Right call, but Mayo club managers frustrated

Castlebar Mitchels co-manager Declan O’Reilly accepts the reasoning behind the Mayo County Board’s decision to postpone this weekend’s club championship fixtures, but believes the situation could have been handled better.

Crossmolina boss Joe Keane also appreciates the predicament the county executive found themselves in, but admits it is “frustrating to be a club manager and player in Mayo”.

Castlebar were due to face Ballina Stephenites this Saturday but the game will not now take place until the weekend after Mayo’s All-Ireland final appearance against Dublin or Kerry.

“Any time there is a postponement it’s disappointing and this is something we would have seen coming down the tracks,” said O’Reilly. “I would have thought that clubs would have been told in the event Mayo won last Sunday that the games would be put back. I was even expecting the call on Sunday evening and I was surprised when Stephen Rochford said the players were going back to the clubs.

“We trained on Monday and then came the call on Tuesday to say the game against Ballina wouldn’t happen. I fully understand why the decision was taken and there are no better Mayo supporters than club players, but I thought it could have been handled a bit better. If I was in Stephen Rochford’s position, I too would want to be fully focused on the final and allowed to be left at it.”

Keane’s Crossmolina were to play Ballinrobe on Saturday. “It’s a difficult situation and I don’t think there are any winners in it. The county board found themselves in a tough spot and it’s tough for the clubs now too. With Mayo’s history of not winning All-Irelands, the county board couldn’t put anything in the way that would risk the county’s chances of ending that record.”

O’Reilly believes the Mayo situation further illustrates the need to condense the inter-county season.

“In the bigger picture, I think this really feeds into that dynamic. Club players are the heartbeat of the association, but there’s a lot being asked of them. We had a 14-month season reaching the All-Ireland final earlier this year and we couldn’t have looked for more from them and for them to be at the behest of a phonecall to say their game isn’t going ahead could be better done. It’s what we’ve come to live with.

“Do changes need to happen? Yes, they do and there has to be more structure put on the inter-county season so that it doesn’t affect clubs as much. There will now be a push on Mayo to get a representative ready for the Connacht club championship and that’s not taking into consideration the possibility of a draw in the All-Ireland final. There are questions that need answering, but players are just going to get on with it for now.”

Keane realises a solution won’t come easy. “It’s an on-running problem and the media are well aware of it. The GAA have already put forward structures, but the issue is the club and county are just not mixing well. It’s not an easy thing to solve and there is such history and tradition there that people find it hard to let go of the current structure for the sake of another.

“In this situation, you do whatever you can to help Mayo achieve an All-Ireland title. It’s frustrating for the club manager and player in Mayo, but that’s the situation we find ourselves in.”


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