, that to a large degree it’s surprising a performance like that hasn’t happened sooner. It’s their level of consistency that’s probably been the most admirable thing they demonstrated over that period.
“Having said that, the nonsense that occurred last season (Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly’s resignation) didn’t do them any favours, and it’s obviously put undue pressure on them. But at the same time, the players on the panel are of a sufficient high quality to recover and they have the opportunity to do so. It’s merely a case of the leaders in the group getting everyone to settle down and focus.”
The Shrule-Glencorrib man doesn’t believe there were people in Mayo waiting for the players to fall flat on their faces so as to bring up their opposition to Holmes and Connelly remaining on in charge. However, he added: “It’s a convenient argument for anyone to suggest this (Galway defeat) was a consequence of their actions. You have to try and apply an element of balance. The assumption is that they made their decision with the best of intentions. Whether they beat Fermanagh on Saturday or had beaten Galway, their goal remains the same. There may be mitigating factors in the background but it’s the same objective now.”
Mortimer expects Fermanagh to show no fear in Castlebar but then he doesn’t expect Mayo to show any trepidation in taking on Pete McGrath’s men. His chief concern is the battle for starting spots has diminished within Stephen Rochford’s camp.
“I wouldn’t necessarily suggest he doesn’t know his best team. He has been working with the group for the best part of six or seven months at this stage. The assumption is most teams are predicated on form and he can only go on what he sees within the training group. What would be a bigger concern for me is it has been so settled for so long, not enough younger talent have been pushing for places. Okay, one or two players have come through and there is an inevitability about that but there doesn’t seem to be more competition for some of the positions on the field.”