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A pep in Castlebar’s step

Sean Rice

Seán Rice

THE prelude was impressive. As a heavy mist swept in from the west, the teams lined up at MacHale Park to be introduced to the Taoiseach Enda Kenny.
The Mitchels handed out free flags to supporters before the game and a gathering of their vintage players from another era were given special recognition.
The old stars would have welcomed the resurgence of their successors, and the tactical cleverness with which they went about their work.
But neutrals among them on the stand will have been disappointed. The battle between time-honoured Castlebar Mitchels and their eager young challengers from Breaffy, seeking their first senior title, failed to live up to its billing.
There was an ominous bounce in the Castlebar step from the beginning. The consistency with which they have been playing all season intensified. There was a buzz to their play, to the passion of their tackling, their meaningful deliveries, their support for one another, their buoyancy as a unit.
We were unfair to Aidan O’Shea expecting of him what he has done to others, expecting him to carry the hopes of Breaffy on his broad shoulders. Without the necessary support he could do only so much. And the Mitchels, fiercely competitive, crowded him out at midfield.
Without his normal contribution Breaffy were struggling. And when Danny Kirby stabbed the bouncing ball into the net in the 21st minute the game lurched only in one direction.
All over the field they were faster, and sharper. Dream performances by Eoghan O’Reilly at centre back, Barry Moran, Danny Kirby, Neil Douglas and Paddy Durcan, set the scene, and the rest fitted in snugly to dominate the game.
By half-time they were seven points ahead, Douglas providing the second goal, after an incisive move by the in-form Richie Feeney.
Breaffy put on a spurt after the break, Aidan and Seamus O’Shea at the root of it. But when blistering shots by Tommy O’Reilly and Matthew Ruane failed to breach the defence, their confidence waned. By the 42nd minute Douglas had killed off their hopes with his second goal, Richie Feeney and Niall Lydon the providers.
Barry Moran was unfairly sent off for a black-card offence in the second half, but together with Aidan Walsh, had made his contribution at midfield. Man of the match Douglas had his hat trick five minutes from the end. In essence, though, this was a determined team effort, everyone including the subs adding his block to the edifice.
Breaffy will be disappointed. It is another learning curve. But rest assured they’ll be back stronger than ever.

Little light shed by long debate
IS there an outside influence working to undermine the authority of Mayo GAA Board? A question at last week’s meeting of the board raised hints of maneuverings outside the jurisdiction of the board in a bid to manipulate the selection of a new manager.
“Do you believe there might be outside influences already looking at candidates on our behalf?” asked a delegate of the chairman Michael Connelly at the meeting.
“I don’t know,” replied the chairman, who didn’t elaborate further.
The question rankles because later in the debate about the resignation of Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly and how the delegates might go about selecting a new manager, Central Council delegate Seán Mac Éil recounted an improper episode of Mayo’s visit to New York last year.
“If you were writing a script for a pantomime, I think you’d just go back to the events that happened there,” he said. “And when I recall people who were involved with the senior management team and were seen to be acting contrary to this Board – and when I say this Board, I mean the clubs in this room.
“For example, the Board tried to organise a fundraiser in America. They did organise a fundraiser in America. And what did management do, or people associated with the management [do]? Organise a counter-fundraiser! What organisation would allow that to happen, or certainly repeat itself?”
He said the board found it very difficult to finance not alone the senior team, but all Mayo teams.
“And here you had elements of management organising another fundraiser! And we don’t know where the money went!”
That’s not the first time that the board’s authority was violated. Fundraising events are alleged to have been held on other occasions purporting to be run under the auspices of the Mayo GAA Board, but which neither the organising of it nor the funds were channeled through the Board.
Someone it seems is working hard to disrupt the legitimate governance of the Board. Is it not time action were taken to root out the cause?
In the meantime the long debate revealed nothing new about the resignation of the joint managers.
Lack of reasonable communication was at the root of the problem, I believe. No charter, no amount of qualifications will compensate for that. Respect for one another is an essential trait of teamwork.
That ought to be a tenet of any appointment.

Getting fit in a hayfield
MARGARET McCormack of Islandeady, who died last week, was sister of the late Peter Solan, a member of the Mayo All-Ireland winning sides of the early fifties.
Margaret’s account of that golden era was recorded some years ago in the local magazine ‘Through the Eye of the Bridge’ which has kept alive the memory of her brother’s football achievements and the lustre it shed on his native county, club and village.
She recalled how Peter’s co-ordination was sharpened at the age of seven or eight playing pitch and toss with grown men outside the church in Islandeady on Sunday afternoons, a talent he used to great effect in later years on football field.
“Nowadays, there is a lot more attention given to training,” she noted. “It was more difficult at that time to get a team together. Peter’s fitness was developed in the hayfield. The hay had to be saved and stacked regardless of football. With plenty of work on the farm the muscles were in good shape without much training,” said Margaret.
Peter shot to fame winning Hogan Cup medals with St Jarlath’s College, which prepared him well for a distinguished championship debut in 1949. Against Sligo in the Connacht semi-final, he scored a total of 3-1.
But their All-Ireland success in 1950 was the culmination of his career and there is a nostalgic reminder of Peter’s visit to the Gaiety Ballroom in Islandeady with the Sam Maguire Cup, his overjoyed sister Margaret celebrating in the photograph alongside him on that memorable occasion. “We had the Sam Maguire Cup in the house for a good while that year,” she said.
Margaret’s husband Pat McCormack died some years ago and they reared a family of footballers – John, Michael, Eugene, Stephen, Kieran and Brendan,  most of whom won county honours with Islandeady. Their daughter Christine Gordon was also prominent in sporting circles.
Peter died in 1995 in South Africa. Margaret, a retired nurse, was in her nineties. She was a woman of many talents, energetic and always in good humour.

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