No hype but there’s still a Connacht Final to look forward to

He’s been a busy man all week and will be busier still on the sideline at Hyde Park but Edwin McGreal has still managed to make time to come onto the guest slot in order to preview Sunday’s decider.

It is very hard to recall a lower key build up to a Connacht final. Were it not for the Roscommon hospital saga and the Enda Kenny will he, won’t he go question, its arguable there would have been precious little talk about the match before the teams were announced.

It isn’t as low key as the run-in to the Galway game but it hasn’t stepped up considerably since then either. I’m still in my 20s, just, so perhaps the 70s and 80s produced a more low-key Connacht final with Mayo playing but certainly not since.

Of course, such things are subjective. You could be at one end of the county and there’d be little talk about the game and fans could be rabid about it at the other end. But I doubt it. I’m from Breaffy and our club is sending out three players on the starting team for a Connacht Senior Final for the first time ever. Richie and Alan Feeney from Castlebar would be part of our circle of friends. But I’m just not seeing the excitement everywhere I go.

Breaffy should be buzzing, all my friends should be talking about nothing but the match with Richie and Alan playing in their first Connacht Final. There’s an interest in Breaffy alright but I’m not sure a massive crowd will go. Among the group of friends, some are talking about going but as many won’t. If these two groups are indifferent, what about parts of the county with little direct involvement?

The die-hards will tog and will be keen but it is the middle ground that has wavered. A feeling that nothing more than a Connacht title is at stake because of a limited team is what some people say is holding them back; more still feel we’ve it all to do to go to Roscommon and win and that a journey to watch Mayo lose is in vain.

Has it really come to that? Are we gone so blasé about a Connacht title? Have we become so short on confidence that some won’t travel to a Connacht Final because they are afraid of a team that were in Division 4 this year?

It is sad to see. I for one am really looking forward to Sunday. I have my doubts about how good the game will be. I’m not extremely confident Mayo will win either. But I’m excited nonetheless. It is a Connacht Final and if people think we have little chance of progressing in the All-Ireland series, is that not all the more reason to cherish the opportunity before us – seventy minutes from a Connacht title? It should be but there’s talk that less than 10,000 Mayo folk will travel. If that turns out to be true, it will be a pity.

Should those that travel do so in expectation, in hope or in trepidation? Certainly not the latter. Roscommon are an improving team but it is also from a low base so that’s a relative statement. Mayo’s inconsistency from game to game is an issue that still hangs over this team. So, too, is the question of how they’ll do in a tight last ten minutes. The Galway game side-stepped that question.

But first to the teams. Both managers named unchanged teams. Many are the people who wonder if Mayo have what it takes to contain the Roscommon full-forward line. Donie Shine, Senan Kilbride and Conor Devaney is a serious line. It is Kilbride I’d be especially worried about. Donie Shine was excellent in last year’s Connacht Final but that was facilitated by the placing of Sligo’s Noel McGuire on him. When Shine was outpacing McGuire, you knew pace was a massive issue for McGuire because Shine is not blessed with pace. No one in the Mayo full-back will be caught for pace by Shine, either running out for the ball or running at them with the ball. He is strong and accurate but manageable.

Devaney is a tricky customer with ability by the bucket-load. It remains to be seen if Keith Higgins or Tom Cunniffe goes on him. I expect Higgins to be given the job of marking Shine but Devaney could be more dangerous, especially with Cunniffe’s tendency to be a loose marker.

Alan Feeney will probably be assigned the toughest gig, picking up Senan Kilbride. Kilbride is strong, a fine footballer and is powerful when running with the ball. Feeney will need to make the most of his good reading of the game because Kilbride will be a serious handful with the ball in hand.

Cathal Cregg is a concern in the half-forward line. To my mind he’s capable of being one of the best wing-forwards in the game. Whether Richie Feeney or Trevor Mortimer is on him, they’ll have to be at their best to break even. That would be plenty from that head to head.

Kevin Higgins might ask different questions of Donie Vaughan than Galway’s Mark Hehir did. Higgins is a strong runner and will be an option for fielding kick-outs too and can shoot well from distance. If Vaughan can be tight, Higgins might not have the pace to get away from him.

To midfield. Aidan and Seamie O’Shea were very effective against Galway. Both will have come on from that game and I think they have the physicality to get the better of the Roscommon midfield of Finneran and Mannion. If Mayo can win the midfield exchanges, the platform will be there for the Mayo forward line to try to do damage against an average Roscommon defence. Big games will be needed from the usual suspects in the half-forward line – Dillon and Moran – while Kevin McLoughlin could find space on Sunday to do a bit of damage running from deep.

Alan Freeman needs a good seventy minutes while Jason Doherty has more to give going on recent form. If both play to their potential, we’ll be well on our way. Cillian O’Connor was far from Mayo’s best player against Galway but he was smart in his use of the ball too. Sunday might see him get more ball closer to goal and do more damage.

But it is hard to be certain about our forward line. Frees remain an issue. If Mayo can be reasonably reliable here it will be a huge boost, not just in terms of scores on the board but in terms of having a settling effect. Mayo could cut loose the next day and blow Roscommon away. Or we could be drawn into a battle and end up finding out a lot more about them. I reckon it will be the latter and we will, as Trevor Mortimer said in The Mayo News this week, find out what this team is made of down the home stretch.

Mayo to shade a tight finish.

14 thoughts on “No hype but there’s still a Connacht Final to look forward to

  1. The reason there are so many people lukewarm about the game is simple, its the backdoor. Back in the day it was lose and your out, season over so there was so much at stake. The back door in my opinion has ruined the championship.
    I recently took the horse to France on the holidays, and as the name suggests, being resident in the deep South of the country there was more than a passing interest in the Munster final amongst our travelling party. So the laptop was dug out and we travelled to the local pub to listen to 103FM commentate on the proceedings from Killarney. The Cork lads were not happy men at the half time scoreline, sure, they are never happy to potentially lose to Kerry, especially not, as it seemed at the time by 8 to 10 points, BUT they were more concerned about what that kind of result might mean for their All Ireland crown rather than just losing to Kerry.
    So we know Cork staged a rally to bring it back close, at that stage the lads were happy, they didnt really care if Cork drove on and won it. In fact there was a certain school of thought that wasnt that keen on them winning it, thinking the back door might be a better way to go about it, however they knew as the result was then going to be close, that they could be satisfied enough even if they lost. I dare some of us in Mayo would greet the Connacht final the same way, good performance, lose by a small margin, no big deal.
    Now cast your mind back to the knock out days, imagine a Munster final in Killarney, Cork All Ireland champions, coming back from 8 points down in the second half and looking like they might snatch a draw or a win and send the Kingdom out of the race for Sam. Good God, tables would have gone over and crossiants would have been spilled everywhere in the excitement. And to Ed’s point, if Sunday was knockout there wouldnt be much else talked about the length and breadth of the county.
    The back door has it ruined, I’m sure of it.
    I have a solution that I’ve mentioned on these pages a few times before, I think its a good one that ticks the boxes of all parties but I wont bore ye with it again.

  2. Nice piece Edwin. I don’t mind a low key Connaught Final though. No one expects anything to come out of Connaught this year and that could suit us just fine.

  3. There is definitely a lack of hype, but this seems just from the Mayo side of things.
    Just watching ‘The GAA Show’, it was all about Roscommon. Same with RTE’s ‘The Committee Room’ on Wednesday. Reading the Indo during this week, it was all about Roscommon as well. Any interviews were with Ros’ players.
    We seem to be coming in a bit under the radar, and this I think is a good thing.
    I’m not sure if this is a deliberate ploy by James Horan, but it’s a far cry from the rent-a-quote days of JOM.
    Let’s do our talking on Sunday – Mayo by 3

  4. It’s Ross’s final so far alright, not much talk about Mayo and I suppose and rightly so. Most people are not over last year and the embarassing collapse against a very avergae Meath team in 2009. Only if we got to an All Ireland semi would people start to get excited again, but that is hardly going to happen.

  5. I was in the homeland for the week and there are no expectations and low interest in the game as reported here.

    I expect us to win for the following reasons.

    1. Division 1 teams tend to beat division 3 teams. Ross have not beaten a team of worth for a long time, Longford beat them in the Divison 4 final.
    2. The Galway game was a better test for us than Leitrim was for them.
    3. The hype is all about Ross. The pressure will be on them.
    4. They have two very good fowards but are not great elsewhere. We will not let them have the ball to damage us.
    5. The bookies have us as favourites. I have never met a poor bookie!

  6. Mayo performing poorly in the flag count (outside og Ballaghaderreen) compared to Roscommon on my trip from east to west today – there was actually more flags in Longford as well, and they’re out of the championship!

    I’m really looking forward to the match, hoping it doesn’t piss on me on the terraces. Match is all sold out and I’m expecting a good atmosphere. Hoping the hospital issue won’t raise it’s head in the stadium – the roadsides in Roscommon are thronged with protest signs.

  7. Cannot see beyond a comfortable Roscommon win. If Roscommon have not beaten a team of worth in a long time then we fall into the same bracket. Beating among the worst ever Galway team ever means nothing. Sligo beat them last year and still failed to progress. Ros have a year under their belt with a Connacht senior title in the bag plus a good run at U21 and Minor plus club.

    This division one thing puzzles me. Kildare and Meath are division 2 teams but would be seen as further down the road than us. So too would Wexford, not sure what division they are in but being in division one means nothing. Sligo and Longford along with London have proven that to us.

  8. Have to agree fully with east cork exile. The backdoor has without doubt taken the sting out of provincial football in all 4 provinces. It seems the powers that be in croker are completely blind to this. The mayo-galway game was as drab an affair as I have ever witnessed in terms of atmosphere. You’d see far more at a club championship game in the muck and shite in december on Tg4. Jesus I remember the times in the late 90s early 2000s that mayo v Galway in the connaught championship was a guaranteed packed house, think back to 98 in castlebar v galway, 99 in tuam absolute classics, sellout crowd to watch 2 of the best teams in ireland going at it. Ticket prices have been a major factor of course, as well as the decline of both sides, but the lack of intensity at a lot of provincial games over the last few years have meant many punters staying home until the all ireland quarters/semis when we see real knockout football.

    Of course we’l never see a return to knockout provincial championships as the GAA are far too greedy, but mark my word over the next few seasons attendances will continue to drop. Even the dubs only get 43,000 to a leinster final, despite being 3rd favoutites for the AI, something that would have been unheard of a few years back. It makes me laugh to think the capacity of mac hale park is now 42,000 all seater, Does anyone honestly think this ground will never see a capacity championship crowd or even close to it as long as the backdoor remains?

    Its the same in hurling, in fact down in munster its highly likely that if Tipp and Clare meet in the u21 championship later in the season on a weekday night, the crowd will exceed the paltry 15,000 that showed up for the opening game of the All Ireland champions title defence in munster v clare a few weeks back, as happened in 2009. Surely theirs something wrong when 2 counties U21 teams attract a bigger crowd that the senior championship. The Difference?? theres no backdoor in u21 hurling. As Micko Dwyer is on record as saying, “we are a knockout people”

  9. Lads is the game really sold out, i’ve been away all week and was hoping to get a ticket today. Surely 30,000 tickets cannot be sold already?

  10. From a neutral perspective all i am hoping is that irrespective of the result tomorrow the two remaining teams from Connaught can make a dent in the all ireland campaign. Most of the points made earlier on the provincial system are correct in that it is practically dead. Do not get me wrong if we were going to the Hyde tomorrow i would be up for it given tradition, history etc but most people i know do not get excited about provincial finals. I referenced earlier in the summer in another thread of developing the habit of peaking for August onwards and doing just enough to get there. That is the challenge. The GAA of course are not helping with in some cases ticket prices, silly scheduling (the two Galway teams playing qualifiers last Saturday a few hours apart at venues miles from each other) and hanging onto a system that has lost its attraction. Only way to reinvigorate interest is to combine league and championship in a champions league style system (eight groups of four with each team playing home and away against each other and the top two qualifying for the last 16). At least everyone would get at least 6 serious enough games rather than 7 meaningless league games and in many cases two championship games).

  11. Dave – Roscommon GAA have just reported on Twitter that Connacht Final tickets are on sale from SuperValu in Monksland, Roscommon town and Ballaghaderreen today. If you’re in the eastern end of the county, this might help to get you sorted.

  12. I had Mid West on this morn and heard requests for the “Rossies song”.Surely they haven`t brought a song out already,I mean who have they beat Sligo and Leitrem for God sakes.I still cringe when I think of “Mayo Maeaeaeaeyo” but at least we were in an All-Ireland final at that stage.
    But it wouldn`t surprise me given the deluded optimism they build up after winning a couple of games.I remember being in Balladerreen at a do one nite before a Mayo Ros match and it was “don`t bother showing up we`ll destroy ye”.We went out the following day and beat them by about 10 points!
    Horan should get a copy of the CD and play it on the bus all the way to the match and it might be enough to put the fire in their bellies before they take to the pitch!

  13. Greatly appreciated wj, i owe you a scoup before the year is out, hopefully the third week in September. Thanks again!

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