Big things are possible in 2012

Just before Christmas there was a brief interview with James Horan in the Mayo News where the manager had a few positive things to say about the new football year which is set to get underway the weekend after next, with the year’s action beginning in Ballyhaunis in the form of an FBD League clash with Leitrim.

In that interview, James struck a very positive tone when contemplating how his team might fare over the next few years. He said:

“The overriding feeling is that the first year was a start and we’ve a lot to do yet, but the feeling is that the potential is there. There is a realisation that big things are possible.” 

In that interview, James went on to talk about the satisfactory way that the players’ individual training programmes have gone over the last while (there’s been a collective training ban in place since the start of November, in case you’ve forgotten).  He also confirmed that a few new faces – Danny Kirby, Conor O’Shea and Evan Regan – have been given a taste of what life is like in the senior panel and that Pat Harte and Conor Mortimer (both of whom missed the whole inter-county year through injury) as well as Davitt’s duo Michael Conroy and Colm Boyle will all be rejoining the panel for 2012.

Every year brings its own challenges and opportunities and the year that’s about to begin is no different in this respect. From our perspective, though, what’s clear is that we’ll be starting it a good deal further along the road in terms of development and expectation compared to where we were this time last year. James Horan had a great first year and even though it ended with yet another decisive defeat at the hands of our old nemesis (one that was even heavier than our 2004 final defeat to Kerry, a match where we’d readily acknowledge that we took a thumping) most Mayo supporters seemed happy enough with how our 2011 championship campaign had gone.

And now we’re facing into a new football year, one in which we’ll hope to do at least as well as we did this year. Martin Breheny reckons we’re totally poxed with the championship draw we’ve got but we were certainly due a soft run to the Connacht final and I doubt if many would conclude there’ll be anything soft about a provincial decider against Galway in Pearse Stadium (which, on the face of it, would seem to be on the cards). Where Breheny is right, though, is that we’re all but guaranteed a place in the final twelve next year and we need to make sure we don’t look this particular gift horse in the mouth and instead ensure that we reach the 2012 All-Ireland series with a minimum of fuss.

Assuming we do make it that far – preferably as Connacht champions – then where do we stand in the pecking order? While the Dubs face into 2012 at the top of the pile, Kerry (with David Moran and, perhaps, Tadhg Kennelly back in the saddle) and last year’s champions Cork are sure to be snapping closely at their heels next summer. With the raft of retirements that they’ve had, Tyrone look set to slip back into the pack next year so there would seem to be a clear gap between the top trio and everyone else.

Donegal didn’t win many plaudits for their Neanderthal style in 2011 but most commentators still had them fourth on the grid at the end of the championship. With the element of surprise now gone and, perhaps, the backwash of the Kevin Cassidy affair still working through their system I’m not convinced that the caveman tactics used by Jimmy McGuinness’s lads will meet with the same level of success in 2012. Donegal will, for sure, still be difficult to beat next year but they can and will be beaten and I’d expect them to fall before the penultimate round in 2012.

And I’d also tend to agree with ontheroad’s assessment of Kildare’s overblown position in the pundits’ pecking order. Martin Breheny put them fifth (ahead of us in sixth) in his end-year table, despite another year in which they failed to win Leinster and were unable to make it past the quarters. In fact, under McGeeney Kildare have failed to win a provincial title and have yet to beat anyone outside Leinster in the All-Ireland series. They’d be my dream opponents in an All-Ireland final but I don’t expect to see them make it that far any time soon.

And what of us? As we head into 2012 I’d reckon we’re at the head (or very close to it) of the pack that’s chasing the top three. We’ve still got a fair bit of ground to make up to break into this elite group (a fact painfully evidenced by the way that Kerry eased away from us in this year’s semi-final) but, in joyously downing the defending All-Ireland champions Cork in the quarters, we showed that, on our day, we’ve got the potential to mix it with the best.

In this regard, it’s easy to see why James Horan is enthusing about the year ahead and the possibilities it might hold for us. As James Laffey recounted recently in his wonderful The Road to 51, it’s clear that the 1936 and 1950/1 teams feared no-one and it’s this absolute unwillingness to accept second-best that the current Mayo panel needs to have coursing through its veins as we face into the new year.

If we adopt such a mindset, then the worse thing we could do next year is to set our aim too low. Instead we need to go for it and shoot for the stars. We may not reach the target but what of it if we don’t? It’s not as if we’re not used to a lack of success in our annual hunt for All-Ireland honours. But if next year, in falling short of the summit, we inch that bit closer to it then we’ll surely set out on the 2013 campaign in even better fettle, with even higher hopes of success. And there’s always the chance, however slight, that we may not fail at all. Roll on 2012 and all it may bring for us.

12 thoughts on “Big things are possible in 2012

  1. Hmnnnn.. Happy New year WJ. If Mayo were to win Connacht this coming season it would be for the third time in four years according to my addled brain (I stand for correction …so feel free to shoot).

    The last time we did that was 1996/97/99 and before that it was 1948/49/50/51. We broke between 1989 and 1992 and between 1993 and 1996. So statistically and historically that is a tall order. Most would agree that since 1951 it was the 19996 outfit that came closest. I am not sure what the above tells me other than three Connacht titles in four years for Mayo normally heralds something big.

    Will we do it? I read a very good interview of James Horan by Mick Gallagher in the pre Christmas Western People. He certainly is up for it but a few crumbs dropped set me wondering. Horan alluded that they underestimated or failed to figure out Dublin in the league. That surprised me, I wonder who reports back to James on teams because a blind man had Dublins short kick outs at least figured. All except Mayo who leaked four goals before caution was thrown to the wind and Doherty and freeman cut loose.

    Indeed it was the loss of form of those two come championship that shocked me. Was Freeman sacrificed to enable Moran play a different game? As Kerry and Dublin have shown you need at least three forwards capable of hitting scores. We don’t possess three free scoring such men.

    Cillian O Connor once he doesn’t suffer second album freeze may be one answer. After that its shake the bag and look good in the league but then find the hard ground a different matter. I hope real leaders step forward, I hope that we drive on and allow the men who graced the scene from 200-2006 to slip away. they have done their bit but they are not the future. That includes Gardiner, McGarrity, Moran and Dillon. We need to break with some of the past. Conor Mort and Harte merit a shot but the future is the classes from 2006 onwards….to much scar tissue of defeat on the big stage with the rest. Only a thought though… pessimistic but that me after six decades of watching suns rise and rain piss down on us.

  2. to add to WJ’s assessment, I agree on any given day we can beat one of the top 3 but we need to put ourselves in a position to be in with a realistic chance of beating at least two of them consecutively. Either that or we get really lucky on both sides of the draw and end up with someone like Kildare ( indeed WJ it would make for a lovely change not to have to square up to kerry ) in a final we would end up winning by a cricket score.
    Ontheroad im all for freshening up the panel but only if we have better replacements.

  3. Well done WJ. That’s very positive reading there. With regard to Dillon, Moran, Conor Mort and Harte, these guys are still in their twenties and have alot to offer. The dubs and cork all ireland winners in the last two years had a mixture of youth and experience. It’s a receipe for success. Many Dublin and cork players were victims of severe beatings down the years and yet their desire to win and succeed led them to glory. It’s the same situation with the players I mentioned above. They are dedicated enough to have the will to win and that’s all that matters.

    Have no worries about Cillian o Connor. Second season syndrome doesn’t apply to a class act. There are a number of injuries in the Mayo camp at the moment. Long seasons for ballintubber, castlebar and other clubs have left some players crocked. Rest and time must be given to the lads who give it everything all year round. Let the fbd be used to bring on the new kids on the block if they are not involved with their respective colleges.

    I can’t wait for 2012.

  4. Whatever about McGarrity and Gardiner, Dillon and Moran certainly aren’t ready to go away yet. At the end of the day as ontheroad points out, you can’t beat scoring power, and teams need to play to get the ball to 3 options within 35 yards of goal, who can kick scores naturally. The Cork win this year was fantastic in the way the result was fought out, but I would love to see a Mayo team go out there and just ruthlessly outscore an opponent.

  5. happy new year everyone,2012 -i cant wait and i would say most if not all counties would be very nervous of us.patriot ur right rest key players in fbd and league if we can (division 1 survival will do rightly thank u jh)and have a strong fit and most importantly hungry for action team come may MAIGHEO-ABU

  6. Can’t wait for the whole thing to begin again in a few weeks , happy new year to all on the blog , I want another semi final appearance again this year and I think this team can deliver that at least.

    WJ yew tree hit the nail on the head when he said your blog is now an essential part of the season.

    James Laffeys book was delivered by santy this year , fantastic read so far.

  7. Happy new year to you all. I read James horans interview and he is a breath of fresh air, it sounds like he knows what he wants. Even though mayo played well against Kerry last year we still took a whipping, how does jh reverse that ? I suppose the junior b type mistakes made in midfield will need looking at, and finishing to goal could be worth looking at too.
    Final point is this, we’re Kerry fitter than mayo last August? They seemed to be and I wonder is that why we have this new trainer?
    Would you bet anything mayo will win all Ireland 2012?

  8. Yes a real good read the JH Interview, honest and straight talking. no hype.
    I’m pleased to see him record his disappointment at how we spent the last fifteen minutes of the kerry game and only hope the he has some tools in his kit bag…… or Mr O’Neils kit bag ( in whom he seems to have the utmost respect – hope its rewarded) to close that gap.
    We must remember of course that we are not moving forward while others stand still, all the top counties;eg Dublin, Kerry Cork to name but three, will also be as good and probably better again next year. That’s not to say we wont be best of all but if we are we have some serious work to do. Is Feidir Linn?

  9. Am I the only person who thinks a top 4 place in the league would benefit the team/panel? I know they will probably have challenge matches but there is a long gap between the 8th of April and the 24th of June when we play the winners of London/Leitrim to be fair. This ‘surviving in Division 1’ was ok last year. Let’s move on and try to do as well as we can in the league and do what Brian Cody did with Kilkenny hurlers. Just my opinion.

  10. You are right, mayo should be aiming at winning the league, even with rotating his panel there is enough power in them to beat any and all in division one. Look at the leads they gave to Dublin and donegal in the last few years and still reeled them in, ok, they lost to Dublin but the fact is they recovered a 14 point deficit, who else could do that? It’s simple mistakes being made in summer that they need to cut out or reduce. For what it’s worth I think Dublin will have a major hangover from 2011. Just getting to that level of training again when you have already reached the top will be difficult for them, Tyrone are not what they were a few years ago so in my opinion you really have cork and Kerry as realistic contenders for 2012. Mayos bect chance would be to be ready and play til the end of every game and try and get the flashes of brilliance to come out more than they are the moment.

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