Another day on from our unexpected defeat to Galway and the end of our quest for six Connacht titles in a row and there’s been plenty of introspection at this stage – both on here and in the wider world – about why we lost and where we go from here. Two separate pieces today are worthy of highlighting as this period of reflection continues for us.
The first is with Aidan O’Shea, which is an interview he gave in conjunction with some media work yesterday and it appears in a few places today – Irish Independent, Irish Examiner, GAA, The 42. Take your pick from amongst these.
Before looking at what Aidan said, I feel compelled – because I can sense what might be coming – to make clear that anyone who has anything to say about these pieces with Aidan needs to stick with what he actually says in them. No more than Rob, Aidan appears to have emerged as a bit of a lightning rod for those focusing on everything that went wrong on Saturday night so I just want to make sure than any criticisms that anyone wants to make relate to what he had to say and don’t take the form of pops at him personally. The ball not man rule, in other words.
I thought Aidan fessed up fairly well in what he had to say (the piece I’m parsing is the one with Colm Keys in the Indo). He accepts that the team “didn’t perform” and that they “need to seriously get ourselves together for three weeks’ time” for the Round 2 qualifier tie we’ll be playing then. Maybe it’s the Kerry blood in him but he also talks about the “hurt” and the need to “rectify” matters after “losing a type of game that we haven’t lost for a long, long time.”
Given how badly we were off on Saturday night – from a fitness point of view, from our lack of intensity from start to finish and our madcap tactical formation – I’m not sure I buy Aidan’s line that the team weren’t complacent going into the game or that there was nothing wrong in terms of our preparation. There have to be major question marks in relation to both so I guess he was erring on the diplomatic side – with good reason, you’d have to admit – in terms of what he had to say there.
The bit I liked best, though, was where he pointed out that, unlike every year since 2011, defeat this time won’t be followed by months of waiting to get back in the ring. Instead, the team has the chance to regroup straight away and go again in three weeks time. He says:
Previously we’ve lost in August or September and had to wait nine months or longer to get back to where we had been the previous year. We’ve a three-week window now to try to get ourselves back playing good football, enjoying our football again and get a bit of momentum. If we don’t rise to it, it could be a short summer.
And that’s it in a nutshell. This backdoor campaign could, all going well, be the making of this team and it could see them coming into the quarter-finals with serious momentum and a burning desire to prove a point to the many doubters who are now gleefully writing their epitaph. Or else we’ll do what we always do in the qualifiers, in which case it will be a short summer’s football for us.
Where we go next is also the topic of Jim McGuinness’s column in today’s Irish Times (here). I really like the Donegal man’s approach to how he analyses the game, eschewing as he always does the sly dig or the opportunity to put the boot in (unless he’s dealing with Donegal, I should add). Instead he usually takes the forensic route and, as ever, his analysis make for compelling reading. He doesn’t provide any definitive conclusion about where we’re headed but does sketch out clearly the challenges facing us on the road we’re now on.
Those challenges won’t, unfortunately, be helped by the news in today’s Mayo News (paper and digital variants) that both Jason Gibbons and Ger Cafferkey are likely to miss the remainder of this year’s championship. Jason dislocated his shoulder on Saturday night and is out for at least three months while Ger suffered what the paper says is “a reoccurrence of a hamstring injury” and he’s also expected to be out of action for around the same period. Here’s wishing a speedy recovery to both of them.
There’s loads more in that paper today, as there was in yesterday’s Western People too, but there’s other real world stuff on my agenda today as well so that’s all for now. Have a good one.