Saturday’s outsized win over Sligo, combined with the tankings Kerry and Donegal dished out to Clare and Down respectively over the weekend, has led to plenty of complaints about all that’s wrong with the current Championship structure.
These are sentiments I’d agree with wholeheartedly and are ones I’ve voiced myself – I recall banging on about this topic when the blog was only a few months in existence – but that isn’t the purpose of what I want to talk about now. Instead I want to place Saturday’s whipping in its historical context, both in relation to other clashes against Sligo and lopsided provincial results in matches involving us more generally.
Thanks to the new search tool in the results archive here on the blog, this kind of research is a piece of cake. So, then, pull up a seat and I’ll serve up a slice or two.
The first thing to note was that Saturday’s 3-23 to 0-12 thumping wasn’t the worst Championship defeat we’ve inflicted on the Yeats County. It wasn’t the second or third worst either. In fact, Saturday’s twenty-point hammering was only the fourth biggest margin of victory that we’ve enjoyed in the Connacht SFC over the Magpies.
You have to go back to 1949 – an era when we were really flying – for the worst mismatch between the two counties in the Championship. That game was a Connacht semi-final tie played in Ballina in June that year, which we won by 7-10 to 0-2. That translates into a 29-point victory cushion. Peter Solan weighed in with 5-2 of our tally that day.
Most of us weren’t born when that game was played. Indeed, for some you, your parents probably weren’t even alive then. That isn’t the case with our second biggest provincial Championship win over Sligo, which took place as recently as the Connacht final of 2015. That game took place in Hyde Park on a day when Aidan O’Shea helped himself to a personal tally of 3-4 as we ran out winners by 26 points, on a scoreline of 6-25 to 2-11.
Fewer of you will have been at MacHale Park in 1987 when we pasted the Yeatsmen by 3-17 to 0-6 in the Connacht semi-final. I was and I recall that we prepared for that game thinking it’d be a rematch with Roscommon who’d shocked us the previous summer. But the Rossies lost to Sligo in the opening round in ’87 and we took our frustration out on the Magpies instead.
Things didn’t end well for us that summer, though, as that flat-track bully performance was followed by one of the most dispiriting Connacht defeats I ever witnessed. That was the 0-8 to 0-7 (yes, you read that correctly) loss we suffered in the final to an extremely mediocre Galway team. Who said the Eighties were fun?
Looking at provincial mismatches more generally, those 1949 and 2015 wins over Sligo also stand as the two biggest victory margins we’ve recorded over any county in Connacht. In fact, that’s not strictly accurate as the 3-28 to 1-8 win over New York in 2004 (does that even count?) was also a 26-point margin of victory so it sits level with the 2015 win over Sligo.
After that comes the 7-6 to 0-3 win over Leitrim at Carrick-on-Shannon in 1973, the 5-12 to 1-0 victory over Leitrim at Tubbercurry in 1933 and the 0-24 to 0-1 win over Roscommon in 1921. In total, there are currently thirteen Connacht games where we enjoyed bigger victory margins than the one we came away from Markievicz Park last Saturday. The earliest one of these took place way back in 1907 when we dismantled Galway at Claremorris by 2-16 to 0-1.
I guess the main point to note from this bit of historical meandering is that provincial hammerings – not just involving us – have been taking place for decades. That doesn’t make the current structure right – it’s anything but right, in fact it’s downright awful – but it does show that we’ve put up with these kinds of Championship mismatches for a very, very long time.