So near and yet so far. For the third time in five years, we’ve come up short in a final against Dublin by a single, miserable point. Sport sure can be horribly, unforgivably cruel at times. We certainly know this more than most.
You’ll understand, I’m sure, that I’m in no fit state right now to spend the time that would be required to bash out something resembling a coherent match report. I can’t do it and I’m not sure it’s needed.
From this heartbroken standpoint, I’ve only a few things to say.
First off, I want to salute the lads. They gave it absolutely everything today and so very nearly did enough to pull it off. Rocked by that early goal they battled back and pretty much bossed the first half and when Dublin threatened to pull clear in the second the lifted it once more and almost edged it. But it wasn’t to be.
Second, I’d like to pay tribute to Stephen Rochford, his backroom team and everyone else, County Board included, on the off-field side of things. Everyone did all that they could for the county to get us over the line but we just weren’t able to.
Third, take a bow, all you Mayo supporters. Once again, the noise levels among our supporters inside Croke Park was simply extraordinary. We were there in huge numbers today and, boy, did we make our presence felt. Well, Croke Park kinda is our home turf at this stage.
Next, we have to acknowledge Dublin as the great champions that they are. Winning the All-Ireland three times in a row is a serious achievement for which they deserve great credit. Congrats to them on completing this.
I’d also, perhaps at the risk of courting the ire of some, like to express satisfaction in Joe McQuillan’s performance as ref. Sure, that decision on the late free was hard to take – it was a foul, though – but overall I thought he gave us a fair shake. As I keep saying that’s all we ever want from any ref.
Widening the lens out a bit, I’d really like to see us get some credit for where we stand in the world of Gaelic football right now. I mean real credit, not the usual condescending rubbish and all the tired old clichés that are constantly throw in our direction.
If Dublin really are the greatest team of all time, then we – who have consistently and repeatedly put it up to them, asking them the most searching of questions, year after year after year – must surely be accorded due recognition. Today was but the latest example of when we’ve run them so, so close.
We have to accept that every time we’ve done this, Dublin have always found a way – in games of incredibly tight margins – to get the better of us. That’s why, once more, they’re All-Ireland champions tonight.
But we still carry defiance in our hearts. No other county has barred Dublin’s path to greatness like we have. I’d like to think there’s grudging respect for us amongst them, even if they’d no doubt like if we prostrated ourselves before the throne the way pretty much everyone else has. If so, they’ll be waiting. We won’t bow the knee, we never will.
It’s hard to look to the future tonight but we should. Losing a final is, yet again, a bitter blow but we will, when the time comes, be ready to go again. When we do it will be with the memory of a championship campaign that contained the most improbable twists and turns, that saw us written off early in the summer only to come again with increasing intent as the days of summer began to shorten.
The long, dark nights now lie ahead once again. But after the shortest day, another march to another summer will begin. A summer that will, mark my words, have us at the heart of the championship story. Because we won’t lie down, we never will. Up Mayo.
Mayo: David Clarke; Brendan Harrison, Donal Vaughan (0-1), Keith Higgins; Lee Keegan (1-0), Chris Barrett, Colm Boyle (0-1); Seamus O’Shea, Tom Parsons; Kevin McLoughlin (0-2), Aidan O’Shea, Paddy Durcan; Jason Doherty (0-2), Cillian O’Connor (0-7, four frees), Andy Moran (0-3). Subs: Diarmuid O’Connor for Seamus O’Shea, Stephen Coen for Boyle, Conor Loftus for Moran, David Drake for Doherty, Danny Kirby for Doherty, Ger Cafferkey for Higgins.
Who was our MOTM against Dublin? Vote for your top three performers.
- Chris Barrett (41%, 638 Votes)
- Donal Vaughan (11%, 175 Votes)
- Andy Moran (11%, 166 Votes)
- Aidan O'Shea (9%, 145 Votes)
- Lee Keegan (5%, 85 Votes)
- Tom Parsons (5%, 80 Votes)
- Kevin McLoughlin (3%, 51 Votes)
- Brendan Harrison (2%, 33 Votes)
- Colm Boyle (2%, 28 Votes)
- David Drake (2%, 28 Votes)
- Jason Doherty (2%, 27 Votes)
- Danny Kirby (2%, 26 Votes)
- Keith Higgins (1%, 21 Votes)
- David Clarke (1%, 17 Votes)
- Cillian O'Connor (1%, 14 Votes)
- Seamus O'Shea (1%, 9 Votes)
- Ger Cafferkey (0%, 7 Votes)
- Diarmuid O'Connor (0%, 4 Votes)
- Paddy Durcan (0%, 3 Votes)
- Stephen Coen (0%, 3 Votes)
- Conor Loftus (0%, 2 Votes)
Total Voters: 1,151