Yesterday’s league defeat to Down certainly rocked us back on our heels a bit. Here’s what John Cuffe has to say on where we find ourselves in its aftermath.
Finishing a thirty-year sentence for a crime I never committed, my ear was glued to the radio as Mayo and Donegal battled out the closing stages of the 2007 league final. John Maughan was the match summariser. As Donegal got the choke tackle on us John opined that this was due to the strength of their subs bench.
He was correct. What puzzled me was the fact that in the three previous years we contested 2 senior, 2 U21, and 1 club All-Ireland finals. Yet our bench was weak, only in Mayo could this happen. The last week saw the Tom-Tom drums beating in the Mayo jungle. However let’s not blame the much maligned fans. This was from the players, and sources within the power structures that govern the team.
Aiden O’Shea told all and sundry how hard we had become, how tough we were to beat, how talented a squad we were. Reaching a league final or semi, an unnamed source told the fawning but laughing press would be worth 80k to the hard pressed county. Now 80k is about as useful to Mayo as 80k would be to whatever Eurocrat is running Greece at the moment.
My daughter put a tweet app on my phone. My god, what I have been missing over the years? The players put down their jersey number on their tagline and tell us earth-shattering secrets like “Just up and had a piss” or “Finished in gym and heading to buy the Herald” or “meeting physio for leg rub… wink wink”. Now if they need to tell the nation such things then ring Joe or ring the Samaritans but please have your piss in private…I am not interested.
I enter my seventh decade in August. I love Mayo but stopped buying the propaganda around 1992. I got sense even though my wife says I got dafter. But I got sense in a sporting context. This current Mayo squad have not a single player capable of beating their marker…not one. Last year we drew with Down then recent and narrowly beaten All-Ireland finalists. We then beat Cork in the championship who had earlier walloped Down. Yesterday Down popped back up. Where does that leave us?
The fog saved us from a hiding a few weeks ago. Armagh were shown up yesterday for where they are currently at, thus wiping away some of the gloss of our recent victory up there. And yet we persist making the sum of our scattered parts greater than the reality. (Does that make sense…I am after reading it twice and am not sure!) Have we players fighting for six forward slots or have we players fighting for four starting slots? Theirin lies one of the problems.
GAA is the modern form of the great cattle runs and battles of times past. Queen Maeve and the Tain and that type of stuff, pride in the place etc. In achieving greatness a certain madness and hardness is required. Francie Bellew, Mick Lyons, Páidi Ó Sé, Paddy McCormack, Brian Dooher, the McMahons, oh I could go on, were hard. Strangely they never felt the need to broadcast it. They simply did the little things good and when the sword had to be drawn and that might not be often, then they whipped it out and did the necessary. We have much to learn.
Our strength comes from clever players operating a “Mayo” type game like against Cork last year, Dublin 2006, and Kerry 1996. No point aping the rest because we don’t do “bad” good. A former Mayo player once wrote along the lines of “if Mayo want a defender who leaves his opponent’s teeth on the ground then they better get somebody else”. Noble and to be admired but could he not have stayed silent on his modus operandi? Why not pretend that if a little rearranging has to be done then it’s a club worth using? Imagine going golfing and telling your pal that you would not use the driver to tee off; you would rather use the putter?
So we have had another mad swing. Despair and fog against the Dubs, league glory and cash in the attic against Armagh and now relegation battle after losing to Down. In truth we are mid-table and in truth James Horan will now have decisions to make and chart a way forward. I admire the man but big things need big men to do them. James knows the honeymoon ended yesterday and life at the kitchen table can get tedious unless the family play their part.
Focal Scoir: The ref…..since 1948 we have been piped, swissed and shafted. Obviously it’s not a priority within the corridors of power in Mayo. Let’s be clear on this….Cork, Kerry, Dublin, Meath or Tyrone would not be treated in such a manner.