Alan Dillon’s announcement – on the night that he was named Mayo Club Footballer of the Year – that he intends to stay on with the senior county team for 2015 is a timely boost as a new year of football action beckons. The Ballintubber clubman referenced the many retirement announcements made in recent weeks (to which Galway’s Sean Armstrong was added to the list this morning) before confirming that it was never his intention to follow suit. Speaking to Daniel Carey in the Mayo News, the two-time All-Star confirmed that “the body and mind are good at the minute” and he was bullish too about the team’s chances for next year, saying that “We’re close. Hopefully 2015 will be special.”
James Horan also spoke at the Club Stars awards on Friday night, where he said that next year could well be a “spectacular” one for the county. James laid heavy emphasis on the leadership role that the players themselves have taken on in recent years, stating that the players “have taken a lot of stuff on” and that “they’ve led it out themselves”. In this context, he reckoned that the task for the new management team could be summarised as follows:
So the managers’ job, as I see it now, is giving these lads the environment they need to express what they have, and try to get the County Board and all those guys to give everything they can to make sure the team is as successful as possible.
James was also, by the way, very positive about Mike Connelly’s appointment as County Board chairman. Writing in this week’s Western People (report on that here), he said that “Mike has shown himself to be a great supporter of the senior team and a shrewd negotiator who knows how to get things done.” High praise indeed.
Further aside – that first piece from the Mayo News linked above contains all the information you need to know (if you don’t know it already) about who won what in this year’s Club Stars awards.
But back to Alan Dillon’s decision to stay on next year, which I think is a real positive, not least in light of what James had to say about the importance of the players taking a lead role in driving us on next year. While Noel and Pat will, of course, be at the helm and will have their own ideas – and the final say – on the players they want to use and how they want to use them, it’s a real bonus to them that all of the panel from this year will be available again next year. Having a wise old (well, not really old – as someone who is the wrong side of fifty I’m entitled to say that) head like Alan Dillon around can only be seen as a positive.
Sure, he’ll need to be used sparingly next year but that was also the case in 2014 when, after missing all of the League campaign, he returned to good effect for the championship. Four points from play against Cork in the All-Ireland quarter-final and three in the drawn semi-final against Kerry showed that he still has what it takes to contribute when it matters and the way he was interchanged with Michael Conroy over the summer at corner-forward might well be a tactic that could usefully be reprised next summer.