This year’s league campaign has proved to be a bit of rollercoaster one for us and as our fortunes have oscillated on the pitch so too have supporters’ opinions about the team and how they’ve been doing. I’m delighted to welcome back into the guest slot Davitts Man who makes the case for a more even-handed outlook on the team from those of us sitting in the stands.
Half-way through the current league campaign it occurred to me: are the media right? Do we get carried away with our reaction to Mayo performances? I know we all want the same thing, Sam Maguire to cross the river Shannon and stay in Mayo for winter but do we the Mayo fans – and myself included – over-analyse our team and what they do on and off the pitch?
After playing our first two games we were top of the league, cock of the walk, there was even talk of how the county board would be in for a financial windfall when, not if, we qualified for the league semi-final. Four weeks later there were rumours of unrest among the management team, players’ indiscipline (some of which was true) and, by one national newspaper, calls for the county board to cleared out and replaced.
Let’s take the management team issue first. We lost three games on the bounce and clearly there were issues that needing sorting like how against Donegal and Cork for pretty much 35 minutes we could not beat a team with a one-man advantage, but some of the stuff that was written, tweeted and spoken was crazy. People were calling for change and claiming that this management team were not able to make these decisions. Okay, the Donegal game was worse than poor but every team is allowed a bad performance, particularly in the early part of the season.
Against Down we were the team to be at a disadvantage but still kept plugging away. Indeed, but some for terrible shooting options we could have won the game but at least we were creating chances. I won’t even mention the performance of referee Barry Cassidy in this game as I don’t want to get banged up for libel.
After the Cork game things had reached crisis point. It was same old Mayo – couldn’t kick a score to save their lives, except we only lost by a point to probably the second most consistent team behind Kerry of the last 5 years. I would rather be kicking 10 wides than have our ‘keeper kicking out the ball 10 times, at least we are creating these opportunities.
Then it all turned and we were suddenly the best thing since sliced bread. The 12-point trimming of the Dubs meant everything was alright in the world, the national media couldn’t get enough of us and suddenly Sam was within our sights again. So where is the happy medium?
I discussed this with a Galway work colleague of mine recently and she is always amused about how quickly we go from one extreme to the other. Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for objective analysis but let’s put things in perspective. No player goes out intentionally to under-perform, neither does James Horan nor his vast backroom team. They, like us, all want the same thing. But let’s rein in the abuse and the adulation. As those famous Scousers or even our own Enda Kenny would say: ‘Calm down’.
We hope there is an All-Ireland title in this team. James Horan has had one full season under his belt where he surpassed his aim and got us to an All-Ireland semi-final via a Connacht title. This year we have got to a league final after a first win over Kerry in HQ since 1996. As for for the championship, we’ve got to wait and see. But Rome wasn’t built in a day. Conor Counihan was into his third year before they landed the big prize, likewise Pat Gilroy, so let’s not give up hope just yet.
And what of the players themselves, the people we want to see entertain us? Yes, we know there were some issues with player indiscipline earlier in the season but they sacrifice as much as any professional athlete that we should surely cut them some slack. If Manchester City can take back Carlos Tevez after he spent 5 months on the golf course then we can surely forgive a few of our lads who didn’t know when it was time to go home from a night out. As for the county board – well, like I said, Rome wasn’t built in a day …
The great thing about the GAA is you stick with your team through thick and thin, through the good times and bad. So the next time we lose a game, let’s not despair; likewise if we win the Connacht final by 20 points. Let’s take a leaf out of those cute Kerry hoors who say they’re just happy to be there then ambush the opposition on the big day in September and climb those Hogan Stand steps to glory.