The turmoil and tension engulfing Mayo GAA is a sorry state of affairs, especially as it could have been nipped in the bud months ago.
Going back to the end of August when Tim O'Leary felt compelled to take to Instagram to confirm the breakdown of the Mayo GAA Foundation’s relationship with the county board executive, steps should have immediately been taken to remedy the situation.
On a point of principle, Mayo officials are right to argue that money raised in the name of the county teams should be controlled by those elected to run its affairs. However, as well as raising significant funds for the county, Healy has raised serious questions about their suitability to be put in charge of such monies.
The behaviour of some officials since then has been nothing short of insolent. Missing Special Congress, while a separate matter, was embarrassing enough in isolation but the email that referred to Healy as a “donkey” followed by the decision to play “Shoe The Donkey” at half-time in The Underdogs game in Castlebar were incredulous judgement calls. An apology for the latter was forthcoming but talk about mistaking a gift horse for a mule.
Almost as unbelievable was the “nothing to see here” email that followed the latest county board meeting, an emergency meeting, no less.
As tight as the executive insist the wagons are circling, few outside the Dr Michael Loftus Room in MacHale Park last Thursday evening are buying it.
According to the minutes of the county board meeting eight days ago, it was claimed from the top table that “no other counties allow the press into their meetings”.
Such a claim is news to the county board delegates and reporters throughout Munster.
It was added that “the day is gone when you can have the press in here as they will give their own spin on things in the papers”.
Treasurer Kevin O’Toole continued that he would have provided details of Mayo’s finances at the previous meeting but held back due to a media presence.
The false premise about other counties’ treatment of media played no small part in a show of hands being taken to ban the press from attending board meeting. Although, it seems some of the executive were put out by the local media’s reporting of the row with the international foundation. Chairman Mike Connelly expressed disappointment with how The Mayo News gave more prominence to the stand-off after Ballintubber claimed the senior county title the previous weekend.
Part of what prompted the emergency county board meeting was the executive’s claim, challenged by several clubs, that a vote of confidence in them and the board “was resoundingly passed by all delegates”.
Indeed, the minutes of that meeting last Monday week indicate no vote took place, only that it was proposed by former Mayo chairman Paddy Muldoon and seconded by Frank Hyland of Ballindine.
If all this in-house arguing in Mayo rings a bell, allow us to gong it.
Eight years ago, Ballinrobe man, GAA writer, and former Evening Echo sports editor Liam Horan headed up the county’s strategic action plan committee. Horan’s exciting plan envisaged a global supporters club being established with the strength of the county’s diaspora being reflected in branches in the “Irish” cities. However, it was largely dismissed as contravening GAA rule by the board executive, and they opted for their own plan.
The recent rancour in the county has been exacerbated by the fate of the senior footballers when it is generally agreed this year’s heavy All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Dublin represented a feeling that the county haven’t been this far away from their Holy Grail since 2010.
Last month, Connelly insisted Mayo were “well able to handle our own problems and our own issues”.
The news last weekend that Croke Park have summoned county officials to a meeting indicates they don’t share that opinion.
Counties like Limerick and Tipperary have shown how to work with benefactors.
Tipperary, with the assistance of sponsor Declan Kelly, put together a commercial board.
Last year, Joe McKenna spoke of how an old man had asked what Joe and JP McManus could do to help Limerick win an All-Ireland.
The establishment of the academy has made a major difference in that achievement.
For their money, they want to see best practice and they have got that. The bottom line is O’Leary wants to help Mayo.
Conditions aside and they aren’t wholly unreasonable, the county can’t afford to say no.
Captain’s call in Kerry is waning
As Colm Cooper discovered for three straight seasons in the early 2000s, Kerry captains wearing the No13 jersey aren’t the luckiest in the world.
No skipper donning that number has ever lifted the Sam Maguire Cup and the old chestnut will be the subject of much conversation again in 2020 if David Clifford is given the honour.
Jack Sherwood also qualifies for the position and may be preferred for experience and after a historic season for East Kerry, their clubs are hardly going to turn down the honour of appointing a captain from the division.
However, the argument of following tradition is waning. This year, Gavin White led Kerry despite never having played a league game for his county.
An obvious talent, the 22-year-old still struggled to retain his place in the team and Marc Ó Sé raised the point that the captaincy may have affected his form. Ó Sé’s old Kerry team-mates like Kieran Donaghy and Darran O’Sullivan have questioned sticking with county champions nominating the captain. Twelve months ago, Dr Crokes’ Micheál Burns, whose club is no stranger to enjoying the captaincy, said “maybe it is time to look for the most experienced and well placed person to captain the team”.
The age-old practice hasn’t lost Kerry an All-Ireland and the likes of David Moran and Paul Geaney may not need to go up for a coin toss to illustrate they are leaders but at least the cap would fit.
Clifford only turns 21 in January so deserves space and time before the added burden of the captaincy. Sherwood is 29 next year and would seem more suited to the role but like White he may prefer to concentrate on securing a regular place in the team.
Already a familiar feel to club scene
The crowds of 8,268 and 6,740 that poured into Austin Stack Park and Pearse Stadium on Sunday highlighted the allure of the non-televised county final.
Kerry’s decision to say no to TG4’s offer of live coverage was a ballsy move but it paid off with the fine crowd East Kerry-Dr Crokes attracted despite the cold, wind and rain (6,028 took in last year’s final between Crokes and Dingle).
Indeed, the large number of neutrals that were in Tralee gave reason to believe watching David Clifford in the flesh was worth the admission fee alone.
It was a theory often mentioned during his minor days with Kerry and his legend continues to grow. Who’s to say he won’t attract a crowd next weekend as Fossa take on Legion in the East Kerry championship?
But back on Broadway there’s a distinctly familiar feel to the senior club championships. For the third year in a row, Cork’s hurling senior representatives have fallen by the wayside and Ballygunner threw down another gauntlet.
Like last year, there has been the odd early scare for Corofin yet they remain on course for more provincial and All-Ireland glory, while it is difficult to see anybody upsetting Ballyhale Shamrocks until January if at all.
Never in the history of the All-Ireland club championships have the same two teams won back-to-back All-Irelands but can anyone stand in the way of the defending champions?
Fógra — Special best wishes to Spa’s Ian O’Connell who is recovering after a recentsetback.