A work in progress

After yesterday’s defeat, we now need to look to the future. Here’s ontheroad with some thoughts on what we achieved in 2010 and where we go from here.

Willie Joe will do the forensics and I will loiter at the scene of the crime. Before the Cork game James Horan said he looked forward to that game. It would tell us where we were. The prize for winning was to sit the honours paper…play Kerry. James, his team and we the supporters now know exactly where we are.

Do you know what? We are actually in a good place. A season where we might have drowned in London lasted to late August. That was an achievement. A season where we beat the All-Ireland and double National league champions twice was an achievement. A season where we drew with Down, last year’s All-Ireland finalists, in the league and took the highly rated Dubs for three goals was an achievement.

Winning a Connacht title was no mean feat. But the biggest achievement of all was dispelling the horrible self-induced fog that lingered since late 2006 until Longford last summer. Four seasons of wanton nihilism where the grand plan centred around lowering expectations (which was admirably achieved by the way) were banished by a young manager not prisoner to gloom and doom.

Beating Cork cleared Mayo heads from an inferiority complex that we should have no truck with ever. Now that it’s gone, let’s keep it at bay. The east coast writers will spend the next seven days telling us about how we lost and what we did wrong. Amongst them are men born in Westmeath, Longford, Leitrim and other such footballing frontiers. In slamming Mayo they will fail to address the sadness that encapsulates their own native bailiwicks.

Jack O’Conner, cute Kerry man that he is, marked the referee’s card. Watch out for Mayo borderline tackling, he keened. I never knew that Kerry and Jack were so fragile over Mayo men whom might hit the odd shoulder. Imagine had James Horan said such a thing? Liam Hayes would have turned puce. Kerry for all their élan, grace and know-how don’t like it up ‘em. Jack made sure Mr Coldrick was aware of this.

Mayo did not lose because of the referee but Mayo have a right to know why they were not recipients of such largesse themselves. The linesman was inept twice from my vantage point allowing Kerry men to get a step wrong side. But what matter, it’s only Mayo. I am blue saying this and I will say it again: until the Mayo County Board loudly and publicly do a Jack O’Conner on it then we will get nothing from the officials.

James Horan saw his team well beaten in the second half. He will learn from that. He and we know that we have perhaps nine players of a top calibre. James has the hard task of keeping those boys motivated, challenged and sharp through an FBD and league. That’s where the hard yards are made and that’s where James will earn his corn.

Two great managers, Sean Boylan and Mick O’Dwyer took a shears to their backroom teams and playing personnel every now and again during their great days. James will do the same. Competition across the board and the slaughter of a few sacred cows will ensure August football for us again next year.

Kerry told us three things. (A) We have got to take every chance we get. (B) That they are exquisite foot passers and highly accomplished hand passers. (C)That they will punish every mistake we make…unmercifully. Short-term, James will eradicate some of our shortcomings. Long-term, the Mayo County Board need to urgently ensure we have a coaching system aimed at the eight and nine year-olds to ensure we have Darran/Declan O’Sullivans along with the Goochs of this world in the years to come.

We stood up on Sunday. We got beaten but the ship is steaming in the right direction. We need only look at the marvellous result gained by the Tipperary minors and see what they achieved. In a province containing two sharks called Kerry and Cork, their young men blew tradition out of the water. Is féidir linn chomh maith.

34 thoughts on “A work in progress

  1. I think that some recent Chinese leader when asked to comment on the impact of the French revolution said that is is too early to say.

    I feel the same about yesterday. There is no guarantee that we will improve, that we will find a few additional missing pieces, that we will eradicate the mistakes that cost us yesterday. If we are back at this stage of the AI next year, then we can reflect on 2011 as being the start of better things. The 2012 National League will be hugely significant as a sign of progress.

    After the depths we plumbed in 2010, getting us out of that is this teams biggest achievement, and for keeping football interesting into August, the full team, players and management deserve all praise.

    Finally I have to disagree about the ref. I havent seen highlights of the game but I thought we were lucky not to end up with 13 on the field. He got one very bad decision wrong (Gooch picking the ball off the ground) but otherwise I not sure that I would complain too much.

  2. Good piece On The Road – the only think I would slightly question is the suggestion about good coaching structure ensuring we will have the equivalent of the O Sullivans and Gooch. You cannot coach what the Gooch has!
    For us it has been a good year. It took JH this years league to figure out who was good enough and who wasnt. In next years league should focus on bringing on a few more but mostly it should focus on getting the lads established in their positions and learning to work together as a team. And who knows – even without players of the obvious talent of the Gooch we might just prove too much of a handful for the big names.
    We fight on!

  3. You can’t say for sure we’ll be back next year. Just look at Down. Comeptition is fierce out there. Cork will be back stronger next year and Dublin are building up huge momentum. I think they will beat Donegal with a bit to spare and will beat Kerry in the final (hopefully). Two years without a All Ireland may force some of the Kerry lads into retirement 🙂
    My player ratings

    Hennelly – Two great saves at the start but it went downhill for him after that. He is way too fond of leaving the goal and it cost us a point and it could have been more. Not sure long term. I would trust Clarke more.

    Higgins – Did well on Darren O’Sullivan. Hit a dirty belt in the second half which we have not done for years.

    Caff – Best game ever for Mayo. Has he finally come of age for Mayo.

    Cunniffe – Not a great day for him on the gooch, still he has had a very good championship.

    Feeney – Poor really. Would have been more suited to the less mobile Donnacha Walshe. I thought he should have been switched or subbed much earlier.

    Vaughan. Excellent. Mayo’s MOM. great engine. Have we found the new Nallen?

    Trev – Did quite well. Had some great hits. I wonder was he 100 percent fit. Why was he not put in the half backs much earlier in his career.

    SOS – Poor I’m afraid after the heroics against Crok. Was left on too long.

    AOS – He never stopped trying in fairness to him. He made a few greats runs. A much better year for him and hopefully he will get better. Not afraid to hit the digs either.

    McLoughlin – A funny game for him. Did well playing very deep but was badly missed in the forwards as well. Would like to have seen him push on a bit more.

    Dillon – Good first half but faded badly in the seond half. He must be absolutely sick of the sight of Kerry.

    Moran – Another great game from Andy. IF we had won he would have been a shoe in for player of the year. Unlucky with the goal atempts. Guaranteed all star.

    Varley – Very good first half but the O’Sullivan got on top as the good service in to him dried up. A good year for him.

    Freeman – Poor I’m afraid. Was lucky to stay on for as long as he did. Not a great champsionship for him. He can do a lot better. Needs to be stationed near the goal. Lost out the field.

    O’Connor – A class act and will only get better. Great goal and free taking. What a prospect.

    JH – Did quite well yesterday. Could have made some changes in the backs and subs earlier. Hopefully he will learn from that. A great year fro him.

    Willie Joe – A definite blogging All Star and big chance of the blogger’s blogger of the year award and the free car from Opel

  4. Good ratings facetheball. Top analysis on all the players yesterday. And especially the man in charge here.
    Only addition I would make is the Mayo fans. Fabulous guys & gals we have although I was very disappointed towards our attitude against Galvin when he came on.
    Mayo have nothing against Galvin. He hasn’t done anything personal against us and the reaction yesterday was unmerited and actually fed into the players mindset I thought.
    And as a result maybe some of our lads on the pitch forgot about the big picture and got distracted because of our fans reaction. Need to cut it out.
    As fellas often said to me wouldn’t we love to have Galvin on our team ?

  5. The Galvin thing was ridiculous. Why were we booing him. It was pathetic. He is a great player and has never been in the bad books with Mayo. That was embarrassing alright.

  6. Gooch was also booed when he was lining up a free under the Cusack stand in the first half. This was certainly counter-productive. We shouldn’t need to stoop to that level. As much as I am sick of seeing Gooch take us apart for the past decade, he has never hit a Mayo man with a low blow that I remember or come out bad-mouthing us in the press.

    Looking to next year, we need to blend a few more new faces into the panel. There may be chances for some of the minors of the last few years and maybe some of the discarded players from this year might find the necessary attitude after a summer looking on from the sidelines (Kilcoyne, Parsons etc.).

    Things are beginning to look a little clearer after a couple of days reflection so I think that the lads will be back rearing to build on this years progress next January.

  7. Good player ratings. Perhaps Keith should’ve been moved onto the Gooch, though Tom dived in a couple of times when more sensible approach would’ve been to stand-off. Can’t do that on someone like Gooch.

    On the crowd issue, I think we possibly could be getting a bit too serious. Its a day out for a lot of people who are out for a bit of craic. Galvin is the ultimate panto villain and gets that response from fans up and down the country. I’m sure its water off a duck’s back to him. Harmless fun in my opinion.

    Can’t and won’t defend booing of free-takers though.

  8. good piece ontheroad and good ratings facetheball , well things are never guaranteed, will we even get out of connacht next year ? can we maybe put our brutal qualifiers record to bed next year if not ? this run has whetted the appetite and i hope it is the begining of something for us,

  9. I was sitting directly in front of that Gooch free and the sorry truth is that he dived to win it – hence the boos. As soon as our defender made contact (can’t remember which one now), he actually flipped up his heels to make it look like he’d been floored. That wasn’t his only occasion of doing that in the match either.

  10. Yes the Gooch is the ultimate performer ,knows how to take scores , get free..and free’s Didn’t enjoy watching him at the time but we have to admire and learn.
    I was very impressed with Lee Keegan who in his short time on the pitch got stuck in and got forward to kick a point with confidence, one for the future at wing back.

  11. W.r.t Gooch diving – sure there’s nothing new in it. How many times have you seen forwards dive in and then raise there arm to pull someone down on top of them ? The penalty against Cork was a classic where arm went up to catch Ger Cafferkys and then down with Caff on top.

    Also it’s been going on for years. A man told me once about our Eugene McHale back in 1981 how he would grab a defender and then bend over and pull the fella over him. From refs point of view it looks like the defender is climbing on top of him, hence a free is awarded.
    Padraig Joyce is another who was great at winnng frees like this – pulling defenders down on top of him.

    To win a handy free is an art and in fairness to Gooch he is only doing what he has to for the team to win.

    The Galvin issue is different though. He may be a panto villian but he feeds off this. His attitude might provoke the crowd but this could be deliberate and whether we like it or not he also provoked our players as a result they lost focus.
    It also roused his own team and supporters. Nothing like seeing one of your own being antoganised to rally the troops.

  12. The Gouch is the Jurgen Klindsman of GAA. (W.C. 1990) He has perfected the art of drawing imaginary fouls. Every time he is tackled he does a dramatic jump/hop like he is being hockied out of it. I saw him do this numerous times on Sunday. The Ref totally falls for it – it was like you can tackle anyone but the Gouch.

    Is this part of the new “skills” game or is it just cheating. I think it is cheating. He is a hugely talented player but this is an aspect of his game. He gets away with it (like the steps for the free) so he will keep doing it.

  13. That was another one from Sunday – the amount of steps allowed to be taken was outrageous. Although perhaps we’re getting off point considering the article above :p

  14. And it’s not just the Gooch either, Darran is pretty good at the theatrical falls as well. To be fair to them, all forwards attempt to do this and Conor Mort has tried a fair few times for us but if memory serves me right, Conor’s success rate in getting anything off refs was a hell of a lot lower than the Kerry lads the last day.

    I thought we had to work much harder than them to get frees. Andy had Marc O Se swinging out of him like a monkey for his third goal attempt and it had to be a free in but we got nothing for it. (By the way, Andy thinks it should have been a penalty). Also, I was at the Hill end of the lower Cusack close to the pitch and in the second half the Kerry backs gave a master class in pulling, pushing, tugging and nudging. I don’t think we got a single free for any of this. Then there was Donaghy’s blatant push into Donie’s back late on from which he got a point. I know we could have had three red cards ourselves (Donie’s belt on Maher seemed the most clearcut one, Galvin went down too much like a dying swan when Aidan elbowed him but Keith was lucky as well to get away with his knee in the ribs to O’Sullivan).

    In the end, I suppose it’s swings and roundabouts. The ref didn’t (unlike Joe McQuillan v Meath in 2009) alter the course of the game but Coldrick certainly fell in my estimation after Sunday’s performance.

  15. Hi Willie Joe. I suppose the question is what are we going to do about these theatrics? All the great teams have or had their own magicians at earning frees. Mayo can learn this art. It’s just cuteness. In fact I’ve no doubt that Jack O’Connor, Gilroy, Harte etc had many a session with their forward unit over the winter months perfecting the art of fake fouls. While it’s illegal it certainly pays dividends. With a reliable freetaker now in Cillian O’Connor he will convert. with regard to Paul Galvin the panto villan it won’t be long before we create one ourselves in Mayo with our new & long overdue physicality!!

  16. if you cant beat em join em i guess. Anybody seen “St Patrick” at games lately? He seems to have gone AWOL or is i just that im in the wrong place at matches. Has Horan dropped him given the fact that he clearly wants us to be taken a bit more seriously maybe?

  17. Ted, on my way out of Croke Park on Sunday I remarked on St. Patrick’s absence. I don’t think he was at the Cork or Roscommon matches and I’m not sure of the Galway match. I hope he is o.k.

    I would like to add my thanks to the team for a wonderful 2011. Talking to people here in Mayo, everyone is very positive – no “same old Mayo” comments. It’s a long empty period until the start of the League. I wish they would start the League in October, as heretofore. Still, some good club matches coming up.

  18. I think he was at the Galway match, but the last time I definitively saw him was when I was sitting near him at the Dublin match and the Gardaí took his sign off him! He was on crutches then.

  19. Its a bit rich to complain about the Kerry divers without mentioning Conor Mortimer!

  20. wj mentioned mort`s poor sucess rate at diving.where i sat [upper cusack] some booed but most shouted at the ref because of the amount of time he was allowed to take that free from under the cusack.does anybody remember cillian beign blown up for taking too long in terrible conditions against ross.i think the boos were directed at the ref.

  21. Forgot about that idiot referee and O Connor. Fair play ed.k. By the way, if we decide to be whiter than white, hard on ourselves because we stick a shoulder or fist into the body of an opponent then we will be the eternal nice guys whom everybody fancies throwing a leg over.

    Meath especially, Tyrone and Armagh pushed the boat out. Donegal would be warming up for the Mary Of Dungloe festival or whatever if they didn’t set out this particular type of stall.

    Not alone did Tom Langan give it to the opposition but he planted the great writer John Healey over some slight Healy wrote. They passed each other coming out of Barrys hotel and as they did Langan planted John with a hay maker.

    An old friend of mine played in the 1961 Minor final. The then Mayo chairman warned them to play football and under no circumstances were they to retaliate or inflict any damage on their Cork opponents. In the first minute one of Mayo’s best players Connachton I think , had his nose rearranged.

    Nice guys win nothing and nice guys get broken noses. If the biggest sin we ever commit is that god forbid Conereen might tumble and win a handy free then ….god help us and our brittle and fragile mind set.

  22. I also wonder how nothing came of the Gooch pushing the linesman, I can’t help but think if that was anyone else including some of his own teammates that player would be looking at not playing in the All Ireland final now.
    Yes, he does have to have a whole range of weapons in his armory to be as successful as he has been, including some of the unsavory ones such as diving, but there is NEVER an excuse to put your hands on officials.

  23. which game was it recently where the forward came barreling in , scored and unable to control his momenttum clattered the umpire and landed him on his hole as he ran round the goal ? very funny , i think that could be excused

  24. I’d just like to add my tuppence worth by saying thanks to James and the team for taking us far further than we had expected this year. It wasn’t a 9 point game on Sunday, but the god’s weren’t on our side. Dives and all Gooch was stunning to watch on Sunday and we have to set Kerry as our benchmark and we are not that far behind. Roll on the FBD and a few experiments with some of the younger lads coming through the ranks. I think we are in a better place than we have been in my lifetime (no guessin now)!

  25. Please put video footage of Gooch diving on the site so we can investigate them in order to clear his name. Most times when Gooch is fouled he is normally about to inflict far greater damage. Also lets have a look at Cillian O’Connor’s pick up before his goal, clearly off the ground.

  26. I’ve already put two longish video clips of highlights from the match on the site, Seamus (you’ll find them under the ‘2011 Results’ tab above) so investigate away. If you believe, however, that Gooch only starting diving to win frees last Sunday, then there’s little more I can say to help you – it’s been part of his armoury for years and he’s such a legend at this stage that refs will generally give him the benefit of the doubt regardless of how easy he goes down. You’re wrong, by the way, about Cillian’s pick-up and regardless of how he gained possession he still had to beat two men before scoring the goal. In any event, don’t you have an All-Ireland final to be getting ready for?

  27. Not withstanding that the Seamus lad is a Kerry troll, I thought at the match from where I was sitting that he picked it off the ground – it’s at 3.33 in this video:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pBSaSDvp7t0

    Unfortunately, whoever put it up edited out that particular one where Gooch dived and was booed, it just went straight to the free kick.

  28. Well, i have not switched on the internet till this evening since last Sat night. I couldn’t be arsed reading all the , it’s been a great year, this team will be back etc etc.

    I thought all that too and it was first thing i said when i landed into the hotel after the game, ” this team will be back here “.?

    I’m not so sure now though, let’s be honest here, we beat a tired Cork team who were missing a few stars on the day, Galway and Ross are pathetic as pathetic goes.
    I don’t believe Kerry burst into top gear against us, i also believe Kerry are weak at the back. Andy Moran has had an all star year but his shots at goal last week were all at the desired height a keeper wishes them to be. Apart from Andy we haven’t any players who would cement their place in the first 15 of Cork/Kerry or Dublin.

    It was an enjoyable year i suppose, we are a county who will always get the odd trip to croker and the odd big win but as far as Sam Maguire goes, there is many a Mayo men in the clay that never seen it and there will be many many many more. Take it or leave it, it is the truth, we haven’t got it in us

  29. You could be right Sean and you might be wrong. Your analysis has the same weight as the rest of us followers.

    Still I would hate to boil it down to the last sentence “we haven’t got it in us”. We have it in us alright, maybe we have been reluctant to let it rip but I see movement and an awakening.

    For sure many Mayo people have not seen Sam come, and perhaps the only thing we are certain about is the uncertainty about the quest. Dave Brady said in 1998 that he could see that particular Mayo team winning an All Ireland and he wanted a piece of the cake. It didn’t happen but he gave it an almighty shot.

    If we , with five appearances in finals since 1989 (21 years) feel hard done by , what must the man from Longford, Kildare, Laois, Westmeath, Roscommon, Wicklow, Antrim, Monaghan,Limerick, Wexford, Tipp, Leitrim, Clare and Fermanagh to name a few, feel.

    If I had a euro for every time I said “never again” in regards Mayo and if I had a dollar for every time I called them the most god awful names , I would be able to treat all six in onthroads house to a big feed in MacDonald s.

    I don’t and though the welcome has been worn in regards the Mayo senior team many times , a part of me always believes it might be next year. If we don’t have that, then we got nothing.

    I am just tired, don’t know if its from the lack of sun all summer or the energy drained from the last few weeks from the football. Maybe its just older age but Seans post has dimmed me. Chin up son, things will get better.

  30. Sean Burke says we have not got it in us – but he did’nt say what we have not got. It can hardly be basic talent as it is unlikely that birth place alone decides who can play football. Gooch has a natural talent but I’m quite sure it’s the effort he has put into developing it which has made him the player he is. Kerry’s tradition and history means that no child can be taken for a walk without passing a few houses with All Irelands as part of the decor. The near certainty that a young Kerry footballer who gets on the Senior panel has of winning an All Ireland is a powerful incentive to put in the effort. Only once since 1900 have Kerry had a gap of ten years beween wins [’87-96 inc], one of eight years [1915-23] and one of six [63-69]. Contrast that wwith the oftentimes derision a Mayo player endures. Anyone remember Ciaran Mac giving up in despair? For a young player to be hearing that Mayo people just “have not got it” is hardly encouraging. Diehard suggests [22 Aug] that you cannot teach what the Gooch has. Maybe, maybe not but you can develope to the fullest the talent which is there if the committment is also there. Committment is also something which has to be developed and encouraged. Some of the disparaging comments about Mayo players dowwn the years [Conor Mort et al], usually by people who could hardly kick a ball out of their own way hardly help.
    I am a long time away from Mayo but I wonder what effort is made to help and keep on track players between Minor and their early 20s. Can anybody inform me?

  31. A beating is a beating and I am never one to down play a beating or hide behind excuses. I try to deal in hard facts as best I can even if they are sometimes uncomforable.
    I watched the game tonight for the first time since Croker and the truth is Mayo were far far closer than I had thought during and after the match.
    A couple of things jump straight out that were very significant in losing the game:
    1. We made a LOT of really silly mistakes most of which were punished (Alan Freeman is just one example)
    2.We fluffed a number of excellent scoring chances including at least three goals (Andy Moran & Donal Vaughan) and two points (Aidan O Shea and Cillian O Connor).
    3. Mayo were a match for Kerry physically and attitude wise but a bit behind in cuteness and score-taking
    4. They only pullled away in the last 7-8 minutes making the score look bad. Mayo could have upset the apple cart as late as 65m when Andy Moran’s shot hit the post. Had that gone in the lead would have reduced to three and it would have been one hell of a nervous finish for Kerry.
    5. And then of course there was the Gooch!

    In the past I would have been deeply skeptical about our prospects of winning an ALL Ireland. However, I have to say that I believe there are now very solid grounds for optimism. This team is indeed very different. OK it is far from the finished article and we need a couple of new faces. But if we start to cut down the basic errors and start putting away our chances these lads will win an All Ireland or two in the coming years.

    Dont forget – You heard it first from die_hard!

  32. The really dispiriting things for me was that despite knowing exactly what was going to happen we again gave up two goal chances in the first 3 minutes even worse than 04 & 06 and that within one minute of getting our own goal we immediately allowed it to be cancelled out at the other end. This smacks of a lack of ruthlessness and a basic lack of football ‘cop on’.
    I note that the same Mayo player was involved in all three incidents.
    Galvin & The Gooch were allowed to have way too much influence on proceedings with the Gooch’s goal being particularly badly defended.
    We did not get our hands on enough primary possession in the midfield area with the situation getting even worse with the arrival of our midfield substitution.
    We need to deal with these issues that are within our own control before talking about a work in progress. We need to keep focussing on the goals and the goal chances that are being created against us & more clinical use of our own chances otherwise we will be forever talking about ‘works in progress’ and Sean will be proved right that we dont indeed ‘have it in us’.

  33. History is never wrong. What is wrong is that we fail to heed it.

    Kerry have won , I think 36 All Ireland’s. We have won three . Tyrone have won three. Derry have won a single won. Roscommon has won two.

    To beat the Kerry’s of this world history has to be torn up. Not an easy thing to do. Russia, Britain and the US has failed to read the tea leafs in Afghanistan for over a hundred years.

    I suppose what I am trying to say in a long winded way is this. It takes time to overturn a return of 3 titles in 128 years.So we will always be a work in progress.

    What has cursed us has been a desert and an almost feast. Between 1951 and 1981 , 30 years we won Connacht tiles in 1955,67 and 69. Between 1989 and this year , twenty one years we played in five All Ireland senior finals.

    We live in a state of almost giddy madness. Decisions taken or not taken make the difference in being the possessor of eight senior titles as opposed to three. Between 2004-06 we might have won two senior titles and 2 U21 titles.

    Had we done that there would be bus loads down studying our methods. We didn’t but neither are we terminal. It would not take an awful lot to clean the engine.

    Joey and Sean are correct. The criminal act of the stupid mistakes we make have hide bound us. However I do believe that James Horan will eradicate them. I also believe the media who have access to the masses in Mayo and this site here has a role to play. Let the players, county board and manager know what we want and what we expect. I believe we have made a start.

    To understand today we have got to look at history again. Tyrone are/were seen as serious operators, so too are Armagh. Only in 20 years time will we really see where they stand because then time will have placed them in context. Then our three senior titles might be as valid as Tyrones.

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