Crossroads

Crossroads_

Photo: Geograph.ie/Kevin Higgins

Robert Johnson wrote it, Cream, Eric Clapton, John Mayer and the late and great JJ Cale sang it. The song is called “Crossroads” and Mayo are at it. Truth be told, and it’s only my opinion, we have been loitering at the crossroads for a while.

Perspective

First let’s put things into perspective. Between 1952 and 1985 Mayo won five Connacht senior titles. Indeed the decade 1957-1966, Mayo played 14 Championship matches winning four, drawing three and losing seven. In four of those years we went out in the first round. Sligo and Leitrim beat us and also drew with us in that era. Since 2009 we have won four Connacht titles, played around 22 championship matches, reached two All-Ireland finals along with two League finals. So we are operating on a higher plane and very much in the public eye.

Measurement

“What’s not measured doesn’t get done” – so says the carpenter and tradesman. So too did the Dublin County Board with the publication of, I think, called Blue Wave strategic plan. In it they tasked the various managers with targets. Currently they are running ahead of schedule. Funnily enough for a county like ours who tend to do their sums on the back of an envelope, we aren’t a million miles behind them.

Dublin wanted two All-Ireland senior titles every five years, a minor every three and U21 every three as well. In Minor they have won a single one and contested one. Our record since 2005 has seen us contest four and win one. At senior they have contested two finals and won both. We have contested two and narrowly lost both.

Compare/Contrast

This area is one in which we are blessed with a lot of material and counties to compare with. Two managers and counties started out in 2011 with new managers: Mayo and Donegal. Both men took diametric positions in how to do business. Both men reached semi-finals. Donegal’s McGuinness brought a stifling defence roller-ball game to the fore and almost reached an All-Ireland final in year one.

Horan also brought a Mayo worn out from underachievement and lowered expectations to a semi-final, wiping Cork off the map en route. However it was the man in year three of the project who scooped the casino. Dublin’s Pat Gilroy discarded his startled earwigs, reinvented the wheel and stole an unlikely All-Ireland from under the noses of the Kerry men.

A combination of a strict plan, the sacrifice of a few sacred cows and a steely nerve saw Dublin fall over the line. Year two in the compare and contrast stakes saw Donegal loosen up the Cattenacio defence, prime Mark McHugh as a roving link man, muscle up the squad and go for broke. They won an All-Ireland the hard way, the long route through Ulster, taking out Cork, Kerry and Mayo. We reached a final but allowed ourselves, in my humble opinion, to march to Donegal’s tactics instead of posing them a few conundrums.

Year three saw a new Dublin manager go the whole way first time out. Caution to the wind as all out attack took precedence. Mayo also looked good, whaling Galway and Donegal. However the win over Donegal came at a cost. Mayo had peaked, the exertion and emotion involved in beating a team we were eminently capable of beating in the preceding final took its toll.

Donegal were a beaten docket as we flat tracked them. However to me, it seemed as we battered the lad who married our former girl friend. At the end of the day he still went home to her as our quest for an All-Ireland continued. In other words Sam still resided in Donegal and was still to be earned by ourselves. Players were turned into legends on the basis of that result by the followers. That’s not their fault however they are not immune from the hysteria and hype. Legendary status is acquired with a different exam paper.

The final saw Mayo repeat the mistakes of a year earlier. Turn overs not tracked back, high balls into the square not dealt with and a pathetic ending when we had to stake the entire house, we instead put up the back kitchen hoping that the clock and a clean fetch would allow us a draw. Only Sean Boylan has won an All-Ireland after year three in charge.

Tactics

Tactically we are an Ajax – flat out or no gears at all. When we are good we are great. When we are bad, we are awful. Looking at the lynch-pin of our game and to me it seems to be located along the half-back line, we then can compare that to the Dublin mode as well. Whereas we use Keegan and Vaughan to bomb forward, leaving Boyle more or less back, Dublin keep Brennan and McCarthy back allowing McCaffrey to bomb forward.

The Dublin forwards also take up their share of attacking responsibility with prime roles for the Brogans. The spice is mixed with the addition of McManamon and O’Gara. Andrews and Connolly are a manager’s dream. We tend to get our forwards to play off the runs of the half-back line. When our main men get the ball a tendency develops where they slow the play down thus undoing the head of steam already built up.

Going forward and this is possible heresy but the half-back line may need switching or new riding instructions. Keegan and Vaughan cannot both be going forward. The full-back line has been exposed almost beyond repair. Sixteen league goals in eight matches need no analysis. Higgins needs to come back and the sooner Clarke is fit the better.

However the players only do what’s instructed of them. I would find it hard to explain to an outsider what exactly our game format is. I haven’t a clue as to what Plan B is and I am stumped at how orthodox we are regarding certain players and positions. We are overloaded with midfielders but lack a real cutting edge full-forward. Currently and for a few years we operate without a proper 11. Is it time to deploy two big boys into those positions and replace them with more mobile centre fields? Currently we are like a well that’s drying up.

Youth

One thing Dublin has done is empower their youth. Kilkenny, Mannion and McCaffrey have been trusted with vital roles. Lowndes from the minors of two years ago along with Costello are now with this year’s team. There are others. That type of blood freshening keeps the bigger piranhas hungry and challenged. We don’t do that, we don’t trust our youth. We need to.

Leadership

Brian Dooher, Darragh Ó Sé, Tomás Ó Sé, Kieran McGeeney, Sean Cavanagh are/were leaders. When the fat was in the fire they could be relied upon to stick the hand in and pull it out. How many times did we see Darragh stand hands on hips beneath his own crossbar awaiting a ’45 to drop in? His standing there reassured his own players and followers that the net would not be breached.

Brian Dooher, diminutive, but with a heart as big as his body as he patrolled between the two 45s on behalf of Tyrone. Recall his run after McConnell’s great save against Kerry in the 2008 final. Avoiding two murderous lunges from Kerrymen intent on killing him, little Brian drilled a right to left bomb from about 45 metres out over the Kerry crossbar and broke them.

Peter the Great did similar things. Look back as he demanded the ball from Mulligan and rolled it past the Kerry keeper to stick another nail in their psyche back in 2005. McGeeney defined Armagh and their journey, stoic and serious. And us? We are quieter and less demonstrative. I don’t know why but apart from David Brady I’ve never seen a Mayo lad go to war. Dublin have Brennan and Connolly do what’s needed. Cavanagh knows the ropes too for Tyrone. Donegal have them, so too have Derry.

We need visible leadership on the pitch, the kind of guy who knows when a yellow, black or red card is needed. John McEnroe from Oldcastle, erstwhile Meath footballer, was a hard player. He never got much of a chance under Boylan though. McEnroe himself put it eloquently: “Sean wanted lads that cut deep, the problem for me was that I cut too deep and that was no good to Sean”. In the likes of O’Rourke and McEntee he got guys who cut deep but knew when to discard the scalpel. You cannot teach that type of stuff but once in the trenches if you don’t have it, expect to get gassed.

Closing

Loughnane’s Clare team came to an end when they squabbled over free mobile phones in the dressing rooms. Ger saw that and so did the players, the camaraderie and die-for-each-other was gone. The Meath dressing room of 1987-1992 was a sacrosanct place. It too came to an end as a newcomer arrived and put his bag where one of the “regulars” always sat. A swift kick and the bag flew across the room, so did the glue that made them great.

I think it was Christy O’Connor who, in recently lauding Mayo in a Sunday paper, extolled the confidence of some of the forwards. He noted that they seemed “to be no longer looking over their shoulder”. I know what he meant. Some are cast-iron certainties and some are forever glancing in the mirror. Within the Dublin set up last year Bernard Brogan was made sweat for his spot. I don’t see that with Mayo.

At a crossroads we choose to go one way or the other. Longevity is the calling card of this team now. Armagh had the same type of issues as we have, around a long time until one final surge in 2002. Big Joe pulled out the stops and the team responded. They were battle weary but also battle hardened. Mayo are there now. Tired limbs and tired minds need lifting once more.

So too might the manager’s. A new voice beside him to tell it as it is not as how it seems. No need for that person to be mentioned in the match programme or given a title, all he needs is that both sides trust each other. Who am I talking about? Not a clue really but I have always thought that Billy Fitz was a man who read a good game and called it as it actually rather than what the narrative might like to be. Mayo need refuelling and refreshing. So too does the top man. All have much to offer but time and tide won’t wait beyond this season for this particular group. The choice is theirs, the crossroads are reached.

40 thoughts on “Crossroads

  1. A great piece John and in particular the line, “it seemed as we battered the lad who married our former girl friend. At the end of the day he still went home to her” I don’t always find myself singing from the same hymn sheet as you but I always find your opinions reasoned, articulate and well made.
    Undoubtedly we are at a crossroad and seem unsure as to which way we should go. We know where we want to get to, we can see it over the hill, but we don’t seem to be certain of whether we go straight on, go left or go right. Just like at all crossroads situations, particularly when you are unsure of which way to go, you need a slice of good luck. Maybe this year we will get that slice of good luck that we need, but we won’t know that until much later in the year.
    A change of scenery and a break away in New York might just reaffirm to the lads that they are not that far away from the prize. And, even if they do go down the wrong road, well they can turn around and see a whole Red & Green army of SUPPORTERS coming along the way with them. We are ALL in this together. We win together, we lose together. They are ours, they come from our villages, our parishes, our clubs and come hell or high fucking water we will back them. To the end.
    Hon ta fuck Mayo.

  2. Great Piece WJ and exactly where we are at.

    Just one thing, I was listening to the Mayo Dublin league game on Midwest and on 53 minutes Billy Fitz made the remark that it was only a question of much Mayo would win by….I roared in pain at him, I expected more from him than make such assumptions about Mayo!!
    I think Pebblesmeller makes a good point about luck. As a galway man pointed out to me lately Mayo never get the rub of the green on the big day, it always just goes the other way, Higgins’ point in the opening minute ruled out hawkweye, the small things that add up…

    But you gotta climb the hill again and they will……

  3. You can’t help but feel this is the last throw of the dice for this project, management and team….that’s my take on it anyway. My head say’s we had our chance last year and blew it but the heart as always will stick with the team and who know’s what will happen…there aren’t too many teams better than us…one anyway.

  4. With all the talk of Moyes today, one contrast drawn between him and Alex Ferguson was the fact that anytime Man Utd went down against teams this year it never looked like they had the heart to lift their games and storm back, whereas under Ferguson you could be guaranteed that if Utd were down against a team with 25 minutes to go you were in for an exciting finish as Utd would be sure to claw their way back in. They just never believed they weren’t good enough, victory was always theirs for the taking…

    It’s the same with Dublin. They just never believe they are going to lose. Look at the turnaround against Cork, the draw against us with 14 men and the loss of their talisman, the comeback against Tyrone. Psychologically they know they are better than any other team and they play the way champions are supposed to.

    The collapse after Brogan got his second goal last year still haunts us, we looked a beaten team, Dublin knew it and it was reflected in the silence of the crowd. Against Derry, despite being a superior team we never looked sure about ourselves and no-one stepped up to grab the game by the scruff of the neck the way Mark Lynch did. We may have had a handful of good performances since then (Cork and Kerry really, and they haven’t exactly given a good account of themselves since) but confidence seems to be bleeding out of the team and it badly needs to be stemmed. Conceding the minimum amount of goals in Connacht would be a good start.

    Perhaps what John is saying above is true, that we bought into our own hype after the Donegal game, but surely the buzz generated by such a performance is a good thing if it is channeled correctly? Until we truly believe that we deserve to be up there with the best it will never happen for us.

  5. I don’t think we bought into the hype following Donegal Qfinal. If anything the doubts started straight away. Belief is the real key. Even ourselves as ardent followers are part of the problem. We follow them because that is what we are but deep down we don’t really believe. In some sick way maybe we enjoy the torture? This also seems to be the way the players and the management team seem to be. The rub of the green only seems to come to those that truly believe that they are destined to win. Our really poor performances are just reflective of when these doubts re-emerge after periods of pure joy. We are like manic depressives. Periods of great joy when the world is wonderful pierced by self doubt and blackness brought on by the pressure of being close to what other teams see as normal – winning the ultimate price. It is completely a vicious circle. It will only go away when we win. We cant win until it goes away. Help.

  6. A great article on a great site! Thanks John for again making us think & thanks WJ for facilitating it. I’m with Pebblesmeller in having a mix of real hope and optimism for this year. We may win Sam; we may not. But regardless, we’ll really enjoy the effort and either celebrate appropriately and proudly or offer congrats to the winners graciously.
    A Kerry man was in the seat beside me at the League Semi-final. He asked me where I was from. When he heard I was from Mayo, he put a stupid grin on his face and said “Always the bridegroom, never the bride”. He couldn’t have known how proud I was that I could answer – “well, we’ll be here in September – ye won’t!”
    John Cuffe – let’s hope we don’t yield at too many crossroads this Summer.

  7. Great piece John. I particularly like your paragraph on leadership and the reference at the end to the trenches is very relevant to this team. Leadership (so far) is fundamentally lacking both on and off the pitch. It was visibly absent against Dublin in the League when the game was won and ended up being thrown away. And also against Derry it reared its ugly head when strong individuals were needed to take the game by ‘the scruff of the neck’ and drive on the team as a whole.

    Management unfortunately must shoulder much of the blame as they did not introduce the leaders needed. This is a worry. For instance we needed someone like Paul Galvin to come off the bench in the Derry match and help control of the match. It was in the middle third between the 45s that we needed to dominate. But instead we had our MOTM substituted, another corner forward introduced instead of a natural wing forward, and a guy who has hardly played for the county in 3 years sent in to try and save the day.

  8. I agree with so much of what you said John (cept on Billy Fitz). However, I think its the CB that are a cross-roads and not this particulat team. The CB or Mayo football strateg discussion is fro another day but….
    This team, imo, are once again, approaching the biggest race of the year, the race for the championship.
    There’s no gurantee we will even run a good race, but we have reason to believe ( for the first few hurdles are minor) we’ll still be in it by the time we round the final bend and head for home. Dublin, Cork, Tyrone and maybe Donegal will be right there running alongside us…. as we face the second last fence, we jump higher than all of them! and landing way ahead of them all!…two horses stumble and fall, but we’re still on our feet…..its a two horse race now…but who the other horse is, doesnt or shouldnt really matter…for as we apprpoach that last fence..it looks massive, bigger than any other fence we’ve jumped…..can we do it? we’ve failed to clear it the past two times we tried…anyway, back to work.

  9. I think it was a wise move to get back to work Mister Mayor – you were beginning to lose the run of yourself there 🙂

  10. Very good article JC. I could respond to it, but I feel I’d be writing from here to next week. To put it briefly, you’re right about nearly everything there. But I also disagree with most of it as well. Illogical I know.

  11. Mayo McHale…yes..LMAO 😉 btw, are you coming to NY next month for the match?

  12. As far as I can see there are very few men that can really read a game especially when they are emotionally caught up in it having picked the team in the first place. A guy gets injured or black carded in a key position after 10 minutes and your best layed plans are gone out the window.There are an awful lot variables in a team sport and no matter how well you plan things can take an unexpected turn and of course we are all experts after the event.
    There are things that should never be done though one of these is playing injured players in big matches. This never works IMO. Looking back to playing TJ injured in the 89 final to playing three players in last years final that were not fully fit and plenty of other examples down through the years the only time I saw it work out was Peter Cannavan in 03 but he was very well managed.

  13. well, I for one hope we will be” dancing at the crossroads” come September!!

    great article, enjoyed the read.

  14. All mayo people have a shared identity, a common bind, and a strong one at that. Most widely known and derided outside of the county for being losers, chokers and bottlers. We receive the sympathy of some, while laughed at by others. But it is what we know. It has made us who we are. Good people. What if mayo were to win the all ireland? Who would we be then? No longer mayo.

  15. Excellent read ! Very interesting but please don’t say Billy Fitz…. Grand on radio but surely someone like Noel Connelly or David Heaney would be more appropiate. Also worth remembering some of the best managers and selectors in the county and country are not former county players.

  16. Great piece John and I enjoyed the read. I believe Mayo are very close and we need to bulk up in the forwards like you said. I believe we will have a day out in September. I believe this is our year

  17. Great piece John – thoroughly enjoyed it and it certainly gives us food for thought.

    Digits, I can empathise – I felt much the same upon reading it. But logic goes out the window on this journey.

    Pebblesmeller, as always, you sum it right up.

  18. I enjoyed the JC article and agree with much of its content particularly re leadership on the field.
    I imagine it must be a nightmare being a Mayo forward as their doesnt appear to be discernible patterns of play deployed. Instead forward colleagues, without the ball, are as much in the dark as their opponents, as to what the guy with the ball might do next.
    I have said it before, we do not identify /develop top class score-takers, so the logic is that we develope a really mean defence,scrap for scores, pursue the ball with single-minded ferocity and know when to hold on to it above all else.
    We need commanding presence at 3 and 6 – men who can field with the best and are not floundering when turned by an opponent.through a lack of pace. The remaining defence positions require pace, pace and more pace.
    Midfield may get away with one high-fielder (despite their tendancy to be slow) partnered by a really mobile ball player.(horses for courses is very relevant here)

    Another playmaker/ scoremaker is a must for 11 as well as a dynamic number 14 who is never between two minds. The remaining forward positions call for speed as well as a forward’s instinct – deployed in positions which facilitates scoretaking off their favouired foot. A reliable free-taker is of course a must as well as an able deputy.
    Tactics and patterns of play is another days work but please jettison the showboating half-backs getting in the way of real forwards.
    I cannot understand why subs are not listed when the chosen 15 is announced as we are told so often about the importance of the panel

    Finally its amusing to read the criticism about how a team with 15 deploys its extra man when an opponent is sent off – when in fact the depleted team has as much say in who the free man will be, by reason of whom they choose not to mark man-to-man.
    Keep the faith

  19. PJ Mac………..Im with you re September………I believe that when we least expect it our day will come !

  20. Excellent thought provoking piece there JC. We have leadership issues & we have selection/substitution issues & the sands of time are running out for this particular project but we continue to carry a sting in the tail.
    The trick this year is to get ourselves into position to deliver the sting & that means negotiating Games 1-6 in a surefooted way. It’s do or die from here & that may be no bad thing. Either way 2014 looks like a defining year.

  21. Most of the team are young men, why would this be their last throw of the dice? Even if it doesnt go well this year, they could come back next year, like kerry have done, like tyrone have done and like donegal are doing. All this talk of last chance is nonsense, as is this talk about ‘blowing it’. We lost to a better team on the day. We were there on merit and will be there again on merit. We go on like we stole in when nobody was looking and nearly smash and grabbed an AI – we need to lose this mentality. We were there because we earned that spot. The game didnt go for us, like the semi didnt go for kerry. Do we see kerry talking like they had their chance in the semi? Or tyrone? Of course not. Im sick of hearing about blowing our chance like it was something we were fortunate to get. We need to shake off this small-time mentality, we are a top team and we need to start acting like it.

  22. Maybe we just don’t have a Paul Galvin.For a team so lacking in leaders and with a management who are accused so often of making errors and bad calls its amazing how consistent we are and how well we do.. We stayed in Div 1, finished above Tyrone and Kerry, two teams hardly noted for lacking leaders. We tried a few new players positional changes etc. We have a good team, and a management who have presided over our most successful era in 60 years. Have they done everything right. No Have they done a huge amount right. Yes.. Can they go one more step. I dont know. Do they merit our continued support. I would definitely think so

  23. We absolutely did buy into the hype after the donegal game, and it is something we should consider in the future. It isnt only the players who can look to improve from past experiences.
    I believe a mayo team not quite firing but coming in under the radar is a positive thing for us. We dont need to be putting on great performances all the time, if we scrape through by a point each time that is just as good. The underdog status seems to suit our mentality. Our players play for the group more in this situation. We see less shooting from daft angles (which was commonplace against derry for example) etc. We as fans should be looking to cultivate this mentality around our team.

  24. My answer to your analogy would be, if we cant jump it, then plough straight f’n through it and keep going regardless. It doesnt matter how you get there and previous all ireland winners like meath, tyrone, dublin in 11 have showed us that this approach can work.

  25. I’m not sure at all about the crossroads analogy for where we’re at just now but if it’s a crossroads we’re looking for then what happens after James Horan and his management team step down (which they surely will at the conclusion of this championship campaign) will definitely fit the bill. James took us from a very bad place back in 2010 to the edge of the summit (and maybe he’ll take us all the way this year) but the football world is littered with examples, even in the recent past, where teams that have spent a period of time at the top level have fallen sharply backwards soon after.

    Losing All-Ireland finals is tough on everyone associated with the county but it’s still what I’d regard as a high-class problem. Making it as far as only one All-Ireland quarter-final in four years and then bowing out with a Round 1 qualifier loss to Longford (JOM’s 2007-2010 record) – that’s the road we’ve travelled from and, unless we maintain the standards set under James Horan’s management, it’s the road we could find ourselves travelling on before too long again.

    In this regard, I think – despite the perspective set at the start – that the piece perhaps undervalues just how far we’ve progressed under James and how much he and his players have got right since 2011. If it were true that we’re lacking either tactically or in leadership (and, by the way, I don’t see how getting yourself sent off can ever be viewed as a measurement of this) then I doubt we’d have got to All-Ireland finals in successive years. To have come so close to glory in both 2012 and 2013 has to suggest that we’ve been doing a lot right in recent times.

    History is written by the winners. Because of this, the official narrative is that Jim Gavin can do no wrong and James Horan is tactically inept by comparison. If you look back to 2013, however, you can see that some of Gavin’s tactics didn’t work at all, with his reliance on youth blowing up spectacularly in his face in the semi-final and final. It’s amazing what gets airbrushed out of the narrative when you end the final a point ahead, equally amazing the faults you get tarred with when you end it a point in arrears.

    I’ve said repeatedly that we need to hold off on any judgment about how we’re moving this year until the August Bank Holiday weekend (and note again that under O’Mahony we made it this far just once in four years whereas now we take it as our right that we’ll still be involved then). Assuming we win Connacht (never a gimme, but those 3/10 odds tell you we’re likely to do this) then how we perform in this year’s quarter-final will, I reckon, tell us how well we’re going in terms of another full-on assault at Sam.

    John Casey was on RTE recently and he said that by 1998 that team were finished, with the 1996 and 1997 final defeats having left them utterly drained, with nothing left to give. He said that this team didn’t seem to be similarly affected by the losses they’d suffered and I think it says much for the mental fortitude of this bunch that we can expect them to be back aiming for the big prize once again this year.

  26. So true WJ – As I said previously what would be the analysis of Jim ‘can do no wrong’ Gavin be if Dublin had lost the final having 2 injured players on the field because he had emptied the bench too early? Or because he had to empty the bench as his initial team selection simply hadn’t worked? The analysts (both here & nationally) tend to omit how Dublin struggled in the 1st half and stayed in the game due to a fortunate goal and bad Mayo wides.

    There is a convenient narrative doing the rounds questioning whether Mayo are burned out based on the league performances. This squad have tasted the adrenalin high of championship fevour twice and clearly had no real interest in the league. Come August they’ll be hungry for more.

  27. I absolutely agree with what WJ posted above. Whilst the main article is a well written piece by a talented writer, I must disagree with the fundamental points that it is trying to make.

    Mayo lack leaders. Mayo need a few more big men. Mayo are tactically inept. Look at Dublin and how they have become winners… Same old, same old, from the same old (with respect, JC. I do enjoy reading your articles and opinions but they have taken a decidedly negative turn over the last year or so).

    I think WJ has summed up my main points of contention in his reply so I won’t get into it any more.

  28. First thanks to WJ for allowing me the space to express my thoughts. That’s the key folks, they are just that, an individual’s opinion .

    I thought I did acknowledge where we were historically and prior to James Horan taking us over . Nor did I suggest that we should look to have one of our players sent off in the quest for greater sunshine.

    I alluded to that line that needs careful watching so it’s not transgressed. We have had men sent off and we were shite and we have played against teams with men sent off and we were equally shite. There is the Mick Lyons/JoecMahon silent menace and there is the stupid put your foot and mouth in it type.

    The article is not a criticism of Horan and his players but it is this. We need to move away from the new boy “Araghhh we’re kinda new to all of this” type of attitude . We have been around the block do many times that we could be done for loitering with intent.

    James Horan was part of a squad that reached consecutive finals in 96/97. Some of his players reached finals in 2004/06/12/13. For fucks sake how much practice do we need? When does knocking on the door stop and the fucking thing us driven in off its hinges?

    Meanwhile since 2008 Tyrone, Kerry,Dublinx2, Cork and Donegal have won it. I don’t see them doing eternal dress rehearsals or getting three separate double attempts to try and win it.

    I was once on this site accused of “sentimental shit” or words to that affect. I am sentimental for sure especially about mo ait duachas but another year of near miss and repeating old mistakes will test my resolve beyond repair. Like I said to a Twitter man yesterday , sorry but I can’t fake it about Mayo anymore. Put up or let another car pass out.

  29. Think WJ you summed it up excellently in pure simple English. Having tasted some terrible lows, 1993 1994 2010, especially spring to mind, Id far prefer to be competing at the business end of the year even if it did bring the heartache which losing the last 2 finals brought. We are competitive and we have a chance and Id much prefer to be looking forward to a summer that offers that than one where we are admiring and envying other teams. This for me has been Horans and this teams greatest achievement to allow Mayo people to look forward with hope and confidence. No way would we find ourselves competing at the highest level over the past number of years if we didn’t have good players, a good management and leaders

  30. I think we need to see how unique we are in this quest of ours. take the NFL in america , in the last few years we have seen two teams , seattle and new orleans win the superbowl having never won it before in thier history. seattle however had only been to one previous bowl and new orleans were debutants, so no real house of pain there. in the premier league look at Newcastle united, having won the league 4 times previously but the last one being in the 1920’s kevin keegan almost took them to their promised land twice in the 90’s , they have since slipped back and now barely challenge the european places having spent a year in the championship. perhaps only jimmy white can compare with post ’51 mayo having been to so many finals and never managing to close one out.

    as a bookmaker when you are pricing up a final containing mayo do you see it as a mutually exclusive event ? is it just two teams out on a park and does the best team win ?
    or do you add on a little bit to the mayo quote to price in the hesitancy and the weight of history?

    I think we’ll find the manager and the men to deliver the goods. I hope we have already found them.

  31. In fairness John you’ve always been more than happy to stick your head above the parapet and the site is all the better for that. I think what you’re expressing there and in the piece is the same frustration everyone feels at the repeated final losses but I don’t agree with your assessment that we could be done for loitering with intent or that all those final appearances represent some kind of ‘practice’ for winning the thing.

    The first and most obvious point is that we can only win it if we make it to the final but getting there opens the risk of losing again. Sure, the easy way to avoid the pain would be to do an Armagh or an Offaly or a Cavan or a Galway or a Meath on it and slip back out of contention. Personally, I’d be happy to take the risk of heartache every September if it means we’re in contention all the time and I’d take the danger of a final loss every time ahead of underachievement and mediocrity.

    Secondly, and more importantly, it’s not the same team that has lost all these finals so for the current team the losses of 2012 and 2013 are the only relevant ones. Even then, a few of the lads currently in the frame – like Brendan Harrison, Mikie Sweeney and Tom Parsons – didn’t even feature in either of those years while others – such as Robbie Hennelly, Kevin Keane, Chris Barrett, Tom Cunniffe, Jason Gibbons and Richie Feeney – only played a part in one of those two finals. As a result, this line about the same team losing again and again down the years simply isn’t true: of the current squad, only Alan Dillon played in the 2004, 2006, 2012 and 2013 finals.

    Finally, just to come back on that point about having players sent off, the bit from your piece I was alluding to in what I said was where you were discussing leadership and said we should have “the kind of guy who knows when a yellow, black or red card is needed”. Two of those three cards will get you sent off.

  32. ‘Two roads diverged in a wood and I,
    I took the one less travelled by
    And that has made all the difference’.
    The above words by Robert Frost reflect our current ‘Crossroads’ conundrum.
    At the end of the day you can only choose one road and the other roads remain simply ‘not chosen’.
    I’m looking at the last lines of two posts above. ‘No way would we find ourselves competing at the highest level if we didn’t have good players,a good management and leaders’ and ‘put up and let another car pass out’.
    Correct and correct. There is no shame in being ‘good’ but perhaps not ‘good’ enough to deliver the top prize. There is no shame either in expressing the view that the time has come to answer the question. That is precisely what is going to happen in the next few months …. in short we’ll be choosing which road to travel on and as Robert Frost said ‘that will make all the difference’.

  33. A well put together piece JC, but I don’t really agree with the sentiment.

    I think there’s so much frustration still lingering from last year, it seems to be coming through with you and with a lot of others as well.

    It’s easy to see why. Last year hurt a LOT, for me it was almost worse than the previous 3 combined.
    A lad I know has even ‘given up’ so to speak. He said the disappointment is too much, so “never again” was his answer to it.

    But what about the management and players? They give up so much for all of this.
    Training 5 or 6 days a week in the pissing rain and cold, no drink, watching their diet, listening to snide comments from so called supporters, putting their whole lives on hold practically.
    Imagine our disappointment and hurt, well magnify that by a hundred and you might get some idea as to how they feel, considering all their sacrifice and the bond they all have with each other.
    So after all that, if they’ve decided to come back and give it another lash, if they’ve decided to not give in and accept any of this – then I’m sure as fuck not going to either.

    I also don’t see this year as ‘shit or bust’.
    I think it will probably be Horan’s last year (regardless of how we do). But of the players, I’d say only Dillon and A Moran are uncertain to be back. Our age profile is good at the moment.

    But these losses have left a lot of people thinking that it really is now or never.
    I’ve even heard people say they’d rather get beaten in the QF than go through the pain of another final loss.
    But that’s just negative and defeatist. That could then begin a slide back into obscurity, where days like the Cork QF and Donegal last year are just a distant romanticised memory.

  34. Just came across this thread, very interesting and thoughtful. As an outsider permit me to offer an opinion based on my watching of Mayo for the past couple of years.
    You’re talented enough, physically strong enough, seem well organised etc, and most of the country would like to see you win.
    There is a decisive factor that is lacking in the current Mayo setup though, and that is, brains under pressure.
    The points made about Jim ‘can do no wrong’ Gavin miss the essential point, he spots his mistakes, or realises something isn’t working, and tries to rectify it on the field, same with McGuinness, Boylan, and above all in recent history, Harte. They all make, and have made multitudes of mistakes in team selections and tactical plans. They do not however stand there and watch it not working for very long, they figure it out and change things to try and gain advantage for their teams on the field. Some work, some don’t. What these teams/managers don’t do though, is stupid things, which mayo unfortunately do.

    Take the example of All Ireland final 2013, Dublin with a corner forward who cannot walk and a semi-conscious full back, and all subs used. Mayo’s response, leave the best defender on the lad who can’t walk, and don’t try and isolate the semi-conscious full back.
    NFL semifinal 2014 v Derry. Mayo have an extra man on the biggest pitch in the country, as they did against Dublin in the regular league match. Mayo’s response, make the pitch as narrow as possible so the extra man can have no benefit.
    I’m sure McIver and Gavin must have thought they were dreaming in those games, an U10 coach would have stretched his team as wide as possible (as Mayo did against Dublin for 10 minutes before reverting to narrow pitch, down the middle stuff).
    These are title deciding things lads, there’s no master plan or formula, all there is is not doing stupid things. Unfortunately once Mayo continue to produce talented rather than smart players and managers, who maintain those smarts under pressure, titles will remain elusive.

    ps I hope you learn, adapt, and win, all true Gaels are with you (apart from our own counties that is haha)

  35. Lads, there is still much disappointment from the last two AI loss’s, but even so, I’d rather have had the chance to win it, than not….I expect us to be back in HQ on Sunday September 21’st where we’ll have earned another opportunity to put an end to this famine.

  36. For me the most disappointing and frustrating thing is, we can never put in our best displays in finals, for whatever reason. Over the past few years we have shown All-Ireland winning form at times, this is why as Mayo fans we always feel that we are in with a chance of winning major honours, but unfortunately we don’t show this form at the right time. I heard an All-Ireland winning manager say, that to win the title, you need about 10 or 11 of your players to play really well and maybe 2 or 3 players to play outstandingly well on the biggest day. You can get away with 1 or 2 players playing below par but not any more than that. We have not managed to do this in the really big games, our management team can be included in this as well i.e. not getting most of the big calls right. If you look at our semi-final or quarter-final performances for example against Dublin in 2012 (a game we did whatever was needed to win) or Tyrone in 2013 (a game where all of the changes made by our management team during the game worked) and Donegal in 2013. After that game most of our players would probably have had ratings of 7,8 or 9. We made a lot less mistakes in these games and did most things right. That’s the big question to be answered, why do we make most of our mistakes on the biggest days? Can we learn to play the games rather than the occasions? Can we become comfortable among the elite teams? Only time will tell. So far we have not managed to do this. Fingers, toes etc. crossed that we can change this in the future.

  37. Lack of leadership has been a big problem, if the lads are no playing well we find it difficult to lift ourselves. Just after reviewing the scoring charts for the NFL – Jason Doherty didn’t score in 5 games ? Andy Moran scored a last minute consolation point against Tyrone and didnt score for 4 games while another last minute effort aginst Derry?

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