Posts Tagged ‘#donegalgaa’

MOST years are defined by a moment, a player or a team, rarely is it defined by a manager. 2012 was the year of Jim McGuinness.

The cult of the manager has been on the rise again in the last few years. Brian Clough was the original of the species when he took Derby County and their neighbours Nottingham Forest from modest footings to unimaginable heights in the days when things like that were possible in professional sport. Clough was seen as an enemy of football by many at the time for his outspoken ways. One of his modern day counterparts Jose Mourinho, has followed a similar trajectory of controversy matched only by success.

In the GAA there have been managers who were cult figures within the game. Mick O’Dwyer brought the game of football to new heights with the unparalleled fitness of his great Kerry teams. He was the master of deflecting pressure away from them too. However, those Kerry teams contained stars in every line, generational players who left a legacy in the game. O’Dwyer never had to be the real star of the show.

Sean Boylan, John O’Mahony, Paidi O’Se, Joe Kernan and Mickey Harte won All – Irelands and in the case of the last two, broke the mould in terms of ways to play the game. None of them though ever garnered more attention than their team or their star men. This year Donegal weren’t winning matches, Jimmy was.

Maybe it’s his tactics, his youth, talent or the controversies, it’s likely that it’s all four combined in a new age of GAA coverage. In the last year there has been an explosion in the amount of coverage given to Gaelic Games; about time too because the need is there. Blogs, podcasts, online sports sites and Newstalks GAA coverage has given RTE’s the kick in the arse it so badly needed.

This modern age of coverage needed a modern manager and they found its poster boy in McGuinness. Villified by the press after the semi – final defeat in 2011 for crimes against Gaelic Football, he then dropped his captain Kevin Cassidy after an interview he gave to Declan Bogue during that campaign. Nobody likes a loser and especially not an ugly, disloyal one. The press and the online masses had their enemy and as in all classic sporting stories, cue the comeback.

As Donegal steamrolled their way through Ulster and set their sights further south, their new more adventurous style of play was gathering admiring glances. The man vilified twelve months ago was now being hailed as the Messiah and Donegal, almost inevitably in the end, went on to claim the ultimate prize.

Their achievement is unique in GAA terms in that it was not on the back of an exceptionally large and talented new generation of players, but rather a bunch of players young and old who wholeheartedly and unconditionally bought into Jim McGuinness’s way of life and football. This is what makes it one of if not the greatest managerial achievement in the history of Gaelic Football.

As like most cult managers, he too has a muscular ego and unfortunately it came to light in a not so flattering way. The refusal to begin the post match press conference until Declan Bogue had left the room, smacked of wrong time, wrong place. Like Mourinho taking his medal and then walking of the pitch after Porto’s Champions League victory, it served only to take away from his players achievements.

His appointment by Celtic is recognition of the impact he has made in just two years. It’s difficult to imagine it happening to any other manager in the GAA. Considering the commitment he demanded from Kevin Cassidy and the rest of his players it’ll be interesting to see what impact it has on his involvement with Donegal in 2013.

What his appointment means for the GAA in general is minimal. As a national and mainly Irish organisation we are insecure about our footing within the wider sporting world. This is why we get a warm fuzzy feeling when Alan Shearer tweets about how mental hurling is or finding validation in the mighty Celtic seeing one of our own worthy of appointment. The game of Gaelic Football is worthy to take it’s a place beside any field sport in the world.

As worthwhile an exercise as Eugene McGee football review committee was, it does show the insecurity there is about our game. Aside from the clarification of the advantage rule and the increase in the penalty for descent, the rest are unnecessary and born out of misty eyed sentiment of a bygone and not so glorious era. There needs to be a realisation that the game is evolving naturally as every other.

2012 was also the year Seanie Johnston realised his dream of playing club hurling in Kildare and all of Mayo got very mad at Joe Brolly when all we really want is his approval. It was a good year for Ballaghderreen, Charlestown and The Neale, while few had as cruel a finish to a year as Ardnaree. Next year has to be theirs.

We lost a GAA icon in Paidi O’Se who was always a believer in Mayo football; unfortunately we fell just short again. Was it a missed opportunity or stepping stone to what will be the greatest day of all? One or two new introductions might be all it takes. Here’s hoping.

Donegal v Mayo, Croke Park, 3.30, M Deegan (Laois) * Live RTE

 

AT this stage rational and impartial thinking is a commodity that’s rare on the ground in Donegal and Mayo. As we move into the weekend that we’ll take to our graves, the line between logic and hope is becoming more blurred by the hour.

The game has been all consuming this week; analysis fatigue has set in.  The relentless stream of analysis, opinion and interviews have fed the unquenchable thirst for the game but would make you nostalgic for the days when your media consumption was one of the locals on a Monday or Tuesday and the paper on the morning of the game.

The importance of Sunday to both counties not just from a football perspective has been mentioned all week. There has never been and probably never will be an All – Ireland with as much deep rooted emotion attached.

Concerning ourselves with the overall context of this final and its importance to each of the counties is the prerogative of Journalists and bloggers, while we get all emotional into our laptops. It is hard not to get swept away by the importance of this game but I expect James Horan has avoided and will avoid talk of the past good or bad. It has no relation to this Mayo team. When it comes down to it, it’s the team who avoids been wrapped up in all this emotional baggage who have the best chance of success.

Mentally both sides could argue that they have the advantage. Donegal will argue that this Mayo team carry the burden of 61 years and a history of final day disaster. Mayo, perhaps more convincingly, can say that Donegal’s present of fan hysteria and favouritism far outweighs their inglorious failures.

Either way some players will underperform. Equally some will write their name into folklore. The systems that both Horan and McGuinness have created will allow for bad games and therefore will allow both teams to get a foothold in the game. There will be no capitulations this Sunday.

If Mayo can stay with Donegal for the first half and even build a lead, its then that any psychological advantage Mayo have will come into play. No matter how focused and task driven Jim McGuinness says his players are, finding themselves in this position will not be what they expected and not something they have faced this year.

Mayo can and must dominate midfield. Contrary to belief, clean ball can still be won in the modern game and Aidan O’Shea and Barry Moran are a better mid field pairing than Gallagher and Kavanagh. O’Shea is the figurehead of this Mayo team. As a footballing county, Mayo had a tradition of tough, ‘raw boned’ men that sadly has been lost in the last decade. O’Shea and others have given Mayo back this edge that’s vital to a team’s inner belief and how the opposition now perceives them.

Again Kevin McLoughlin will be Mayo’s most important player. The speed and accuracy of everything he does along with his work rate has seen him become one of the quiet leaders of the team. His performances have been as effective and more impressive in an attacking sense than that of the much loved McHugh.

The tactical question of this championship has been how to play McHugh. Pushing up on him as Cork did in the first half can be effective but we also have to have faith in what has brought us to this point. Not making exceptions for exceptional players might be naive but we also must trust that our system will match their’s and that in the end we will have the footballers to finish the job. I don’t have the answer; I trust that James Horan does.

Our full back line have been fantastic all year, I expect the same on Sunday. I relish seeing Kevin Keane mark Murphy and Cafferkey doing battle with McFadden. We should have no fear in that area, our full back line is equal to Donegal’s forward equivalent in quality, if not in praise.

A tough afternoon awaits the Mayo full forward line. They will have less space to operate in than they have ever experienced before. As in the semi final, little is expected of the likes of Varley, Conroy and Doherty and like the semi-final it is position that can provoke a defiant, proud reaction.

They will need to win ball inside for Mayo to gain some platform near goals. If the full forward line can get onto quick ball I expect our scores to come from our support play that has been Mayo’s trademark all year.

Victory on Sunday would mean everything. Pride in our County is always something that has come easy to us as Mayo people, probably more so than most. James Horan and his players have allowed us to carry that pride with a lot more ease.

Sentimentality is not going to have any bearing on Sunday but that line between logic and hope has truly evaporated in my mind.

‘The Kings of September’ by Michael Foley recounts the 1982 All – Ireland Final between Kerry and Offaly. In the days leading up to final, Sean Lowry of whom we claim some ownership attended a funeral of a neighbour. At that funeral he spoke to a stranger by the name of Declan Carolan who articulated  better than anyone the beauty and significance of an All – Ireland. His words inspired Lowry on that day when the impossible happened.

 Remember that, when you go out on Sunday, you’re going to be playing for people that you’ll never see. People you’ll never meet. You’ll have people in Australia and New Zealand who’ll have their chest out Monday morning if Ofally beat Kerry, but you’ll never see them or have the feelings they’re feeling. You’ll never realise the lift you give them if you beat Kerry on Sunday.

That is what it’s all about. On Monday morning I believe that every Mayo person will walk chests out, with a pride that hasn’t been felt in six long decades.  For the players it is an occasion that will define their lives. They are staring immortality in the face. Go on and take it boys.

Prediction: Mayo by 2

NEVER mind next Sunday, the real battle has been going on for the last few weeks on the airwaves. Donegal may have had a week’s head start but here in Mayo we have the lethal combination of form and experience in this area; anyone remember this absolute CLASSIC from 1996?

Follow that. Unsurprisingly enough quite a few have duly taken on that challenge to create the next GAA masterpiece. Before we start all the serious build up and predictions, let’s take a moment to acknowledge those who have done what few thought possible, make Mid West and Ocean FM essential listening.  Wherever there is All – Ireland fever, your music will live on. Let the ceremony begin.

Best Song – Mayo: The Ginger Melodeon Experience – Up Mayo

Mayo getting to All – Ireland finals makes for strange happenings. How about a trad version of a Flo Rida song with Mayo football themed lyrics? Now that’s ingenuity. Definitely the best of the Mayo representations this year, the track from the London collaboration is free to download at http://gingermelodeonexperience.moonfruit.com/, with a link for donations to The Irish Cancer Society on the same page. #MayoForSam2013,  The Chieftains featuring Snoop Dogg?

 

Best Song – Donegal: Rory & the Island – Jimmy’s Winning Matches

If you’ve somehow managed to miss Rory Gallagher’s (formerly of The Revs) catchy tune you’re in for a treat. Rory and Jimmy’s musical sojourn began on the island of Lanzarote where the original song ‘Jimmy’s Selling Watches’, was wrote in tribute to the watch selling, Molly Malone singing Senegalese native. Listen out for Jimmy’s impressive knowledge of Mayo geography; he’s nearly as good as Mike Denver.

 

Best Song to Make Grown Men Emotional: Myles Kelly – The Mayo Man

It does sound like Myles may have recorded this with his phone but it’s still the most rousing of the 2012 vintage. With lyrics like, “Jimmy might be winning matches but James is winning too” and “I am a Mayo man today is my day”, it’ll either have you fit to run through walls or leave you blubbering into your pint a two in the morning. Either way, Myles deserves a call from Up For The Match.

 

The Best of The Rest 

A selection of some of the more obscure, somehow strangely entertaining,  but none the less deserving winners.

Best Performance Video: Cyril Brennan – Bring Home Sam 2012

Best Use of a Christmas Song Melody: Martin Fitzmaurice – Doing It For Andy

Lifetime Achievement Award: Michael S Togher – The Dream Has Never Died (Because he’s a legend – Maggie’s Flannel Drawers, need  I say anymore)

If we’re basing victory on YouTube hits, Donegal may have won the musical battle thanks in the main to Rory and Jimmy. I think we’ll let them have this little win though, as long as the sound of the Saw Doctors is ringing around Croke Park come 5.oo pm Sunday.