Exchange of honest managerial opinions whets the appetite for massive Mayo/Donegal clash
McGuinness’s and Horan’s views a refreshing change from the usual bland statements
James Horan: the Mayo manager has helped to change the perception of the county’s football team
At last, at last...an end to the tedious soft-shoe shuffle of mutual praise and the ‘we’re taking nothing-for-granted’ cuteness that has characterised the build-up to big GAA championship matches for years. At last, an end to the doff-your-cap-and-whatever-you-say-say-nothing phoney-ness which opposing managers pass off as honest comment for all too long. At last, a week of spiky if civilised opinion which suggest that the backroom teams from Donegal and Mayo want to win Sunday’s quarter final so much that it hurts them.
At last an exchange of views which have lit up the online boards – should Jim McGuinness have said this and should James Horan have said that and should Rory Gallagher have said the other – which highlights just how unforgivably asinine and rehearsed the normal exchange of pre-match comments have become; remarks which are so dully worthy and insincere that players and managers alike cannot hide their boredom even as they utter them.
At last a week which laid bare the naked antagonism and rivalry which keeps the GAA flame burning and makes it such a strange and wonderful anomaly in a world dominated by the blandness of professional sport. At last a GAA championship week which shows it is okay to speak your mind!
Let this be the end of the paranoia which has transformed too many naturally loquacious GAA men into what Mae West brilliantly described as the “strong silent type with much to be silent about”.
Let this mark an end to the suppression of honest opinion, the fear of talking yourself up because of how the opposition might perceive it. Let this be an end to the usual platitudes – “they put it up to us in the first half”, “sure we got the bit of luck”, “and thank God we got over the line”.
Let it be an end to the painful MOTM interviews when players stand in front of garish advertising boards and behave as if the Stasi are interrogating them as they attempt to answer the leading questions – “Well, you scored 3-15...it went well for you out there?”– without appearing vain or boastful or saying anything that could land them in the dock with their manager who is paranoid with fear that his players should say anything remotely original.
And while we are at it, let this be an end to the interminable inspirational quotes a la John Wooden. John Wooden would be mystified as to how, after decades spent happily coaching hoops at UCLA, he has become a touchstone for GAA coaches in Ireland.
When it comes to quotes, give me Bobby Knight – the Antichrist of college basketball – who offered this pearl of wisdom to the world: “When my time on earth is gone and my activities here have passed, I want them to bury me upside down so the critics can kiss my ass.”
So let this brief machine-gun fire of words between Mayo and Donegal embolden a new honesty within GAA conversations. That is all that happened this week. It is significant that Mayo and Donegal, above all counties, should have become involved in this exchange. Both counties have come from a similar place.
Donegal were regarded, let it not be forgotten, as a tragi-comic carnival: half football team, half stag party. Mayo were often portrayed as something even worse. Mayo were accused of being chokers, of being too nice. And nice guys, as Glen Campbell tells us, get washed away like the snow and the rain.