No Bones About It

Declan Bonner

DECLAN BONNER: Mayo fall-out may galvanise players

It’s usually not positive when you find yourself in the GAA pages during the winter, and for the second year in-a-row, the Mayo senior team have taken centre stage.

Last Saturday, former Mayo joint-managers Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly finally spoke out in the Irish Independent about their ousting by a player heave some 14 months earlier.

Holmes and Connelly had remained silent in the aftermath of their departure, and there was quite a bit of sympathy for them for the way they had handled the whole situation.


However, I would imagine that a lot of that sympathy has evaporated this week.

They were cutting in regards to some of Mayo’s stars, and called out their ‘big egos’.

Of course, they didn’t specific who they were necessarily talking about when they were discussing egos, but it didn’t take long to figure it out as you read down the page.

The management duo clearly weren’t happy with how some senior players tried to influence decisions, but that doesn’t stand up for me.

Former Mayo joint-managers Noel Connelly and Pat Holmes

Former Mayo joint-managers Noel Connelly and Pat Holmes

I’ve played for and managed intercounty teams, and there will always be certain players that have an input, or have the manager’s ear.

You might have a young player who has an issue, and he doesn’t want to tell the manager, but he might say to an elder player, who can pass on the message.


I don’t think that’s a bad practise, and I’d imagine it goes on in almost every, if not all counties.

These men have been playing intercounty football for a few years, and they know what they’re talking about. If they have a genuine point to make, I think a manager should listen to it.

At the time when they were removed, I was very much on Holmes and Connelly’s side.

They had won the Connacht title that year, and I thought it was the players more than the management that were to blame for their semi-final defeat to Dublin.

I felt the players should have given them at least another year and tried to iron out their differences.

And going by last Saturday’s Indo, the issues they had weren’t overly serious.

One concern was that they were late for a match because they got caught in traffic while going through a town in Donegal. Perhaps it could have been avoided, but everything won’t always run smoothly.

Another issue was raised about being 15 minutes late because of the extra time needed for Palm Sunday mass.

You’d think after the Foxford parish priest put a curse on them back in 1951, that Mayo footballers would know better than to mess with the Catholic Church.

The big problem I had with the article was the bit about Seamie O’Shea asking for Rob Hennelly to be put in goal instead of David Clarke in 2015.

Now given what happened in the All-Ireland Final replay this year, and how raw that still is, I felt that was a cheap shot.

Everyone knows that O’Shea and Hennelly are Breaffy clubmates, and it would be understandable that the midfielder would prefer to work with a goalkeeper he is more familiar with.

But for the ex-management to go out and say publicly O’Shea requested that change is wrong.

Clarke and O’Shea are going to be in the same dressing room next year, and there’s surely going to be an awkwardness between them. The same goes for Alan Dillon and Andy Moran.

I know from talking to people in Mayo this week that there is a big divide in the county, and it’s hard to see how that is for the good of Mayo football.

Holmes and Connelly would have been well respected in Mayo after managing the county to under 21 success in 2006, but I think they have lost some credibility this week.

It would have been a horrible year for them and their families, and that’s before you take into consideration that Connelly’s brother is county chairman.

But when you are part of a county panel, the golden rule is that everything stays in house, and text messages or private conversations should not come into the public domain, especially not via a journalist from Galway, namely Martin Breheny.

Can you imagine if a former Donegal manager revealed all to a Tyrone reporter? It wouldn’t go down well.

The whole thing is a mess, and while they may feel that they are helping by revealing all, it’s certainly hard to see how anything positive can come from it in the short-term.

And that is another key point in this. Mayo were only one point behind a brilliant Dublin team after almost 160 minutes of football last year.

Yes, they failed to deliver once again, but they weren’t that far away. Last Saturday’s revelations will probably knock them back another notch or two.

I’m sure there were some interesting comments on the Mayo players’ WhatsApp group last week, but it may galvanise them going forward.

Club managers

There won’t be much thought about gym work or running programmes this week as Christmas hits, but it won’t be long before club players are back to the grind.

Some will have been working away for the last month or so to give themselves a base for the new year, and they will be looking to hit the ground running.

The reality is that unless you get your house in order early in the season, then you’re going to struggle at the start of the league.

We often hear it said ‘who would be a manager?’, but it appears that clubs in Donegal haven’t had any great bother in nailing down their bainisteoirs.

The big news this week is that Francie Martin has taken over the reins at Bundoran.

Francie Martin.

Francie Martin.

The ‘Star of the Sea’ club had an outside manager in 2016, and it didn’t really work out so it will be interesting to see how Francie gets on.

Bundoran have the nucleus of a strong, physical side, and they really should be pushing on in 2017.

Patrick McGowan has been involved with the Dungloe underage set-up for a number of years, and he is now going to replace Tony Boyle as senior manager.

You have a lot of older players like the Sweeneys, and the Sharkeys, Doalty Boyle and Gavin Ward, who have given a lot to the Rosses club, but they can’t go on forever.

Dungloe have a lot of young lads who have been involved with the county minor squad over the last three years and it’s time for those players to step up now.

Adrian Brennan is back with Ardara, and it’s interesting that Donie McCole is part of his backroom team, after doing a lot of good work with St Naul’s in recent times.

They will be keen to take the Pearse Memorial Park outfit back to Division 1.

Glenfin have dropped down to the Intermediate Championship, and they have turned to their former player Liam Breen to take them back to the senior grade, while Paddy J McGinley will have another stint with Naomh Columba.

Aidy Glackin will take charge of county champions Glenswilly, and the whispers around Letterkenny say that Eddie Brennan will take the reins at St Eunan’s in 2017.

Martin Regan is staying on as Naomh Conaill manager, while Martin McHugh will be the man again in Kilcar, and Gary Conaghan is set to stay on in Killybegs.

There are still some big jobs going especially around the North-West of the county with Gaoth Dobhair, Cloughaneely, St Michael’s, Termon, Fanad, and Downings all yet to name their managers.

Danny O’Donnell is staying with Milford, and Kevin ‘Cookie’ Gallagher will be manager of Four Masters again in 2017.

It’s pretty much as you were down in Inishowen with Ronan McLaughlin continuing as Burt manager, while Robert Farren (Buncrana), Aidan McAleer (Muff), Sean O’Hare (Moville), and Terence Colhoun and Anthony Kelly (Malin) all expected to stay in their roles.

It’s a big commitment to get involved with a senior club team, and those men will soon find that their mobile phone bills will be increasing significantly come the turn of the year.

I would like to wish all my readers a happy and peaceful Christmas.

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