The comment posted by PJ Monaghan on Friday concerning the management appointment fiasco struck a chord with readers. In this guest piece, PJ elaborates further on the issues raised in his comment and he also puts forward his proposals on what should happen now.
Ger Loughnane is a man who has uttered many famous quotes in the context of the GAA. The quote which is probably most relevant in the context of the current situation in Mayo was uttered in a dressing room at half-time during one of Clare’s great matches of the Nineties. When others spoke, Loughnane said nothing until players got up to leave the dressing room. He apparently stood in the door and looked each player in the eye and said the following: “Real Men wanted now”. Clare went on to win the match and as they say the rest is history.
Clare have proven that a county’s ambition should not end with winning just one All-Ireland. They have stood shoulder to shoulder with the greats of hurling and put down a real marker for what so-called second tier counties can achieve. Just look at their recent successes at both senior but more importantly at u21 level. Why can’t Mayo achieve the same? Is it because we don’t have Real Men?
If there was ever a time for real men and indeed real women to step up to the mark in Mayo it is now. The progress made over the last four years at senior level can be quickly undone and the team of players, the majority of which are currently the right side of thirty can very quickly end up the far side. Without doubt there is a significant risk that the best group of players Mayo has had since the 1950s will pass into history without achieving what they deserve and what we all crave.
Within two years we went from the lowest point in the recent history of Mayo GAA (Longford) to the highs of narrowly losing two All-Ireland finals. As much as progress was quick and joyful, regression can be equally quick as even more painful.
Reflecting on the events of the last week we really shouldn’t be surprised at the behaviour of the Officers, the Executive and the wider County Board. Not to mention the clubs for their lack of action at last Thursday night’s meeting. We are in this mess because the clubs have put those individuals in place and also kept them there. Until the clubs or the supporters do something to remove them we are in deep trouble.
What we should be surprised with and more importantly ashamed of is the fact that no-one is willing to call STOP or do something about it. Unfortunately this requires brave men and as of today only three exist in Mayo (Gerry Bourke, Michael Diskin and Michael Fitzmaurice). Those are the guys who have resigned and they deserve our support.
Mayo GAA is bigger than the County Board, the clubs, the players and the supporters. It is bigger than Noel and Pat or indeed Kevin and Liam.
The following is a quote from Liam Horan’s Strategic Plan:
“The love of the Green and Red is a defining characteristic of thousands upon thousands of Mayo people all over the world. Those thrilling colours stir something deep within us. We love the jersey, the history it embodies, the permanent prospect of sensation it offers. See it now in your mind’s eye – the rich, traditional Green, above the bold, unpredictable Red.”
I have lived in Dublin for the last 22 years but my roots are in the Iniskea Islands, Blacksod Bay and Ballyglass Lighthouse, all located in the Barony of Erris. Our two boys were born in Dublin but they embody the soul of Mayo. They have sat and cried in Croke Park when they watched their beloved Mayo get beaten by Dublin in the 2013 final. They suffered the pain of having to attend a Dublin school the next day, not to mention attending training at the local GAA club for weeks later.
What has happened over the last few weeks has sickened and maddened me to a point never reached before. To see my two boys suffer for their love of Mayo when our county is run by incompetent and gutless people has once again motivated me to put my hand up and say I am willing to join or lead a group to lobby for change in Mayo GAA.
In late 2010 and early 2011 I had the pleasure of working with Liam Horan in preparing the Strategic Action Plan. Within weeks it became apparent that we were all wasting our time. We all knew that it was going to be a car crash but people still kept going because we felt a duty to the county to at least put an alternative view into the public domain. What began with huge positivity ended on a huge low. As the dust settled I think we all felt we had done the county some justice. The Officers and the Executive had won the day and we all went back to our lives.
The success of the senior team over the last four years papered over the cracks and the same show continued at County Board level. Men with no vision and minimum values stood in dressing rooms with players of huge integrity and commitment and were made feel important as a consequence of the players’ efforts. I watched the Officers of our County walk the hallowed turf of Croke Park with men of the calibre of the O’Shea brothers, Cillian O’Connor, Keith Higgins, Colm Boyle and my own clubman Chris Barrett, to name just a few and all I felt was disgust. Players who we will look back on in 20+ years as some of the finest to ever wear a Mayo Jersey were providing these individuals with a platform that they didn’t deserve. I have listened to interviews by Cillian O’Connor on national TV and it makes me proud to say he is a Mayo man and then I listen to Paddy McNicholas and I want to hide in a corner for fear of someone saying – is he not from Mayo?
What a contradiction in the definition of a Mayo man! Hard to believe but yet so true.
For those who have never read Liam Horan’s Strategic Action Plan I would urge you to do so. It’s available in pdf form here.
The key recommendations in the Plan may be summarised as follows:
- Key recommendation 1 – Financial Review and formulation of five-year Financial Plan. Required because we didn’t trust the numbers or the people preparing them. Subsequently proved right when Croke Park put in the Administrators.
- Key recommendation 2 – Non-executive Advisory Group. Required because we didn’t believe we could trust the Officers to run the affairs of the county in a professional manner. Do I need to give examples here??!!
- Key recommendation 3 – Director of Football Coaching. As late as Thursday night Michael Fitzmaurice’s resignation supports why this position was required
- Key recommendation 4 – Commercial Director. We were told that Croke Park would never allow it. Mossy Quinn is today the Commercial Director for Dublin GAA
- Key recommendation 5 – Mayo GAA Brand. Just look at where it is today!!!
- Key recommendation 6 – Mayo Gaelic Football Academy. As 3 above
- Key recommendation 7 – Worldwide Mayo Supporters’ Club. They said it couldn’t be done but it is now required more than ever. As an aside Padraig Ó Ceidigh is now fronting this for Galway with the aim of raising € 500k per annum outside the County!
I need to state that I am not a voice for or against Noel and Pat or indeed Kevin and Liam. As a county we should have insisted on a process that was going to secure the best management team to take the Mayo senior team forward. Be that Noel and Pat, Kevin and Liam, Tony McEntee or indeed any other person who felt they could close with this group of players. We should have put an interview committee in place led by the likes of Kevin O’Neill and supported by managers who have won All-Irelands. Imagine an interview panel consisting of Kevin O’Neill, Liam Horan, Martin Carney, Pat Gilroy and Liam Sheedy?
Rather than using the word ‘continuity’ why not use words such as ‘improvement’, ‘excellence’, ‘success’ and most importantly ‘winning All-Irelands’?
Players should not have had a say in who got the job but they should have been part of the process. Their views are critical to a process as the selection committee needs to understand where they are at and try and match the best management team available with the needs and ambitions of the players. Surely we could trust the likes of Cillian O’Connor and Keith Higgins to engage in a process in the best interests of the Mayo senior team? We want leaders on the pitch so why not show the players some respect and ask for their views?
Noel and Pat were presented as the management team who would provide continuity and on Thursday last their appointment was ratified. As of Wednesday news leaked out that the medical team which is one of the main support structures for the senior team was not retained as by all accounts it costs too much. The Mayo medical team is viewed on a national level as one of the best. Just look at the evidence this year where they had all our best players available to play for Mayo. Today they are gone. Where does this decision sit in the context of words such as ‘continuity’ or more importantly where does it sit in the context of words such as ‘improvement’, ‘excellence’, ‘success’ and most importantly ‘winning All-Irelands’?
I would make one guess here that the main part of Kevin’s plan which was unacceptable was its cost. To put it simply Mayo GAA could not afford the professional set-up that Kevin would want and the Mayo senior team deserve. In my view any reference to Liam as a reason for not giving Kevin the job is a red herring and a distraction from the real facts.
On the matter of fundraising, the truth is that we could raise more money than we need in Mayo if we had the right people fundraising against the backdrop of a credible County Board and an appropriate Plan. Just ask yourself the following questions – are there 100 successful Mayo people who live outside the county who would give €5,000 a year to the Mayo GAA cause? Secondly are there 5,000 Mayo people who live outside the county who would give €100 a year to support the Mayo GAA cause? Then ask yourself about all the other modern methods of fundraising who could tap into the thousands of Mayo supporters? Finally ask yourself the question – why is this not happening? Funding should never be a reason to hold Mayo back and anyone who uses it as a reason should step aside.
Following my comment on this site of Friday last I would first like to thank all those who sent me supportive emails and who also posted supportive comments on the site. Without doubt there is sufficient numbers out there who are looking for change at the top in Mayo GAA and I think the time has arrived for the Mayo supporters to have their say.
This will not be an easy process and if anything the events of the last week has proven that the individuals at the top table in Mayo GAA will not go easy.
Like the players in Limerick let’s be prepared for every event, including extra-time but let’s on this occasion finish the job. Whatever we do let’s not give up.
In my opinion the process will involve three key steps, as follows:
Step 1 – The removal of all those Officers and members of the Executive who have supported the dreadful events of the last week. Let’s hope that many of the members who have not resigned to date will reflect again on what has happened and now do the decent thing and step aside. I would call on those individuals to step aside immediately and distance yourself from those who wish to remain. One by one they should fall.
Step 2 – Once the Officers and the Executive is removed we then need to reflect on the options available to us as a county. In many ways we are in a lucky position as the work done by Liam Horan’s Strategic Review Committee has provided us with a real alternative. The Plan is there, it just needs to be dusted down, updated and implemented.
Step 3 – The Mayo clubs should then put a new County Board in Place to implement the agreed Plan and take Mayo forward.
Step 1 will require direct action against the Officers and the remaining members of the Executive on a number of fronts:
- Early next week we will launch an online Petition seeking support from Supporters of Mayo GAA from all over the world to vote for the removal of all remaining Officers and remaining members of the Executive.
This petition will be promoted through all social and traditional media platforms and I would ask everyone to promote this petition to their family and friends so that all supporters are aware of the opportunity which will exist to allow them have their say.
Let’s remember that every vote is a positive act of support for the future of Mayo GAA.
The ongoing results of this petition will be sent to the key stakeholders of the County such as the Connacht Council, Croke Park and Elverys. These stakeholders need to feel the pulse of the supporters of Mayo GAA.
- If you know a member of the Executive on a personal level please approach them and ask them to resign.
- Every Supporter who has a connection to a club should lobby that club to put down a motion of no confidence in the remaining Officers and Executive members. They should also ask them to boycott future County Board meetings.
- Every supporter who knows a past Mayo player should ask them to sign the online petition and also ask them to make contact with local media sources to offer their support to the campaign.
- If you shop at Elverys you should make your feelings known. Post your views on their Facebook page so that they get the message. They have been a great supporter of Mayo GAA but their position on the events of the last week needs to be known. Surely they do not want their brand associated with such incompetence and dishonesty?
- If there is a group out there who is willing to attend the upcoming County Finals then please organise yourselves and arrange a demonstration.
- Local papers such as the Western People and the Mayo News need to make their views know – email them and ask them if they support the petition. Ask them to call for the removal of the remaining County Board Officers and Executives in their upcoming editions. Let’s remind them that a successful Mayo is good for their business, that’s why we buy their papers.
- Local radio needs to be contacted and their support needs to be secured. No different to the local papers a successful Mayo GAA is good to their business model.
This is a significant opportunity for the supporters of Mayo GAA to have their say and effect change in how the affairs of Mayo GAA are managed so I call on every supporter of Mayo GAA, no matter where you are in the world to do your bit to strike a positive blow for the future of Mayo GAA.
Originally from Blacksod, Belmullet, PJ Monaghan now lives in Malahide, Co. Dublin. He played for Mayo at various levels from U16 through to senior between 1988 and 1994 and played club football with Belmullet and Civil Service, Dublin. He chaired the Finance and Funding Subcommittee of the Mayo GAA Strategic Action Plan, 2011. PJ is contactable at [email protected].