League success could be springboard for summer


There is an old Irish saying: Tús maith, leath na hoibre. Stephen Rochford came out earlier in the week and said that survival in Division One was the aim of this year’s league campaign. However, deep down one can be sure the new manager would love nothing more than to begin his tenure by raising a trophy in Croke Park.

2001 was the last time Mayo were crowned league champions, getting one up on our noisy neighbours just beating them by a single score. If the boys in the Green and Red won the battle that year, though, Galway most definitely won the war, lifting Sam aloft a few months later. Survival is key no doubt about it but is it very selfish to expect at least a place in the final?

Stephen Rochford NFL trophy

Photo: Irish Times (Sportsfile/Brendan Moran)

Sunday will be Rochford’s first serious test. We are facing a team who have excelled in the league in recent years. They finished first in 2014 and ’15 (albeit eventually settling for runner-up spot in the final last year) and they won the competition for three consecutive years in a row from 2010-12.

In 2010 their opponents in the final were none other than Mayo. Cork went on to clinch Sam Maguire that year and it begs the question: if we had beaten them in that league final, would it have been a case of roles reversed?

The short answer is probably not. 2010 is not a year Mayo fans remember greatly, the league final appearance being the highlight of that year for us really says it all.

The long hypothetical answer arguably, though, is yes. In recent years, winners of the league have often marched on to the Promised Land. The last three times the Kingdom were crowned champions in Division One, they also lifted Sam Maguire that September. Two of those three wins came in ’04 and ’06 at the hands of … you guessed it. Also, in 2013 and 2015 the Dubs completed the treble where their fine league title win was then added to with provincial and All-Ireland silverware later on. Does the road to Croker start at the league stage? I’m sure if you asked Mickey Harte about Tyrone’s incredible season in 2003, he would tell you it certainly does.

It is not a proven fact nor does it serve any sort of proper correlation but a league trophy would surely do no harm in improving morale and confidence heading into the busy championship period. It’s a long way to Croker but it’s a longer way to Cork and grinding out a win against last year’s league toppers in their own backyard would be the ideal Tús Maith for the lads.

13 thoughts on “League success could be springboard for summer

  1. i have to agree, we should set out to win the league, with all our experience at this level we should be well able to reach a semi and take it from there with the panel getting stronger as we move along.i was at the last one we won in 2001, which is fifteen years ago, we had a great night with the team. little did i think i would be waiting 15 years for another and Mayo have been ever present in the division, you would think that we would have won one or two more since the 2001 win.
    is alan freeman available for sunday?

  2. I’ve said previously that I think this campaign may well be a struggle for us. We’ll be without some of our key performers for much of the early rounds so we could well be under pressure to maintain our status by the end of March. Having said that, I’m hoping that we get to see a few new players blooded [Regan, Loftus, C O’Shea] and look to invigorate a few of the guys on the periphery last year [Freeman].

  3. Its such fine lines in the league , two wins first two games and you’d be in a fantastic position to get to semi , relax a biteen but two defeats and you’re under pressure . I really think it’s a lot of guess work to predict the early rounds ,impossible to know where teams are at in comparison to each other. People are saying we are going to be weakened dramatically through injury and club involvement castlebar players unavailable but seems to be pretty similar with all the sides we’ve seen named so far for the weekend , Kerry have 8 from AIF , Roscommon are down a good few , cork the same .

  4. I’m with you there Rock in all you say but I’m thinking there’s no harm in being upbeat in regards to our participation in the competition.We’ll be somewhat wiser after a few games. Rem,it’s a new league for all the teams and there ll be experimentation and new faces all over the place. Let’s look forward to the naming of the team in a little while…c’mon WJ…get stuck in there!

  5. With all our unavailable players I think most would take survival right now. It be nice to win the league but that is all it is…nice. Nobody remembers the league winners in the heat of summer battle. Hopefully our injuries clear up and we have a right good go of it in the summer….lets face it anything less than an All Ireland for this team at this stage is failure….huge pressure ahead but I think we can do it.

  6. I am sick of this survival nonsense.We are the second best team over the last four years our team will go toe to toe with any team they have rid themselves of that inferiority comlex that pervades through our great county. We supporters need to follow the example they have set.Believe .

  7. The league is almost like two separate competitions in one, the group stages then the semis and final. A couple of years we were almost relegated then we landed into the semis on six points. Once you make the semi-final then its all to play for.

    Cork are without some of their experienced players as well: Michael Shields, Alan O’Connor, Donncha O’Connor, Fintan Goold and Paddy Kelly. Barry O’Driscoll who scored their third goal against Kerry in last year’s drawn game is missing also. That evens things up, with us missing some important players as well. You would expect them to have a bit more done in terms of training than us and with home advantage that tips the balance slightly in their favour.

    Our full-back line will be our biggest worry with Keith Higgins, Chris Barrett, Kevin Keane and Tom Cunniffe all missing, it means that our corner backs will in fact be our third choice defensive cover. From what I have heard Cork’s new full-forward is a big man, so it’ll be interesting to see how we handle that.

    We have nothing to fear going to Cork and it would be great to get off to a good start. Best of luck to all involved in the latest journey. Roll on the game!

  8. I accept the recent history of All Ireland success frequently following League success but have to point out that Mayo’s history [admittedly old history at this stage] is quite the opposite. In fact only once did we manage to follow on with an All Ireland win, in 1936. The last three league wins were followed by fairly disastrous championship campaigns, 2001 and the “Frankie goes to Hollywood” Connacht Final, 1970 and the Rossies upset our applecart once again and 1954 when I’m told the Co Board decided there was no need to bring Padraic Carney home for the Connacht Final. Now I know that this Mayo team [and hopefully Co Board] are more focused than teams of the past and hopefully would avoid past mistakes but Mayo history is Mayo history.

  9. Mayo XV: Hennelly, Harrison, Cafferkey, S McHale, Keegan, Nally, Crowe, Parsons, Gibbons, McLoughlin, AOS, DOC, Regan, Vaughan, Doherty.

  10. It is still January and 8 counties set out this weekend with one goal Survival in Div 1. It is in its self a prized achievement, Like other years 6 counties will achieve their goal and 2 counties will taste the humiliation of relegation. Mayo could be one of these 2 counties. I am not being pessimistic here, it is a trial that comes with being a member of the club, In 2001 I was delighted that we won the league, particularly so because Galway put so much effort into it. I was amazed at the size of the support Mayo had on that day. A most disappointing small crowd to witness a great victory. We have played a few league finals since but I have never seen the League Final get the Mayo crowd going like winning a Connacht Final or quarter final in Croke Park. So how important would it be to this particular group of Mayo supporters. Do they really need the motivation of winning a league final, or do they need to improve their arsenal even more for the summer football.

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