Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Lyons T for Trouble? Mayo's D-Day is Here

The reaction in Mayo to what is expected to be a rubber-stamping of Tommy Lyons’ appointment tonight as the new Mayo senior team manager by the Mayo County Board has been varied.

Storming the Bastille
On the one hand, there are those who wish to storm An Sportlann, headquarters of the Mayo County Board, just as French stormed the Bastille in the name of liberty, before they made their way to Killala to spread the same gospel of freedom here.

And on the other hand, there are those who just want the pain to stop, like that clapped-out boxer on the telly who yearns for the old one-two that one only gets from Uniflu™. Think of the prisoners on the Moorish ships in Chesterton’s Lepanto, who find their God forgotten and seek no more a sign. You get the idea.

There are very few who welcome Tommy Lyons’ appointment and the one emotion that the Bastille-stormers, busted boxers and prisoners-broken-by-years-of-adversity share is a deep and dark dread towards what the future may hold under a Lyons stewardship.

It’s not about Tommy Lyons personally, although it can’t be said he helps. Mouthy metropolitans are seldom welcome back the heathery mountain. The big problem that people in Mayo have with a potential Lyons appointment is the way the appointment was made.

Heartbreak and Bitterness
After the heartbreak and bitterness of John O’Mahony’s Second Coming the Mayo Board was in humour to salve wounds. They promised a process through which a new man would be appointed, divisions healed, new processes set in place and the Good Ship Mayo pointed to a brave new tomorrow.

Everyone who got involved in that process now seems to have been sold a pup, as horse-trading went on behind the scenes. The result is Tommy Lyons. The stories about the nature of that horse-trading vary, but the bottom line is that there are very real fears that the Lyons appointment will happen for reasons other than what is best for the county team.

Liam Horan has been put in charge of a Strategic Review Committee but Horan’s first job as chairman of that committee will be to explain how exactly it’s the case that Tommy Lyons has a better chance of having a Mayo team still playing football in September than James Horan, Denis Kearney, Anthony McGarry or John Maughan. Or Mick O’Dwyer, if it comes to that. Because it’s not at all easy to see right now.

A lot of this has to do with the responsibility of the County Board. What is their duty? Is it towards the clubs, the debt on McHale Park, or have they also a duty to field the best team they can in the senior inter-county football championship?

There is no doubt – except, perhaps, in the addled minds of the GPA – that if there were no clubs there would be no GAA. But the county team cannot be treated in so cavalier a fashion as to appoint a manager for reasons other than his being the best man for the job.

In Memory of Our Fathers
People live and die by their county teams. This is true for all counties, of course, but – and An Spailpín must confess a certain bias here – it seems especially so in Mayo where the people are so defined by what the football team does. The very notion of the team, of a Mayo style, of the unique colours, has a resonance for people that transcends a game or an organisation. The notion that there is a Mayo team out there, playing football, is a part of people’s souls. It helps people understand who they are.

For instance: a great and good friend of the blog was at the 2004 final, and he got talking to the man next to him. The guy next to was from Limerick, but he had hunted down a ticket and come up anyway, because of his father.

His father was a Mayoman and had died earlier that year. The son was making a vigil to Croke Park to do honour to his father’s memory, to see a Mayo victory that was no longer possible for his father but that would have meant so much to him had he lived. The Mayo GAA scene meant nothing to this Treatyman, but the very idea of Mayo was vivid and clear in his head.

He went home disappointed, as did we all. But that man, whoever he is and where-ever he is now, deserves better than this. He did honour by his late father’s memory, and he deserves better. The poor deluded fools who travel on Sundays for FBD League games and National League games as well as the glamorous Championship games of high summer deserves better than this.

The gobdaws and buck eejits and helpless innocents who daydream at least once a week about what it will be like when Sam returns to Mayo deserve better than this. The ludramans and the mentally unbalanced who compose greatest-ever Mayo teams drawn from men who never played senior club football in their heads to pass the time deserve better than this. Or else it’s time for us all to wonder just why we invest so much emotional energy to just get smacked around by an ungrateful lover. Again.

The Eleventh Hour
James Horan - the Flying Kiwi from BallintubberToday the eleventh hour, but it’s still not too late. The Board can still turn away from the Lyons candidacy and appoint James Horan, one of the stars of the first John Maughan team of the mid-nineties and the current manager of Ballintubber, now contesting a county final for the first time in their long and proud history. Horan has galvanised the anti-Lyons feeling and become the people’s choice. It’s up the Board tonight to do the right thing. God be with them.