I’m back from my little sojourn in that oven that is the Middle East (well, the bit of it I happened to be in) and we’re off en famille to Clare for the weekend so this needs to be a reasonably quick one. I enjoyed greatly the debate that’s been going on here on the site over the past week and much of what I would have had to say about what’s wrong with football scene in the county and what now needs to be done to improve matters has already been said by those of you that have been involved in the debate. As a result, there’s little to be gained at this stage in my adding my tuppence worth to what’s already been well articulated by others.
In any event, things have now begun to move on and, with today’s statement by the County Board announcing “a review of the state of the game in the county”, it could be that things are set to move significantly ahead. The review will, the Board says, be undertaken “in as complete a manner as is possible” and will involve a series of meetings involving clubs and their delegates, as well as members of the senior football panel, who will all be given “the opportunity to express and articulate their views”.
As their statement makes clear – a point highlighted already in the comments on here by DocG – the review will be confined to people who are actively involved in football within the county. This makes sense, I think, as otherwise it would be very difficult to know where to draw the line in terms of who should be involved in the proposed meetings and what the upper limit on numbers would be.
The statement concludes that further details on the review “will follow at a later date” and, clearly, those details are going to be pretty crucial in terms of deciding the usefulness of the exercise. If the whole thing is properly focused, with the meetings designed to tease out particular issues and come up with proposals on what’s to be done in certain areas, then I think it could prove very beneficial. For this to happen, careful thought will need to be given to the format the meetings take and, crucially, who runs them. The real danger is that the whole thing descends into an unfocused “woe is us” bitchfest, where all kinds of simmering resentments come rising to the surface. Good advance preparation should, however, be able to ensure that such an outcome doesn’t happen.
The other concern I’d have is the timing of the thing. The meetings are set to be held “in the coming weeks and months” and while it’s now only the start of July, this is not a process that can be allowed to run past the end of August, as we’ll have to be looking to put a manager in place by the end of September at the very latest. In any event, we don’t need a wide-ranging review to know that whoever is appointed as the next Mayo manager must be in a position, as the last incumbent so clearly wasn’t, to devote sufficient time and attention to doing the job properly.
Given this transparently obvious fact, do we really need to hold off starting to think about who might be the man for the job until this whole review process is done? I’m not sure we do – look, for example, how Sligo’s fortunes have been transformed by simply appointing the right man for the job, without any kind of soul-searching process – but there’s certainly no immediate rush to fill the position, even if names are already beginning to be touted for it. That doesn’t, however, mean that the issue can, or should, be long-fingered. There’s set to be a major turnover in inter-county managers over the coming months and if we decide to recruit someone from outside (which cannot, at this stage, be ruled out) we can’t afford to wait to see who is left without a dancing partner by the time our internal pow-pow has been completed.
These reservations aside, I think that the County Board’s announcement is a welcome one and it provides evidence of a willingness to take action to arrest our recent slump in fortunes on the field. The Board can often be an easy target for those of us on the sidelines to throw rocks at but if we’re ever going to get anywhere as a footballing county, the Board will have to be a significant part of the solution. Their rapid decision – less than a week after the Longford debacle – to initiate this wide-ranging review can, therefore, only be applauded. Many of you who comment here and elsewhere (and do so in intelligent and insightful ways) are, I know, involved in the club scene within the county so now’s the chance to have your say about where we need to go from here. As the saying goes, the opportunities created by a good crisis should never be wasted and so every effort needs to be made to ensure that the openings for change, which the events that have prompted this review created, are not spurned.