long awaited

McStay: 'It is half a madness. It is half a disease. We think we can make a difference'

The new Mayo boss was speaking at a press night in MacHale Park, Castlebar.

LAST UPDATE | Sep 14th 2022, 7:47 AM

THE JOB WAS a long time coming. In fact, at one point Kevin McStay was convinced this day would never arrive. 

In MacHale Park, Mayo GAA’s HQ, he sits for his official unveiling as the new senior football manager. At home, finally. Was it a dream he’d given up on? 

“Being honest, yes,” he admits.

kevin-mcstay James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

“I’m 60 now. I’d had a few goes at it and I had no sense there was going to be a vacancy. I thought James would stay on for another year or two. He was doing really good work.

“Okay, they had a season that they would have wanted a bit more out of perhaps, but he was doing a lot of transition with young players. The squad was getting strong again.

“Mayo lost two games in the championship, to Galway and Kerry, so it’s not like they are out in the desert wandering around or something.

“There is still a very strong group there. So I didn’t see a vacancy in it and I was kind of moving on with things.

“But then once it came, it’s my county. It’s where I was born. It has a massive attraction to me as a person because I always felt I could bring something to it. I didn’t want the job just so I could say I was the Mayo manager.

“I want the job because I feel I have a lot to contribute and I feel I can make a difference and the guys I have around me I really feel we can make a difference.”

With McStay, there is no talk of transition. The message is that they are ready to roll. Not that there is talk of Sam Maguire either. He is determined not to hand out the stick that he will inevitably be beaten with if success isn’t immediate. It is a four-year term, after all. 

Still, the inevitable question comes. Did he take the job to win the All-Ireland? 

“I’m not going to go there. I’d love to win the FBD and take it from there,” McStay responds. 

Well, why take it? 

“It is half a madness. It is half a disease. We think we can make a difference. We feel we can. That was the lure of managing Mayo. As I said, it wasn’t to tick a box.

“It was the idea I could bring something different that might make a difference. I don’t know if it will or not. We have to wait and see.

“The first measure I will have of how we are doing as a management team is did we get everything right for our pre-season. Have we the right people in the right places? Have we built out our backroom team? Are we pushing hard as we head for December?”

Delicately handled. So far, so good. The same is true for the make-up of his management team. The all-star ticket that attracted plenty of headlines has been expanded. Defined.

McStay in the hotseat. The coach and assistant manager is Stephen Rochford. Donie Buckley’s role is coach and selector. The other selectors have additional responsibilities, Damien Mulligan for club liaison, Liam MacHale for the U20s.

Conor Finn is the head of athletic performance. Evan Regan is on board as a nutritionist and the renowned Niamh Fitzpatrick is back in the role of psychologist. She was previously involved with the All-Ireland winning Wexford hurlers in 1996 and worked with Mayo under Rochford in 2017. 

For now, he is methodically working his way through a list. There will be further additions to the backroom team. He has been travelling the country to watch club championship fixtures and has already met with players.

On the injury front, Cillian O’Connor has undergone a scan after suffering an injury in a Ballintuber game last weekend and they will know more this weekend. The expectation is Tommy Conroy ad Ryan O’Donoghue will be part of a rigorous pre-season. 

McStay is up and running. Is he enjoying it? 

“I am meeting people and they are very positive and nice and curious, but I know when the ball goes in, on the 29th of January all that changes very quickly too,” he says with a laugh. 

 “You won’t blame me if I continue to enjoy the honeymoon for another little while.”

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