A few thoughts on recent events

Photo: Neville Goodman (cc-by-sa/2.0)

The issue that has convulsed Mayo GAA in recent weeks continues to rumble on. There’s plenty about it in the Mayo News today (paper and digitals variants) and elsewhere too. There was much talk about it here on the blog for a while as well, until I was forced to call a halt to the discussion.

I’ve had comments posted here since – and I’ve seen them elsewhere too – asking why this has happened. I’ve had some abusive comments posted here too, telling me what they think of me because I’ve shut down the discussion. The latter type of comments run off me like water off a duck’s back, in all honesty, but the former deserve an answer, which this post aims to provide.

This piece may be considered Part One of a two-part article about where I see the blog heading as 2020 approaches. The second bit was always going to have to be written, in light of impending changes in my own life coming down the tracks at me, but recent events have spurred me to consider the immediate-term impact on the blog and how this links into the wider picture.

So let’s start with the recent events, in which the annual Q4 downtime I crave so much each year was rudely interrupted by a rapidly developing and escalating Mayo GAA crisis. This isn’t the first such off-field brouhaha to occur at this time of year – as a county we tend to excel in the production of Q4 drama – but it is, by some distance, the most vicious one I’ve ever seen break out.

I had hoped, as the row rumbled along a few weeks back, to keep the blog out of it. I wrote two pieces for the blog relating to the issue by way of background, which I’d hoped might help to steer whatever debate that happened to start in an enlightened and informed direction. More fool me.

It soon became apparent that the debate that did break out here – to say nothing of the rather unhinged looing that had taken root on Twitter and elsewhere – was becoming impossible to control. All manner of wild accusations were being made and abusive comments aimed at named individuals were becoming commonplace as a mood of anger rapidly took hold.

Combined with this, though, came a different phenomenon. New contributors popped up, wasting no time at all before getting stuck in to peddle specific agendas, which were then pushed with increasing aggression.

All of this meant that – at what should be the quietest time of year on the blog, where I tend to kick back and get on with other things in my life (bearing in mind that this still is, all these years later, pretty much a solo effort) – comment moderation duties were starting to resemble a full-time job.

Then came reports about legal letters flying around.

For me, that was the breaking point. You would be truly astonished, from a legal standpoint, at the utter stupidity and recklessness of some of the comments I’ve had to consign to the bin down the years. In doing so, I’ve certainly saved a number of people from defamation suits and it’s always been my aim, for obvious reasons, to ensure that the blog stays clear of such trouble too. The house rules on comments are there for a reason.

It was clear to me, by the time that I was forced to call a halt to it, that the debate in the comments about the ongoing dispute was proving too problematic for me to oversee. I simply couldn’t be sure that someone wouldn’t go overboard in what he or she posted and that trouble would inevitably ensue. Did I need this stress, just to give a minority of out-and-out troublemakers a platform to propagate their divisive views? Did I hell.

So down came the shutters.

What recent events have brought home to me is how much the fragile ecosystem in which the blog has thrived for so long depends so greatly on trust. The comments section was open and, aside from a reasonably small number of malcontents who had to be policed closely, it was safe to allow the majority to post their contributions without the need for pre-moderation.

For me, that trust has now been shattered. A minority of divisive, trouble-provoking individuals are to blame for this but, ultimately, everyone loses.

And so, two weeks on from pulling the ripcord, pre-moderation of all comments remains in place. This needs to continue for now and it might have to be how things work in relation to the comments for as long as the blog remains online. Right now, I’m in no position to make a final judgment on the issue.

I’m in no mood either to spark a renewed debate on the ongoing crisis. I’d love as much as the next person to see a sensible debate happening on the blog about this issue but, much as it saddens me to say this, I now know full well that a reasonable discussion simply isn’t possible in an online environment like this.

As a I mentioned at the top, what has happened of late on the blog also has wider implications for me at the current time. I’ll come back to this issue with some further thoughts in a few weeks, by which time I should have a better idea about what all of this means for the blog in 2020 and, hopefully, beyond.

56 thoughts on “A few thoughts on recent events

  1. I’ve always said it Willie Joe. Your house. Your rules. You pay to keep the lights on in this place. I’ve not commented for a while. Partially because i’m sick to the back teeth of it all at this stage. Here’s hoping “the mess” gets sorted soon and people on here can return to arguing the toss over whether we should start Conor Loftus, James Carr etc in an upcoming match. Up Mayo!

  2. Wow. The fact that you think this is more vicious than the management have tells me alot about how serious it is WJ!.

  3. Tough job policing here with the blog’s popularity and success in recent years. Worse than minding a baby. Life is stressful enough without extra grief. To say I would miss this place is an understatement but you have to do what’s right for you and your situation.

  4. Hope you don’t decide to close down the blog,we would all be much poorer without it,but I can see why you might decide to give it a rest,take care

  5. It would be a terrible shame if this issue spells the end of this blog, bad enough our county is a laughing stock but this blog was always a place for fair comment and debate. But I can see your predicament WJ. Hopefully this time next year we’ll be reflecting here how the restructuring of the county board was the catalyst for a great 2020!

  6. To be honest WJ, I don’t know how you’ve stuck at it so long. I’m not not sure everyone really knows how much time and effort you have to put into running this blog, and that was before you were forced to pull down the shutters.

    I first started popping my head in here around the summer of ’07, it has grown so much since then. I wouldn’t like to see it closing down in any way. There has been some cracking debates here, the knowledge of posters here on all things Mayo gaa is exceptional.

  7. Echo all the comments above
    The blog is a Godsend for people who live outside the county especially as I had done for a number of years . Was a great way to keep in touch after I had returned to my exile after a game
    Thankfully I have secured my return to our beautiful county 😀
    I’d hate to see the blog go though. Take a step back until the football returns would be my advice . Shut it all down for comments in the meantime if that’s what’s needed

  8. I’ve been given more black cards on this blog than the Tyrone senior team combined 🙂 . But Jesus id hate to see it closed down. Its always been full of great debate etc. But most importantly, it has been a safe haven in the bad times, especially after those gut wrenching final defeats in ‘16 and ‘17 etc etc. Was always good to log in here and mourn together. Do what you have to do WJ, maybe banning all comments for a while is the way to go!.

  9. Would be really sad to see it go W. J. but can understand your frustration.
    A lot of very knowledgeable posters on Club and County post here.
    As a Club man, its very interesting to see other Club men and women, highlighting up and coming youth to be on the look out for.

  10. I’ve seen some awful rubbish on Twitter and other media posted by imbeciles over the last week , so honestly you are dead right to stay well clear..
    It will blow over but unfortunately with no football on the horizon for a good few weeks not yet..

  11. Thanks WJ – the legs this thing has grown has been breathtaking, even by our own drama loving standards. I’ve avoided commenting because I have no idea what’s really going on, and at this stage, I don’t really care, it’s high time it got sorted so all can take the learnings, & move on. It’ll be a terrible shame to see the blog go but to I’d completely understand if you decided to do that, it wouldn’t surprise me if it had ceased being fun for you some time ago. The biggest shame in all of this recent palaver would be if it acted as some sort of catalyst for the blog’s demise. That would be a real outrage for me. Thanks again for all your efforts WJ

  12. Totally understand WJ. It’s been a while since I’ve posted — life’s too short to get sucked into the vortex. All I can say is thanks for all your labors over the years. It’s a sad day that it’s threatened. Whatever the outcome, I look forward to 2020 and expressing my gratitude to you in person.

  13. Absolutely understand where you are coming from Willie Joe..in year’s of posting, reading, agreeing and disagreeing (mostly disagreeing)… But without question or doubt, the Mayo GAA Blog is and has been an absolutely fantastic resource for countless thousands of Mayo fan’s… I’m sure that it has taken absoutely thousands of man hour’s if you were to add it all up, for the love of the Game, in particular everything Mayo… Sincerely I hope that this excellent Blog can continue… Likewise, I hope that the current Mayo GAA administrative travails can be put behind us and for us to move on a better footing….I am certain that it is within the capisity of Mayo to do better…. But, we will never have a better ‘Blog’ than this one! ..

  14. Suspend the comment facility entirely until the new year. Give yourself a break and come back fresh for the FBD and beyond. There’s not a whole lot worth discussing until then. Maybe this will have all blown over and we can all get back to talking about what really matters – what happens on the field.

  15. This blog has been a godsend to Mayo people all over the world. There has been excellent articles and excellent debates over the years. Most importantly people have shared special memories of games gone by and hopefully of games in the future. This has all been facilitated by you WJ and is greatly appreciated by the vast majority. Again the vast majority have the betterment of Mayo football at heart. Those who drive hidden agendas do they don’t realise the damage they do and have done over the years. It’s time for those people to take a step back and let the people who want Mayo to succeed do their jobs without hindrance. Thanks WJ for all the great discussions.

  16. WJ, I echo the comments above, especially the “your house, your rules” one. Life is short and I believe that you must surround yourself with positive people and do the things that bring you joy. I can only imagine the nonsense (and no doubt some of it litigious) that your moderation has caught and that crack can wreck anyones head. It certainly is not positive or joyful! I’ve said it here before, if the blog was behind a paywall, or even if the comments section was only for Patreon backers, it would soon flush out the bullshitters and those looking to create hassle.
    The thing I always loved about this blog is that it is NOT looking at all things Mayo through red and green tinted glasses. It is NOT biased or dismissive of critical debate. As long as everyone plays the ball and not the man, then things go just fine. However, as we all know, there are many out there that love nothing better than the dirty, late hit from the side! So for now, if it’s carta deargs for everyone, then so be it.

  17. Totally understand where you are coming from Willie Joe. Its an awful shame that the few can ruin the enjoyment that so many get from this Blog but at the end of the day you have do what best for you and do so in the knowledge that you will have the full support of the many!

  18. Willie Joe, no matter what decision you come to, I want to thank you sincerely for all the years of hugely informative and interesting reading I, and many others, have had over the years. As a proud and, possibly, manic Mayo man having left Mayo in my teens, when my family had to unfortunately move away from Claremorris, many years ago, I am in your debt.
    Since I happened upon your blog many years ago, it has been my main source of information of all things Mayo football.
    I have, thankfully, imbued my two sons with a love for Mayo and Mayo football. Our best times together are our journeys to Mayo matches.
    Your blog has played a huge part in this. I just want you to know that, and I am sure my story is replicated throughout the huge Mayo Diaspora.
    Again, no matter what your decision, you have played your part in the Mayo story. I sincerely hope it continues in some manner into the future.
    It has always been in the back of my mind that you alone will not be able to continue to put this effort into the blog forever. But I would hope that you can find the best way to future proof it without it losing its authenticity and magic…and also to take some of the enormous pressure off your shoulders.

  19. Ultair is bang on. Suspend comments and give yourself a break Willie Joe. It would be a shame to lose this resource, it is a great way to both discuss and pass the time. Were you to shut it down, it would be sorely missed.. I know, however, that life has to go on. I, for one, would be willing to pay for a subscription Mayo GAA blog service, or if you were looking for help in moderation, I’m sure there are a number of people would be more than happy to assist, if it is purely workload. If you are not enjoying it, then, life is too short, you should just pull the plug..

  20. I have not commented here for a while as i live outside the county and really dont know a lot about the financial side of mayo gaa.I now sit here at my computer brokenhearted that MAYOGAABLOG is going to shut up shop.I was introduced to the blog in 2012 and have been reading it ever since.being a late developer to computers i think it was 2015 when i first contributed to it.The blog has coincided with a wonderful time for mayo football. 5 connachts seniors in a row,played in 5 all – ireland finals,a minor and u 21 final wins.a national league title win.We had our own SAIPAN moment .the H&C BRIEF INTERLUDE ,THE ROCHFORDS FILES, AND OUR SAVIOUR RETURNING. THANKS to willie joe ‘s blog everyone is kept up to date on mayo gaa.during the championship i had to check in with the blog every day for the latest updates on all things mayo gaa.YOU W. J. kept us well informed.if it was on the blog it was true info.I think i became a season ticket holder because of the blog in 2012. I think the blog contributed to the large support mayo enjoys at present and also getting supporters to be very vocal at matches. MAYO GAA OWE YOU A DEBT OF GRATITUDE WILLIE JOE

  21. I haven’t commented lately as I really didn’t want to get drawn into this latest issue, and it really shouldn’t be commented upon until the full facts are known. I did see some of the comments flying around a couple of weeks ago which ranged from outrageous to down right libellous, I shudder to think of what was said that didn’t make it through moderation, some people will never understand that they are liable from every word they write online. While to would be a shame for the blog to shut down because of an ignorant minority, if policing the comments section is negatively affecting your private life and family life then there really isn’t a decision to be made, the blog will be missed but people will move on. if you are looking for a way to keep it running possibly, only provide a comments option following match reports, to be turned off after a period of time, after all its football we really want to talk about. Otherwise just leave it as a forum for articles to be posted, some great writers including yourself have contributed through the years.

  22. You’re better off just closing the whole thing until this mess is sorted. And as big a mess as it is I truely believe we will come out of it in a better place. There’s just too many good young players coming through at the moment. It’s a great facility though, would hate to see it go.

  23. As a long time reader but (very!) occasional poster I’d like to add my +1 to the above comments. This site has been an oasis in an online world of nastiness. Nothing good has ever come from knocking others or personal insults. If you want to change things than you need to roll up your sleeves and get out and HELP. It’s a sad reflection on society.

  24. It’s your blog, Willie Joe, and yours to decide on it’s future. However I have to say it would be hugely missed if you were to close it. I want to thank not only you for all the hours and effort you put into it but your family too for giving you the leeway to do so.
    I think you were partly your own worst enemy in that you were too tolerant of people who regularly broke the fairly simple rules you set for contributors. I rarely saw any of the offending contributions as you had got to them before I did but considering what was accepted. Maybe a less tolerant approach would cut down considerably on the time and work needed.

  25. – Would simply like to echo all the thank you comments posted above.
    – Your contribution to Mayo GAA is beyond measurable at this stage.
    – How you have managed the whole enterprise as a one-man team I will never know
    – As the founder the future of this blog is for you and you alone to decide. I imagine there are plenty of media outlets and companies who could help out time wise and money wise if you so wish.
    – Anyhow sincere thanks and best of luck with whatever decision you make.

  26. I said it a few weeks ago, sooner the FBD starts the better. Always enjoyed the Blog and hopefully it will continue. Maybe insist on posters, using their own names in future. And I know, use a handle although most people know who I am at this stage. The veil of anonymity being lifted might control the discourse

  27. if people want to argue and muckrake about whats going with the county board there are plenty of other forums for them to do it: Facebook, Twitter, Hoganstand, GAABOARD.

  28. Willie Joe you’ve certainly did your bit for Mayo GAA whatever you decide to do going forward.

    Personally think Mayo Gaa is too big an operation to be run on a part time basis and the CB should hire a Manager/CEO to
    handle a proportion of core operations.

  29. Great Blog WJ. I am a Belmullet man across the water. I feel like i am back at home reading the Blog. Sure I can almost smell the turf!!

    Ultair has it right. You need to give yourself a bit of time and disable comments until the New Year. Give yourself a break and put the blog into hibernation. There are a few too many loose cannons on here at times and you don’t want to be leaving yourself open to any legal nonsense.
    Put it out there to see if you can get a couple of moderators to help you out in the New Year and everything will be fine.
    Dont suffer eejits. I’m all for free speech but if people don’t respect the blog and abide by the house rules then hand them their ticket and let them go elsewhere.

  30. Thanks all for the kind words, much appreciated.

    Just to be clear, I’m not contemplating shutting down the blog entirely any time soon, rather I’m trying to figure out how to preserve the best of it, in light both of what’s happened of late and what’s in store for me in the near future. By the way, my own situation is, from my point of view, a good news story as it relates to a different direction in my working life. It impinges on the blog because, simply, I’ll soon have far less time to devote to it.

  31. WJ, I’m so relieved to read that last comment from you. You had us all slightly terrified! As I have said on occasion before, there will always be people with the right experience only too willing to assist this iconic website. A small dedicated team under your direction would be best placed to support you when you have less time.

  32. Agreed, Redcol. People should be willing to use their own name if willing to enter into the public forum that is this fine blog.

  33. I have spent more time in moderation and in the sin bin than most probably but always for good reason and usually after a frustrating defeat. I probably frustrate others as I’m always calling for a forwards coach to be brought in. Like others I haven’t commented much on “the mess” because i can’t make head nor tail of it and I don’t know Tim O’Leary or anyone in the county board personally. I love this blog and I often check it ten times a day in the run up to big matches. I’d like to echo the sentiments of others Willie Joe in thanking you for all the work you put in here and the fine blog you created and run I don’t honestly know how you do it. We get carried away sometimes in this county and need a place to vent we are lucky that we have had you to save us from ourselves and moderate our comments anyway I wish you well and I hope you do what’s best for you even if that means pulling the comments section until 2020 when hopefully things will have settled down

  34. Yeah this blog has become a huge part of my journey supporting Mayo.
    Would be hard to imagine the situation without it.
    How you move it on if you don’t have the time is a big question.

  35. Hi Willie Joe…as an outsider and a man who respects Mayo dearly you should be very proud of everything you have done cheers

    Kind Regards
    Martin the Dub

  36. @WJ – TBH this blog has outgrown itself. Comment eco-system is use far more than referencing blog post. Its also use for swapping tickets or organise lifts, news alert … etc. So maybe its time for it to evolve into Community space (like Boards.ie or something similar). Doing so you could bring on Community Managers whose role would be to police comments (they’re plenty of die-hard folks here that all have bought into rules and would be great) and drive Community.

  37. I did give some thought to that at one point, AMayoFan, but it’s not something I really want to do nor would I have the time to devote to in order to make it happen. There was a Mayo-specific board in the past (MayoFans.com) and there always has been the opportunity for Mayo fans to create their own community on GAAboard or Boards.ie. I’m not sure there’s any value in seeking to replicate what might be possible there and, to be honest, it’s not something I could see myself getting involved in.

  38. WilleJoe, I love this blog , I love reading about Mayo Gaa and I love reading the views of diehard Mayo fans. This might seem strange coming from a dub ! But u have something unique here. A blog that ( mostly) has reasoned and thought out debates. A blog that welcomes outsiders like me.
    I hope u can keep everything the way it is . If not then u owe nobody anything and thanks for the ride ! Like all good things it’s only when it’s gone that we fully appreciate how good it was .
    Once again thanks.

  39. Well thank God you intend to continue,thank you very much for the blog it is wonderful for information and you do a wonderful job on policing it,I think but don’t know how you could manage it that you need to charge for it I know I would pay a contribution for it,I don’t know the age of your family but perhaps if old enough one of them could get an income from it,however I am certainly glad for all the information and discussion from it

  40. As an avid follower of the blog it was really frustrating to see new “heads” popping up as soon as Mayo GAA hit the headlines(again!) .Was relieved when the supply was cut off..

  41. I love the blog WJ , Great credit to you , Hoping
    for a positive conclusion to the present crisis , the sooner it’s resolved the better for Mayo football,
    Best regards,

  42. Figuring out how to preserve the best parts of it will not be an easy task. What are the best parts! reasoned, insightful, respectful debate or simply a conversation that stays within the sidelines of the house rules? Can people be trusted to stay within these rules with less and less time and governance available to yourself Willie Joe? Sadly as recent events show this is unlikely! For a blog engagement to work between individuals (especially with cover names) these people have to take responsibility for their behaviour/actions what they say! how they say it and so on and so on. How do you make this happen? Maybe a solution would be for everyone to sign a waiver indemnifying Mayo Gaa Blog and its patrons from any liability etc.,. To be become a contributor a person needs to provide set background information, photograph ID, confirmation of address etc., If a person breaks the law of the land then their details are provided to the Gardai. The legality of all this though is complex and a headache and would take time. Not an easy one to solve

  43. Willie Joe, firstly I want to echo the positive comments of others, and best wishes in your new endeavours. As others have said, your house your rules. And I concur that this has been an oasis for those of a like mind. I have noticed policing is more challenging and necessary over the last few months, even before the current issues arose. Many thanks for all your work

  44. Firstly, delighted that your personal situation is a good news story. I was a little concerned earlier. How you have managed this blog so far is nothing short of heroic and an amazing contribution to all things Mayo GAA. Whatever the future holds you really have done your bit for the cause. It is hugely appreciated.
    Maybe narrowing the focus to purely onfield activities might make it more manageable. And I would encourage you to shut down the comments until the FBD gets underway.

  45. @WJ – Absolutely get what you’re saying. Also as you stated you need to free up time not add to it 🙂 I was thinking that turing it into Community and getting like minding folks who are bought into your philosophy would reduce your ‘time’ involvement. As unintentional as it is; you and your Blog have formed an online ‘Community’. MayoGAABlog has a devoted following, it has a lot of goodwill. It obvious to us all you’ve gone above and beyond to maintain an open online forum.

  46. The blog offers a forum to have a good chat before or after a match about the game. I think that’s all the real Mayo fans on the blog are looking for and you provide this option Willie Joe and of course so much more. Your Blog and your rules but I would be happy if it could still get the before and after chat!

  47. Have not commented on this blog for quite a while as I prefer to discuss on field matters Just wish to express as others already have how great this blog is for all Mayo people but especially those who live outside the county The mostly reasoned debate as we discuss the highs and lows of our teams performance keeps us going throughout the year. The lack of nastiness and snide and downright offensive comments that are often seen on other social media is what is most appealing about this site. This is the case because of the decency of most contributors but especially because of you overseeing and moderating the site. You provide a fantastic platform for us to discuss our passion. For that we should all be very grateful. Best wishes for whatever route and decision you take in the future

  48. Willie Joe, I just want to echo all the positive comments above about this blog. The amount of time you put in is phenomenal and contributions are always of a very high standard. The comment of one contributor above that he checks it 10 times a day leading up to a big game resonates with me. As another contributor said, the blog has coincided with a golden era for Mayo football. The only reason Sam did not come to Mayo is the undisputed quality of the Dublin team in that same period; that and a fair bit of bad luck along the way. hope you keep it going as long as possible although I fully appreciate it is a huge commItment. Thanks again.

  49. I haven’t checked in for a while, for I have been real busy with work. It seems I missed all the drama (thankfully) over the past few weeks.
    But I do sure hope you WJ and your blog are around for 2020. It just wouldn’t be the same without your rational and wise commentary not to mention providing a platform for us football heads to provide our own color on the happenings of our team.
    Merry Christmas to you and the family and roll on 2020 Hup Mayo

  50. Thanks, Mister Mayor – the blog will be here alright in 2020, even if things may not be quite like they’ve been to date due to my own circumstances. But it will still be here for sure.

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