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.