No county for old men

Ahead of our appearance in this coming weekend’s league semi-finals, John Cuffe has some thoughts on the contest facing us.


Photo: Smashing Lists 

I watched the excellent No Country for Old Men the other night … for the third time. It still makes my toes curl and look away at the impending doom at times but it’s always compulsive viewing … just like Mayo the county.

Mayo men of a certain age – say the Tommy Lee Jones character, the care worn sheriff of the above film – has seen many tides ebb and flow in the county over the years. The younger ones like the deputy have youth and hope still pumping through the veins. It’s not that the elders don’t have hope; it’s just that … well it’s hammered out to a wafer thin sheet, always hoping to be fully reconstructed at some stage.

Mayo, second best team in Ireland in 2012, are back for their seventh league semi-final since 2001. Now that’s a record worth noting. Consistency spread over twelve years should bestow a certain edge and belief to the wearers of the green and red. And yet we arrived at this year’s semi-final like a dog panting on a hot day.

Cleverly we codded them all in the league, a win over the worst Kerry outfit ever with losses shading from dire to doubtful against Dublin, Down, Tyrone and Kildare before knocking out the All-Ireland winners of 2010 and 2012. Our game plan was the most cunning of the lot … we totally disguised it so as it actually looked as if we didn’t have a game plan at all.

Like Freddie from Elm Street, when the Dublin team look out the window on a foggy night they see Mayo looking back in at them once more. Bernard Brogan now knows that all the bulbs he blew out against Mayo last time out need to be blown once more, otherwise the last time doesn’t count. For us it’s like being given the exam paper once more with the same questions. All we need to recall are the memories and hope to write a nice neat essay for top marks.

We still didn’t get the two three new forwards we require to ensure the end game but significantly nobody else discovered too many new buckos either. Dublin will not look forward to playing us again. We should relish it, we have nothing to lose but much to gain. We don’t play like Tyrone with an obvious match plan but somehow or other we stay afloat. It’s like improvisation at a high level.

Of course men who are tactically astute tell me that we do have a plan, seemingly we isolate some of the forwards and …aghhh….I kinda lose it there. To me it’s simply Mayo. Great when we have a head of steam up, dire when the powder is damp. And yet I am drawn back to No Country for Old Men. Anton Chigurh, the villain, has the uncanny knack of ensnaring his victims and finishing them off with his cattle humane killing contraption.

There is a scene in the film; it’s called the Texaco or garage scene. Chigurh pays for petrol and a pack of peanuts. He gets irked by the nice attendant and pretty soon the old guy, without realising, is about to have a toss of a coin decide his life. Chigurh tells him to call, the old boy won’t, adding “we need to know what we are calling for”.  Chigurh tells him that the coin has been travelling for 22 years and now the time has arrived.

The tension rises, you wonder does the old guy realise that calling it wrong means one thing … death. Finally he asks, “what do I stand to win?” Chigurh, swallowing a peanut, curtly replies “everything”. Luckily for the garage man, the heads he called came up. Chigurh’s character swallowed many victims similarly. What struck me was how the victims bought into his game. They did have choices; they could have walked away or done what I was good at as a kid … ran away.

But no, they chose to wait and be killed, often on the toss of a coin. Mayo have spent too long watching and taking lessons from others. We have bought into others movies and myths forgetting about our own film. Like Chigurh’s coin that had travelled 22 years, we have had a coin travel 62 years. Sooner rather than later we will have to grab that coin from the Chigurhs of this world and tell them we won’t play their games any more.

We meet Dublin on Sunday. The old saying that there is nothing to fear except fear itself is apt. They particularly won’t want us. Good, time then to look at the deal. It’s a simple one. Every match from here on is a must win. Great, nothing like a bit of cold steel on the cheek of the arse to make the mind up. Win the next two and we win the league. Likewise the championship, win, win, win … it’s as simple as that.

Like Chigurh’s coin, the time has come for Mayo to take its own destiny in its own capable hands. It won’t be lost because of others; it will be won because of ourselves. Last year’s travails have to mean something. Of the four semi-finalists we have been the most consistent in the twelve months gone by, no excuse, no one further down the line in training or technique this time.

Kildare and Tyrone are up from Division Two; Dublin tore up Gilroy’s manual and are working a new script. John Morrison correctly said last year that the most natural footballers he ever saw were from Kerry, Donegal and Mayo. I can vouch for Mayo and Donegal and Kerry vouch for themselves. Like the petrol attendant in the Coen brothers’ film our moment has arrived. We seize it or we surrender. No more fucking with fate.

26 thoughts on “No county for old men

  1. A great piece…if I was reading an English Leaving cert paper. I’m sorry John but as a GAA fan I prefer to be more to the point and your piece is full of clichés that we hear far too often in Mayo. ‘We seize it or surrender’ well how about you dont run away and confront the game like Chigurghs victims and CALL IT as Chigurgh says 😉 WILL WE WIN OR WILL WE NOT WIN OR WILL IT BE A DRAW…Simple as!

    If you want to make one analogy John is that I hope Mayo can be like Chigurgh….the case can represent Sam and we take out anything in our path and even when we get hit by the car at the very end (the opposing team in the All Ireland final) we come away with the case (Sam Maguire)

    That should be in your piece. A good team can turn it on when they need to. Kerry did it in their last two games when they needed, as we did this year and last. But we still need that extra piece to be a great team. And that missing piece involves getting the two Morans, Dillon, and Higgins back for championship and injury free and two to three to step up to the plate…realistic I think

  2. Very nice piece John! The movie was great too!
    Pk, easy there, I don’t think John is looking at this with rosé tinted glasses. Btw, it’s “unrealistic” of you or anyone for that matter to believe Andy will be back to playing like he did before his injury. thats a career ending injury for professionals, never mind amateurs. I’m praying he will be but we shouldn’t count on it and we may have to rely on what we have right now, good or bad, to get us to the promised land. Anyway..

  3. Mister mayor, I really hope you are wrong about Andy Moran
    I think he may be ok for later in the summer if Mayo are still around which I fully expect as that will be a year since the incident. He’s a very driven man with strong medical support helping him recover.
    Good article John cuffe , I love that movie

  4. Good stuff John Cuffe,
    Haven’t seen the movie but i better go take a look now! Agree that John is not looking at this with rose tinted glasses. He is not the sort from reading his comments recently. Hope Andy can come back better than ever. Mayo forever!

  5. ‘Croke Park is no place for faint hearted men’ is the gist of John’s foray into the land of the Blockbuster, as he pumps us up for the fray.
    When you toss the coin with your opposition in Croker heads & tails have to have the same meaning & the opposition need to know it.
    Heads you lose & tails you lose.
    All Mayo should ever offer in Croke Park is a blindfold & a final cigarette !
    Time for a hard edge !

  6. Love it John Cuffe … Andy will be back better than ever (our Paul o Connell) met a person at the down match that said he was at the gym the morning of his wedding … !!!

  7. Grt piece john. I detect hope in that piece and I don’t just mean against the dubs. Who are the frontrunners for Sam at the min must be the question. And surely we are there or there abouts. This team are very capable when the chips are down and will always supprise you. Dubs don’t like playing us. Will be interesting to see how we go.

  8. Mighty stuff from the bould John Cuffe!!
    Football is not a science it it were the clever guys would have figured out the formula longo, Mayo are a consistent force as said above, they go to croker on Sunday as a 50 / 50 shot whatever paddy power or anyone else predicts.With our dander up and the the chips down we will give anyone a run for their money especially the Dubs and especially now as our confidence is rising.
    Sure we could do with more clinical finishers Freeman and Doc have missed sitters in the past 2 Sundays alone. No guarantee that the ” lads who are coming back in from the cold” are the answer to this perennial either to my mind its kinda the way we are I never remember a man in Green and Red terrorizing defenses and doubt it that’s the path to salvation for us. As JC says James is working on a cunning plan- so lets keep the faith.

  9. Remember51, I thought you hated that movie! Well John cuffe if mayo have to be a character from no country for old men, I’d prefer the coin to poor auld Llewelln Moss who was giving as good as he got till the final . It’s too familiar.

  10. Can’t beat the old cowboy films, for the championship I might pick a spaghetti western…WJ permitting of course.

  11. I’d say ur a bit of a cowboy alright John!.I saw ya in the ‘plush’ clubhouse under the stand on sun but twas like tryin to get an audience with pope Freddie!

  12. No Country for Old Men has disappointing ending a bit like Mayo’s championship runs.

  13. May as well be the only dissenter, but reading that article you would think that James Horan shows up the day of a game and throws out the jerseys and tells everyone to try there best,with absolutely no thought given to the opposition or how the team is going to play.

  14. Hi opt2imistic, if you saw me on Sunday then it was like Shigour, a ghost. I was freezing to death in Rathcarn Co Meath with my U12s as we scrapped for a well earned draw. Tough young ladies indeed but a joy to work with.

    Alas Opt2timistic the only Royal I was close to on Sunday was the Riles own Greham Geraghty who I think had a daughter playing against us. Greham seemed to have a plaster on the leg but looked as good as in his playing days

  15. It’s a trap, however unlike Llewelln Moss, our execution is always there to be seen for everyone.

  16. Well getting back to the game in hand anyways.

    Dublin should not be respected, treat them like dirt, laugh at them, wind them up and they’re not too sure about themselves at all.

    I hope O Se goes in good and hard on a couple of them from early doors, lay a marker.

    They gave us more time on the ball than any other hard game last year, i hope we can muster a goal or two this time out.

    I am hoping Freeman is replaced at ff, thought he did very little v Cork, very dainty way about him , needs to toughen up.
    If we’re not going with AOS at midfield , put him on the square, i dont agree that he will be wasted there, a couple of passages of play last week including his point was direct to him on the square, looked like something that could work well to me if midfield was competent without him.
    SOS dont shoot, lay it off to the nearest man, your accuracy needs to be worked on even regards foot passing.
    Conroy , i’m not sure why you insist on going to ground to collect knee high ball but it slows play down most of the time, played really well in game v Dubs last time, more of that please.

    Win the kickout percentages and i think we’ll beat the horrible bunch.

  17. I have to say that in the AI finals of 2004 and 06 mayo were more like innocent and naieve victims in a horror movie!
    2012 I thought the same dvd was in machine again but not quite…….hopefully for 2013 we will have a new script!

  18. Team prediction
    Clarke, McHale, Caff, Keane, Boyle, Vaughen, Keegan, SOS, J Gibbons, Carolan, AOS, Kevin, Mikey, Cillian and Doc

  19. JC. I was just reminiscing with an old buddy about 1989, which was really the dawn of the modern era for Mayo football. I was at ever game that year and one thing just struck me (if you pardon the pun)

    (1) Replay in Roscommon-Jimmy Brown Stretchered off unconscious, due to a terrible late and high challenge from one of the sheep stealers.

    (2) AISF v Tyrone. Willie Joe’ s famous head bandage after an overenthustiac (but not malicious) challenge from one of the Tyrone bucks

    (3) Final V Cork. Jimmy Burke, who was playing some of his best football, Stretchered off after swallowing his tongue, again after a hefty but not necessarily dirty challenge.

    I am not advocating incorporating an element of thuggery into our style of play, just curious as to why we are always on the receiving end, rather than the delivery end of such heavy hits.

  20. Hey Whitey I was at the Rosscommon and Tyrone games and I am pretty sure Jimmy Burke hit his head off the foot of the goal post after scoring the winning goal in extra time! Remeber Willie Joes point in the oint in the final against Cork what a score.
    Will be in Croker on Sunday and I reckon Deel Rover you’re spot on with that team prediction. It will be interesting who is on the bench for us though.

  21. Brilliant piece again, John. Great movie too. From the title of your article I thought maybe you were writing about Ciaran Mac. If Simon Shaw and Ryan Giggs can play top class sport at nearly 40, why is Mac not being considered? Despite great progress over the past few years, we are still short of a deadly finisher in the class of Brogan, Cooper, Stephen O’Neill, Michael Murphy. Surely having Ciaran in the panel could only be an asset.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *