Breaking Ball: Players’ voice must be heard too

Breaking Ball with Manus Boyle
Why is it when intercounty players, footballers or hurlers make their opinions known in public it’s frowned upon by many GAA members?

Why is it when intercounty players, footballers or hurlers make their opinions known in public it’s frowned upon by many GAA members?

Why, in an age when players are being asked to commit more and more for nothing in return, are they not allowed to stand up for what they believe or let the public know how they feel about what‘s going on?

The Mayo footballers or the Galway hurlers are not the first groups to let their views be known to the public. It would seem from the start that things were not well in Mayo. Many Mayo people believed that Kevin McStay would have been the first choice to succeed James Horan. Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly got the job and went putting their people in place. The players it seems, were unhappy with the change of many of the old backroom staff.

One of the complaints that the players had was there were far too many in the management team and when it came to match days there were too many people in the dressing room and far too many people expressing opinions.

Also the players were very unhappy that only the minimum amount of players were allowed to tog on match days. On a number of occasions squad members were unable to travel with the match squad and at times were not even given passes or tickets into the game.

The players had, on a number of occasions, pointed out many of the problems to the management team and nothing was done about it and while it seems it was kept under wraps without any serious falling out the confidence in the management had taken a serious dent.

I have no doubt if many of the little issues could have been dealt with straight away the players would have held their court and continued on but because there was nothing done the players felt they had no choice.

I have never been one for players getting involved in such issues. Players play and managers manage, but we hear far too many rumors of managers getting looked after for their time and yet players, who have to make some serious sacrifices, are not entitled to be part of the process.

Players have taken the game to a new level, not managers, conditioning coaches or back or forward coaches. Good managers put the right people in place to make sure you get the best out of players but success will only follow if the players want it. They drive the bus, no one else. They are the biggest stake holders.

While none of the complaints that the Mayo players had were any different than every other county team have experienced down through the years the fact that they have come so close to winning Sam in the last few years they want to make sure that it happens sooner rather than later. And while many would argue that they have thrown both Holmes and Connelly under the bus they have also pointed out that they take full responsibility for what happens on the field which seems to have escaped many pundits and critics of their actions.

There have been plenty of teams in the past who have had to undermine their management teams with statements of no confidence and on many occasions it has had a huge effect on the team for years after.

I doubt if the Galway hurlers or the Mayo footballers took their decision lightly. Many of the players involved will have known the managers personally. In fact they could be from the same clubs. So they would have thought long and hard about how it would be perceived, not only within the county but also nationally.

They would have also taken into consideration that officials at county board level and national level treat such action in a hostile manner and everyone involved can be marked for the future. Every consideration would have been taken about how the reputation of the managers involved would be affected and how it would affect their families.

Such criticism in this country is always considered and personal attack. As usual the anti-player brigade came out fighting suggesting that it wasn’t Pat Holmes, Noel Connelly or Anthony Cunningham who lost any of the games on the field. It wasn’t the managers that let Dublin come back from the dead or gave away a considerable lead to Kilkenny in the second half of the All-Ireland final, but there is an old saying - fail to prepare, prepare to fail. It’s the management team’s job to make sure every scenario that happens on the field is covered and the responsibility is shared.

There are no winners in this. The managers have no choice but to leave their jobs; they couldn’t stay on knowing the players had no belief in them. The players will be under more pressure than ever before to deliver the big prizes to the west. It will leave a bad taste in the mouth of everyone involved and there will be a lack of trust.

I would have to say I admire the players’ stand. I like that they felt the need to question whether they have the right people involved for them to reach the very top. They also are sending out the message they are prepared to do what it takes to reach the top and, like many managers, are prepared to do whatever it takes to get there. Instead of looking at the negative and focusing too much on the personalities involved people should consider the love of their sport and their county that these lads have. It is an Irish trait that we should look for the bad in everything.

Good luck to Glenties, Bundoran and Naomh Ultan in their quest for Ulster glory this weekend.