London don’t belong in Connacht – famous last words, eh? But, as they say in those romcom movies, this wasn’t about them – it was about us. We were worse than awful today and could have had no complaints had London succeeded in pulling off what would have been one of the great championship upsets of all time. Nineteen wides, countless errors, utter cluelessness both on and off the pitch: we certainly deserved to lose today but somehow – and I’m not sure I know why it was – we did manage to drag ourselves away from Ruislip with the win that now sends us forward to a Connacht semi-final clash with Galway at McHale Park in four weeks time.
For a variety of reasons, I’m not going to pretend to do a proper match report here. These reasons include (a) the lateness of the hour at which I’ve started writing this (it’s around 10.30 pm), (b) I’m a bit pissed, having just got back in the door from the afters of a First Communion, (3) there are plenty of other perfectly good match reports out there already, notably Colm Gannon’s one in the Mayo Advertiser, as well as the ones on RTÉ.ie and Hogan Stand, (4) I wasn’t in Ruislip today and (5) tomorrow is Monday and all that it holds. As a result, I’ll confine myself to a few comments of a general nature about today’s championship opener for us.
The first is to congratulate London on a superb performance today. They could and more than perhaps should have won and while this may have been as much to do with our ineptitude as anything else, they really went for it today, especially when they sensed they were onto something. It sounded like they deserved an historic win today and it’s only right to salute their superb attempt to achieve what would have been one of the great GAA championship upsets of all time.
From our perspective, though, it has to rank as one of our worst ever championship performances. We were shit last year against Sligo and Longford and we were equally poor today. Nineteen wides is an horrendous statistic but what’s worse is that our performance today was utterly flat with the bulk of the starting fifteen failing to perform. Did we train at all for this game? Did we view it as a nice weekend away with a challenge match thrown in? I dunno but, whatever it was, we simply didn’t perform at a level that would win a junior club game, let alone an inter-county senior championship match.
We seemed to suffer power failure all over the shop. The backs appeared even more ropey than usual, midfield was bailing water for much of the day and, with a few notable exceptions, the forwards weren’t all that hot either. And we had at least six freetakers, one worse than the next. When will we learn about the need to sort something as basic as this?
Alarming as our on-field performance was, our effort on the sideline wasn’t much better. The decision to play a sweeper against London was always questionable but to persist with this strategy for the best part of an hour when it was screamingly obvious that it wasn’t working was utter madness. James Horan, James Nallen and the rest of the lads have more footballing smarts in their fingertips than I could ever hope to have in my entire body but, for fuck’s sake lads, what was all that about and why the fuck did you not move faster to sort it out?
And then there was Johnno on the radio, full of self-important pompous shite about what we needed to do to rescue the day. Yeah, like the sort of stuff we needed to do last year in Markievicz Park or in Pearse Park. Or in Croke Park in 2009 and 2008. Or in Celtic Park in 2007. You’re a politician now, Deputy (with the brass neck to go with your new station) so why can’t you do us all a favour and shut the fuck up about football?
Amidst all the wreckage, though, it’s worthwhile to salute the guys who dug us out of the hole today. Pride of place in this respect goes to Andy Moran who weighed in with six points, all of them important and whose extra-time barrage all but single-handedly won the day for us. Kevin McLoughlin made a crucial difference when he came on – not least in getting the score that took the game to extra-time – and Alan Dillon (who went off but then came back on again in extra-time) used his guile to effect more than once. Trevor Mortimer also contributed to the win, not least by lamping over a point from over fifty yards shortly after coming on.
There’s not too much more to be said from this standpoint. We flirted outrageously with humiliation today and yet we somehow managed to escape with a win, albeit one secured with bugger all of our modesty intact. What will this mean for Galway in four weeks time? Very little, I reckon, given the unique microclimate that surrounds this fixture but you’d need to be at the very optimistic end of the spectrum to believe that we’re heading anywhere this summer.
Put bluntly, it appears we have far less talent than we perhaps might have thought we have both on and off the field right now. Maybe we’ll win Connacht (but I doubt it), maybe we’ll find our way to the All-Ireland series (but I doubt that even more). Some may look at today’s match and see it as an escape but I can’t help but think we’ve had another peek at the abyss.
Mayo: Robert Hennelly (0-1, a ’45’); Tom Cunniffe, Alan Feeney, Dermot Geraghty; Richie Feeney, Donal Vaughan, Chris Barrett; James Kilcullen (0-1), Jason Gibbons; Aidan Campbell (0-1), Andy Moran (0-6, one free) , Alan Dillon (0-4); Trevor Howley, Alan Freemen (0-1), Jason Doherty (0-1). Subs: Aidan O’Shea for Gibbons, Kevin McLoughlin (0-2) for Campbell, Cillian O’Connor (0-1) for Howley, Trevor Mortimer (0-1) for Barrett, Peadar Gardiner for Dillon, Alan Dillon (extra-time) for Doherty.