Minor loss must prompt major change in strategy

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Like most Mayo supporters, I was really disappointed coming out of MacHale Park on Saturday. I was disappointed for the lads themselves because I would have thought that they really are better than they looked but I was particularly disappointed by the lack of any coherent strategy for winning the game. There might have been a strategy there, and from my own coaching I know that a plan can work one day and not be evident at all the next day, but there were things that disturbed me about how the team was set up.

Firstly, Eric Lee, the Galway no. 10 had our no. 5 Paul Lambert on the back foot from the off. Lee was playing as an extra centrefielder and Lambert was clearly out of position. In addition, the Galway no. 14, Michael Boyle, was playing as a link man between midfield and the half-forward line. As a result, our no. 3, Tommie Keane, (already conceding a considerable height advantage to Boyle) was also dragged out the field into unfamiliar territory.

When Barry Duffy got injured early on, he was treated on the sideline for several minutes leaving Jonathan Burke as our sole centrefielder (and he was a late replacement before the off for David Hanley). Barry subsequently came back on but had difficulty walking, let alone running, and was eventually replaced.

Effectively, we played with one replacement centrefielder against a Galway team that had four lads operating in that area for nearly 15 minutes during which time they hit us for six points without reply. There was no strategy employed to crowd centrefield while our man was being treated, there was no move to address the problems with the match-ups until over 20 mins in, when Paul Lambert was called ashore, by which time the gap had stretched by two further points. At that stage, the horse was well down the field and the door was still swinging open.

I spoke to a couple of knowledgeable Mayo GAA men afterwards, both of whom expressed the opinion that the training of the Mayo lads had been top drawer. I got the feeling, however, that while they might have been well trained, they were not well coached. This is an issue that the County Board must address when it decides on its underage strategy for next year.

There is currently no evidence of a link up across the minor, U21 and senior grades. And there hasn’t been one for a long time. Consequently, it is very hard to bring the much needed talent through to replace the senior lads that will eventually step down.

Contrast this with Kerry. I remember talking to a Kerryman about a minor team who were playing in an All-Ireland final some years ago. Before the game, the senior manager visited the dressing room with this message:

“Relax and enjoy the atmosphere. Give it everything for the pride of the jersey. And don’t worry about if that’s not enough to win. The important thing is to get the nerves out of the way today, so that when ye come back again as seniors, ye can then concentrate on winning Sam”.

Kerry appointed Jack O’Connor, one of its best coaches and a work colleague of Eamon Fitzmaurice, to its minor team last year. They won the All-Ireland. He stayed with them this year and already they have secured the 2015 Munster crown. In addition, Kerry have moved to put O’Connor in charge of the U21s next year while we are talking about giving Pat and Noel our U21s.

We are adopting the wrong strategy. The County Board should consider appointing one person with a coordination role for all the inter-county teams. Minor, U21 and senior squads should be looked as levels of progression, with development from one level to the next being a primary objective. There’s a saying that if you keep doing what you are doing, you will keep getting what you’re getting. We have to change what we’re doing or we are going to keep getting more Saturdays like last Saturday. Coaches should work to a single long-term plan, with success at the earlier ages being used to build confidence as senior winners in the future.

Keep the Faith!

18 thoughts on “Minor loss must prompt major change in strategy

  1. One point you do not mention and it was even mentioned by the commentary team. Are these the best available minors in the county?
    Now lets get specific. If Claremorris won the Division one league how did they manage that without at least one of the following:
    – The 9th best defender
    – The 9th best forward
    – The 4th best midfielder
    If they had any of those three it gets them at least one sub on the panel.
    I am no expert on Claremorris but I find it extremely unlikely they could have some perfectly uniform team of only club level ability without one County minor standard player.
    You noted in your article problems of our full backs lack of height. It is in defence in particular I’v noticed Mayo consistently select several small players. The 99 All Ireland loss a major contributing factor was our defence only having one big player, Pat Kelly.
    We need to select for roles on the team.
    The spine of the team needs to have height and strength. This problem goes back the last 20 lets say modern years.
    Throughout the mid 90s to early 2000s Mayo minor club football in Division one had a large amount of naturally taller strong players. Dont ask me why but it was likely the larger player base in the clubs meant there were more of these six foot plus players. Yet still we seen several dainty defences. The 99 minor team was completely unbalanced. The six attackers contained four players six feet and over, the defence had just one.
    Team that lost to Tyrone in 2010 again small light defenders.
    2013 we survived to a title but were far from water tight.
    We need to face the reality of Gaelic Football and convert tall strong players into.centre backs full backs etc.

  2. 2015 – Claremorris beat Breaffy by 37 points in the semi.of the league..They then beat Cadtlebar by 7 pts in the final. Games were played at beginning of May and County board does not allow minor mgmt keep players back from games.
    These Claremorris lads have some pretty interesting results.
    Clearly they are going to at least win or make the championship final.If that Breaffy result was not a typo then how cam Breaffy have several players on the panel. 7-21 to 5 pts they beat them.
    1-12 to 8 pts they beat Castlebar.
    Clearly they must have a defender, midfielder and forward capable of being on the subs bench.

  3. Given that Galway completely dominated kickouts n out muscled us in middle third I think we actually have the answer. Three est minor teams were Claremorris/Castlebar and Ballina based on semi finals of league results.
    As I look at the teams from division one Breaffy dominate in player numbers. Leaving Breaffy aside we were outmuscled mainly due to a lack of physically strong Div one players. That was a bigger problem than the injuries to Akram n.Duffy. Breaffy actually seem to be out of depth at Div one this year.

  4. Westport had two starters n two subs.
    The three best teams had only three players involved with Jack Irwin (Ballna) in the subs, John Maughan at corner back (Castlebar) and cente back from Castlebar. I expect to be vehemently disagreed with, please go n check the minor league results and placings on Mayo GAA website. This is the most league of nations team I’v seen. Could not be correct proportionally.
    Again I am saying the proportion of the best three teams is way too low. The proportion of very weak teams looks too high.

  5. Strange analysis there. A couple of named young lads are targeted from the start as if they are culpable. No mention of the management team that gave the riding instructions.

    Some years ago I read an article that said “as sure as the swallow arrives, Mayo has its eternal minors”. That no longer applies. Once more and I won’t apologise for saying this, the entire structures in the county at board level are not fit for purpose. A senior team battling into its fifth season has covered a multitude particularly at U21 level.

    Let’s not coat this with sugar. That beating given to those minors was a disgrace. Our worst result ever at this level. Next season the senior management take over the U21s. I have no doubt that this is for more cuts and savings. If that minor result combined with poor U21 results since 2009 continue and the senior team hit the sidings, what then for Mayo?

    Have we a single person at board level with a coherent vision for actual football as opposed to getting elected? Have we a single person with a vision for football from U8 upwards, don’t laugh, if you don’t get the coaching right from that age upwards, you’ve lost them.

    A remark reportedly uttered after the 2013 minor All Irl win “That should keep the bastards of our backs for a while” by some official, comes home to roost this week. Two seasons was the length “the bastards” stayed off ye’re backs.

  6. It would be great if there was a structure through from minor, u21 and onto senior. But the big elephant in the room is that do the senior management care what’s happening in the grades below them. While I personally think it’s vital to have a proper link up and success at these grades, 95 per cent of Mayo supporters would probably take 15 more years of hammerings at underage football for one senior All Ireland.

    Going on this years evidence not at all with the u21s and that was pretty similar through out Horan’s run as manager too. They wanted the best u21 players for national league games and be dammed if they had a championship game coming up in the next few weeks, where as once there’s a senior championship game they’re wrapped in cotton wool for three to four weeks.

    Having a structure and system that you stick to from underage up is a great idea, but you’re not going to find many people who want to be top class managers taking on a job where they can’t do what they think is the best way to win a competition this year rather than thinking of what’ll do come five to ten years later. I’ve seen people mention that we should go for Stephen Rochford to take on the u21 job, great if we do, but would someone like that want to come in and develop players as the main part of his job rather than go and win All Irelands? I think not.

    As for the senior management taking on the u21 job, that proposal came after from what I read was a complete lack of ideas from the club delegates when the county board executive put it to the floor and not one club delegate said anything. Last time we had a senior management looking after the u21s was back in 2004 I think, when John Maughan brought both of the teams to the All Ireland finals a week after each other.

  7. This thread is grand and if I might say very Mayo. It makes the assumption that the u8 star or the u16 star will be the senior star one day with the right support structure. Much of what happens in a young mans life between 15 and 25 is conveniently forgotten. Another very Mayo trait. Leave out all the difficult stuff. Enda and his team have been the best I have seen in a long time and I am prepared to back him. Noel and Pat have been the best I have seen at this u21 grade. If you feel you you can do better you should join the queue. Our real problem at underage lies in the ability of our young people to manage their lives and football once they move away from home.

  8. According to the Mayo News, N&P have ruled themselves out of the role. Had we gone down that road then it would be a clear indication that finance rules over progress.
    As for delegates at the county board meeting being quiet, have any of you seen the average club delegate? The vast majority have been there for over 20 years and feel it’s their right at this stage. They’re as forward thinking as a 1920’s bishop with an average age in the late 50’s who views “strategic planning” and “strength and conditioning” as some fad. As a county we are at the forefront when it comes to professionalism in the medical, coaching and fitness of our senior team. This was made evident by a top premiership club poaching our S&C coach. However, in the administration department, we still lack greatly. Kieran Shannon said as much in an article he wrote earlier this year.

  9. Liam,

    It’s up to the members of clubs to vote on their delegates at the annual club AGM. However, the members not in their late 50’s are generally sitting at home watch TV or adding their thoughts to internet forums like this.
    The GAA is the most democratic organisation around but when it comes to the crunch, no one has the balls to stand up put their name forward. Why head to castlebar on a Monday night listening to minutes and proposals when there’s a big game on Sky.
    The administration department is a thankless task i’d imagine, why would anyone want to draw grief on themselves, is Kieran Shannon a treasurer, secretary or chairman for any club presently ?

  10. Santico,

    What about about the people who do put themselves forward only for archaic rules to be dusted off and the goal posts moved in order to prevent them from even being allowed seek election? What about men being elected to county finance officer positions with a €2.500.000 budget who start their acceptance speech by saying “I don’t know a lot about financial stuff but I’m a mighty man on a gate”? What about going to New York and setting up shop with a biscuit tin at the door of a pub and then being unable pay your food bill? What about making the county a laughing stock by making a complete and utter shite of a managerial appointment between 2 candidates? What about commissioning a financial review and then refusing to allow access to your financial records? The Horan Strategic review? The €17,000,000 stand? Need I go on?
    Every single person involved in every one of those decisions SOUGHT ELECTION, they were not press ganged into the positions. They sought re election after making some of those conditions. I and many other do put our hands up and are in positions in clubs across the county. Yet again the standard response to criticism is to attack the person and ignore the problem.
    The saddest part is that the solution to a lot of our problems is already available in the form of the Strategic review, it just takes some vision, courage and initiative to make it happen.

  11. We had worse structutes in early 90s to mid 2000s but we had more kids playing football. Kids with footballs is key to any future success. 5000 kids *50 Euro footballs is 250 k wellspent. 50 high potential players with a bag of practice balls for shooting practice costs 15k per year. Practice with yer six footballs in yer own time willl ramp up our best 50 player each year skill levels. Ciaran McDonald became Ciaran McDonald mainly with motivated solitary skills practice in his own time.

  12. What archaic rules, you put your name forward, go to the meeting to present yourself for nominations and count the votes. If your using the singular event outlined by a poster on this forum then your sample size for archaic is non significant in statistical terms.

    I’m not sure how you ascertain i’m attacking the person, you say the problem is incompetent administration, i say fine, elect new ones using the democratic manner available.

    For each of the points you have highlighted as ineptitutde there can be alternative agruments for each, for example:

    “I don’t know a lot about financial stuff but I’m a mighty man on a gate” – is a man not allowed to tell a joke

    The €17,000,000 stand – build at a time when all building expenses were at a premium using all local workforce to establish a sense of community about the place. Mchale park is still the only all seated GAA stadium in Ireland.

    utter shite of a managerial appointment between 2 candidates – it was alluded that one of the canidates had specific requirments on resources which were deemed to be unrealistic within the existing structure

    Anyone who has served their time within the club structure knows how akward, unhelpful and full of brigth ideas the common “supporter” can be and how this makes the job difficult. I’m guessing this is multiplied by 10000 when dealing with so many vested interests at a county level

  13. Santanico you are correct. Been involved at club level and it is like a second job.
    Low cost high return simple solutions are needed. Ease off on infrasyructure n do things like footballs n support for 50 scouted players each year.

  14. I agree 100% regarding the difficult job that running a county board must entail and I know the multitude of differing opinions at club level. However, that does not excuse some of the actions I mentioned. The trouble was not with the appointment of the manager, it was how they handled it. The trouble with the stand is not the idea, but how they handled it. The New York fiasco was further compounded when other counties flew out of New York with six figure sums (not just Kerry, Cavan had a hugely successful fundraiser as did the GPA) while we hadn’t the price of the lads dinner.
    The appointment of a director of coaching who can link up all the grades and get everyone pulling in the one direction is vital. Managers by their very nature cannot be expected to make long term decisions regarding player development when they are a single game away from getting lynched by supporters and the press. Horses for courses. Managers manage, coaching directors coach and administrators administrate. The problem we have at the moment is the current chairman (who I think is capable and competent) has to deal with the 10000 problems you describe, along with trying to steer the development strategy. A full time coaching director would free him up to deal with the other 9999 problems he has to solve, safe in the knowledge that the development of our future footballers is being well looked after.

  15. Full time practical on pitch coaching Director who is involved at level of regular contact with wide development squads.
    – Full time Director
    – Active modern skills based coaches available part time
    – Voluntary scouting and monitoring of each years high potential talent
    – Six Footballs given to each Academy player (Kicking practice ramped up for 15k per 50 player group)
    – Lifestyle advice (Academy already doing this)
    – Famous talented Mayo players involved to draw in the interest and motivation from u14 onwards.
    Its not that high cost and results in a huge amount of better players to strengthen players clubs.

  16. Look it a new Strategic review of mayo football needs to be done and implented.now that’s if the county board would be willing to do it and implement its recommendations in full.a team would need to be put in place to carry out the review .im sure there is many capable and willing people inside and outside county that would help.its not just on field we need to be targeting but off field to when ya see the likes of Kerry going over to New York and raising a million shows what can be done.we playing in London next year massive opportunity for county board to fund raise if it was done right and not a box on a door!!! Be no harm to give few those Kerry lads a ring and see how it done right.there an untapped market with mayo diaspora all over the world!

  17. Kerry tapped into funding that honestly should be going to Charitable foundations. Check out the various donation sources. Some of it when I read I was thinking “That’s usually towards charity”
    They had Jimmy Deenihan involved and at the end of the day raising big cash towards pretty much just the country program is not really on. It’ not as if every child in Kerry can use this centre.

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