Wednesday, August 24, 2022

New Mayo senior football manager Kevin McStay has set his stall out in his first media interview.

Speaking to The Irish Times, the Ballina Stephenites clubman dismissed any notion that the team is in transition.

New Mayo senior football manager Kevin McStay dismissed any notion that the team is in transition

“I don’t see any transition in Mayo. I just see that a lot of good, young players have come on and we drive it on. If there was a transition, it’s been pretty much done under James. He brought through a lot of good players in the last few years and we’ve to build on that a little bit but we have to stay competitive.

“There’s no question of us not being relevant in 2023.”

McStay was ratified on Monday night by the county committee and although he had sought a three-year appointment with the option of a fourth, delegates agreed a four-year term for the former Roscommon manager, who will now be leaving his role as an analyst on The Sunday Game and a columnist with The Irish Times.

He brings with him a heavyweight backroom team of Stephen Rochford, Donie Buckley, Damien Mulligan, Liam McHale, Sean Finnegan, who will serve as operations manager, Liam Horan, who will serve as communications and strategy manager, and physio Garrett Coughlan. Further appointments to cover the areas of S&C, medical, nutrition and psychology are expected to be made in the coming days.

Then Roscommon manager Kevin McStay with then Mayo manager Stephen Rochford with Liam McHale in the background after the 2017 All-Ireland quarter-final. Both Rochford and McHale will be in McStay’s backroom team. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Monday proved a long wait for all of them, including McStay, until word emerged that the county executive had endorsed the recommendation of the selection committee and recommended ratification to the county board meeting.

The successful candidate was clear in his optimism for the future and the areas where improvement would be needed.

“There’s always footballers in Mayo,” he said.

“It’s up to me to harness that and bring it all together and that’s what I intend to do. We weren’t in the Connacht final this year and that’s where we have to begin. I’ve always argued that the provincial championship is the best base camp for Mayo going into the All-Ireland.

“James Horan’s teams became dominant in the province and then started to appear regularly in All-Irelands.”

McStay is also looking forward to the new championship format next summer, which will see the Sam Maguire counties divided into four round-robin groups of four teams.

“The other thing that I’ve been looking closely at is if not a paradigm shift in next year’s championship, a completely new dynamic in 2023. If we can get a strong panel together, that will favour our group.

“If you can dominate the province and come out as a number one or two seed, chances are you have a great chance of progressing in the round robin. Once there all you want to do is get back to Croke Park and see if you can exploit the situation created. That’s my view and what we’ll be saying to the group.”

To compete in round-robin competition requires strength-in-depth as the former Super 8s proved when trialled in 2018 and ‘19. He sees that as a priority and a work in progress.

“The big challenge will be the creation of a formidable bench and getting that number up to 22, 23, 24. Nothing less and hopefully something extra has to be the impact when someone’s coming off the bench. We’ve work to do there. Our bench is not as strong as the other big contenders.”

He couldn’t say what the strong points of his management team’s application had been, as he hadn’t a chance to talk to officials but as a collective they are very experienced, which he felt might be significant.

“We’ve three intercounty managers in the group, as Stephen and Donie (jointly) have managed county teams in the past. Between the five of us we’ve coached or managed in all four provinces.

“Between the five of us, we’ve coached or managed 14 senior intercounty teams and coached or managed 169 senior intercounty championship matches, which is a lot. It’s a very experienced backroom team.”

It’s a challenge McStay is looking forward to after a lifetime’s involvement in Mayo football, as a player and All-Star in the 1980s to managing the under-21s to a Connacht title 21 years ago.

“It’s hugely exciting and a job I always felt I’d love to do.”

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