Thursday, October 01, 2015

Mayo's Civil War

Civil wars can never be won. They can only be ended. The sooner they are ended, the less damage they do. All sides in the current Mayo GAA dispute should come to terms with this fact as quickly as they can.

The very fact a civil war has broken out is appalling; for positions to become entrenched and a long campaign to break out would catapult the county out of the lofty company it’s become so accustomed to keeping, and back to the days of being on the business end of a twenty-point whipping from Cork or a one-point massacre at the hands of Leitrim.

All minds must now concentrate on finding a solution. It is a bizarre thing to say, but the rights and wrongs of the thing don’t really matter now. The dispute must be ended as quickly as possible. And the quickest end to the dispute would be for the current management to resign and for James Horan to return for one more swing on the merry-go-round.

If Mayo win their fourth All-Ireland title in 2016, well and good. But while Horan and the team are trying to do that, the County Board should be spending its time properly planning the succession. If Mayo don’t win the All-Ireland, the team as we’ve known it over the past five years is shattered, and someone totally new is going to have start from Square One again.

But at least the County Board will have a year to make their plans for that contingency. What they can’t do, under any circumstances, is let the current situation fester, unresolved.

There is a meeting tonight. Some speculate it’ll be like the Donnybrook Fairs of the 18th Century, and that’s possible. God knows there’s enough resentment being built up, and no small amount of tub-thumbing instead of reasoned calm. But if ever there were a day to leave egos outside the room it’s today.

Mayo have been so close to Sam in recent years they can nearly smell the silver polish. Everybody knows that. Football people in Mayo all know the pall that hangs over the county of being the eternal bridesmaids on the third Sunday. Once that hoodoo is broken, football is liberated in Mayo and a tradition can be built to rival any county’s.

But what people are allowing themselves to forget is that a team is as delicate a creature as a thoroughbred racehorse, and just as easily spooked. John O’Mahony liked to quip that the opportunity of a lifetime only lasts as long as the lifetime of the opportunity. Cillian O’Connor and Aidan O’Shea are young men, but they have a lot of miles on the clock. Kevin McLoughlin has played in fifty of Mayo’s last fifty-one games, between League and Championship. That’s a rate of attrition that can’t last.

Nobody knows this more than the players. And so they seem to have decided that if die they must, they will die with their boots on. It’s not the done thing to wash dirty linen in public, but in a county whose bottle and appetite for battle has often being questioned down the year, the current team are standing up to be counted, and they have to be respected for that.

I wish the delegates well tonight. I know that theirs is no easy task, and I do not envy them it. And while tempers run high, the delegates should remember this: if Saipan happened tomorrow, Mick McCarthy and Roy Keane would be able to settle their differences inside half an hour. Thirteen years on, each understands the other’s position in a way that they didn’t during that time. The pity of it is that it’s thirteen years too late.

Roy Keane and Mick McCarthy have the rest of their lives to think of what might have been. I don’t wish that on the current Mayo senior panel, the current management, past management or anyone involved in the dispute.

Civil wars can’t be won. They can only be ended, and they have to be ended as quickly as possible. Mayo, God help us.