Connacht final one to be endured before it can be enjoyed

I might still be off-duty but An Spailpín Fánach isn’t and I’m delighted to welcome him back into the guest slot to preview this weekend’s Connacht final. 

If Mayo think of Sligo as Cinderella at the ball Mayo are guaranteed to lose the Connacht Final. Sligo 2012 should be thought of as one-half rattlesnake and one-half tarantula, and I mean that as a compliment to the Yeatsmen.

It had looked like the sun had set on Sligo’s golden generation. The team of the past ten years were Sligo’s best since the Mickey Kearins’ era, but they left a Nestor Cup behind in 2010 and defeat last year to Leitrim in the first round of the Connacht Championship and then to Wicklow in the first round of the Qualifiers suggested that the window had closed.

And then this year Sligo come along and perform an act of supreme giant-killing in Salthill. A team that was dead and buried against the form team in Connacht, maws still dripping with Roscommon blood, and in the form team’s home patch. Sligo had no hope in the world.

But not only did Sligo win, Sligo won pulling up. Galway weren’t beaten. They were hammered. Hammered. Sunday’s game is more about Sligo than Mayo – was that win over Galway a fluke, the final sting of a golden generation or the announcement of a totally new era in Sligo football?

Seán Rice in the Mayo News reckons that there are nine changes from the team that beat Mayo in 2010 and the team that beat Galway in June of this year. That’s an astonishing turnaround for a county with Sligo’s resources. Eamon O’Hara’s time is over, but Sligo don’t even appear to be missing him. How can that be?

The only way that can be is if Sligo are suddenly mining rich new talent. The youth system in Roscommon has been the talk of the province in recent years but it doesn’t seem that they’ve been sitting on their hands in Sligo either.

Adrian Marren was the star of the show for Sligo in Salthill. He racked up 2-6, 1-4 from play, at full-forward and, if he does it again on Sunday, it’s surely goodnight, Vienna for the county Mayo.

Marren was able to do his damage because Sligo gained the possession in midfield necessary to feed him. If Mayo win midfield, Marren and David Kelly wither on the vine with nothing going up to them. If not, if Sligo break even at midfield or win it, then it’s game on.

How good is the Sligo midfield? The Galway midfield isn’t outstanding, so that could have given the Sligomen a false gloss, but it’s hardly a secret that if Aidan O’Shea were fit he’d be first choice in midfield. O’Shea is an outstanding player and his loss is not to be under-estimated. There will be a lot of pressure on Barry Moran and Danny Geraghty on Sunday.

If the Salthill result wasn’t a flash in the pan, then the Sligo inside-line is stronger than Mayo’s. Mayo have been looking for a top-notch inside-line for as long as I can remember, but they’ve never quite put one together yet. Walsh, Donaghy, Cooper. Meehan, Savage, Joyce. Brogan, Connolly, Brogan. There’s no equivalent line in Mayo’s recent football history. Three years ago, we were salivating over a full-forward line of the Killer, the Pillar and the Thriller. That hasn’t quite gone as planned.

Of course, the way Mayo currently play isn’t based on the horse-it-in school. The only thing is, it’d be nice if they could horse it in every now again, to add depth to their attack. Alan Freeman was the one bright spark on an otherwise miserable day in Markiewicz Park in 2010. He’s not starting now. That’s how hard it’s been for Mayo to forge an operational full-forward line.

Mayo’s defense is as good as it’s been since Maughan’s team of the 1990s, but those lads had an outstanding midfield in front of them to take some of the strain. Very few teams are held to 0-0 in Gaelic football; if the ball comes in to the Sligo forwards, they will use it. Will Mayo’s run-based attack be able to keep pace with Sligo if Marren and David Kelly start lighting it up?

Experience, tradition and depth of bench should see Mayo ahead by a point or two by the end, unless there are goals. Both teams are set up to score goals, and any goals scored in the Hyde will have a shuddering impact on the game. People in Mayo were worried that they would have no test until Croke Park in August when Galway went down. They should disabuse themselves of that notion straightaway. From a Mayo perspective, the Connacht Final is to be endured before it can be enjoyed.

An Spailpín Fánach blogs at

35 thoughts on “Connacht final one to be endured before it can be enjoyed

  1. If there is just a point or two at the end of the game, then we can forget about making an impact later in the summer. Remember this Sligo team is a division three team that was beaten by Leitrim last year. Unless I am wrong our ultimate expectation from this team is more than just another set of Connacht medals.

  2. cant concur with that at all sixpoints up , john cuffe the last day said much the same but in my opinion you just need to get over the line in any given game ,

    look at kerry beating sligo in the qualifiers a couple of years back , they went on and won the whole thing , just win it , everything after that is jam.

  3. Amazing how just having won ONE match in championship the expectations are already high.Have we learned anything at all over the years.What evidence is there this team is going anywhere? Disrespect Sligo at your peril.Also Mayo has been a division one team for years and what has that guaranteed.Offaly Derry Donegal Meath and others have won All Ireland’s while not always playing in the top division.
    There are a lot of problems with this team as exposed by Cork. There are at least ten teams left in championship who would not fear Mayo and they have a point. For Mayo to win anything the runaway complacency of team members managers and supporters must be curbed until we reach an All Ireland and then ironically confidence building measures will be needed at that time.
    In relation to team a subs bench is just that. Subs because they are not believed to be good enough for first team. Mayo subs bench have not ever delivered. Which Mayo school has won a Hogan cup lately. When did minors last win an All Ireland?
    Let us all get real. Beating Sligo would be a step no more no less!

  4. why oh why must we display such a lack of confidence in ourselves, its pathetic to be honest. We might not win the all ireland but we have been consistently been one of the top teams in the country over the past 10 years. The statistics back that up. Sligo are a reasonable team, although inconsistenet. They will give us a game on Sunday but we will win. Unfortunatley I cant make the game, however I am not looking forward to the hysteria on the telly from the commentators that will occur when Sligo get on top for a while during the game. Which they will, but we are experienced enough not to panic and will keep doing the right thing until we win. We need to have more confidence in ourselves and the team.

  5. Mayo won the Connacht Final last year by the princely margin of two points. Yet we knocked out Cork in the quarter-final and stayed with a super Kerry team for an hour before they finally burned us off.

    So I don’t buy the idea that unless we hammer Sligo we’re not going anywhere. It would be better to get a very stiff test and find out how this team copes with adversity. That’s what will tell us if we can cope with Cork/Kerry/Dublin/Donegal.

    Given the departures of Mortimer and Hennelly and the absence of the O’Sheas, Pat Harte etc., Sunday is indeed looking like an occasion to be endured.

  6. A one point win is as good as 20 point all that matters is Mayo will be lifting that Nestor cup on Sunday.

  7. Saying that this is the best Sligo team since either the 1960s/70s or, as Tommy Brehony was just saying on the radio, the 1920s, isn’t the same as not being confident in Mayo. We have to take situations on their individual merits.

    2010 should have been the death-blow for Sligo for a number of years, and now here they are again, in another Connacht Final. In the context of Sligo’s history, that recovery is a huge, huge thing and we should take due notice of that.

    Mayo are without their best player, Aidan O’Shea on Sunday, and the team hasn’t made the progress we hoped they would when we left Croke Park in August. That makes for a close game. Can Mayo win it and push on to still be playing late in August? Sure they can. Can Mayo lose this thing, and then draw Kerry in the qualifiers? That could happen too. Sunday can’t come soon enough.

  8. Why have we not made progress ?
    Surely hammering Dublin(All Ireland champs), drawing with Kerry in Tralee(with 14 men) and beating them in Croker(yes, Croker) in the league semi has to be progress.
    Remember we were 4 or 5 pts up at half time in the league final and seemed to have the measure of Cork. A free in to Mayo was not given and Cork went down the other end and scored a goal that killed the game. This game was also played without the O’Sheas x 2 who had blinders in our defeat of Cork in 2011.
    If that is not progress, then I don’t know what is.
    A lot of counties would like that kind of recent record.

  9. Pateen,thats the greatest load of rubbish I have read since I had to listen to Eamon Dunphy a few weeks ago-such pessimisism-Mayo are in the process of building a team that can compete at the highest level and I believe we are there-subs are part of the team,without a full competent panel there is no point in our togging out-We will win on Sunday and we dont need the negative vibes that are coming from so called die hard Mayo supporters

  10. So Tubberman you have a monopoly on support have you. Inflating a team and taking opposition for granted is just plain silly. And I never said Mayo would lose ,just that beating Sligo is a step no more nor less.
    So called Mayo supporters …how dare you. I never miss a game league,club or county, and I have played for Mayo. How is preaching realism being negative.
    Slow down the expectation and stop inflating our chances. Incidentally people who are saying we are team building are also the ones predicting an All Ireland.Crazy.

  11. good luck to mayo sunday hope ye win james h was dead right to drop the mort he is not a team player.

  12. Who predicted an All Ireland? Not that it’s such a wild notion to pick the fifth fav in a race with 24 runners.

  13. I predict at worst, we will win 6 All-Ireland trophies this year. It’s the least I expect!

    Seriously though, can’t we all just get along … How each person supports their county is up to them, and we shouldn’t criticise each other. Each person’s opinion is as valid as the next.

    How about some talk about the actual 70 minutes?

  14. Surely our target has to be an All Ireland. Why would it not be ?
    Semi final last year.
    League final this year having matched the best teams
    In the country. I think it is perfectly reasonable to be
    Talking about a possible all Ireland.

  15. The target has to be at least match last year’s semi final or reach the All Ireland final. Sligo are no where near that level they beat over hyped Galway the same Galway Mayo comfortably beat in 1st gear last year. Sligo will go into round 4 and any of the round 3 team will likely beat them.

    The bigger test for Mayo is in the quarter final in August although it will be nice to pick up another Connacht title on Sunday. (two with the minors also winning)

  16. Good luck Mayo, James and all the team on Sunday. Thanks Conor for your contribution to the cause for the last number of years. But the statement from the family is way OTT and says it all in terms of where Conors confidence (arrogance) came from !!
    Nobody died for Gods sake! Grow up and get on with it.

  17. League form counts for nothing or next to nothing, in my opinion. The League is for finding players and not getting relegated. The rest is jam. In my opinion – and this only my opinion, not only could I be wrong, I actually hope I’m wrong – Horan is still looking for players.

    It’s possibly a weird way of looking at it but if, in some alternate dimension, the team that faced Kerry in the semi last year were to play the team who’ll play Sligo on Sunday, I think the team that faced Kerry would win. And that’s why I’m not sure the team has improved.

    Again, I think it’s a mistake to underestimate Sligo. Sligo’s historical struggles will count for little on Sunday. We live in the here and now. I take the point about a semi-final appearance being a goal at the start of the year but you can only take one game at a time. A Leinster title was an achievable goal for Kildare this year. Not any more. Being cautious isn’t the same as being negative. There’s a lot to be said for keeping the head screwed on.

  18. Very wise Spailpin , very wise. Another item the Conor episode has thrown up is that maybe , just maybe communication within the camp might not be brilliant . It’s not so long back we had a contre temps about who was the runner and who was the water carrier or shite so similar.

    This may not be fatal for the present incumbent but added to the Mortimer episode and to me the rather unclear position of how long the O Sheas will be out has certainly cast a new light and presented him with a challenge.

    Again if grasped like a nettle, if firm leadership is shown, if the team respond then it will be a galvanising force . Spailpin is correct, I have not seen the team push on from August. I don’t see us ad a seasoned side like the 1967-1970 or 1996-99 version. Certainly despite the tally v Leitrim I still worry about the forwards and by the way Conor was not the solution.

    Free taking and direct movement if the ball are issues still to be resolved . In 2000 we pulverised Roscommon and stumbled over the line v Galway. Both ourselves and the Rossies tumbled to Meath later and by similar scores . Sligo are as Spailpin correctly mentioned in the present. I myself have demanded that Mayo go at them with venom but as time has elapsed, as the Conor episode has dribbled down our chest a certain amount of force has moved towards Sligo.

    Make no mistake, this is a final to be endured maybe to be eeked out and scrapped for. The soul of Mayo football is once more on offer and never was actin more important. May the force be with us fir what lies ahead .

  19. 2000 should read 2009. Another thing A don’t post late at night and B the key board on my phone is too efffing small!

  20. Come on lads, there is caution and there is downright depression, there is plenty to be upbeat about, we are in a provincial final, about to equal the tribesmen at the top of the roll of honor.

    Im westbound now, relations back from across the water(esp for the game), the few drinks will be had tonight, green and red flying from the house, jesus, life is too short to be miserable , we will win in rampant style, you watch it.

  21. Talk about no progress since last August is mad and given that most contributors here dont bother going to games should be taken with a big health warning.

    We have a great goalkeeper, strong backs, one of the best centre backs in Connacht, Barry Moran playing well, and a hard working forward line.

    2011 was built on a dire Connacht championship after an iffy league and a great but luck 50 minutes against Cork.

    2012 we seen good league showings, and a good start to Summer.

    We dont know what goes in the camp. We can see what happens on the pitch. First hand. So get out there and support the lads in person. Escape the keyboard bitching.

    And thats the bottom line cos Stone Cold says so

  22. This time of year is always the most interesting in the Championship. The Championship usually starts quietly. Then a few shock results come along and the pundits – and the lazier journalists – have egg all over their faces as they try to predict what will happen next. During this time, there is great potential for them to made right amadáns out of themselves and many duly oblige, to the great amusement of the hordes of amateurs like myself.

    Shock results come about because of the rivalry between counties who perceive a pecking order in a province. Kildare would have been considered by most to be the No 2 in Leinster – much to the annoyance of Meath who then burst a gut to redress the balance. Meath might now have decided that the objective has been achieved for this year and they could fade badly against Dublin. Sligo perceived a levelling of themselves, the Rossies and Galway in Connaught, and moved swiftly to take the No 2 spot.

    However, this is done at a price. Each county has a training programme that focuses on different elements of fitness as the year progresses. It starts with strength (which often means that league form can be discounted), it builds with flexibility (which aggravates a spate of injuries in almost every county) and builds further into the Summer with speed as the season progresses. When a county produces a shock result, it is because one of the earlier phases has been shortened and the concentration on speed work is brought in earlier. This is appropriate for a county with designs on a provisional title but not for one setting sights on the All Ireland. So when Dublin are seen to wobble in June everyone says that they are not what they were last September. Of course they aren’t, but if they are still in the hunt this September, they will be back to full sail by then.

    So the intriguing question that need to be asked about tomorrow is where are Sligo and Mayo (and indeed Galway) along this road. My gut feeling is that Sligo are near their peak and possibly just a little bit beyond it. Mayo will be faster than they were against Leitrim as Cian O’Neill will now be introducing the speed work that is needed for later in the year. But this means that Mayo will have more strength and flexibility but less speed work done than Sligo. That suggests a hard game for 45 mins and then it’s a balance between Sligo’s remaining speed against Mayo’s superior strength. This might not be pretty, but it suggests a Mayo win and the margin would depend on how much that balance is to one side or the other.

    And in relation to Galway, they were caught cold by Sligo as they would have probably have also been looking to later in the year. I expect them to beat Antrim well and to take a significant scalp or two along the way before they go back to choking herrings for the winter! Also, expect Kerry to begin the slow build as well.

    It’s just getting interesting. Bring on the amadáns.

    Keep the Faith!

  23. sligo beat a bad galway team antrim have just proved that ,mayo by 6 plus points tomorrow

  24. Just seen that Galway result now, what a shocker. I know we beat ourselves up over our poor backdoor record but, with the notable exception of 2001, Galway’s is far worse and this latest one marks a new low for them.

  25. Thanks for keeping me grounded Mylie.
    It just goes to show how much we should trust our own opinions. I also got the Wexford/Tipp result and the Longford/Limerick one wrong as well.

    Did you get all three correct?

    Keep the Faith!

  26. sligo beat a bad galway team antrim have just proved that ,mayo by 6 plus points tomorrow

    Agree totally. Mayo to win pulling up tomoro i just hope we get a better test than v Leitrim.

  27. At last the championship starts, We’ll know after 15 mins if it will be August or September when it finishes for this mayo team. Looking for real deal leadership tomorrow on the field

  28. Go mayo!

    I’m an Aussie and work at an Irish pub in Bondi and I just can’t wait for the match I’ve got all my jerseys and flags and everything ready to turn up to work in.

    Go mayo!

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