Mayo GAA – Where is the white smoke?
Player power wins the day as managerial duo of Connelly and Holmes retain their dignity and exit stage left. The short lived saga has exposed massive trust issues between the players and the county board. The management duo were caught in the middle and were made scapegoats for yet another Mayo end of championship collapse. The message this week is that the players think they are better than what they are. The players felt that the management duo in charge last season were not up to par. My question to the players is simple: who do you think can take you to the promised land? With no realistic managerial target acquired, the players are behind in preseason preparations already. If a manager of the caliber of James Horan who left no stone unturned could not find the keys to unlock Mayo’s sheer inability to get over the line in the championship, who can? As mentioned in my article during the week, Mayo were five points clear of Dublin with around fifteen minutes to go in the All Ireland Football Semi-Final replay. Cue the collapse of all collapses, Mayo players lost their bottle on the pitch and the rest as they say is history. Connelly and Holmes can take some of the blame in terms of aimless long ball tactics to Aidan O’Shea but with a five point lead secured, the players flat out could not close out the deal. No pressure on this panel of players next season. Nothing short of an All Ireland triumph will suffice. The good will to this team from a neutral perspective has diminished given the events of the last couple of days. Mayo need to appoint a marquee big name to the senior football managerial position, anything else and Mayo are in freefall. Rochford may have won an All Ireland club title with Corofin but is unproven at this level. The Mayo panel and county board are now under the microscope, expect further incrimination in the coming weeks if the players do not ratify the potential county board managerial selection. To the outside, this saga is over but I suspect that this will get more messier in nature in the weeks to come. Stay tuned, some of the sound bites will be priceless from both sides. Noel Connelly and Pat Holmes leave their role, dignified statement last night, owe nothing to the county. A sorry chapter in the history of Mayo GAA.
Rugby World Cup – Previews
England vs. Australia:
This could be the day that the tournament organizers have had nightmares about. It is the day that England could be eliminated from the Rugby World Cup by arch sporting foe Australia. Many pundits have predicted England’s demise tonight. England are in siege mentality mode. The siege mentality mode can go one of two ways: come out swinging and succeed or personalities in the camp cave in mentally due to the pressures exerted from a bad loss and media reaction. England have major issues with a potential mole in the camp leaking the team details days before the official announcement. The English media have had a proverbial field day with the management and squad. I applaud Chris Robshaw for going for the win last weekend, he trusted his pack to get the job done but the pack failed to execute last weekend to clinch the win. A repeat performance and England’s exertion to Manchester to face Uruguay will be a damp squib. The game tonight will be decided in the front five. England will look to bully Australia’s front five upfront. Australia’s first test in this tournament, have shown signs of improvement in the front five (Fiji performance where the lineout and maul were impressive) but there are questions on their ability to compete in the scrum. England’s scrum is a key strength and can create penalty opportunities. If England decide to throw the ball out wide, then Australia have the advantage. May’s tries have caught the eye with his pace and ability to finish off moves but no-one has tested his defensive side. His kicking is an area where Australia can exploit with the dangerous Folau lurking in wait. No pressure on Romain Poite, a referee with an interest of all dark arts scrummaging. If England can gain a foothold in the scrum, then the hosts have a great chance. England for me to win based on the fact their backs are against the wall. England 21-15 provided Lancaster trusts his pack, otherwise Australia by at least ten points.
Ireland vs. Italy
This game a couple of weeks prior to the tournament looked a banana skin for Ireland but as the tournament has progressed, we have seen two teams going in opposite directions. Ireland have ten points to their name in the pool, playing effective rugby and exposing sin bin advantages (five tries scored when their opponent has being down to fourteen men). All Ireland squad players have had game minutes and feel like that they are part of the tournament. Italy on the other hand are looking for a miracle; that miracle is the introduction of Sergio Parisse in the side. Parisse’s influence (lack of) has being evident in Italy’s performances so far in the tournament – zero leadership, set piece misfiring. Parisse should provide some level of leadership but the scrum look wholly out of sorts. Castrogiovanni not even in the twenty-three man squad speaks volumes. The lineout will be undermined by the absence of Ghiraldini at hooker. Ireland’s pack must expose the set piece to create the platform for Murray and Sexton at half-back to launch their back line. Henshaw and Earls for this game is an exciting three quarter selection, pace in abundance and Earls can create something out of nothing. Bowe, Kearney and Zebo if provided with opportunities will score tries tomorrow. Italy will improve with Parisse’s leadership but Ireland have too many aces in the pack. Italy’s back line is devoid of any attacking threat and has gone backwards in recent years. The keyword for Ireland is performance. If Ireland perform, then the result will be achieved. Ireland have to send out a big statement to France tomorrow and I sense this performance is coming. If Ireland can score early, Italy could well fold. Ireland to win with a bonus point try performance. Ireland 35 – 17 Italy.
A blog reader who will remain anonymous asked this week on my opinion of Jack Grealish. Remember the name because this is the last time you will see this name sprinkled on this blog. Jack will be an England outcast who will look for a way back into the Republic of Ireland setup in two years time. Grealish is a good player but whether he is international standard is another story entirely. Jack has made his decision. He teased both associations to the point of boredom. Republic of Ireland will move on but whether Grealish’s camp does (if as expected he does not feature with England) is another story. A story which still has a potential unexpected twist yet. Hoping the Republic of Ireland stick to their guns and refuse any other overtures from Grealish’s camp. With Aston Villa’s current form, Jack Grealish could conceivably be playing in the Championship next season. Roy Hodgson will be looking elsewhere. A decision which could easily backfire for the player in time.