Sunday’s topsy-turvy loss to Tyrone has generated plenty of discussion here and elsewhere over the past few days but, in case you haven’t seen them yet, the pieces in this week’s Mayo News by Edwin McGreal and Sean Rice are definitely worth a look. So too is Emmet Ryan’s forensic assessment over at Action81.com of the tactics employed by both teams at McHale Park the last day.
Ed is absolutely on the money when he says that defeat last Sunday is likely to be of much greater use to us in the long-term if it helps to highlight the problems we’ve currently got, problems which were so evident for at least sixty out of the seventy minutes on Sunday. It’s also the case, as Ed points out, that the post-match narrative would be entirely different from our point of view – and, no doubt, from Tyrone’s as well – had we held out to snatch what would have been an undeserved win.
Had we won, we’d still, no doubt, be drying our eyes from all the guffawing about what great crack it was and how close we’d sailed to the wind. There would, I’m sure, have been far less talk about all that had gone wrong in the lead-up to the comeback and on the areas that need to be sorted over the coming weeks. In that sense Stephen O’Neill’s last-minute penalty saved us from the luxury of being able to gloss over what happened in such a superficial way. In the overall scheme of things that’s no bad outcome.
We have issues to resolve, for sure, but equally it’s good that they’re coming out now. We’ve plenty of time and more than enough league games left to put them right and, while we’re at it, to retain our Division One status too. In his first two years in the job, James Horan has managed to get through a hell of a lot of experimentation and fine-tuning over the course of the league – in both years nailing down Division One survival with a match to spare – and we should have every confidence in his ability to do so again this year.
And we shouldn’t be too worried either about points slipping away and all those hard matches facing us. We should instead be looking forward with expectation to Croke Park and another tilt at the Dubs and then later in the campaign the opportunity to extract some revenge (though nothing like a full measure – this is still only the league, after all) when we renew acquaintances with Donegal and Cork. And the day we start trembling in our boots about the likes of Kildare coming to town will truly be a sad day for us.
Finally, I know we can’t change Sunday’s result and we can’t do anything about the penalty award either but I think we’ve had the poll on that decision up for long enough at this stage. So, with 99 votes cast, it’s time to declare the result – the Yes side have it, by 55% to 45%. Not an overwhelming margin but a decisive enough one in the circumstances.