O’Shea leads Mayo by example
THE absence of real leadership in critical games has lent a sense of inevitability to the Mayo results we have been lamenting down the decades. Is Aidan O’Shea about to change all that?
The unfathomable failure to shut out those games is a flaw in Mayo’s football character that is constantly exploited by the opposition.
Kerry and Dublin, especially, are well-schooled in the frailties that beset Mayo in vital games. Their managers demand unceasing effort in the final stages in the belief that Mayo will not withstand severe pressure.
Why is that, we all want to know? Why has a county that has yielded such brilliant individual talent down the years not been unable to resist these overwhelming forces? Are we not good enough? Is it some shortcoming in our nature, our heads?
When boiled down, the answer seems to lie in one missing ingredient, the motivator we have not managed to produce in more that seventy years. Kerry are never short of that quality, they seem to sprout leaders all over the field. We have had great players, but no real leaders.
Regrettably, too many promising performances have been spoiled for the want of someone to take the reins, to prod his colleagues out of the paralysis that has jinxed so many gallant efforts.
Footballers of distinction have graced our teams throughout the decades. The Morleys, the Langans, the Paddens, the Kilgallons, the Corcorans have delivered their own heroics.
Ciaran McDonald’s winning point against Dublin in the semi-final of 2006, Cillian O¹Connor’s unfaltering coolness against the jibes of the Dublin fans on Hill 16 two years ago, even Jason Gibbons’ bomb of a goal against Cork in the league last year are all glimpses of some singular individual achievements.
Too fleetingly, however, they have been the rallying force we thought would guide us over the line.
McDonald was essentially a nonconformist, a brilliant one, with incomparable ball skills. But he was not a team man, not a leader of men, in general, not one to secure the house when the opposition was hammering on the door. An ability to inspire those around him when things were going wrong was never his strong point.
How we could have done down the years with the influence of a Dermot Earley or a Mickey Kearins who were endowed with natural leadership ability! What mountains we might have scaled!
The problems Earley and Kearins encountered were of a different nature of course. Measured by Mayo’s standard, the teams they led were except for a short period mediocre opposition. They were good leaders in charge of poor teams; Mayo, generally, had good teams but poor leaders.
If anyone can change that deficit it might be Aidan O’Shea. Against Galway in Pearse Stadium he orchestrated Mayo’s operations. No amount of Galway resistance could stem the tide he created.
All over the field in the second half he wielded influence and induced a lively response from his team. Experience might have been at the root of Mayo’s control of the second half, but the Breaffy man prompted it by example, sometimes perhaps overusing the ball, but always with the best intentions.
The big man has been at the heart of Mayo’s success, these past four years. The last day he exceeded his usual enormous contribution. Without him we would not be where we are.
If his example could somehow impassion his colleagues to the levels of his own motivation, to the extent that they are ready to reach beyond the limits of aching limbs, to burst a gut, their prospects of attaining that common goal would be brighter than many seem to think right now.
‘Mystery’ of 1910 Connacht Final is solved
IRREFUTABLE evidence that Mayo have already won a quintet of Connacht senior football titles comes from that great Mayo Gael, Fr John Doherty in Charlestown.
He writes: “First of all compliments on your articles in The Mayo News, always informative and interesting. I was interested in your piece about Mayo’s five in a row and as you said it comes down to who won the 1910 title.
“You quote the late Raymond Smith in his book, ‘The Football Immortals’ as crediting Galway with the title by beating Roscommon by 1-3 to 1-2. However in the ‘Complete Handbook of Gaelic Games’ edited by Raymond Smith in 1999, Mayo are credited with 1910 title by defeating Galway by 1-4 to 0-5.
‘How come the confusion?’
‘We can only speculate, but I think the Football Immortals was published before the book of records and you can be sure than in compiling the Book of Records Johnny Mulvey would have been consulted and, as you know, Johnny was a stickler for facts and especially when they affected Mayo. Johnny would have corrected any errors in Ray Smith’s previous book.
‘It is also of note that, according to Ray Smith’s ‘Book of Records’, it was in 1911 that Galway beat Roscommon by 1-3 to 1-2 in the Connacht final.
‘Hope you find this of some help. I think we can take it that Mayo did win five in a row in those years so hopefully they will do it again.’
Thanks, Fr John, for your research. So let’s put on record that in the final against Sligo on July 19, Mayo will be seeking for the second time their fifth provincial title in a row.
The accepted Connacht senior roll of honour must accordingly be adjusted to show that Mayo have won 45 titles and Galway 43.
O’Neill trying to spark Claremorris
THE return, after a long absence, of Liam O’Neill to the football scene evokes memories of his prowess as a player and manager.
A native of Galway, with whom he played in three losing All-Ireland finals, O’Neill played most of his club football in Mayo first with Castlebar Mitchels, and then with Knockmore where he was the driving force of their victories in the senior championship.
He was appointed manager of the Mayo senior side in the mid eighties, and was ahead of his time in attempting to modernise training methods. Indeed O’Neill has been credited with moulding the side that John O’Mahony led to the All-Ireland final of 1989.
Although out of the country for decades his reputation was such that Claremorris sought his services when he returned recently to his native Galway.
The game is now at a different level and Claremorris football is not keeping pace with the leaders. The task facing the new manager in trying to stir new life into the club may be greater than he had anticipated. But if anyone can succeed it is the former Galway star.