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Why Did The Mayo Players Enjoy More Support Than The Galway Players During Heave?

Conor Neville
By Conor Neville Updated

Since Connacht erupted in mutiny following the conclusion of this year's championship, there has been a curious difference in the public's attitude towards the Mayo footballers and the Galway hurlers.

While there was sympathy for Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly, which reached its height following their poignant resignation statement, the Mayo footballers still seemed to have a healthy constituency in favour of their stand at all times.

In Galway, by contrast, the weight of public opinion was always tilted heavily in favour of the manager. In recent days, Cunningham's apparent failure to read the writing on the wall had resulted in a perceptible shift in favour of the players position. But Cunningham's resignation and fiery accompanying statement, perfectly wrought for a public weary of player power, has pulled it back again.

The Galway hurlers are now essentially being told that they better perform next year or else.

What accounts for this difference? Many have noticed and are baffled.

Some of it is fairly logical and can be understood both in light of the records of the respective managers and the circumstances of their appointments.

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Holmes and Connelly hardly disgraced themselves this year, guiding Mayo to a fifth successive Connacht title and a comfortable quarter-final victory over Donegal.

But the circumstances in which they assumed the role were never quite forgotten. At the end of the 2014 championship, there was a happy expectation among supporters that the McStay-McHale ticket would succeed James Horan. The snubbing of the popular choice seemed to enrage Mayo fans. Holmes and Connelly thus assumed the job shorn of the usual goodwill.

Perhaps, the memory of Holmes previous spell in charge didn't help either. He led Mayo to the National League and both he and Connelly managed the U21s to the All-Ireland in 2006, but Holmes time as sole manager in the early noughties is not recalled fondly. With Galway in the box seat in Connacht, Mayo failed to register a single provincial title in his four year reign.

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Also, while they did creditably this year, it would be hard to say that they improved the team radically. The team did no worse or no better than they had done in 2014.

Anthony Cunningham, by contrast, assumed the Galway job when the inter-county team were at a low ebb. They had just been hammered by Waterford in the 2011 All-Ireland quarter-final, a mystifying result considering that Waterford had just conceded seven goals in the Munster Final.

In 2013, Martin Breheny said that Galway's loss to Clare in Thurles in that season's championship represented the worst performance he had seen from Galway in years. He had clearly forgotten the 2011 loss to Waterford, a dispiriting day which witnessed an orgy of 'traffic beating' in the last 15 minutes. Manager John McIntyre, who enjoyed some good results during his tenure (unlike Ger Loughnane), resigned following the match, observing in the post-match press conference that Galway were as far away from an All-Ireland as ever.

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Read more: Lar Corbett Becomes Latest Tipp Hurler To Retire - Here's His Statement

It was into that scenario that Anthony Cunningham arrived.

In four years, he has guided Galway to two All-Ireland finals, including the most recent one. Their blitz of Kilkenny in the 2012 Leinster Final will be long remembered as will the thrilling one point win over Tipp in the 2015 semi-final.

There were a couple of fallow years in between. The 2013 season was a write-off but their performance in 2014 is excessively maligned. Aside from Clare, they were the first serious hurling county to exit the championship, but was principally due to the fact that they met Kilkenny (twice) and Tipperary in three successive weeks in late June/early July.

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Essentially, the differing reactions relate to the belief that Cunningham had done little to justify a heave being mounted among his leadership. There is incredulity that it could occur so soon after a team almost won an All-Ireland.

Any other factors?

Well, the Galway hurlers, given their unrivalled capacity for frustrating their own supporters, have often been on the end of lacerating criticism at home. Joe Canning's comments during the Web Summit hinted at this truth. While this is an unscientific observation, there has always seemed to be, at least to this observer, a caustic and demanding element to the Galway hurling support that doesn't exist to the same degree in Mayo.

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But then most displays of player power are greeted with naked hostility by supporters. Perhaps, it is not the disdain of the Galway fans but the understanding reaction of the Mayo supporters which is the outlier here.

 Read more: Anthony Cunningham Releases Strong Statement Annoucing Resignation As Galway Manager

 

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