Saturday night and a quiet few pints. Speaking to a buddy of mine the weekend gone by, the conversation inevitably turned to the big match and how this Kerry team compared to ones gone by. And he made a couple of interesting observations in terms of how Kerry are seen nationally and internationally. We talked about the Mayo brand and what it means worldwide. He was at the game in Gaelic Park and in Connolly’s pub the night before.
He said the fellas on the door that night were collecting twenty dollars a head. He had no problem with it. However he did note that they were collecting it in a shoebox. His point was that it looked very unprofessional. (Note: I don’t want to bring up our past mistakes and that’s all I will say about that event).
However he compared that to a similar Kerry event in the Big Apple some years ago. When they arrived they rolled out the big guns, former Kerry players, every one of them with medals from All-Ireland all the way to Railway Cup. Food was prepared, there was space for everyone to meet and get pictures taken. The event was marketed to a high degree. The point my buddy made was that the rumour had it that the Kerry County Board came home with the guts of half a million euros. Now I don’t know the exact accuracy of his claim but in terms of the story and because it was Kerry involved it is not unbelievable.
As most of you know the Kerry brand is huge to say the least. Others look on in envy. The Rose of Tralee, the way Killarney is marketed, the Lakes, the Ring of Kerry, Puck Fair etc. etc. – the list goes on. Even a single dolphin in Dingle gets nationwide coverage for some number of years because the right marketing team are behind him. Suffice to say they know how to sell themselves. But in fairness the value of what they are pushing is generally high quality. And this is done through hard work and maybe a fair bit of initiative and promotion of tradition.
This has been pushed through continuously onto the GAA scene in Kerry as well. Probably the biggest sponsor in Ireland is AIG for Dublin but Kerry Group are surely not far behind. As a trademark, Kerry Group are global and like any global brand are keen to be seen to be associated with success. And if the County team are successful they will get all the funding they need from the company. A successful company supporting a successful team. Both sides are benefitting to a high degree.
And like all brands the Kerry teams come under unceasing scrutiny. Tweaks and assessments are made continually to push it on and continue to deliver on the promises that are associated with it. This is where you see the former players always promoting nationally – especially coming into finals. They are there to talk up the Kerry brand. Note they don’t necessarily do it for semi-finals. These as seen as obstacles to overcome before they take to the big stage. Any way of getting a result will do in a semi. It will be forgotten about nationally within the week.
All these are other reasons why Kerry are so hard to beat. Simply put, down there they know the importance and value of the Kerry brand is and what it means traditionally within the county. And the people pushing this will continually remind their team of what is expected of them. They will encourage and drive on these players.
But it’s also a big, big reason for us to beat them. If we are to become recognised forerunners we must be able to defeat big brands such as Kerry. That’s simply the bottom line. Mayo teams in the past have been unable to complete this task especially in finals. But semi-finals are different. At the very least no-one can deny that this present team are not used to winning at this level.
In fairness to James Horan and his backroom team they also have promoted their own brand this past four years. Who would have thought five years ago losing to Longford that we would be looking at winning four Connacht titles in a row and competing for our third All Ireland final appearance on the trot? The Mayo brand was at its lowest ever point after that defeat. However it is now right up there. In doing so they have seriously upped the ante in terms of what the county expects to achieve.
We see too in the county team now big name players, guys who are can be game changers for us. These are battle hardened fellas who do not now let the heads drop at any costs even if things are not going their way on the day. This is a serious mental adjustment to the Mayo psyche. And we have a serious squad. When you look at all the debate on this blog at who does not make the 26 man line-up on the day, or who is not sent in as a substitute it is very revealing. We have players in this squad who have played in All-Ireland finals who now cannot make the 26 man match-day squad because the competition is so fierce. Suffice to say that there are not many brands on the GAA map like that.
Sunday’s game will be a massive charge for our team. The task for these guys will be twofold. To uphold the claims they have of being worthy high achievers and in doing so to sink the Kerry tag in the process. If they do so they automatically force their way further into the arena as a real top brand that are worth backing.