Business as usual

I know some of you have been wondering where John Cuffe has got to of late but you’ll be glad to hear that he’s been down in Blacksod saving turf, from where he’s sent on the following thoughts on our upcoming All-Ireland semi-final clash with Tyrone. 

A big swell driven by a southwesterly gale has forced me to root out the last of my turf. I dried it the other day and now it heats the house in Glosh. I am reading last year’s Sunday Times where Jack O’Shea correctly predicted that not much was wrong with Mayo other than they got their lineups wrong for the previous Sunday’s final. Once corrected Mayo would be a team to be reckoned with in 2013 he stated.

Twenty-four years ago this month in 1989 Tyrone came to town to avenge a three-year hurt. It was the 1986 final against Kerry that itched their scab. “Unfinished Business” boldly blared one of their banners in the old Cusack Stand. That was their theme. In the rush to finish this bit of “business” they tripped over a banana skin called Mayo. A legend was canonised that day. Willie Joe, the other one, had a bandage wrapped around his head Viking-style and Mayo set out on a twenty-four year journey that awaits its final chapter been written.

Mayo Tyrone 1989

Photo: Mayo GAA Yearbook ’89

In between Mayo did what they do best. Play good football with a nod to its original purity. Derided and scorned, labelled with the tag of “bottlers”, Mayo simply dusted themselves down time and time again and got back in the saddle to defy their tormentors. Six senior finals intertwined with four league finals testify to the county’s right to be placed amongst the very best the nation produces.

If we measure success purely on All-Ireland wins then Derry and Armagh head the Yew men. But success is defined not by winning a big cup once à la Wimbledon or Wigan. Success is defined by the time you spend on the coal-face mining for the finest gold and diamonds. Whilst some counties fly meteor-like across the firmament and then burn out, Mayo hang around the top table with a monotonous regularity. Mathematically they tend to break water in late September every four years.

Success to some is beating Fermanagh twice, Armagh and London once. That would lead to a strategic review in Mayo. Those that really know their football, the paid national writers, see Mayo as occasionally a figure of fun. One scribe consistently had Kildare a top four side on the basis that they, Kildare, would never allow themselves to be ripped the way Mayo were twice by Kerry in 2004/06. Essentially in 2011/12 we were still paying for the sins of our past in that scribe’s eyes.

That Mayo had reached three league finals and maintained Division One status in this period didn’t count. That Kildare never once threatened Dublin’s monopoly never got in the way of a good myth. It took a crucifying from an out of sorts Cork last season to bring the nation to its senses and see those Lilywhite emperors for what they really were. That Mayo slipped to double finals last year and Wexford were Leinster’s second best team didn’t fit the narrative.

The scorching early summer awakened something in the Mayo psyche. Like a shower of rain suddenly stopping allowing the sun to light the landscape, the consensus deemed those Mayo boys to be a real threat. Losing All-Ireland finals and league finals told part of the story. Bad teams seldom reach a final. Take a look outside the usual suspects for silver to prove that. Mayo’s problem was that having got to the final supper, they developed an aversion to the meal.

It’s irrelevant as to why they performed as they did. What’s important is their appetite for a return to semi-final and cutting-edge final days never waned. That shows a metal and steel that “bottlers” never possess. For sure the constant trudge up Jones Road on the big day became a pain but then look at those who couldn’t find Jones Road without the aid of a SatNav and we see how lucky we as a county are.

Four teams await war. Three are recent winners but one persistently refuses to go away. The match that matters is against Tyrone. That seventy minutes will define us but not determine us. For once we go in as equals across the board not just amongst our own people. Tyrone will relish the battle but they will also mark our presence. We are no strangers to big day battle against them. The Red Hands and ourselves have locked horns across the grades across the decades.

Indeed our trophy cabinets are almost identical. They posses three Big Sams and so do we. Under 21 and Minor are similar and we comfortably lead them in league titles. They won’t be swayed by what is currently written about us. They will simply recall recent battles at under age and senior to know that they are entering a bear pit. Only once ever did I with confidence state we had a big game in the bag before the end. That was the last 12 game in 2008.

Mayo Tyrone 2008

Turning to my daughter as we opened a 4/5 point lead I said “One more score and their back will be broken”. Tyrone dug so deep that I felt the heat in the stand. In fairness Mayo battled and, but for the refusal to award us a free at the death, we would have taken them to a replay. The difference between the two teams that day was a guy who possibly would never made a Mayo team. That was “Ricey” McMenamin. He held the fort and ball in those vital last minutes and, most important, he held their nerve.

Today we have our own warriors to do such deeds. We enter the semi-final under our own steam. We need nor require any intervention beyond ourselves. Perfectly balanced to prove our worth. Seventy minutes granted to both sides in order that history might be met a month later. A point in the profit margin will do either side. For once it’s my belief that it will be us because the preparation has been done. The scales of battle are weighed and we will do our bit.

Tyrone came seeking “unfinished business” in 1989. In time they settled their debt. Mayo now have a bit of business themselves to settle. The last Sunday in August might be a good time to settle part of that debt. Seventy minutes to be battled over. We will give a good account of ourselves, be certain about that.

54 thoughts on “Business as usual

  1. “I dried it the other day and now it heats the house in Glosh”

    Are you seriously burning this year’s turf already? It must have even been a better summer than I have been led to believe here in the land down under!

    Great article by the way.

  2. Good man John.

    We will probably always be the bridesmaid though going to the wedding but never getting married until we win the damn thing (again) but for the first time in most peoples memory.

    Are you selling any of that turf by the way. 2 loads = 1 Ticket?

  3. Good to have you back John, that turf cuttin’ must be great to clear the head.

    A great reflective, scene-setting piece before the media frenzy kicks in. I remember only to well the ‘unfinished business’ and many of the Tyrone fans wearing t-shirts with the slogan emblazoned on them. They didn’t rate Mayo and paid for their over confidence so the one game at a time approach is the only way forward. It gave us Mayo fans great satisfaction to defer that business for at least another year.

    Also a great piece on our football heritage and our refusal to go away – a testament to our consistency and our tenacity and the very reason why we will prevail because we refuse to take no for an answer.

    Keep them comin’ John boy !

  4. The turf is the old stuff I hoked out and the good news is that the sun is out again here

  5. For once I am not overly concerned about the opposition. We just need to continue what we have been doing all through this years championship which is winning primary possession, securing secondary possession, running at the correct angles and making the space to take the scores.I don’t see any pairing around who can dominate our midfield in the matter of primary possession. We have all but elimated turnovers and every man on the field is a defender and an attacker when the occasion demands. I thought that the 1966 team was the most complete Mayo team I ever saw as it had only 2 weak links but last Sunday we had not a wekness anywhere except a little forgivable sloppiness towards the end when we wanted to rub their noses in it instead of getting more practice at taking our scores.
    This talk of who we wil put on Cavanagh is not important, what is important is that we continue to dominate possession and then it is Tyrone who have to come up with the plan B.

  6. “Success is defined by the time you spend on the coal-face mining for the finest gold and diamonds”
    Don’t Agree. Success at this stage has to be striking gold or coal.
    We have done enough mining at this stage.

  7. Good piece john Cuffe.

    Lets hope the scales are balanced in September and that previous losses are swept away by the tide of victory.

  8. Great reading John though late with the turf………”Having got to the final supper……..aversion to the meal” the hunger is greatest this year. Maigheo Abhu.

  9. Nice piece as always John but have to agree with facetheball,

    Coming back each year without Sam is perseverance not success.Success is winning it.

  10. John, well done.The breaks done ya good.Have to admit that some of your ‘God be with the good ol days’posts in the past,I found a little tedious,however I really enjoyed that eloquent piece

  11. Great piece John keep it coming. I always regarded a winner as “one that never gives up”. What other definition is there.

  12. Sorry pjmcmanus, to me , in football, a winner is the team who brings home the cup. Mayo haven’t given up for over 60 years but where’s Sam. It hasn’t been a pleasure going home with my tail between my legs all those years; all the disappointments.

  13. Just found your wonderful blog site by accident, what a great forum for us Mayo supporters to express ourselves. Wonderful piece of writing Mr. John Cuffe. Look forward to reading more of the same.

  14. Dont want to hear about being great tryers any more.that makes us a joke.lets go and win the damn thing …no excuses.Agree with Joe Mc .

  15. Mayo; a beautiful land; protected from the raging Atlantic by the pyramid that is Croagh Patrick and from the northern gales by the more rounded Nephin. It’s inhabitants always meek and subservient…….ENOUGH…ENOUGH

    Let’s try some Behan…Go out lads and beat the fucking shite outta whatever is left standin

    p.s John..nothing your writing

  16. Actually a Behan man myself. We were both employed by the same company once…30 years apart. He painted lighthouses and as a young man I worked in them.

    So Citog I agree with you and hopefully we will be inspired by Mayo over the next few months and step into modernity and leave the cloying stony grey soil of wherever behind us forever. Eff that…I am mixing Kavanagh and Behan now. Too many pints in Teach Una’s tonight, fine pub in Blacksod now ran by Mary and Andrew , continuing the work of the legandary Una herself.

  17. Can’t understand it………………….those that are not enjoying what this team is giving us at present and who show the most impatience for them to deliver Sam are also the ones who preach for us ‘not to look beyond the next game’……..’don’t underestimate Tyrone……Galway..Roscommon etc………….settle for a one point win etc.etc……………….Thank God for those of us who have relished each and every game so far and who (without arrogance) wants this Mayo to give it their all in every game and play delightful football and who has faith in this side (Coaching and playing) to defy the hand wringers and those of the losing mentality…………to go and express themselves on the highest stage………… be in a position to compete is achievement……… win is the ultimate bonus of that achievement………….to enjoy the run up is a pleasure ,never to be missed………….and the results and play thus far has been a pleasure…………….This side owes us nothing, it has in fact, restored a great pride ……… has given back to football fans the true way the game should be played and us as a County and the country as a whole should be thankful that there is a way to play this game and win………..and win big…………….it’s not down to the present players to shoulder the hurt of the last 62 years, that is the fault or short comings of those who went before, as they have ,from generation to generation put the burden of failure heavier on the shoulders of those following ……………that said what we have at present is a team of teams………..backs who defend, can attack and score, forwards who can attack,score and defend and a midfield who can do all…………..very, very close to perfection and we all should laud them and those who made it possible………………………………………
    Win or Lose forever MaighEo abu

    Thanks JC for your piece…………always insightful.

  18. Still need to win…..otherwise this team no better than the others.Thats the reality.agree with john cuffe…we need to leave the subservience behind.Its not popular but I would rather not get to a final if we cant win it.This team can so no excuses…no glory in being a good team…only glory in delivering.
    Too many happy with doing well…well Im not.Win or bust.

  19. All this reminiscing on Mayo football is doing my head in. Their were some great days for sure, with flags flying from every vantage point throughout the County, sheep,cows,cars and anything else you care to mention were sprayed or painted. Tickets when one was lucky enough to get one was like gold dust and to be treasured. The build up to the match was always something to behold, with the Western People and Mayo News keeping everyone up to speed on team news, interviews from past hero’s were a must and their word was gospel – “a sure it could be a tight game alright but if we play well and have a bit if luck we should do it”, was more or less the message.

    Suddenly after weeks of waiting the big day had finally arrived. The car or van which was cleaned inside and out and the tank full to overflowing from the day before was at the ready. Bags filled with sandwiches, bananas, biscuits and the flask were carefully packed in the boot along with coats and other essentials for the journey. the excitement was electric, one last check, a shake of the Holy water from the Mother and we’re on our way. We descended on Croke Park in our thousands, from all corners of the County and beyond, decked out in all our finery,with hats, scarf’s, jerseys and head bands, all proudly displaying the green and red of Mayo. This was our year, our time had come, we ignored warning signs, no place here for balanced opinions or second opinions, we were on a mission, to win Sam and take him home.

    The journey back home was bad enough but wakening up on Monday morning to the realization that after all the hype and all the expectations, another year had passed us bye and still no Sam. Yes indeed, those were the days…………

  20. Good piece…but we should learn from history. Tyrone overlooked the Mayo challenge in ’89 and it was another 6 yrs before they got back to Croke park!

    Let that be a lesson to all semi finalists branded with the favourites tag. Yes we have a reasonably decent record v tyrone but equally so have been on the wrong end of some very important championship encounters over the last decade. Their team consists of seasoned all Ireland champions together with the pick of all ireland minor champions from 2008 AND 2010…so beating Tyrone is our goal this time around.. It’ll be a big challenge

  21. Fellow Mayo supporters, worry not about complacency for the semi final. James Horan has these lads fine tuned and on a mission to take every game as it comes.

  22. PS. Great piece John always enjoy your contributions along with An Spailpin. Good to have you back we missed you!

  23. We really should savor these weeks ahead of us and make a big effort if possible to be there with a flag waving the lads on, they are providing us with great football and restoring heart after last years miss.
    The team is nearly at its peak, if they are good enough it will happen, if not, then we just keep going until they are. Either way we have to support them 100% and enjoy the ride.

  24. A lot of talk about Tyrones tough tactics–name me a team that won an All Ireland without a few rogues on their team. This Mayo team has steel but we also eed a bit of diverment. Lets do our talking on the field & banish our soft touch label.

  25. I really dont think we are a soft touch anymore. Look at the tackle by AOS on mcglynn, theirs no soft touch there. If you watch the game again keep a close on Kevin Mcgloughlin through out the game, he was constantly “thrid man” tackling and sticking sly little digs everywhere he went, along with slowing the ball down when gone out of play etc. In my mind he is a right little divil and it is great to see because we have been lacking that, also remember the connaught final last year when eamon o hara started mouthing off and pushing up against the players during a break in play,short time later Barry Moran absolutely split him open with a puck to the mouth and o hara wasnt long shuttinh his mouth then.

    I think this team is full of steel and each man capable of looking after themselves if things get dirty. Not to slag conor mort or anything, but it used to be embarrasing watching defenders throw him around like a rag doll, not anymore with these young guns thank god.

  26. citog-my sentiments exactly. Let’s go for the jugular now.Team is great; doesn’t matter who we meet; beat the shite out of them. Now is our time!!!

  27. Lads i think if we are logical about this what we have seen of this Mayo team is that we are a far better outfit than Tyrone.As i have said before Tyrone in my opinion have being carried through the league and championship by one or two players.Lets not worry about what Tyrone will do rather focus on our lads can do.There are 4 teams left in championship now.Of them if im being honest 3 if them have played games so far this championship where i felt they were there for the taken.Regardless of our opposition so far we have hammered them.So of all teams left now Mayo look the strongest.Kerry are going to give Dublin a good run .But i just cant see them coming within 8 points of us.Could it be possible that Mayo will go into an All Ireland final demolishing every team along the way? Sounds good to me lads.

  28. Boylesports has both Mayo minor,seniors favourites to win the All Ireland, is that a first at this stage of the year and when is the last time both reached the final in the same year?

  29. Actually dont think they ever did! May be wrong but one or other beaten in semi final like 99 and 85.

    Could be history making this year?

  30. How does people feel about Dublins performance through the championship compared to the league? I thought they were further ahead in league than now but then maybe its just how other teams have improved from league.I did wonder was it possible for the Dubs to keep up their from start of championship and hold that form right through to September.I don’t think they can.Maybe Jim Gavins made a crucial mistake in having them on top form far to early in league As for making history.Minors and seniors being favourites for all Ireland is a first in my memory. awh god the dreams.

  31. I think you’re right Mayomaningalway and I think as time slips by, their performances are regressing just a little. It’s very hard to peak for the right matches – Dublin could yet find that out against Kerry who never make that mistake!

  32. Minors and seniors both contested AI semi finals in 2012 lads, v Meath and Dublin respectively.

  33. 89… memories keep flooding back, with the help of this blog and some archive stuff.

    89 was memorable for winning our semi against Tyrone, but the year had memorable moments all along the way to the final.

    First up … Tuam against Galway. First visit to Tuam in ages. Mayo Connacht champions and regarded as aspiring All-Ireland possibilities. My memory of the game was that it was dog rough, with Galway aiming to kick the bejasus out of every Mayo player to show who was boss in their own back yard. At that stage Mayo hadn’t beaten Galway in Tuam since 1951.

    We know who the Mayo players were – other bloggers have mentioned those greats. But Galway had a few interesting characters: Tomas Tierney, Alan Mulholland, Kevin Walsh, and, the coming man in those days, Eric Elwood.

    As I said, match dog rough and Kevin McStay a particular target – he ends up with a broken jaw for his troubles. The Connacht Tribune is particularly good on this describing it in detail and naming the Galway player. The whole Galway approach – rough up Mayo and show them who’s boss. But Mayo recover from a poor start, a missed penalty to lead in injury time. Cue Gay McManus to pop up and score the equaliser. The citadel hasn’t fallen. On the other hand Mayo have drawn – glass half full.

    Meet Sean Meade afterwards who dismisses Mayo’s chances in the replay, or in any match they will play. Here’s what the Connacht Tribune has to say the following week (and when you read it, keep repeating: Mayo can NEVER beat those bastards often enough and by enough):

    “In Mayo this week there will be talk of the Tuam jinx striking again, but that county must face up to a more basic fact of life – they seem patently ill-equipped to cope with both the mental and physical pressures of championship football”.

    Mayo hammer them in the replay!

    The Connacht final in Castlebar … Roscommon… no problem really, once Galway are out of the way. Mayo the better team but only have a one point lead in the final minute. Don’t see any problem with Rossies last kick – about 65 yards out. But, Derek Duggan kicks a monster free to level it.

    In an uncanny parallel with ’13, Mayo have a new goalkeeper for the Connacht final. Eugene Lavin injured and Gabriel Irwin steps in – very effectively. Alan Mulholland Galway manager in ’13 was a key player in ’89.

    Another replay and again Mayo are on top in an agonisingly tense match. We should hang on here… and we would have, but damn it, Tony McManus goals in the last minute to go one ahead. Quick thinking … Mayo move the ball up quickly and goal. Disallowed! but free in and point for a draw. Jimmy Burke famously ‘knees’ a goal in extra time after Rossies led by 3 at the break. Padden tacks on a point and some more follow for Mayo who win by 4. Many Mayo supporters hear the result in the pub. Whatever about the quality, feel the nervous tension; feel it still in 2013!

    Afterwards in Coffeys of Lecarrow, one of the best post-match sessions in living memory. Noelie Ryan who (still) runs a drapery shop in Athlone holds court and gives his scathing opinions on every one of the thirty five or so players who tog. Manage a last pint on the way home in the Cat and Bagpipes in Tubber. Those were the days!

    TYRONE: To follow in part 2.


  34. Ah tis mighty to hear ye OLDER boys and girl memories 🙂 sorry couldn’t resist.But seriously it is and it seems like a different Ireland that ye speak of never mind a different brand of football.What i mean by that is i get from the memories that GAA matches were real battles.When i was a kid i was told to beware of the Meath lads.They were hard and hit hard.Indeed my first memory of this was the fight that broke out between mayo and Meath in 96 and big Colm Mc jumping on top of the Meath mans back.Was that physicality just part and parcel of the game? I never actually hear anyone saying ah it shouldn’t have being in the game or that the matches were too rough.So would it be fair to say that kind of physicality should be allowed in the game un like the cynical fowling we see today? Personally i wish football was played with the physicality that is in hurling.The ref blows up for some soft frees in Gaelic that wouldn’t be given in hurling.

  35. Terrific blog I have read.Great days and time has passed so fast.Through lifes visiscitudes Mayo football has been the anchor.That is what it means..a refuge from hardship ..a goal to be achieved.Please god we see it this year.This team represents all others…its a heavy responsibility.But they will take it now and pass it on to others.Thats the way of life.MayomaninGalway…wear the jersey with pride in alien territory.joking…

  36. Shag you catcol…..I had sworn not to write any more 1989 memories, but after reading your piece I had to add a few more

    Semi Final in 89, I was in the upper Hogan Stand. I had heard of but never met John Regan from Kiltimagh-a very famous Mayo supporter. We ended up sitting right in front of him and I never laughed as hard at a match in my entire life. The highlight was when he jumped over 2 rows of seats to greet someone he knew with an over exubirant slap on the back and almost sent them flying over the railing

    To say the county went mad was an understatement. Keep in mind, there were people 40 years of age ( or close to it anyway) who had never seen Mayo play in an All Ireland Final

    There was murder over tickets too…there was supposedly a huge street brawl involving dozens of people in one (if not 2) East Mayo towns.

    Some people didnt make if home from Dublin until the Wednesday or Thursday after the game, such were the sessions that took place.

  37. Jesus boys will ye stop with the 89 craic or i’ll never shut up with the stories. Do ye recall the way that doc carroll song was blaring out of every shop in towns all over Mayo, ”right boys fight boys till the job is done ,we haven’t won the final since the year of fifty one” ahh man it was pure madness.

    Was sat with all the Mayo stars in 89 in the skylyon hotel after the Tyrone semi, most had a good sup too, some even had two pints at a time, one in each hand. Great bunch they were, i was involved in a car accident later on that year and some came to see me.

  38. Great stuff lads……..Catcol, lovely detail in your 89 recall !……Amazing, I hadn’t known we didn’t win in Tuam since 51….until 89. No wonder there was arrogance there !!

    Just one Q……Am I correct in thinking that Tomas Tierney, the Milltown man, played senior county for both Galway and Mayo ?…….Tomas was on the famous Galway 83 team and sent off in the All Ireland final that year, the year the Dubs “12 disciples” (…..3 having been sent off) managed to beat the Tribesmen. if he was with Galway still in 89, when did he play for Mayo ?

  39. You are correct, MartyK – he switched to us in 1991 and played for us that year and the following year. It’s all there in the results archive on the site.

  40. We didn’t win tuam in 89 either Marty k, it was a draw, the hoodoo wasn’t broke till 97.

    I remember the replay in the hyde v Ross that year(89) , the drawn game in Castlebar not as well but are ye sure it was a Derek duggan monster kick , is it not 91 yer thinking of when we lost the replay. (just thinking out loud here , so don’t attack me if i got it wrong)

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