Hard to see any way back for Conor now

The report in yesterday’s Irish Examiner quoting Conor Mortimer saying that he’d “never rule out playing with Mayo again” has once more brought to the fore an issue that blew up so spectacularly in the middle of this year’s championship campaign. And, as it concerns Mort, it’s inevitably going to be one that provokes different reactions amongst Mayo supporters, as is already evident from the debate going on in the comments.

I think it’s important to frame this debate in terms of what Conor himself had to say about the matter. The quote that the media have latched onto is this one:

But playing with your county is always something you’d like to do and I’d never rule out playing with Mayo again.

To my mind, however, the quote that comes straight after the one above is of more telling consequence:

However, that’s entirely a matter for the team management.

Indeed it is.

I have to admit I have mixed views on the issue. On the one hand, Conor is a very experienced campaigner and having our highest-ever scorer back in the ranks should, on the face of it, increase our options in the forwards. On the other hand, you have to wonder – with Cillian now a better option as freetaker, especially for the longer range ones, and with Michael Conroy providing the same kind of trickery closer to the posts – what added value the team would get from having him back. Especially with all the baggage he’d bring with him.

To his credit, Conor put in a huge amount of work after his cruciate injury to battle back to fitness at the start of last year and he showed great fortitude and determination in doing so. But then on the other side of the ledger he pranced off the panel just days before the Connacht final, at a time when we really could have done with him, showing a quite staggering degree of petulance in doing so.

Ultimately, as Conor himself acknowledges, it’s up to James Horan and his management team to decide on whether or not they want to invite the Parnells man back onto the squad for next year. Were Conor to be invited back, it’d have to be on the understanding that he’d have no guarantees about a first team place and that in all likelihood the most he’d be able to expect would be that he’d play a bit part in our push for honours next year. Would that be enough for Conor? Hardly. Should James guarantee him anything more? Absolutely not.

If you look at where James is heading with this team, you can see that we’re close to the finished article at the back (I like the look of a backline comprising Clarke; Keane, Cafferkey, McHale; Boyle, Keegan, Higgins for 2013) and getting there at midfield (where we have to find the best combination out of the two O’Sheas, Moran, Gibbons, Geraghty and possibly Vaughan and James Kilcullen). We have plenty of options in the forwards but still no clear notion about how we can alter our offensive approach to turn it into one that is capable of causing maximum damage on days that really count.

In this respect, I think it’s now a case of making the best picks from the lads we already have in the forwards and then seeing who might best force their way into the reckoning from a list that includes the likes of Conor O’Shea, Alan Murphy, Cathal Carolan, Evan Regan, Danny Kirby and Darren Coen. It’s in this respect too that you have to wonder where, realistically, Conor Mortimer fits into such formation planning.

Conor had a real chance last summer to break back into the first fifteen and, had he held his counsel in the days before the Sligo match, he would surely have come on at some point in the Connacht final where most likely he’d have done enough to get a starting slot for the quarter-final against Down. But he didn’t and James and his team moved on without him. Seen in this light – and given all the progress made since the days when Conor was a guaranteed first fifteen man – you’d have to conclude that it’s difficult to see why they’d want him back on board now.


34 thoughts on “Hard to see any way back for Conor now

  1. hard to see a comeback for him under horans management now. anyway It would be a step backward for mayo football when we should be progressing. lets move on.

    Having said that, Enda Varley did miss two frees from the left in the all ireland final that you would bank on mort throwing over, while its not a reason for him to come back, its food for thought.

  2. It depends on several things. Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that Horan is willing to have him back (and I grant that this is a massive assumption).

    The question then becomes whether Mort can accept a drastically reduced role. While I under-estimated Mayo’s squad depth, you can never have too much. From a pure case of ability rather than attitude, would be an asset to Mayo’s bench. The problem is whether Mort would be willing to accept his role as impact/change of pace player. If he is and if Horan and co can trust him, then both parties could get a lot out of it.

    Naturally man of you will have views sceptical of whether such a scenario could work and I share your doubts. Remember however that we are on the outside. The machinations inside could work rather differently to what any of us think.

  3. I would agree with most of your excellent and balanced analysis there Willie Joe.
    I do think however that Mayo Football is always better served by looking forward than by looking back and that perhaps we would be better starting with a clean slate in 2013 … nothing set in stone … nothing ruled in or out.
    You mentioned that we now have Cillian for the frees and Michael Conroy for some inside line trickery. True ……but what if one of these is injured, off form, over played or suspended ?
    This is where the problem arises as we saw with Andy this year.
    For this reason I believe we are always better when we carry options.
    Whether Conor would be prepared to take on this role in his latter years is as you say open to question. However I believe this decision should be made solely on what is best for Mayo Football going forward and not on history or egos.
    In addition to the newcomers you mention there are a few others like Pat Harte, Aidan Campbell & Aidan Kilcoyne who might also add to the mix.
    The stronger the panel the more intense the training sessions.
    The more intense the training sessions the greater the competition for places.
    The greater the competition for places the better the Mayo team.

  4. Mixed feelings on this one too. I spent ages giving him a hard time because I thought he had more to offer. I also was amazed that no manager ever thought of moving him out to 10 or 12 and have him run at defences and draw a few frees. He was anchored to the 13 spot come hell or high water. Thus he became easy to figure and easy to mark. A bit of thinking outside the box by his managers might not have gone astray.

    After the Dublin semi final and O Connors 2 fifty’s into the Hill I assumed we were back on track with free takers, then came the final, first he ballooned an easy but necessary one wide early on out of the hands when leaving it on the deck might have calmed things down. Varley missed at least two kickable ones from the left and whatever we think about Mort I see him a notch above Varley.

    Whether he comes back or not is up to others. My belief is that had he offered an act of contrition after the blow up before the Connacht final he would have been welcome back. The scary thing is this , we still have made no inroads in finding a natural scoring forward since he left. Varley, Doherty, Dillon and even O Connor are no Joe Corcorans, Jimmy Burkes, Noel Durkans, Joe McGraths, Billy Fitzs or McStays. Good on many occasions but never good enough on the day that matters.

    I believe we need to have a fundamental change up front and change the point and method of attack. That wont happen because we are conservative but remaining the way we are renders us predictable to other teams. Of all the names bandied about front and back there was no mention of Ritchie Feeney.

    Hate being a wet blanket and all of that but I am still not happy that we have fully solved the number 3 spot and 6 has gone backwards too and if the team has to be recalibrated then those positions will come into focus.

    Mort is an enigma. I was at the Limerick game that has upset many Mayo followers and the jersey episode. The boy was just 19 at the time and it was more disappointment than malice when he tossed the jersey to one side. I am not a fan of his but I would defend him on that one. Many bucks have clung to the jersey over the years and I often prayed they would toss it away…for ever.

    We all have an opinion on the lad. A few months ago I was involved in a spat on this site over him becoming the Mayo top scorer ever. I championed Joe Corcoran ahead of him, merely my opinion. I do recall getting a roasting from one or two over that. The tenet of the comments is that Conor needs to take a dose of humble pie if he comes back, that his come back is conditional on the manager , the new moon being aligned to a high tide etc. The fact that we are discussing him at all points to the fact that we are not fully convinced at what we already have.

    Finally, watching the 2009 league final V Cork. Mort made a mistake, he wasn’t the only one but a chorus of boos and venom filled the air from Mayo followers sitting around me. I myself wasn’t impressed but I swallowed aware that I was in the stand and he was actually trying to do something. Behind me an elderly Cork man stood up and shamed us all. “How dare ye treat one of yere players like that, Conor Mortimor has been a great servant of Mayo football over the years.” We sat like sheep and stared ahead afraid to look back at the man lest he catch our eye.

    In a way the lad misses the game, he spent his life since probably 16 in a Mayo jersey. Personally I would give him the chance on a simple proviso: that he offers something better than what we have got. If he offers that fine, if not then cut the cord properly once and for all.

  5. I agree completely with all of that, Joey, and you’re right to add in those other more established names to the mix as well. The key issue with Mort is, as Emmet says, whether he’s willing to accept a much reduced role within the squad. If he is that’s fine but seeing as it’s the reason why he walked away last year I somehow doubt it. And that’s assuming James is willing to put some faith in him again, which most be open to question.

    Ceideboy – I’d prefer to keep the debate on the merits of whether or not Conor should come back and not on what you think about him. As I’ve said repeatedly here, this site isn’t a forum for people to post personal abuse about players – and Conor is after all a player who played 99 times for the county and is our all-time highest scorer and so is well deserving of some respect – so I’ve deleted the offending bit of your comment. Please bear in mind for future reference.

  6. Conor Mortimer is getting what he wanted.. the centre of attention again! the sooner people stop talking about him and move on the better.

  7. He will be back, an apology to his teammates and manager and keep his mouth closed and head down.
    He is too good to be left out, especially when Mayo are short on or two forwards that carry a real threat.

  8. John Cuffe – Did Caff not get an All Star? surely we can say the number 3 problem is solved?

  9. I have no time for fellas who let the team down like Mort did last July and I suspect a lot of Mayo people feel the same. And I remember the game against Limerick too!
    I cannot see him apologising to anyone for anything and I certainly dont think he would be happy enough to play second fiddle to what he would regard as lesser players. I’m not sure Horan would want him back.
    Lets respect Mort for the good he has done in the past ……………and hard as it might be….move on without him.
    Then again what do I know!

  10. Sorry, willie Joe. So long since I posted I had forgotten the rules. You are right of course he does deserve respect for his years of service. I just wouldn’t have him on my team.

  11. I agree with with mayo magic and Cc that it shoudv be the end of the road for mort. he nearly upset the apple cart last year before the conn. final.Along with the jersey throwing,the interview were he gave” they;ll win nothing with me…without me” nonsence and was a very selfish player i thought in his playing days with the county, if i had a euro for all the times he had a goal chance and took the easy option a point, unlike the gooch who wen ever had a half chance woud go for the 3 pointer..Anyway with all due respect to him and i that the team moves foward with the younger lads starting in the fbd league….. Thanks for the meomories mort.

  12. Sean Og o Hailpin, with 3 All Ireland medals and 3 all Stars ( I think) was dropped by the Cork management, took it on the chin and was out of hurling for a full year. Jimmy barry Murphy comes in as new manager and reinstates him to the panel, not the team. Does Sean Og take the huff? No, he sits on the bench till he gets his chance as a sub in August and takes his chance then. Was on the team the following day. An example to every player from under 8 to All Star level. How many other players with the medals he has would do that?

  13. Each year should start with a clean sheet. However the way Mort left the panel will make it difficult for a return. i feel a lot of places are up for grabs.We have come a long way but i feel we need a little more hardness to progress. when i hear brolly & company complaining about our tactics i feel we are on the right road.
    Just a thought, how did Donegal bulk up so much in 2 years?

  14. I’ve wondered the same JR. Massive bulk put on in a couple of years. Was that purely dedication to the McGuinness philosophy? 8 meals a day is the legend…

  15. I wouldnt be giving examples of Cork players taking it on the chin. For as long as I recall they have thrown dummies out of prams. A drawn league final v Dublin saw them walk of the pitch after they refused to play extra time. The replay of the 1983 all Ireland semi had to be in Pairc Ui Caoimh, can you imagine Galway, Mayo or Donegal getting that leeway.

    I recall the distress caused to was it Gerald McCarthy by a group of Cork hurlers, the fact that McCarthy himself was a be-medalled All winner cut no ice with those prima donnas. Walsh rightly cut a few of them from the panel, JBM was even cuter, he took them back for a year and then closed the book forever on them. Ironically Cork hurling slipped alarmingly over those guys who saw themselves in a warm glow every time they looked in the mirror.

    In the meantime Cody and Kilkenny swept the board. Cody decides who and who doesnt play for Kilkenny, not the players and nobody else.

  16. Weight training will put muscles on anybody if it’s done right and the diet is balanced to meet such a workout. That or steroids.

  17. Heard it alright Richard. Very worrying is an understatement. There may be trouble ahead. You know anything Willy Joe

  18. I haven’t Cynthia and I’m away again at the minute so I’m a bit out of the loop I’m afraid. Whatever it is it’s as well for it to be confirmed before anyone starts posting their own versions of it here.

  19. Richard/Cynthia – what type or rumour are you talking about? Does it involve player(s)/management/co board?

  20. Tubberman don’t think it’s within house rules to say any more – did hear it again this morning though but when its not in papers hope its not true

  21. Annoying to mention something and then not tell us what it is BTW

    Back to Mort, he is a natural talented player and I think he was managed very badly. I think poor communication was a large part of his leaving. No matter what anyone says with Mort as an option on the bench Mayo are stronger.

  22. Re return of |Conor.
    What ever chance Conor had of being taken back into the squad went out the door when his family issued that statement. No way back after that and there shouldn/t be.

  23. Blog rules says I can’t tell. Don’t want to get banned as Dan and John Cuffe would really miss me. As some poster said “when its not in the papers hope its not true”. WJ is not a fan of idle speculation, its his blog, good luck to him.

  24. I feel sorry for conor, a sad way to end his term with mayo. He gave great service down through the years, but his departure was entirely his own doing. Horan will not take mort back because discipline and team players are a big part of Horans game. What has Mort to offer? Conroy has played well in around the goal, heavier and stronger on the ball. However i do agree with some previous comments that Mort would have scored those frees that Varley missed. In my opinion Mort is a step ahead of Varley and still has a lot to offer the mayo team but unfortunately we will not see him in a mayo jersey again. its sad really.

  25. Lads anything happening on them worrying rumours. Think that you were talking about the budget tomorrow

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