Watching from a distance, what a mess there seems to be in Mayo with the fall-out from the management heave which occurred after 2015. Martin Breheny and the Irish Independent got something of a scoop in recent weeks.
First of all former defender Tom Cunniffe had reason to give his side of the story to have a clear conscience as he has retired from football and is now living in New York. Cunniffe, although party to the decision to remove the management team of Noel Conneely and Pat Holmes, felt, in hindsight, that there was a poor judgement made.
Then a couple of weeks later Martin Breheny has the exclusive from the two managers, as they decided to come out and give their side of the story some 14 months after they were effectively shown the door by the Mayo players.
One wonders what the effect the revelations will have on Mayo football going forward. At the time of the heave, the management duo went quietly as they knew they had no other option.
What prompted them to go public now? One wonders if there was something that triggered it. Or was it just the need to give their side of the story?
Whatever the reason, some of the Mayo players come out of the episode in a very poor light.
Some of the petty things that were being complained about would make any manager lose hair. Donegal even got a mention. I wonder what small Donegal town annoyed some of the players. It seems when Mayo were playing Derry in a league game, the bus driver inadvertently went through this town rather than using the by-pass, and this ‘detour’ had annoyed some Mayo player! There aren’t many towns in Donegal that have a by-pass (especially on the road from Sligo to Derry). I must check with Brian McEniff to see if he can enlighten us!
The revelation that Seamus O’Shea wanted his clubmate Robbie Hennelly as the No. 1 goalkeeper because he felt he had a better kick-out is ironic, given what happened in the All-Ireland final replay earlier this year.
It is never nice to see dirty linen washed in public, but maybe Mayo needed this to purge an attitude that may be the main reason they have not been able to get across the All-Ireland line in the last four or five years.
A good number of this Mayo panel won All-Ireland U-21 medals under Conneely and Holmes in 2006. Those players will be 31-32 next year and time is running out fast.
I always felt that they should have won the All-Ireland title in 2014. I felt they were the best team that year and got a raw deal in the All-Ireland semi-final replay in Limerick.
But at the end of the day, the players have to take responsibility for the mess they created a year later. They had a chance for redemption this year but again fell short.
2017 might be their last chance.
Another newspaper, the Irish News, had an interesting article this week by Cahair O’Kane on the financial benefits for GAA players after the recent increase in the government grant scheme secured by the Gaelic Players’ Association.
O’Kane claimed that Gaelic footballers and hurlers were now semi-professional as they were earning just as much as semi-professional soccer players in the Irish League or League of Ireland.
He claimed that the average earnings for semi-professional soccer players was €4,000 per year, and that some amateur Gaelic footballers could be getting as much as €3,917 in 2018, just €83 short of the earning of a semi-professional soccer player.
It seems like a nice story and Gaelic players on a par financially with soccer players may be true, but if you break down the figures, it is much different.
€3,917 would only be ‘earned’ by the elite who reach the All-Ireland final and to reach that standard, they would be training for 11 months. It amounts to slightly less than €80 a week, out of which comes petrol, tax, insurance and any nutritional foods they would eat.
I can’t imagine that there would be much left for an exotic holiday. It would be a nice sum to get at the end of the year and get a week away. I don’t think many would begrudge them.
Of course, some players will benefit much more than others, because they are marketable, but the vast majority are out of pocket when all is counted up.
What intercounty players have to endure to even remain on a county panel is punishing; what’s more it is anti-social and sometimes you wonder if it is good preparation for young men (or women) for life in general.
Just think of what it is like for an U-21 player in Donegal (or any county) at present. They are like pawns in a game of chess with two county managers and a college manager vying for their services.
One wonders if their development as footballers and as human beings are being damaged by being under so much pressure and scrutiny.
That’s why I think the demise of the U-21 Championship can only be good in the long run. It would help also if the Sigerson Cup was run off before Christmas and give young players a life back.
I can’t imagine the carrot of €80 a week is the reason they put in so much effort and time.
If the managers were offered the same package, it would make for an interesting reaction!
The article by Cahair O’Kane in the Irish News was mainly about the need for more transparency in how GPA money is spent, and I am all for that.
He is right in saying that intercounty players are semi-professional; that’s where the sport is at. But I doubt if many of them are being motivated to go the gym at 6 o'clock in the morning by the sum of money that they might receive at the end of the year.
Being in Croke Park in September is a much greater motivation.
Some of you might not have got all your Christmas presents sorted. If so don’t worry. I was reminded by Donal Reid to give a plug to his autobiography, ‘Confessions of a Gaelic Footballer’, of which there are a few copies left. All proceeds go to Pieta House. You can have a copy signed if you are in SuperValu, Ballybofey today (Thursday 10-2) or in Bradley’s, The Cross, tomorrow (Friday 10-1)) or Easons, Letterkenny on Saturday, 10-1.
And if you can’t get there, send him an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and he will get a signed copy to you.
Finally, Happy Christmas to all. Take it easy and enjoy the festive season.