As we embark upon a fresh Championship season, the hearts of the Mayo faithful have inevitably began to refill with hope. This has undoubtedly been aided by a successful end to the Spring. It was one that saw Mayo bring to an end an unwanted string of Croke Park final losses. It also brought to my attention something which I found quite interesting.
The League final win represented not just a Croke Park victory, but against none other than the historical bogey team. For the second meeting in a row, Kerry fell victim to Mayo in Croke Park. This got me thinking, when was the last time Kerry actually beat Mayo in Croke Park? 2011. That’s right, Kerry haven’t triumphed over Mayo in the home of football since James Horan’s fledgling year with his Mayo side.
When Mayo met Kerry in 2011, they were very much a team on the verge of a breakthrough. The previous year had proved very disappointing, crashing out of the qualifiers against Longford. James Horan’s tenure almost got off to a bad start, cutting things very close against London. After that though, his young team surprised many knocking out defending champions Cork in a quarter-final. This coming off the back of a Connacht title success.
Going into the semi-final, so early in the development of the squad, they realistically stood no chance against such an experienced Kerry side. That’s how it turned out in reality too. Kerry ran out a fairly comfortable victory and progressed to the final.
That is the last time Kerry beat Mayo in Croke Park. Since then the sides have faced off four times in Croke Park. Although it must be admitted that there is the asterisk of two draws and that infamous night down in Limerick.
One thing can be undeniably taken from it, however. From a team who used to fear the sight of the green and gold shirt, things have certainly changed. Mayo no longer fear Kerry. In fact, I don’t believe they fear anyone.
The last few years has shown us a team who truly believe they can beat Kerry. It isn’t just with regards to Kerry either, this is a team who is truly starting to believe in themselves. They believe they can go up against any team in the country, and see out a victory on the biggest stage of all.
Is this truly a sign of things to come? It’s far too early to tell. However, one thing that is certain is what we’ve known along. This is that neither James Horan nor a single player involved with that panel is about to throw in the towel any time soon.