A few thoughts on the championship draw

So, less than a fortnight after taking part in this year’s All-Ireland final, last night’s draw for the 2013 championship already has us focusing on next year’s action. Maybe it’s just as well – no amount of ruminating will change the scoreline of the final that was played on 23rd September this year but next year’s prizes are there to be grasped if we’re up for it. As ever when it comes to sport, it’s better to be thinking ahead rather than reflecting back on what might have been.

Galway in Salthill in a preliminary round in late May was obviously the draw we didn’t want. The chances of ending up in this predicament was, though, clearly very high – it was one out of only three possible permutations, to be exact – and I’m not surprised I ended up winning that tenner I wagered in a private bet yesterday afternoon on who we’d get pulled out of the hat with.

We’ve been here before, of course. Eight months after our last All-Ireland appearance in 2006, our first championship outing of John O’Mahony’s Second Coming was a May 2007 trip to the seaside to face Peter Forde’s Tribesmen. Both of us had had good league runs – we beat them in the semi-final on the way to defeat in the NFL decider to Donegal (my, how things change) – but although we entered that Pearse Stadium contest as strong favourites, we left it roundly beaten and in a shambolic state, with our championship ending in early July that year in a crushing defeat to Derry in Round 2 of the qualifiers.

But that was then and it’s important not to get too hung up on the similarities between the draw we got in 2007 compared to the one we’ve now been handed for 2013 because there are also plenty of differences between the eras.  The 2006 final loss was a truly humbling one whereas the one less than two weeks ago was far from that. After the Kerry thumping we had a change of management and the start of the mantra – that would still be continuing as an irritating whine four years later – that we were a team in transition, whereas now James Horan will be aiming to undertake no more than minor adjustments to his preferred fifteen for next year. And, most importantly of all, the current manager won’t be out electioneering next May and will, we can be sure, have his mind firmly focused instead on the challenge that Galway will present.

He’ll need to as well because I doubt that the second year of Alan Mulholland’s Five-Year Plan for World Domination includes getting his butt kicked by Mayo in the first round of the championship. I still can’t understand how Galway’s 2012 championship challenge collapsed in the spectacular way that it did but the working assumption we have to make is that, regardless of this year’s summer implosion, Mulholland will come to the table next year with a significantly improved outfit. It’s impossible to imagine that Galway will be anything like as poor as they were this year and, given all those minor and U21 All-Ireland medalists in their ranks whom Mulholland knows so well, you’d have to think that they’ll be far, far better in 2013.

In fairness to Johnno, one of only positives aspects of his disastrous second stint with us was his team’s ending of the Salthill hoodoo in 2009 and so we shouldn’t have the same trepidation in pitching up at that horrible dump that we would still have had back in 2007. But, as Mulholland will well know, contests between Mayo and Galway take place in a unique kind of atmosphere, one that doesn’t give a tinker’s curse for the form or exalted position that either side might happen to take into the contest. We’ll no doubt travel to Salthill next May as warm favourites but it won’t be a shock of earth-shattering proportions if we’re left taking the road home via the qualifiers.

Galway in Salthill in the first round of the championship always has been and – one hopes – always will be a significant test of Mayo’s mettle but it’s a test we should embrace with gusto. If the team that James Horan has created has genuine ambitions to become the best in the country in 2013 – and, as someone said so presciently here on the site after this year’s final, if we want to win Sam then that’s what we must first become – then we have to be prepared to take on and take down not just Galway but Cork or Kerry or Dublin or Donegal too. As the saying goes, to be the best we have to beat the best that’s put in front of us.

Mark McHugh said after the final that it was the win over Kerry in the quarters that gave Donegal the belief they could go on and win the championship this year. Before they got to tangle with the game’s aristocrats, however, the new champions first had to wade through the swamps of Ulster and it was the confident manner in which they did this that sent them into the Kerry match on such a high, with each successive win being laid as the foundation for the next challenge.

At the risk of using another cliché, what won’t kill us in 2013 will make us stronger. A win over Galway in the opening round would set us up nicely for a home semi-final against Roscommon, which in turn would be good preparation for a repeat showdown with Sligo in the provincial decider. If all that goes to plan (and if my holiday plans also come to fruition, by the way, that’s another Connacht final I’ll be tuning into from afar but that’s another day’s work) then we’ll be well ready for whatever challenge might await us at Croke Park on the August Bank Holiday weekend.

But first and foremost we need to think about Galway in Salthill next May. It’s going to be a long eight months.


18 thoughts on “A few thoughts on the championship draw

  1. Winning 3 in a row in Connacht has proved so elusive for us for such a long time. Now with that draw it will be just as difficult as ever. Very lob-sided draw. Sligo and even Leitrim must be delighted. Galway now favourites for Connacht in 2013 in my opinion. Surely they will have improved from the shambles against Antrim last July.

  2. I would dearly love to see London in the Connacht final. It’s not outside the realms of possibility – ambush Sligo in London and they showed this year that they are there thereabouts with Leitrim.

  3. At least it gives both Galway and Mayo something to think about, Alan Mulholand should be pleased, it gives his Galway side something to plan for. His team apart from the Rpscomon match hardly set the world alight, Galway need to build, they were under All Ireland 21 champions a few years ago, should have some good talent coming on stream. But I don’t know how of them lads are still even in the country. They will need to do much better in the National football league, I know they got very close to Kildare to make the 2012 semi’s and promotion. But just how good are Kildare. They were highly rated this last number of years but failed to beat anyone serious contender it in that time, Well OK Tyrone in the division 2 decider, another team that were hardly at their best in 2012. In 2013 Galway should at least get promotion to have any of hope of challenging Mayo in May. Cant give them much of a chance otherwise because Division 2 is not that strong. There is a gap developing between Division1 and the rest. At this moment its hard to see any of the provincial winners coming from other than Division 1 or those promoted to it. Mayo’s first ambition should be to stay in Division 1, hopefully find one or two players that can make a contribution and maybe challenge for the lLeague title again. We might be kicked out of the FBD league, seriously hope that does not happen. I wish Galway all the luck in the world in getting promotion, I miss that fixture in the league hopefully they will be competitive next May, but there my good will ends, I don’t remember us doing a 3 in a row. its time we put that right.

  4. On the other side of the draw i think Leitrim will reach their first Connacht final for 13 years. They will beat New york then will face Sligo whom they have beaten in their last two Connacht championship games at they will be at home to Sligo as Wicklow,Laois found out this year nothing easy in Carrick on Shannon.

    So we could be looking at Leitrim v Mayo Connacht final revenge for 1994?

  5. hi guys ;
    well it could be a minefield; but i think mayo should get past galway;
    & then roscommon ; & the on too another connacht final with a record -breaking 3 nestor cups in a row & also create history for mayo too go one ahead of galway [44]. mayo [45]!!’ mayo abu!!!!.on the march [like mcalpines fuseilliers]; to croker!. c;mon mayo ; let;s get sam in 2013!. & put to bed once & for all these past results. mayo..mayo.. sam maquire;s coming too mayo!!!!!. up mayo !!!!.

  6. Yesterday’s draw gives us a very difficult route.
    But – if Mayo are serious about being All Ireland contenders next year, then they should be capable of beating Sligo, Roscommon and Galway. None of these teams are really seen as All Ireland contenders – Mayo need to step up.
    They will earn this Connacht crown – Galway will be delighted to draw them so early in Salthill and I certainly have horrendous memories of ’07, ’05 and ’03. They will be lying in wait for them – but Galway are still a team in transition and even their most ardent supporter wouldn’t have them down as potential All Ireland champions. If Mayo are following the Donegal prototype as so many would have us believe, then they will be defeating all these teams. Donegal didn’t fear anyone in their own province – Mayo have to step up to this mark too. Use the league to find a few new players, coax other ones back maybe (Aidan Kilcoyne would be on my thoughts here) and then prepare for Salthill.
    We await the next few months eagerly.

  7. I’m going to post this message under two different headings. This and the Championship draw.
    I’m incensed. All this talk about how Galway cant be as bad as they were against Antrim and the Rossies, under new management ,will kick on from their under age achievements.
    Well, if that is your train of thought, then why aren’t you saying that Mayo will be a wounded animal from their ALL IRELAND defeat and wipe the floor with the opposition??
    Its time Mayo people became proud of how well our county has done, we are all too quick to scruitinise our defeats.
    Mayo came second in the League last year, FACT!
    Mayo came second in the All Ireland last year, FACT!
    Christ above, I was at Croker a few short weeks ago and every Donegal man, woman and child was confident of them winning,not because they had a history of success over the last number of years, not because they had a great understanding of the game, not because the press was saying so, but simply because they believed.
    Forget past failures simply look at where the current team and management have risen to. Is 3 in a row possible? Too right it is because the only way we wont achieve this is if we dont believe. I have kids and teach them that they can achieve whatever they want, the only person that we stop them from achieving what they want is them.
    Mayo fans really need to learn how to walk with their chest out and truely believe that what we set our minds to is achievable. We have achieved more than most and we will join that top table this year, give me one positive reason why we wont.

  8. Saint pat,
    That’s mayo people for you.
    I for one agree with you, could you see Sligo or Galway beating the dubs in Croke park or beating Kerry in croker in extra time?
    Mayo are playing at a high level than the rest in Connaught, complacency is the issue. Kerry and cork have the same issue in Munster where limerick and tipp have the same capabilities as Ross and Sligo and not a long way behind Galway either and might catch them on a given day.
    Carlow drew with Dublin in a televised Leinster winter league game a couple of years back with a strong dublin team on duty, complacency is what James Horan has really to guard against.
    If any team was to come strong in Connaught it would be Galway, they have a big pick of quality and even with that they were happy to see an old boy like p Joyce coming on in a game to try and rescue them.
    Someone said in an earlier post that Mayo need to peak to beat Galway, I think they are comfortably better than Galway this year and probably next year too.

  9. Galway are not even favorites with their own bookie Mayo 5/4,Sligo 11/4 Galway 7/2, Roscommon 8/1, Leitrim 25/1, London 25/1, New York 200/1

  10. Gentlemen in my opinion Galway are favourites. On plenty of occasions before this, Mayo have gone to places like that awful Tuam stadium and Pearse stadium with a “better” side than Galway and have come away well beaten. Gone in there well fancied and with high hopes only to get ambushed and sent packing. I’m not talking about bookies odds. However the odds quoted above of Mayo 5/4 and Galway 7/2 are ringing alarm bells for me. Christ, its not like we are going to a happy hunting ground next May. Those awful maroon shirts will be waiting for us in Salthill and they will not want us going 1 ahead of them in the “Connacht titles won” list. I rest my case.
    Also interesting to keep in mind that the losers of Donegal v Tyrone Ulster quarter final will be possible opponents in an early round back door game. Possible rematch of Mayo v Donegal and a chance for us to continue our impressive record of knocking out reigning All Ireland champions. However 3 in a row in Connacht would be a lot sweeter and i would be delighted to be proved wrong next May/june/July.

  11. €10 into McHale Park. Was at both matches – – Crossmolina/Ballintubber was puke football apart from one brilliant long rage point from Danny Geraghty that effectively decided the match. Mac never got into it – may have been injured and went off before half-time. Ballagh/Knockmore match slightly better – the 2 Kilcullens and Barry Regan did a lot of damage. Going on today’s form I would fancy Ballagh to take the title from Ballintubber who appear to be missing Cillian greatly up front. Hope there was no bloggers in Bowes last night – – much damage done WJ ?

  12. I was at the matches today as well. I thought Ballintubber didn’t deserve to win. Crossmolina were much the better team all through and led well into the second half until a fortuitous goal brought B’Tubber back into the game. Ciarán Mac went off just before half time with what looked like a groin injury. Another member of the O’Connor clan was brought on as a sub – Diarmuid, the youngest of them, I think.

    Ballaghaderreen looked a well balanced strong team. I think they should beat Ballintubber in the final on 21st October. I don’t know why the Kilcullens aren’t on the Mayo panel. There was an Andy Hanley playing at centre half forward for Ballagh. I don’t know if he is related to Pearse, but he was handy enough.

  13. Was at the matches also yesterday and agree with a lot of what is said above. One thing that wasn’t mentioned though was the performance of Aidan Kilcoyne for Knockmore. In my opinion (as a neutral!), by far the best player over the two matches. By half time in the second game he had scored all of Knockmore’s 6 points, 3 from play and 3 frees. He is exactly the type of FF/CF that the Mayo Seniors are missing. Don’t know what his situation is but Horan and co should be doing all in their power to get that guy on the panel for next year. He has the raw talent, strength, and ball winning abilities that the Mayo full-forward line is missing.

  14. i wonder would aiden kilcoyne return for a year or two to see if he could help end the drought, if he and pearse hanley were in the mix it would be interesting.
    the thing is that they would need to be back very soon to blend with the panel and style of play,wouldn’t they?
    And what about the Kilcullen fellas in ballaghadereen? are they good enough? they are supposedly big strong lads, is that right? as forwards or what?
    for sure, we need one or 2 new forwards to be able to change the style of play on a given day, from the ping pong over the bar to a direct pass to a ff that can score a goal when isolated on his marker.And a bigger, muscle man for the fb position when the need arises, not for every game but when a team posts a rugby player there, mayo need to be able to counter it. Ala brady on donaghy in 2006.
    If Horan gets the 2 or 3 players needed into the panel soon and training it will make 2013 a year we could really look forward too.

  15. I agree seanod87. I had just posted my comment when I realised I had forgotten to mention Aiden Kilcoyne. He was excellent and seems to have bulked up a lot. One of the Kilcullens was at centre field and the other at wing forward. They both seem very strong and well able to impose themselves on the match.

  16. Christ lads, how can anyone seriously be talking about who would be favourites in a match next May. Form, injuries and a whole host of other things would have to come into it. You can seriously talk about it until next March realistically.

    On a completley seperate note, heres an important reminder that they only way you can fail is if you dont keep trying. Heres an example of a team that kept banging on the door until it eventually opened. fair play


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