You'd be careful not to leave the lid off the toothpaste in Tony McEntee's house. When we put it to the Mayo selector on Sunday that his side had shown admirable character in coming overcoming Roscommon in tough conditions, we got an arched eyebrow in response.
“Yeah, that’s one way of looking at it. I suppose maybe another way of looking at it was that they did what they were supposed to do in the second half. They certainly held the ball much better, they worked the ball through the lines, they put good passing into the inside forward line, they took the man on, they created opportunities and they took scores.
“They didn’t do that in the first half. We didn’t ask any questions of that Roscommon defence despite owning 20 minutes of that first half. We went in 0-6 to 0-4 up at half-time and that was a very poor return for such dominance. So yeah, composure and character is one way of looking at it, but I’d be a slight bit harsher on them.”
Included in McEntee’s duties as part of the Mayo management is training a handful of players in Dublin once a week. Bit by little bit, he is getting to know what he has to work with.
“Well, I suppose we’re still warming to each other. Apart from
, it’s an entirely new management team. It does take time to settle in with each other. Stephen [Rochford] obviously wants to play a wee bit differently to the previous management and the management that was there before, so that takes a little bit of time too.
“And we haven’t much time left to settle in because it’s coming near championship time and we’d want to be getting to grips with things shortly. But those players are an honest bunch. They’ve always been an honest bunch. They’ve tried their heart out over whatever it is, four or five years now. So I don’t think they’re lacking in honesty or integrity.”
After patchy performances in the league so far, Mayo have managed to wrest back control of their destiny and a win against Down on Sunday will go a long way to seeing them extend their stay in Division One. McEntee has been happy with the progress, if not the outcomes.
"One of the crucial factors in not seeing the results so far has clearly been the lack of a confident and reliable free-taker. A Division One team who don't have somebody reliable on the field as a freetaker is not going to win many games. But we're improving on that. We have Alan Freeman back on the field now, Evan Regan did well today and we have Cillian [O'Connor] coming back."
They’ve been on the road a while, of course. But for McEntee, the miles in the legs aren’t an issue. The mental toll of the past five seasons could, he admits, be another story.
“They’ve had a lot of emotional problems, this bunch of players, but I don’t think that has manifested itself in any sort of physical issue. They’re not over-trained. We don’t do a massive amount of training, and from what I understand, they wouldn’t have done a massive amount of training in other years either. So they’re not over-trained in the way you might throw that assertion at Donegal, for example.
“So from that end of things, I think it’s more emotional trouble that they’ve had over the last number of years. That has been a difficult number of years and they’ve taken a lot of heavy hits.”
When put to him that they deserve credit for still being there or thereabouts, we got as brass tacks an answer as we’re likely to hear all year.
“Yeah, but that same team has to win, you know? This Mayo team will have to turn over a win at some stage or it will all be in vain. I guess that’s our target and that’s what the drive is for. It’s September and it’s winning in September.”