Hero to zero – and back again

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.

38 thoughts on “Hero to zero – and back again

  1. Good read WJ and a point well made. I’m as guilty as anyone on this score and I think it’s only right that we should all step back and try to offered balanced views on the team and its progress. I would only make 2 points.

    I think the management team and the players have clearly made progress. I don’t think there is any question that this management team is thoroughly professional in it’s preparation of the team and there (usually) seems to be a coherent strategy on the field. The players, some in particular, have also clearly made a huge effort on strength and conditioning and are reaping the rewards. I, however, dont think the county board’s actions display the same level of professionalism or ambition as the mgmt/players but that’s just my opinion perhaps, based on limited knowledge.

    On the Kerry comparison>I checked out some of the comments on the Kerry GAA site and I was really surprised by the level of abuse aimed at players in the wake of the defeat. (Especially at Brian Sheehan which is just hard to fathom) It certainly brought to mind Paudi’s animal ‘comments’. However that trait has the other side which is the ambition to be the best, to never be satisfied with second and to have that insatiable hunger to always win. We need a little bit of that too if we are going to get the Promised Land.

  2. No more than An Spilpin’s piece after the Donegal, it is a breath of fresh air to see a bit of balance for once.

    It is an ironic twist to some of the extremist opinion that was allowed not that long ago, which I tried to counter but was rejected.

    I know if I was playing, rather than be inspired by supporters who abused and nearly stoned players off and management off the pitch after bad results, you start performing in spite of those “Animals” as Paidi O Shea once referred them to or “Yahoo’s” as I like to refer them to (a phrase which was also objected to – I cant win it seems!).

  3. CiderMan – the only thing that was rejected from you were comments that clearly breached house rules. Stick between the ditches on them and you’ll be grand.

  4. Very thought provoking Davitts Man and a fine read. I don’t believe there was an overreaction to Mayos topsy turvey league campaign.

    Bearing in mind we reached a semi final V Kerry last year one assumed that incremental progress would be made during the league. The game in the fog V Dublin was a horror , the worst display of Mayo excesses, holding on to the ball, kicking into the keeper and been torn apart on the counter attack.

    The Donegal game confirmed a ship adfrift. James Horan alluded to the fact that players don’t live in a vacuum. He was right and some of the justifiable criticism obviously drifted through to them. There also seemed to be some back room tensions around.

    The game against Dublin saw the focus narrow and new leaders emerge. Aiden O Shea, Keegan, the boy who replaced Cafferky at full back, Vaughan etc all stood tall. They then did the same against Kerry twice. That’s all we ask, no more. The rest we can handle for ourselves.

    I would never apologize for the passion and level of debate and comment we generate amid ourselves. This site is the forum for it. Your excellent article leaves me with one ….ahem …view. For sure Rome wasn’t built in a day, a few good Caesars and generals saw it expand.

    However Rome also disintegrated fairly fast when they took the eye of the ball. We have yet to show that a new Caesar Augustus dwells in the marble halls of Mayo officialdom…I for one cannot wait for his/her emergence. Well done sir on a fine piece.

  5. Mayo are closing in on the front runners. If they can keep the head in the summer anything can happen, the football is not the issue here, it’s a mental thing for mayo and I think last Sunday,even though a league game, points to a breakthrough for this team.
    Not many in mayo are over excited just yet from what I hear, which is a good thing because we have been burned too many times with false hope. This time I think we have the real deal in players and management.

  6. That was definitely worth the time to read. One thing that came across to me is the continuous fickle nature of alot of Mayo support. Alot of comments have rightly been deleted by WJ when there has been over the top criticism of some players. It’s imperative to remember that not only some players but families, relatives and close friends read comments on sites like this. Some comments can be from frustration which is understandable and others with an agenda. I know that some of the senior players in the Mayo squad actually laugh at some of the “shit” that is written. One in particular is so used to rubbish talk about his form that at this stage nothing fazes or bothers him. The younger guys on the other hand are not as battle hardened and do take some criticism to heart. They are not used to the media and constant attention that is focused on them. It can affect their performances as a result. That’s regrettable but that’s life.

    No player goes out to play badly. No member of the management team prepare the team to under perform. The dedication that it given that I know of first hand is frightening compared to what was expected during previous regimes. We all want the same thing. We all want success. It’s easy to sing when we are winning. How about pulling together when we lose.

  7. Well said Patriot.
    John Cuffe, I think you have been guilty of this. You didn’t name individual players, instead you tarred them all with the one brush (which seems to be acceptable). Some of the criticism (particularly after the Down match I think) was way over the top for a league game with a relatively young squad.
    It’s easy to criticise and then try to pass it off as motivation when the team gets a win. To be honest, I don’t the players need to come to this blog for motivation.
    You give the media a hard enough time when they give lazy or over-the-top reactions to Mayo performances – a bit of self scrutiny might be no harm 😉

  8. Exellent read,Davitts man. No doubt about it, Mayo fans get carried away ether for good or ill, How many times have we all heard the words ‘I’ll never go to see Mayo again’ coming away from anther sickining defeat, be McHale park or Croke Park. Wheather by a bad performance, bad luck or the opposing team just playing really well.I know I said so many times myself,.many years ago I gave saying that, because I knew I was lying, now I just skake my head. You have got to admit Mayo fans can be great craic too, especially in Pubs around Croke Park before a big match, the glass is alyways half full in these places. Except for the feeling you have when its Kerry you got to face, we’r not the same confidant good humoured bunch. Now James Horan not too interested in monkeys, but I feel that certain monkey is begining to lose his grip on my back anyhow & I think I’d be in a more confident mood should we meet the Kindom in the championship later this year..As it is, we got another dragon to slay in Cork, they have been forewarned, I think we will do it, but win or lose, our performance will be critical for our further devlopement. The league final can hardly said to be anything less than a big prize, but its only a small part or a much bigger picture! Mayo abu.

  9. Is the smiley fella there to make me feel good or to mock me? Anything I write I actually believe and its just my own personal opinion. I retain the right to comment on the way I see it, you have the right to disagree.

    I cannot recall me ever abusing a single young player. I put my hands up to fingering a number of players who are around a long time and seemed to be existing on their past reputations. Thankfully they are now performing at a level that shuts big mouths like me up.

    Line four has me puzzled, I think you meant unacceptable. Sorry Tubberman but I am around too long, travelled too many stony roads to buy into the misty eyed sentimentality that we never criticize ourselves in the hope that we achieve what I believe we are capable of.

    Finally I think you over estimate the rant of a 60 year man and its effects on a media who couldnt give a shite about John Cuffe or what he thinks. I will always attack those from the outside that attack us and equally I reserve the right to put up my own opinion as I do and under my own name.

    Incidentally I put up a piece last year under the title Mea Culpa where I admitted I got it wrong. I would like to think I have the decency to put the hand up when the need arises but I wont ever apologize for some of the wanton waste this great county of ours has produced.

    By the way , maybe the players should come to this blog and read whats said, some of them spend too long hanging around the green and red tie brigade who will spoon the honey into them.

  10. The turning point was in the run-up to the Dublin game. A few players have alluded in interviews to the fact that in the week running up to that game, they finally got together as a full group and this led to a big increase in team spirit and performance levels. Let’s hope that the Portugal trip brings another leap forward.

  11. Well lads wer not gonna judge this mayo team on last sundays result, sure they beat kerry in croke park but thers nothing won nothing n lets see now if they can put back to back performances in croker. They will have to play as well or better than last sunday to beat a big cork team and until they start playing with some consistency and not choking in a final in croker were all entitled to critisize.Which mayo team will show up next sunday,who knows but i hope its tha 1 that was out the last 4 weeks..HOPE.

  12. as the great Paddy Prendergast said … ‘you won’t win all Ireland’s without COURAGE and DETERMINATION’ 🙂

  13. CiderMan – as you rightly predicted, I’m not going to allow such a comment to be posted here. You’ve broken just about every rule there is about standards relating to comments on the site so if I were you I wouldn’t bother attempting this again as any future comment of the same kind will meet the same fate.

  14. 100% correct – the team needs to perform next Sunday – two back to back performances in Croke Park will really kick them on. Confidence in themselves and each other is the key to unlocking this cycle. Unfortunately recent performances in Croker have been poor to mediocre – largely individual displays. However when a team outgrows individual performance and learns team confidence, excellence becomes a reality.  Many on this blog complained about a lack of direction or planning in the play.  This has changed. Horan is a thinker – watch him on the sideline – no panic. As Davitts says be patient – he is building a fantastic team ethic. Last year he set about hardening them up. Even Mayo’s harshest critics recognised this new found grit and muscle. This year it appears to me that he’s encouraging them to really back themselves. Running hard at defenders in straight lines. Not being intimidated by reputations; Dublin, Kerry, Cork.

    Good times  are ahead – sooner than we think.

  15. Progress being made by JH and the team,Kerry game a confidence booster.
    Reality check- in 2001 Mayo defeated Galway in league final,Roscommon beat Mayo in championship and Galway won the All Ireland.
    Joe Kernan stated you never talk of an All Ireland Title until you are in the Final. As Mayo GAA supporters we must keep our feet on the ground,the same applies to the Mayo Media.

  16. Its great to see so many comments be they be good bad or indifferent.

    The message I was trying to get across is cut the Mayo players & managemnt in particular some slack. Been negative will not do us any good. Like I said I’m all for constructive analysis lets keep it that way.

    Ultimately we all want the same thing just have different opinions on how to go about it, but that’s what makes sport so great!

  17. A win next Sunday would be huge, if only for the confidence. In recent years the League has been a very good indicator for the championship. We need to lay down a marker to other teams that the Croke park hoodoo crap is being laid to rest.

    If we are worried about losing the head if we win next Sunday, the only ones that matter are the players. We are not the only county that gets caught up in hype, we have to learn to cope with it.

    In 2001 I don’t remember anyone believing in April of that year that we were going to win the all ireland after we won the league. No reality check needed then and we are in a much better position now than we were in either 2001 or god forbid ,2007 or 2010.

  18. Great piece Davitts Man. Delighted to see somebody address the extremes in reactions after we wins/lose. After we lost to Donegal it is compared to the losses to Sligo/Longford in 2010. When we beat Dublin we are All-Ireland contenders. I don’t for one minute believe we are 12pts better than Dublin (anybody that does is slightly deluded), nor are we as bad as we appeared against Donegal.

    The reality is Mayo are probably ranked number 4 at the moment trailing in after Dublin, Kerry and Cork in whatever order you please. We have the ability to beat all three on a one off as we proved against Cork last year and Kerry last week. The real test is August/September can we consistently beat these teams when it matters.

    We still have that big step to take into the top 3 in the country real All-Ireland contenders. We have been here before. For most of the last decade we could probably rank ourselves at least in the top 5. Dublin proved last year (slightly fortunately!) that it is possible to make the leap.

    Forget all the media horse shite about Mayo. We are a young team with a driven manager and management team. We are where we are, All Ireland contenders or All Ireland hopefuls? The next 6 months will tell.

  19. To be fair, nobody is talking abou winning AIs here, just saying we should now be able to compete with the best, in either April, August or September.

    2001 was a strange one – Tyrone, the form team at the time, were ‘removed’ from the competition and Ros and Sligo made the semis. It was great to win a league but I think most Mayo supporters knew that half a dozen at least on that team were not All Ireland standard. We had a one half forward in particular on that team who was a great trier, but he was never an inter county standard footballer.

    The league is a much better pointer now than it was back then, and if we were to beat Dublin, Kerry and then Cork back to back to win it, it could only be taken as an extremely positive sign for the coming three or four championship seasons.

  20. By the way, was I the only person that assumed that when ‘Davitts Man’ had written an article called ‘Hero to Zero and Back Again’ it was going to be about Colm Boyle?

    You could write a whole other article about him that would match that title exactly.

  21. John Cuffe you are unfair to Tubberman and you have us beaten to death about being 60 years old. You “paled” everyone with the white-wash brush. Self scrutiny-maybe?

  22. Message to all – a fair bit of sniping has entered the debate over the past week or so and it’s not a trend I want to see develop any further. Simple rule – play the ball, not the man. I’d appreciate it if everyone could take note and act accordingly. Thanks.

  23. Well said willie Joe. We have just qualified for a national final thankfully. I dread to think what would be said if we hadn’t won last Sunday. Let’s keep it positive for the week ahead and let’s all march to croke park as one next Sunday. Maigheo Abu.

  24. Let’s keep it positive ladies and gents.we are in a better place than most right now.enjoy the sun when it shines and we will worry about the rain if and when it comes….

  25. yes lads keep it positive! certainly we need a much bigger turnout in croker next sun ,get behind the team. this is a different mayo team, one that wont roll over and one i feel is only starting to flex its muscles. all that matters to team mayo and supporters is 4pm sunday. see you there.

  26. come on lads, a few weeks ago we were talking about division 2. Come on now as Hungrystarvedsince51 said, let us see you all in corker next sunday and get behind the team.

  27. I’m fully behind the team. I was just trying to use DandyDavitt’s and Patriot’s posts to make the case for others to stand behind the team whether results are going for us or against us.
    That hasn’t always been the case and I was only highlighting that.
    It’s very easy to be behind the team when things are going well. It’s also very easy to turn on them when things aren’t going as well. Now is the time to call on people to support the team throughout the year, not just when it’s the easiest thing to do.

    That doesn’t mean performances can’t be criticised, but it has to be kept in context. I referenced a post of John Cuffe’s which doesn’t seem to be in the archive for some reason, but as I remember it (and I’m paraphrasing here) it said “Mayo haven’t one player who can beat their man – not one!”
    Stuff like that is thrown out there and is just factually wrong. That kinda thing annoys me.

  28. Probably the Dublin fog game. The evidence that night suggested as much and those Mayo supporters around me said as much. I recall another contributor describing a shot from a Mayo player as a “girleens shot at goal” but hey stick the boot into me if it makes you feel good.

    I call it as I see it. I saw certain Mayo senior panellists perform below standard fir ages, they don’t at the moment and the team has benefitted. Never once did I criticise a young player and my earscat matches regarding comments did not deceive me.

    I wondered who from Tubberacurry I upset and naive fool that I am it took a fee days before the penny dropped and I was looking at the wrong town and suddenly it all made sense.

    Finally just to allay anybody who suggests that I am jumping on some band wagon and am now all sweet about the team …don’t insult what’s left oft intellect . Where appropriate I praise and where I see a player shoe boating and holding up play because he sees himself as a Franz Beckenbaur I will call it do.

    Finally for Mr Mackin I do refer to 60 quite a bit, that’s how long since we last won an all Ireland and if the tenor of this site is to personalise comments and single thelooked of me out .,.fine. I stand over every comment I make, I acknowledge where I err and if I see a forward fool around 40 yards out, slow the game down and then hit a weak shot away I will comment. And if I see him do the right thing I will acknowledge that.

    Two wins and s draw has brought forth a rare confidence and bite in the county…long may it continue. By the way I resent any notion that am any the less a Mayo follower just because I don’t praise them all the time.

  29. Sorry WJ, off topic here. I’m trying to find the previous article by John Cuffe on the late Eddie Cuffe. I’ve had a look in the archives but it only seems to show the last 10 for each month – or am I losing my mind here?
    The old fella knew Eddie and wanted to read the piece after I told him about it.

  30. Okay – Monday morning (with the rain tumbling down) is as good a time as any to get back into the pulpit on the topic of comments.

    The problem I have with what’s happening in the comments of late is that some are taking it upon themselves to come on and have a pop at others about opinions they’ve expressed. More than once, these kind of critical comments have been made with the benefit of hindsight (in at least one case, after the Kerry game when referring to comments made after the Donegal match). 20:20 hindsight vision is truly a wonderful thing.

    Let me be clear – I don’t think there’s anything wrong with criticising the team’s performance, individual player’s performances or what the sideline is up to, providing it’s all done as per the house rules. I don’t agree with the sentiment put forward this morning that all comments should be supportive of the team all the time, regardless of how they’re faring. This would, I think, then simply descend into an exercise in pollyannaism. But any criticism that is voiced should obviously be measured and criticisms should be made in relation to specifics that can be challenged by others.

    Likewise, there’s nothing wrong with anyone tackling what somebody else has put in the comments, providing the focus is on what has been said, not on the person who has said it. More than once, however, in the recent past people have been guilty of “man, not ball” attacks (a recent extreme example was so unacceptable that I had to delete it in its entirety – the individual that wrote it also had, in doing so, the temerity to ask me to forward its contents to its intended recipient, in the apparent belief that I would somehow be willing to become a postman for hate mail).

    In light of these developments I want to remind everyone (again) that such posts aimed at attacking others are out of bounds – house rule 1 applies. This means that if you’re challenging what someone has to say, the focal point should be on – and stay on – the specific point you want to tackle, and not on the person who made it. I’ve let a few comments of this ilk slide over the last while but I cannot allow this trend to continue unchecked any longer and so I’m giving due notice now that it’s going to be zero tolerance on this front from now on.

  31. I am astounded that so much bitterness has entered a debate triggered by Mayo beating Kerry to reach a league final.

    We all have our own thoughts and opinions on where Mayo need to improve etc but I really do think we need to get a grip.

    As many commentators have mentioned, no young fella goes out onto the field to have a bad game. This is particularly true in the modern game where these guys are practically semi pro in terms of their application to training, diet etc.

    We may or may not be good enough to go a long way this summer but I think we’re most definitely heading in the right direction. There are a hell of a lot of counties out there that are envious of our current position.

    I think less sniping (at the team and within the county) might well deliver far more in the long term.

  32. Dan, if you go to Guest Appearences on WJs site you will find the piece on the late Eddie.

  33. Dan – as John says, it’s in the Guest Appearances category. A direct link to it is here.

    Tubberman – the piece you were looking for which John also wrote is also in the Guest Appearances category and is here.

  34. John cuffe was right in as far as Some players were operating at well below their potential. How else do we go from Dublin toying with us to us clattering them, competing very well with cork and beating Kerry in croker?not to mention the donegal debacle!
    Somebody said something somewhere in the mayo setup and they all took notice. We the fans should enjoy being where we are, still nobodies as far as SAm is involved but in a great position to go the distance if we keep our heads.
    Up mayo.

  35. Am I the only one who thinks Mayo were getting a foothold in the Dublin game and the second half would’ve been intriguing had the fog stsyed away? Nah, must be me alone!

  36. Mayo were within 3 points at HT and a man up, getting a toe hold. What might have happened in the 2nd half could be anyone’s guess, taking into account the next 2 times we faced 14.

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