I don’t know if this is true of everyone but I find this weight of history bollocks about Mayo teams and finals to be just that – bollocks, I mean – because, fool that I am, I’ve approached every single one of them expecting us to win. Once the final whistle has confirmed the latest HQ defeat, it’s painful enough internalising all that negative shit but I find that 24 hours of processing is usually enough. The match is over, it’s done, we lost (again) and there’s nothing we can do to change this.
The fact that we’ve lost so many finals almost without interruption over the past twenty-five years isn’t, to be honest, something I give an awful amount of thought to on an average day. When another one gets added to the list, it obviously leads to another 24-hour pain in the hole but that’s about it. Mental scarring? Give me a break – this is sport we’re talking about and if we felt so weighed down by what’s gone before then surely the rational thing would be to give up trying altogether and become a 21st century version of the likes of Cavan and Louth. But we won’t give up and neither should we.
A good rant about a bad performance is always useful. I’ve certainly found it to be therapeutic and with 2,703 hits on this site yesterday (that’s more than Mulley and his bloody Fluffy Links for chrissakes), it appears that plenty of you have felt the same way too. Now that we’re got over the day after the day before and we’ve all had a good chance to blow off some steam, it’s time, I guess, to leave Sunday’s result where it belongs and to move on and think about the next match up ahead.
In doing so, though, I think it’s only appropriate, following Sunday’s debacle, to lay down a marker (this is the time of year to lay down markers, isn’t it?) for the championship season that lies ahead. Which is this: in this championship campaign, Johnno either needs to prove he has the capability to send out a team that can play to its potential or he has to accept that it’s time to stand aside and let someone else have a go.
This will be Johnno’s fourth championship campaign of his current tenure and, in that time, he has led us to victory in only one major match – last year’s Connacht final in Salthill, a game we should have won handily but only just managed to win by the minimum margin. Set against this, he has presided over an utterly shambolic 2007 campaign, a stuttering 2008 season and a hugely disappointing end to our 2009 championship where we came unstuck against a very mediocre Meath team.
None of this underachievement has anything to do with the weight of history and all that nonsense. The plain facts are that under Johnno we’ve been punching well below our weight in high summer and the issue that should be occupying all our minds now is how this fourth championship campaign of the Second Coming will go.
We’ve got a tricky draw in Connacht this year but if this team is properly focused and plays to its potential, then there’s no reason why we can’t retain the Nestor Cup. That should be our ambition for now and all our efforts should be focused on achieving this goal. What, if anything, lies ahead can wait for now – retaining our Connacht title is more than enough to be getting on with at the minute.
To be more precise, the only match that counts for us at the moment is the one against Sligo in Markievicz Park on June 5th. We know it’s one we could lose, having been beaten there as recently as 2000, and so we need to be 100% focused on what’s likely to be a full-on contest with Kevin Walsh’s Magpies five weekends from now. We may have a match against Galway to look forward to in McHale Park a few weeks after that, we may even have another day out at Croke Park later in the year but at the moment we’ve got the Yeatsmen to deal with and we shouldn’t be looking any further than this.
For my part, I wish Johnno and the lads all the best for the championship campaign that lies ahead. You’ll hear no more carping from me about El Jefe until our championship season is over and like every other Mayo fan, I hope to be looking back on a campaign where we played to our full potential throughout. I’m realistic enough to know that such a campaign is highly unlikely to end undefeated but if we go under having given our all against superior opposition, then that’s something we’ll just have to accept. But another year that ends in the underwhelming manner that our 2007, 2008 and 2009 seasons all did most certainly won’t be okay and it’s as well to make that clear now. Just in case, like.