It’s a week on from our demolition job on Donegal and I’m delighted to welcome Mike Kelly back into the guest slot to provide some thoughts on the win as well as on the challenge that Tyrone are likely to pose in the semi-finals.
Well, what a week we have all undoubtedly had. Eleven months ago we all felt the familiar pain of loss and defeat in Croke Park after Michael Murphy and Jimmy McGuinness led Donegal to an All-Ireland title at our expense. It was a case of another September final and another day of doom and gloom for Mayo. We had entered into a fourth decade of reaching the All-Ireland final and travelling back down the N4 empty handed with nothing but our thoughts and what ifs to fill the conversation.
1989, 1996, 1997, 2004, 2006 and 2012 would now stand together as seven (1996 is counted twice) days to forget. A week’s worth of defeats to keep us all tossing and turning at night wondering what if and why not us. Cork, Meath, Kerry and Donegal became the antagonists in all our nightmares. Not once did the defeated players manage to gain a measure of revenge on their tormentors over the years. The closest was the 1993 side who had the chance to beat Cork in the All-Ireland semi final in 1993, and we all know how that revenge mission went.
That was until now. Less than twelve months after the defeat in the 2012 final, James Horan’s Mayo team were afforded the chance of revenge on the very men who had stolen their dreams, and once again the meeting of the western seaboard neighbours would take place at GAA headquarters.
Cillian O’Connor, Donal Vaughan, Alan Dillon et al. would have carried the hurt of last year’s final into Croker last weekend. The performance we were all treated to by these heroes in green and red, partly because of this hurt, was something to behold. And revenge was sweet.
Gone are the nightmares of Donegal crashing the ball into the Mayo net, Cillian O’Connor erased the moment of being manhandled by the McGee brothers last year by running them ragged all over the hallowed turf and along with Aidan O’Shea ruling the skies over Dublin to such an extent that Dublin airport’s air traffic warden’s should have been warned beforehand, created new heroes for the Mayo faithful to speak of in years to come.
Now, that’s enough fawning over what happened and what has had us all on cloud nine for the past few days. The time now is best served looking forward the 25th of August and the Red Hand of Tyrone. An opponent we all know too well from various meetings of the sides at minor, u21, league and championship meetings since Mayo burst back onto the national scene in 1989 with a victory over the same opposition.
Ask any Mayo player of the last 25 years what it is like to play Tyrone and to a man they will all tell you that it is tough, that you will know you have been in a game when you leave the pitch after facing the Ulster men.
Since Tyrone’s own emergence as a force at national level in 2003 the two sides have faced each other on two occasions with Mayo dethroning the defending champions in an epic 2004 quarter final before revenge was served by Tyrone in the fourth round of the qualifiers in 2008.
John Cuffe, in his fantastic earlier post, mentioned how the only time he felt a game against Tyrone was over, in Mayo’s favour, before its time was that 2008 defeat. Tyrone dug deep that day and over the next two weeks we will all discuss what Tyrone might need to do in order to get over Mayo and what Mayo will need to do to counteract the Tyrone style of play. Donegal’s physical style was overcome with abundance last week but Tyrone will offer a completely different proposition.
The past week has been a phenomenal one in terms of feeling on top of the world. I can only imagine what it must have felt like for the players involved and for James Horan. Each one of them came out on top in their personal and collective battles.
Now, as a collective unit everybody in Mayo, player and supporter, knows that nothing is won in August and we have seen many a fantastic Mayo display at this time of year only to see it followed up by what could only be described as a shambles of a performance. Think Tyrone in ’04 followed by Fermanagh, think Dublin in ’06 followed by Kerry.
Two weeks out from the follow-on performance to the master class against Donegal, however, I do not believe we are headed for another shambles. Instead I believe this Mayo team are the best of my lifetime and over the past three seasons have proved themselves to be a top three side in the country. Mentally and physically they are stronger than past Mayo teams.
Tyrone should not and will not be underestimated by the Mayo players, management and almost as importantly by the fans. I have noticed that this year there is no hype surrounding the team after a number of top drawer performances. There is not even the #nohypeplease hash tag on Twitter. A #nohypeatall hash tag would be more appropriate but even that is a form of hype. As TV3 described it, revenge was sweeter. Tyrone will offer no revenge, just the chance to prove we belong in the September showpiece.
It is time to come down from Cloud Nine and look forward to the semi-final. No doubt it is going to be a fantastic day, particularly with the minors also involved against the Ulster champions Monaghan. Hopefully the weather is fantastic, a few pints and great discussion can be had in Bowe’s on the Saturday night and victory can be celebrated on the double that Sunday afternoon.
Mike Kelly blogs at http://mikesth0ughts.blogspot.ie/.