The devil will be in the detail of Mayo GAA ‘audit’

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Devil will be in detail of Mayo GAA ‘review’ terms

By Terry Reilly

SO Mayo GAA Board is finally to conduct a review into the state of football in the county.

The Board, following the early exit of the senior team from the championship this year, is to hold a series of meetings over the coming weeks and months. Clubs and their delegates, and members of the senior football panel will have the opportunity to express and articulate their views.

The Board, in its recent statement, said it was important that all those involved in the game in the county get the chance to contribute to the review.

Rather intriguingly, the Board statement added: “We do not think that it is constructive for the floor to be opened to everyone as has happened on local radio …. While many of those who have contributed have the best interests of Mayo football at heart, we do not feel that all who have voiced their opinion do. Therefore we believe it would be more prudent and productive if those involved at all levels of our game in the county be given the chance to voice their thoughts through the medium of this review process.

”With the review subject to take place in the coming weeks, it has been decided to defer the appointment of the next senior football manager until after this process has been finalised. We feel that to do otherwise would take some focus and direction away from the matter at hand – namely the overall welfare of the game in our county,” the County Board statement added.

All genuine followers of the Green and the Red look forward to what the Board terms the ‘more precise details on this review’ which will follow at a later date. The ‘precise details’ will be scrutinised as the real meat in the sandwich, hopefully the filling that will provide real sustenance.

Questions on followers’ minds will no doubt include: How wide-ranging will the review be? What is its scope? Will there be a thorough audit of all the clubs in the county? An audit into club membership and structures? Demographics? Marketing and market penetration? Skills? Coaching? Budgets? Playing numbers? Public Relations? A holistic examination to embrace the whole gamut of the organisation in the county?

Will the last three county team managers at under 16, Minor, U-21 and senior levels be interviewed, asked for their views, and for the insights/statistics they must have garnered during their terms?

And, probably most of all, everyone connected with Mayo football will want to know what independent-minded set of people will carry out the review

To put it simply, the review (I prefer if it were called an ‘audit’) must be based on business principles. To be specific: if you were a member of Board of Directors of a corporate body that had spent the equivalent of maybe 50 million euro over the last sixty years in attempting to get your product into a dominant position in the marketplace but had failed to regain your premier position on the shelf, you would surely be asking serious questions – assuming, of course, that you had retained your position. How many heads would have rolled in the interim in business? And, no, I am not talking about the salesmen!

For many years now I have thought it ludicrous that after Mayo lose out in the championship there is a big mad  rush to question the competence of the team manager, or the full-back, or the midfielder or advance the notion that we don’t have any ‘forwards’.  I have been writing about this nonsensical approach for years, and calling for an audit – yes, it’s on the record of this paper. I have asked some county managers over the years to leave their audit with the County Board when they stepped down from their responsibilities with their teams. Don’t know if that ever happened (I suspect it didn’t) or even if the managers were ever asked to do so. I have tried to persuade friends who inevitably ask who the next Mayo manager is going to be to think again before they pursue that lazy questioning, pleading that they stop putting the cart before the horse.

Four years ago, when John P Kean and I were interviewed on Mid West Radio by Tommy Marren, I voiced the fairly radical view that who was appointed team manager was largely irrelevant in the context of a Mayo football scenario badly damaged by repeated Croke Park batterings. John P. was of a similar mind, but our views did not exactly curry favour with some County Board officials.  Fix other things, provide the basis for going forward and give the players and the manager a platform from which to launch their charge, we argued then. Don’t just continue to sit back and hope that the manager will have a magic wand that can cure all Mayo’s ills, we pleaded. Sixty years of hoping shows that things don’t work out like that. There is no fairy godmother, and desperate prayers to the Man on high haven’t exactly worked either.

And no, it’s NOT a blame game. Clubs, their members, county board members and officials all share in the blame if there is to be blame.  Let’s move on… avoid personal abuse, and handy cockshots. Let’s all take an objective view of things, come up with the leadership, the ambition, the motivation, the vision, the plan. Let’s just try to put Team Mayo back in business.

It is, of course, not easy to get people to really engage in deeper analysis of what might be wrong with Mayo football.  It has amused me that while it is very easy to get business people to talk about how their company is performing, their marketing spend, their staffing levels, their projections, the bottom line,  the whole nine yards in fact.  Yet, by and large, these same people, once they put their club or county colours on, let emotion take over from their business brain: they cannot tell you the key stats from their club game, cannot tell you how many Under 16 county titles at various levels they have pencilled in as a target in their 5 year plan, cannot tell you the demographics of the parish, haven’t head-hunted people with key skills to help out in the club drive to be more relevant in and for the community.

Crazy, isn’t it!  ‘So what?’ I can hear people ask. ‘We are just every bit as good as the next county in how we run our affairs.’  Maybe so, but if Mayo wants to scale the football heights again and start nailing All-Ireland titles. The combined effort has be much better than what the county next door is doing. Either that, orlet’s us just  relax and be content with winning the Connacht title on a fairly regular basis. Just leave the big stuff to the counties that are well organised, and/or have a winning tradition like the Kerrys and the Kilkennys of  GAA-land.

They are at the business end of affairs. A mix of  tradition, expectation, planning, leadership and vision keeps them there.

The ‘Mayo audit’, if carried out with due diligence, objectivity and an open-mindedness so as to come up with the solutions to what we yearn to achieve, can be the stepping stone to better times. If not, it can only retard the situation.

Hence the heightened expectation as we look forward to the devil in the ‘precise details’. Stay tuned and keep the faith!

Email: terryreilly@eircom.net

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