In a Mayo state of mind

This week I’m delighted to welcome my blogging colleague An Spailpín Fánach to the guest appearance slot on the site where he makes the case for a more positive assessment of our standing in the world of Gaelic football and the need for this to start with a reappraisal of how we view ourselves.

There is a branch of philosophy that talks about how perception creates reality. That there are no absolute things, but only our conception of them. The fifty-nine year wait in Mayo for the return of Sam Maguire is an interesting exploration of that notion.

Because it hasn’t been a fifty-nine year wait. At all. If you were reading the Mayo Post and Advertiser in 1979, say, where Willie Joe’s alternate self in the Bizarro Universe may have written in the pre-internet age, you wouldn’t be wondering about when Sam would return to Mayo. You’d be wondering when the Nestor Cup would return to Mayo. You’d wonder if you’d ever live to see a Mayo senior team play in Croke Park.

Maybe you were at the Connacht Final that year. Joe McGrath scored 2-5 in that Connacht Final in Castlebar but Roscommon still strolled it, winning 3-15 to 2-10. An eight point win. A walloping, and a tenth year without seeing Dublin other than on telly on the boat to England.

Things changed in the 1980s, when Mayo began to win Connacht Championships again, and changed again in the 1990s, when John Maughan brought the team to a seventy-yard hit and hope half volley punt of victory. From fourth and nowhere to bronze medal to so close, so close…

In thirty years, Mayo have gone from people dreaming of seeing a Mayo senior team in Croke Park to being sick of seeing them in Croke Park, and telling each other on the high stools or posting on the message boards that if Mayo aren’t going to win the thing they might as well have lost in Connacht.

It makes you wonder if we really understand what it is that’s going on. I don’t think we do. And I’m pretty damn sure that the man was right when he said that if you don’t learn from your mistakes you’re doomed to repeat them.

Mayo aren’t looking back at a sixty-year catalogue of failure. They’re looking at a fifty-year catalogue of improvement.

Mayo aren’t Cavan. In their prime, Cavan were much better than Mayo. But now they’re gone, with one Ulster title in forty years and disappointment in the qualifiers every damn year without fail. That’s failure. What would Cavan give to have Mayo’s recent history?

In the 1970s, Mayo couldn’t get out of Connacht. The papers like to say that Connacht is always a two-team competition; no it’s not. Mayo and Galway both go through lulls, and Galway are mired in one now while Sligo are going through a good spell for them and Roscommon may be on the way back.

The past four years have been bleak for Mayo but if you went back in time to offer the past four years to the teams of the seventies they’d snap the hand off you for two games in August. It only seems bleak in the context of a team that was in two All-Ireland finals in three years. Lost both certainly, but were at least there to lose them in the first place.

Mayo get no credit for this achievement. And it’s our own fault. The national media – with the exception of Keith Duggan, of course – doesn’t bother with Mayo other than the usual soft chat about fifty years of hurt, which is especially pathetic as it’s not even an original line. And then we’re our own worst enemies because we take the belts.

In the preview to the Dublin v Tyrone game of 2008, Colm O’Rourke said that there were four great teams of the 2000s – Kerry, Tyrone, Armagh and Dublin. Mayo didn’t feature, nor did anyone pull him up on it, and it’s not like there aren’t enough Mayo people around him in RTÉ to pull him up on it.

David Heaney gets roasted by Kieran Donaghy in an All-Ireland Final and doesn’t get an All-Star nomination. Graham Canty gets roasted by the very same man in the very same game one year on and he’s hailed as one of the best players in the country.

There are many reasons why a team wins an All-Ireland and many why it loses. But Mayo’s own inability to give ourselves credit for our achievements, within and without the county, really don’t help the cause. It’s hard to field a high ball if you’re constrained by using one hand to tug your forelock before the quality.

Positive thinking won’t turn a steak into a fish, as in the old joke. But it will mean that the next time a player in possession looks at a scoreboard to see Mayo six points up with twenty minutes to go he won’t think: I don’t believe this. He’ll think: in fifteen seconds it’ll be seven. Up Mayo.

10 thoughts on “In a Mayo state of mind

  1. Measured and accurate Spailpin. We are currently in a self fulfilling downward spiral and here is an example.

    The summer gone by we elevated Sligo into something that maybe we might look up to. Alan Costelloe was seen as another loss to Mayo similar to John Nallen,Dan O Neill, John Gibbons, SeamieO Donnell and Sean Kilbride before him

    Alan Costelloe wouldnt be fit to wipe the boots of the afore mentioned. Sligo…Sligo that have 3 Senior Connacht titles, 2 Minor Connacht titles and zero U21 titles in 127 years are what we admire at the moment!

    Funnily enough a Division Four bound Roscommon didnt accord them the status we gave a few weeks earlier as they won a handy Connacht title.

    I am a Mayo man and my view of the Sligo’s of this world is simple; they should be battered on a regular basis. We have a history and it should be used to prod this generation. You can only beat whats put out in front of you. In 1949 Connacht semi final Mayo ate them by a score of 7-10 to 0-2. Peter Solon scored 5-2.

    Yet we have backed ourselves into the ludicrous position that an aging player like Eamon O Hara made asses of us this summer gone by. Time to look around and remember exactly who we are and what our past demands of us. I for one will never tolerate losing to sides like Sligo who are virtually with out history themselves.

    Great article Spalpin and I might add that we stop worrying about what the national media write about us. And the surest way to shut them up is give them nothing to hang their bile on.

  2. A very arrogant reply ontheroad considering how poor we are at the moment. Give Sligo some credit for the great strides they have made over the last few years. If O’Hara was from Mayo he would still be playing for us.
    I don’t know how you can be so high and mighty. Our past is not all that great. 3 All Irelands to our name. I think the Rossies nearly or could have as many or not more.
    Are you sure you are not from Kerry?. Then I could understand your post. Maybe save those type of posts until we have completed a three in a row. Imagine if we were winning All-Irelands how intolerable we could get.

  3. Facetheball. I am not arrogant nor from Kerry. I am aware of where we are at the moment and thats where we will stay if we bow to the likes of Sligo or Roscommon. Yes Roscommon has two All Irelands, fair play to them, we have three, we should have as many as Meath, Galway and Cavan.
    I see us one way, you see us another, makes no differnce to me. Sligo are a team we should beat every time we meet them, history says that. The fact that they have closed a gap on us shows how far we slipped. For all their huffing and puffing Sligo couldnt beat Roscommon this year. I will give them the same credit they would give us for winning more in the last ten years than they managed in 127 years and thats allowing for how poor we have performed at times. To make it easy for you Sligo has won 3 senior titles , 2 minor and 0 U21 connacht titles in total. Since 2000 Mayo has won 3 senior Connachts, a National league, 7 U21 titles +an All Ireland, and played in four All Ireland minor finals. Thats neither arrogant nor cocky but an indication of where Mayo stand. So despite having a Sligo grandfather and having Sligo friends I am neither arrogant but they are not in our league.The other fault we have in Mayo is our nature is too generous. If you want to read what Sligo followers think of Mayo, go over to Hogan Stand and read a guy called Farmer 2 who pollutes the Mayo site. Then come back and tell me that I am arrogant.

  4. I still think you are quite harsh on sligo saying we should batter them every year. History can count for very little as we learned to our cost twice this year. Tyrone had no “history” until very recently so things can change over a period of time. I would show a little more respect to Sligo and Roscommon. We will be the better for it if Ross and Sligo remain competitive.

  5. Thanks for the feedback everyone, and thanks again to Willie Joe for providing us with this forum to talk about the County Mayo. If only there was a way to livesteam the strong, sweet porter I do believe this blog would be very Heaven.

  6. Its coming up to Christmas and I actually bear nobody any malice. I am actually sorry I commented and spoilt Spailpins Story and took from it.
    When I speak anbout Mayo and other counties, its in a football context. I believe that Mayo are and should be in a different level than Sligo and Roscommon. I do believe that we should beat them often and regular. They wont spare us but hey …no point in falling out over it.

  7. “farmer2
    County: Sligo
    Posts: 284

    837066 ye should all amalgamate… oh wait, isn’t a county an amalgamation of all clubs? Surely you can QUIT maybe??? ”

    That comment above Facetheball is the latest diatribe from a Sligo follower on Hoganstand. He has polluted the Mayo site with ten times worse than that. That post is in relation to Davitts and Eastern Gaels or some team like that amalgamating. Nothing to do with Sligo or Farmer 2. So where I come from , we couldnt hammer them by enough. Just to remind him, Sligo 3 senior, 2 minor and 0 U21 titles in 127 years. Mayo 3 Senior Connacht since 2004, 3 U21 All Irl finals sice 2001, 5 minor finals since 1999 plus 3 league finals and you expect Mayo people to stand back and be abused by spiteful people like that?

  8. Rise above it ontheroad. The man (or woman?) is clearly a pitiful character. They do not deserve any of us going down to their level. Pity him his narrow-mindedness, ignorance and stupidity.

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