Large victory margins are nothing new

Photo: Sky Sports

Saturday’s outsized win over Sligo, combined with the tankings Kerry and Donegal dished out to Clare and Down respectively over the weekend, has led to plenty of complaints about all that’s wrong with the current Championship structure.

These are sentiments I’d agree with wholeheartedly and are ones I’ve voiced myself – I recall banging on about this topic when the blog was only a few months in existence – but that isn’t the purpose of what I want to talk about now. Instead I want to place Saturday’s whipping in its historical context, both in relation to other clashes against Sligo and lopsided provincial results in matches involving us more generally.

Thanks to the new search tool in the results archive here on the blog, this kind of research is a piece of cake. So, then, pull up a seat and I’ll serve up a slice or two.

The first thing to note was that Saturday’s 3-23 to 0-12 thumping wasn’t the worst Championship defeat we’ve inflicted on the Yeats County. It wasn’t the second or third worst either. In fact, Saturday’s twenty-point hammering was only the fourth biggest margin of victory that we’ve enjoyed in the Connacht SFC over the Magpies.

You have to go back to 1949 – an era when we were really flying – for the worst mismatch between the two counties in the Championship. That game was a Connacht semi-final tie played in Ballina in June that year, which we won by 7-10 to 0-2. That translates into a 29-point victory cushion. Peter Solan weighed in with 5-2 of our tally that day.

Most of us weren’t born when that game was played. Indeed, for some you, your parents probably weren’t even alive then. That isn’t the case with our second biggest provincial Championship win over Sligo, which took place as recently as the Connacht final of 2015. That game took place in Hyde Park on a day when Aidan O’Shea helped himself to a personal tally of 3-4 as we ran out winners by 26 points, on a scoreline of 6-25 to 2-11.

Fewer of you will have been at MacHale Park in 1987 when we pasted the Yeatsmen by 3-17 to 0-6 in the Connacht semi-final. I was and I recall that we prepared for that game thinking it’d be a rematch with Roscommon who’d shocked us the previous summer. But the Rossies lost to Sligo in the opening round in ’87 and we took our frustration out on the Magpies instead.

Things didn’t end well for us that summer, though, as that flat-track bully performance was followed by one of the most dispiriting Connacht defeats I ever witnessed. That was the 0-8 to 0-7 (yes, you read that correctly) loss we suffered in the final to an extremely mediocre Galway team. Who said the Eighties were fun?

Looking at provincial mismatches more generally, those 1949 and 2015 wins over Sligo also stand as the two biggest victory margins we’ve recorded over any county in Connacht. In fact, that’s not strictly accurate as the 3-28 to 1-8 win over New York in 2004 (does that even count?) was also a 26-point margin of victory so it sits level with the 2015 win over Sligo.

After that comes the 7-6 to 0-3 win over Leitrim at Carrick-on-Shannon in 1973, the 5-12 to 1-0 victory over Leitrim at Tubbercurry in 1933 and the 0-24 to 0-1 win over Roscommon in 1921. In total, there are currently thirteen Connacht games where we enjoyed bigger victory margins than the one we came away from Markievicz Park last Saturday. The earliest one of these took place way back in 1907 when we dismantled Galway at Claremorris by 2-16 to 0-1.

I guess the main point to note from this bit of historical meandering is that provincial hammerings – not just involving us – have been taking place for decades. That doesn’t make the current structure right – it’s anything but right, in fact it’s downright awful – but it does show that we’ve put up with these kinds of Championship mismatches for a very, very long time.

66 thoughts on “Large victory margins are nothing new

  1. Yes we have, WJ. The problem for Sligo is their season is now over until next seasons league. And how do you progress without games, competitive games. Its up to clubs to pickupthe slack but its not the same as bringing a panel of your best players together..
    We are forunate in Mayo in that even in transition, Horan has kept us competitive.

  2. I remember that 87 game and mayo wouldn’t score if they had 2 footballs. A very frustrating day and thank God those performances are in the past. I didn’t think Willie Joe teams were scoring 24 pts back in 1921.those games usually finished 5_4 or something like that.

  3. Ya i remember for a time in the 80s Leitrim and Sligo being cannon fodder. Unfortunately going back to that again.

    Really it’s a terrible product as is.

    I think the best path forward would be to make the provincials the pre season comp and the league the main event. Have divisional champions then knockout phase for all ireland.

    Maybe 5 from D1 into QFs.
    6 from the other divisions playoff to fill remaining 3 QF places. That way every team still has a path to the all ireland but would be far less mismatches and would allow proper fixture management

  4. That 1921 score is an oddity alright, No Doubt, one I need to take a closer look at again when time permits. As you point out, it’s not a typical scoring tally from those times.

  5. I know this will be unpopular but long term the radical change suggested by Pat Gilroy is needed. Split Dublin and amalgamate other counties. Would create fairer system for all players from all counties to aspire to win the top honours in the game

  6. If the qualifiers were going, Sligo could look forward to games against Louth, or Waterford, or other Leinster losers, where they would have a chance.

    And, it’s not so long ago since our five in a row, added to Dublin and Kerry’s wins, were causing pundits great angst. Remember Jim Carney in 2016, saying, something to the effect, that Aidan O’Shea would beat Galway on his own? Well, he didn’t and we didn’t, and it took us 5 years to win another Connaught. There are no certainties.

  7. You’re right Catcol and hopefully the qualifiers will return next year and weaker teams will get more games

  8. I recall our very own spanking at the hands of Cork in 1993, 5-15 to 0-10 in an All Ireland semi final and a few since in finals. I can still remember the graciousness of our victors as I left the canal end. Not.
    Nothing new in trimmings alright but they seem to be increasing in frequency.

  9. Giving the Rossies a 4-19 to 0-9 hiding in Croke Park quarter final 2017 was a good day for me.No complaints there.

  10. I was at the match you speak about v Galway in 87. If I recall correctly I remember thinking it was like a tennis match. Willie Joe kicked it in and the Galway backs kicked it out for the whole game. Shocking stuff.

  11. Im afraid the qualifiers are no great panacea for the weaker counties. 2019 first round qualifiers had a 9pt average losing margin. The second round qualifiers had nearly an 8 point average loss. The qualifiers only help the stronger sides who may be shocked once but not twice.

  12. I found it hard to follow that proposal B in that article WJ. Its not a Mayo problem as we have been up there as one of the stronger teams for many a year.
    Im sure those defeats for Clare in particular, Sligo and Down very disheartening, and there will be no appetite for jumping back into intensive training this week.
    The solution to the crisis must include some continuous meaningful football beyond the championship.
    Personally, id scrap the provincials and give league greater status by running it in conjunction with championship. Bit similar to league and cup in soccer

  13. Both proposals are ridiculous and wont address the real issue with football, the ever widening gap between the top 4-5 teams and everyone else. what will moving Antrim or Wicklow to connacht achieve? instead of getting hammered by Donegal or Dublin, they travel further to get hammered by Mayo or Galway. Proposal B is utter madness, ive read it about a half dozen times and still not fully sure what its about. The GAA are hell bent trying to appease out of touch provincial councils by coming up with more and more convoluted formats when we already have the solution in place and working. The league is the fairest competition we have, make that the main competition with the winner getting Sam. All teams play at their level and as they improve can move through the divisions and ultimately compete for Sam. The league is the only fair system, the other proposals will only suit the strong teams while the gap will only widen to the rest.

  14. Yes that 1987 Connacht Final defeat in Mchale Park still cuts deep today. 0-8 to 0-7. It was unbelievable. It took me a long long time to get over that.

    Galway were very average at best. We tore them apart all over the pitch and just couldn’t put it on the scoreboard. Then had to watch Galway v Cork in the All Ireland semi final a few weeks later knowing it should have been us.

    I still have nightmares about that game 34 years later. The sheer disappointment and despair that set in as I left Mchale Park that day was something else alright.

  15. Hi, Have been checking on how County Cricket is organised in The UK. A bitvlike what MayoMad proposes. The League is the main Competition with the winners and losers moving up and down the Divisions.

    The top 2 in Division 1 play off for Sam or the Bob Willis Cup in their case. . Each County plays each othher twice home and away. They can’t meet a 3rd time but the points are carried forwards Sound familiar?

    When the Celtic tiger took off, the Irish Cricket team had a surprise win over a depleted English team but there was an expectation that Ireland would become a Cricket Powerhouse as we moved up in the world. I think our captain from Rush, North Co Dublin. went on to play for England. Very prestigious occupation and no doubt lucrative one in the UK.

    I once hoped if I could understand Cricket that it would help me to fit in.

  16. The solution has to be based in giving continuous summer football to all counties. Midweek fixtures are possible Mayomads suggestion has more merit than either proposals going forward. I do think every county is entitled to a crack at Sam. Amalgamation of weaker counties is not a solution imo. When a Leitrim lad puts on a county jersey, he does so with the same pride as a Jackeen.
    Thanks for airing the subject WJ. It deserves a platform like this wherby the common man has his say

  17. You could do one thing to make things a bit closer.
    – reduce the playing time to 60 mins.
    With added injury time rules it’s still 70 mins anyways or near enough in total.
    Dublin have won the 2015, 2017, 2019 All Ireland all in the final few minutes.
    Statistically there would be more shocks and less Dublin dominance in a 60 min game.
    Also, it suits the modern tv viewer who are less and less interested to watch for example 90mins of soccer or 70 mins of GAA.
    Another thought is a move to 13 a side where weaker teams, their strongest five players will count for much more.
    Reduce the subs down to 4 if having 13 a side.
    The longer game 15 a side with 6 subs is too controllable by the top teams reducing the chances for weaker teams over the past fifteen years. The top teams have made Gaelic football a contest of athleticism and organisation.

  18. Speaking of big margins of victory I hope we get to play Roscommon in the Connacht final and hammer them out the gate again. That is all.

  19. Some lateral thinking there JP.

    I thought Sligo had a number of good footballers, and in Murphy they have a class act. McEntee is a smart guy and if he gets any breaks he’ll have them a lot better.

    Everyone criticised the qualifiers, but boy do they provide some joy for supporters. And if a team gets on a roll…

  20. Hi Willie joe would it be possible for you to do a post on players involved in our under 20 and minor panels this year as their championship is fast approaching?

  21. @mayoman6789 Mayomessi was always the legend on who might potentially be involved. Until a team is announced can post no more than that.

  22. The notion ‘every county deserves a crack at Sam’ is a bit of a cod at this stage, adult football in every county is tiered appropriately to ensure club teams compete at the right level and the numbers of mismatches are reduced, same should apply to the inter county scene. The recent league format with groups of 4 (forget the geographic divide though) could be the way forward, 4×4 in Snr comp and 4×4 in Inter comp, same format in both tiers – teams play each other at home and away, as such every county is guaranteed 6 games and 3 home gates plus the perennial debate about the Dubs ‘always playing at home’ is settled to some extent. Top 2 teams in each group go forward to AI Q finals while bottom 4 teams go to a relegation play off with two losing teams relegated to Inter and both Inter finalists being promoted to Senior ensuring there is something to play for in every game and Inter counties have a path to progress and compete for Sam. The 2 AI finals to be played on a bumper weekend allowing 4 counties a big day out. I get the historic and administrative significance of the provincial structures but change and adaptation is the universal law and the provincial championships are long past their sell by date, run them off as a warm up comp in March/April if necessary

  23. Me neither, JP! Just to respond to you Mayoman6789, I’m afraid I have no more information than anyone else on the underage panels for this year.

  24. WJ and others- worth reading Frankie Dolan’s piece about us- an arrogant bunch of who gets basically.

  25. ‘Whingers’ basically. Moaning about refs after AI finals etc.- he doesn’t hang back!

  26. Well, that’s Frankie crossed off the Christmas Card list for a few years at least!

  27. I saw Off the Ball pumping that but I’ve better things to be doing than listening to it. OTB must be desperate for guests this weather if that’s the kind of idiocy they’re promoting.

  28. It’s a combination of OTB looking for a story and Frankie Doran trying to make a name for himself. Just after listening to it. A pile of bitter nonsense.

  29. I hope Frankie let’s us all in on the secret of who all those “top class players” from Roscommon were who got dropped! Gas. Fair play John Maughan. He’s gone up even further in my estimation .

  30. I believe Frankie “goes to Hollywood” Dolan has a book out hence clamour for publicity. It is not about acting eventhough he was a very good actor in his playing days.

  31. Agree NWgaaman, I do not see why every county should have a crack at Sam, it is just a romantic notion that makes us think the equality applies.
    The top teams over the last 15 years have really stepped up in terms of approach thereby widening a gap that already existed. It may well be the case that we will struggle to maintain our performance levels (which are still below the Dubs and Kerry), but I struggle to understand why counties do not accept a second tier.
    If marketed properly it would increase participation rates and gain more profile for the gaa.

  32. Just listened to that awful F.Dolan, running us into the ground. P.God let us meet the Rossies next month!!!!!

  33. Frankie Dolan lol. Its cringy really, a mediocre player from a County who’ve never got within an ass’s roar of an All Ireland Final in at least 30 years. To think he’s spouting bile about us to appease the vast amount of Rossies is brilliant…good marketing tool for him in fairness. We really do live rent free in them bhoys heads. OTB must be in a bad spot to give him air time. My own young lad just said Frankie who?…..says it all.

  34. Fair play to Maughan he bends the knee to no one and was a damn fine manager and still is.

  35. Hi, I think there has been some sane suggestions for a new style GAA Season. It does seem a combination of League Divisions or Pools wlth winners and runners up playing each other leading eventually to the top 2 teams playing for Sam in Croke Park a few weeks later. This would preserve the All Ireland as the big one.

    It seems the set up this year has given a dry run which needs tweeking. The 2nd,3rd 4th Divisions would still be in the quest for Sam if they finished 1st or 2nd in their Pool. The Holy Grail would be preserved.

    Absolutely no idea what months all this should take place in. The players could decide this.

    An elite group of teams is likely to lead to professionalism. The players from the elite Counties would favour that as well as many pundits.

    Armagh came out of no place to win the All Ireland years ago and are on the way back again to be contenders. Derry only won Sam once I think and now can hardly win a game in Ulster. Things do change. Who remembers mighty Down? The Qualifiers will help if there is a return to that. There is hope.

  36. @williejoe. Regarding the 1921 game v roscommon it states on connaught gaa roll of honour that the scoreline was 1-4 to 0-1 to mayo. Not sure if my research is valid or not but it would match up with the usual scores of those times.

  37. That sounds more accurate, No Doubt. I have an annual sub to the Irish News archive, giving me access to all National and local papers, and when I get a chance I’ll have another look. I’ve a feeling I’ve tried to double-check that score before but it’s definitely worth another try.

  38. Is there crayons included with Frankie’s new book, are to you have to buy them separately?

  39. Just watched that Frankie Dolan interview What an ass.”We hate each other” Think it’s one way,they hate us and we’re indifferent to them.

  40. @MayoJoe, your spot on there. Depends on what side of the County your from i suppose. Theirs no doubt they hate us (out of jealousy really) i love to see us beating them like any team really. I only “hate”football teams who are our big rivals or denied us on the biggest day! i.e Dublin, Kerry, and Galway. I catergorise Roscommon, Sligo and Leitrim together. Feel sorry for them really, definetly don’t hate them.

  41. On that 1921 score, my recollection was correct – I have already searched newspaper reports from the time but details on the game are very sketchy. This was what James Laffey, when writing ‘The Road to 51’ found as well. I added this note to the 1921 page at that time:

    According to ‘The Road to 51’, this scoreline is misleading as Mayo scored 4-5 when playing with the wind in the first half but contemporaneous newspaper reports only refer to a points total for the team of 0-24.

  42. What a really can’t fathom about the structure is that the answer is in every county. Senior, Internediate and Junior.
    The provincial system is ridiculous a this stage. Sligo are only playing Mayo because they are neighbours. They should be playing Fermanagh who neighbour them the other side.
    Achill won’t play Westport in the first round of a championship and for valid reasons.
    Where there will be an issue with this will be where one of the so called big counties end up intermediate or eve. junior. Cork, Meath, Down even Galway who’ve all won Sam in the last 30 years would have been out of Senior since at stages. Mayo 2008 to 2010 wouldn’t have been senior, Dublin around the same period. Everyone will have a problem with it then!!!

  43. Big Mike,
    Fermanagh do not neighbour Sligo. Leitrim are Sligo’s entire eastern border neighbour. Fermanagh neighbour the northern end of Leitrim’s eastern/north eastern border

  44. Mayojoe,
    If you lived on the Mayo Rosc border, particularly in the vicinity of Ballaghaderreen, hate would be nearer than indifference in describing emotions, particularly around championship time.

  45. The irony is completely lost on Frankie
    They are a complete and utter irrelevance to us. An occasional annoyance . Yet they see themselves as our rivals .
    Galway and Mayo are Connacht rivals . We were Dublin’s rivals for a good part of the last decade .
    Leitrim and Sligo are their rivals .
    The sooner they accept that the sooner they can live a happier life for themselves.

  46. Possibly foolish thing to say from Frankie Dolan on the record.. but he was living up to his name and being Frank, telling it as it is for some, including himself.. Football is football and rivalvary is rivalvary.. Genuinely I had conversations with one or two retired ex Mayo footballers and them also being Frank but off the record, and the same as Frankie had no love for Mayo, they definitely had no love for Rossies… Heard similar things said from neighbouring GAA Club’s . Frankie and his team mates had the odd success versus Mayo, it really made their careers, maybe that’s what it takes to get over the line against your bigger and better resourced neighbor from time to time. Anyhow ‘Hate’ the word Frankie used is not the opposite to ‘Love’, believe it or not, ‘Apathy’ is the opposite to ‘Love’ .. Your better off to be looked over, than overlooked, and it’s does my heart good, in these dark days that one of Roscommon greatest ever players is still even yet year’s after his intercounty career is over, still looking over Mayo and our supporters. .. He just thinks he hates us… As the song goes… “Hey Frankie, do you remember me?”.. and how could Frankie, ever forget John Maughans, tanned leg’s… Can’t have been easy for Frankie alright.

  47. Mayo News reporting that Bryan Walsh had an ankle injury which prevented him playing last Saturday. That doesn’t sound good. I noticed him in the stands, but didn’t think he was togged.

    MN also saying that Harry played for Aghamore on Saturday evening and that Mark Moran played for Westport. On Diarmuid, story seems to be the CF (if we are in it) is most likely now. I did note James saying last week though that Diarmuid was very close, as were Harry and Jason.

  48. Horan said in the interview after the game he hoped Bryan Walsh would be back training on Tuesday. So it must not be serious if that’s the case!

  49. I don’t believe the Sam Maguire was set up as a competition for only the better teams. Everyone should have their shot.

    The issue is not the teams that find themselves some way behind. The issue is with the teams who have pumped millions over the past decade or so and gone professional.

    No county should be penalised because they didn’t have the insane funding available that some other counties spend, including ourselves.

    Each County should decide themselves whether they want to continue in the Championship, as it stands and neither the GAA nor any other County should have any input or say on their decision.

    Its not all that long ago that Sligo were knocking ourselves and Galway out of Connacht.

    What about Tipp and Cavan, now in Div 4, both all Ireland semi finalists last year. Should they be asked to stand back from the Championship this year.

    I don’t care how small, how poor, or what division any County sits in, every County deserves to sit proudly at the top table in the Championship every year if that’s where they want to be.

  50. AndyD I do live in the Ballaghaderreen area and I know all about the rivalry. A lot of the Rossi fans are bitter and vile and they actually do hate us whereas we just laugh at their stupidity when they get carried away with what little success they’ve had.In other words we are not as preoccupied with them as they are with us.

  51. Definitely agree with those sentiments Revellino. Playing for Sam is an all inclusive notion, everyone is allowed to dream and if its a mad romantic notion, then so be it… Well said.
    Every county should be entitled to continuous competitive summer footbal imo,, and not just the elite acchievers with big financial backing

  52. I get the romantic side of the argument and the nature of the ‘All Ireland’ being all inclusive but step back and consider the reality of the current format, if you were asked to configure a championship structure would you create 4 groups of 5, 6, 9 and 11? The country has changed remarkably in the last 30 years, more money, better roads, more time and effort preparing teams, players these days are preparing professionally but have to compete in a limiting format from another era. The tiered league/championship amalgam I described would ensure 6 competitive matches for each county, 3 of which would be played at home. That’s certainty for county boards, squads, management and club players ensuring a set window for the AI series. More importantly it guarantees summer football for all county teams competing against well matched opposition. You could even reasonably argue for 12 teams at Snr, 12 at Inter and 8/9 at Junior with promotion and relegation between the 3 tiers and 3 AI’s played on the one weekend – so any team can win Sam but they need to move up the ranks to do so; after all every county does not compete for Liam McCarthy and every club in Mayo does not automatically compete for the Moclair cup and this applies countrywide. As it stands 1 team is dominating Gaelic football with Kerry, Mayo and Donegal in pursuit and Tyrone, Armagh, Galway and Monaghan the next cohort challenging, that’s 8 teams before the odds of an AI begin to get very long. This is just an opinion and I know there are many but the association and anyone with an interest in its future should come to the debate open minded and consider all options. Pre covid we had a scenario of 3 different formats in the championship – provincials, qualifiers, super 8’s – as a previous poster stated a convoluted mess to preserve old structures, it’s time now for a full rethink/reset.

  53. Funnily I don’t see statements around “it’s up to the other teams to catch up” when it comes to this particular issue.

  54. I did up an excel spreadsheet years ago which ran off the All Ireland series in the current league format which affored every team a shot at Sam. As with the current league format it also allowed teams to win silverware in the different divisions. The provincial competition was played off in tandem with league prior to progressing to the All Ireland semi-final stage. It can be done but the All Ireland Series has to move over to the league format

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