Clarke Is Driven on by Mayo's Ford Focus

Article excerpt


THERE is a very famous system coming to Croke Park on September 23. It causes gasps, but much more importantly it gets results. The last time the creative use of a labour force caused this much of a scene Henry Ford had dreamed up the assembly line. Donegal and their ways and means have left football's sages all talked out.

The Mayo system has received less attention, but in the modern game teams don't chance their way to the biggest day. Stylewise, it is more orthodox than that employed by Jim McGuinness, but in its devotion to established methods like pacey inside forwards and foot passing from distance, it is revolutionary in seeing the future through parts of football's past.

Just as significant to the progress of the Connacht champions has been the side's mental system. Player after player echo the backroom team in speaking about process: Mayo used to get dizzy thinking about the reward -- the Sam Maguire -- and then 18 years old when David Clarke had his first cruciate injury.

mess up the pursuit.

Now the journey is everything and an old line of Ford's fits the system established by Horan and accepted by his players.

'Life is a series of experiences, each of which makes us bigger, even though it is hard to realise this,' said Ford. 'For the world was built to develop character, and we must learn that the setbacks and griefs which we endure help us in our marching onward.' Now listen to David Clarke. 'I've had a few injuries. When you're on your own in a gym, lonely mornings and lonely evenings, when you get a bit older you think about things differently.

It's great when you're young and in college you can turn up and play football, you can go out and you can do everything.

'But when you have a job and you have a relationship at home and things like that, you have to look at things a bit more seriously and put more effort in. If you're going to do it there is no point in being half-hearted in doing things.' Making peace with that process has been the outstanding achievement of Mayo under James Horan. It is not as visibly arresting as three Donegal defenders tearing possession out of the arms of an isolated, doomed opposing forward, but it is in its own way an innovation just as important.

Winning the All-Ireland has blinded and beguiled teams from the county for decades. Now, the target is still there but there is an appreciation of the hard work needed to reach it; Mayo are improving through the effort not the ambition. …