On a fraying tightrope

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Let’s dissolve two narratives taking root at the moment. They are that Mayo are fortunate to be in an All-Ireland final and secondly they have had a handy run there.

Narrative number one is Mayo are in another All-Ireland final because six of the seven teams they have met so far weren’t good enough to beat them. This is despite Mayo playing what can be considered “good” football for about 35 minutes in total.

Narrative number two is that beating teams from Divisions Two and Three as well as one heading to Division Four is less than heroic. And Kerry or Dublin … what of them?

The Kingdom have beaten Clare twice and Tipperary once. With a small bit of good fortune, they could have reached an All-Ireland final by not leaving their own province at all. So far they have flexed against two Division Three teams.

The Dubs have steamrolled two Division Three teams and a Division Two team before meeting a tired Donegal in the quarters. But it’s Mayo that has had it handier, we are told: strange indeed. I would say most Mayo managers would gladly opt any day for a system that by beating Clare and Tipperary you are guaranteed an All-Ireland semi-final place.

The Mayo footballers and the Galway hurlers did something similar last autumn. The symmetry between those two teams is appealing. Both seen as great prospects, both regulars in Croke Park big days and both always stabled in the runners-up enclosure.

Both make great copy for the press and media and both wear their pain and joy on the sleeve for all to see. Machiavellian writers waited for the fall of both.

Somehow or other Galway escaped without damaging their new manager too much. Mayo, though, took a different approach. They removed the safety net. They flung a rope across a gorge and tied it to wooden stakes.

The new manager and his bunch of gnarled warriors have seemed an odd fit up to this week. Both wedded to each other and with no scope for another divorce.

A truculent and dull league full of excuses saw Mayo do enough to keep their almost twenty-year run in that Division intact. Cork, who hosed both Mayo and Monaghan, fell through the trapdoor and they stayed up. Such are the vagaries of fate when the gods smile upon you.

Attempts at a defensive set-up have in the main looked pitiful but Mayo get by. Barry Moran looked as comfortable as a giraffe on skis against Tipperary but made two mighty catches at pivotal times that took the wind out of Tipperary. Mayo have a screen in front of their full-back but, ironically, they don’t appear to have an actual full-back at all.

Each team they have played so far would have looked for Mayo as opponents; each team beaten by Mayo could legitimately ask how come they then lost to them, particularly Tyrone. It’s a question Mayo pre-2011 often had to ponder themselves.

So, in a non-vintage football wise year, Mayo have taken advantage of the poor soil and, without ever blossoming themselves, are now in the garden for the final day fête. Better Mayo teams in the past surely must scratch their heads.

The men of 1996 – a forward line that possessed James Horan, John Casey and a free-taker of the calibre of Maurice Sheridan, with Kevin O’Neill tethered to the bench and, a year later, the mercurial Ciaran MacDonald – must surely ask … why not us?

But football doesn’t go that way. Mayo are in this year’s football final because they deserve it. In fact the Mayo minors are the only team from Mayo, club or county, that has failed to reach an All-Ireland final in 2016.

Ardnaree, Hollymount/Carramore and Castlebar respectively graced the Junior, Intermediate and Senior club finals. Mayo U21s won their All-Ireland final, the county Juniors lost to Kerry in the final and the teachers won the Inter-Firms final. For good measure, the hurlers won the Rackard Cup.

So you’d have to conclude that we haven’t done half bad, sir. Throw in our ladies and the football of Mayo, despite the senior’s dirty oil and backfiring engine, is actually alive and well.

Will we win in September? John Healy that great Mayo writer of the Irish Times always said he knew when Charles Haughey would retire and when that time would come, Healy would tell his colleagues. I am of the great Healy’s vintage now, age-wise I hasten, not writing ability.

Born a year after the 1951 albatross year, I felt it my destiny to say when that great day would come, if ever. Now that we are in final number eight since 1989, a twenty-seven year spell during which time only Kerry beat us for final day gigs, hand on heart I cannot honestly come to a conclusion.

This team, this season, has defied every ounce of football nous I thought I possessed. They are unfathomable. Having crossed the fraying tight rope, an end is in sight.

The fall is steep and the consequences harsh but, in Mayo, despite what others think, we ourselves are our own harshest critics. Like the 1989 final against Cork, Cork again in the 1993 semi-final, ’96 against Meath, ’97, 2004 and 2006 against Kerry, the Sligo/Longford debacles of 2010, Donegal ’12, Dublin ‘13, Kerry semi-final replay in ’14, Dublin ditto in ’15, Mayo people will head into the winter whatever the result, and come January they and their mighty football men will saddle the pony once more and head back into battle.

Can every other county and the many writers that criticise us say the same? I don’t think so. Whatever this September’s outcome will be, Mayo won’t be going away.

83 thoughts on “On a fraying tightrope

  1. Excellent piece John well done. I know whatever the outcome I can see myself being in some Damp wet ground in Connacht supporting Mayo in the FBD looking out for a player that might make a difference on the first Sunday in January. It goes without saying it would be great to win Sam these players have given us so much I hope they are rewarded with Celtic crosses

  2. I always enjoy your writing John as it often brings us somewhere deeper, within ourselves as a people.
    I know for one thing, maybe it’s the sadist in me, but the harder the fall and the more painful the hurt that comes with each of those 8 finals without victory (including the 96 replay), and I’ve been at them all, the more determined I am to come back for more. The FBD can’t come soon enough in January. Always remember, there’s 28 or 29 other counties that wished they were us.
    Sometimes the wait and the journey are far more enjoyable than the arrival. I’ve never been more convinced that we are about to find out for ourselves.

  3. That’s a fair point bringing up the success of mayo clubs and inter county teams this year.

    Ardaree in the Junior club final, Hollymount/Carramore in the Internediate club final and Castlebar Mitchells in the Senior club final

    Mayo U-21s winning in the All ireland Final, Mayo Juniors in the All Ireland Final and the teachers Inter-Firms final and the Seniors to look forward to the All Ireland final in three weeks.

    In hurling the Mayo seniors winning the Nicky Rackard cuo and the U-21 hurlers are in the All Ireland B final in two weeks.

    Although there has been a few dissapointments, i think it has relatively been a very successful year for Mayo in both ckub and county in boths codes.

    Lets hope now our U-21 hurlers can get a win against kerry in the All Ireland hurling B final and the Senior footballers can finally get that elusive Sam Maguire cup on September 18th

  4. It kind of creeps up on you during the day.
    “We are one match away from three generations of waiting”
    I feel that it is this year. Our eighth final, nine with the replay. Surely cant be just one draw from nine games? It’s just got to break for us some time.
    I’m convinced I’m going to witness us win Sam on 18th September.

  5. Good piece John. It’s like every year. They will win if they get a bit of luck and more importantly if they are good enough. Are they good enough? I’m not sure to be honest. I have doubts in my mind for obvious reasons.

  6. Stirring stuff there John Cuffe. Already looking forward to Ballymote or Enniscrone in January. Flask of tea and the thermal gloves.

  7. Ah here John, there’s three weeks left and I’m doing my level best to keep things reigned in. I really don’t need this kind of motivation.

  8. Well done John I had too read that twice. My hope is that the dubs give Kerry a good hiding. We can rattle either team whether that will be enough is another matter. If we can get our minds right on the day this team can beat anyone. No more the “Nearly Men”. We just have to wait now and see who will earn the right to play against us in the final We’re not too bad at the waiting thing up until now.

  9. John , great article as usual . One thing that bugs me every time I read your articles is .. After the losing replay last year there was a picture on Facebook of five of the team posing for a picture in Westport all smiling for the camara , and there was a very derogatory comment left by a John Cuffe . . It couldn’t have been you surely . Say it ain’t so Joe 🙂

  10. Stirring words John..Just when I’m trying keep dreaming to a minimum!!You’re right tho, the fall is steep..

  11. It’s the first time since the fifties that we have managed to make a third final within a short space of time and only the second time in our history to achieve this feat. This is our third final in 5 years. In 1951 we were in our third final in four years. You would think that is one of the main reasons why this year should be an excellent chance for us to end our famine. Surely to God what we have been through in the past few years, has to stand to us at some stage. Lets hope that time is Sept 18 2016!

  12. Great piece. As the week has gone on I’ve thought why reign it in. We should be proud of our team and our county and never mind the doubts. So this afternoon I put my flag out in my Co.Kildare garden. Hopefully no dub will rob it! Mayo supporters should know from experience, if you can’t enjoy the weeks before the final when can you?!

  13. Great piece John, I have the highest respect for your opinion John,I wont be there for personal reasons,but I hope you will think of me and all:the great Mayo supporters who won’t be there because of reasons not of their making,but I am certain this is our year, I fully certain that we have got the brightest manager in Ireland and he has picked a team to suit who we play,John I would like to meet you on corick bridge when they bring that cup to erris

  14. Terrific as always, John. One thing is for certain, team and supporters will walk into Croker heads held high on the 18th ready for a right battle. Everything has been said. Time to bring it on!

  15. Good article. We shouldn’t worry about the narratives of others though. The team will set the narrative themselves. This current senior team is the mentally toughest guys ever to play football. The supporters are the most resilient we just keep coming back.

  16. Good man John, a great piece. At half three on All Ireland Sunday everyone wants to be us but shortly after five , no one. Well thats been the narrative the last coupla decades or so but the sideline is a different animal this year and we’ve all watched that unfold. It’s my contention that All Ireland finals have been lost for a variety of reasons over the years, all of which have been covered on this blog , but this year, with the management/player shennanigans last year, the players know they have nowhere to hide…..It’s with them now and them alone.

  17. Very well written piece John. On one point though about us being our harshest critics, I’m not so sure. While born in Mayo I grew up mostly out of the county. I live in Galway…I just got a taxi into town..the taxi driver not knowing I’m a Mayo fan says ‘I and the the rest of the country will be shocked if Dublin or Kerry don’t win, that Mayo team aren’t going anywhere’. I get this kind of stuff all the time. I would say that Mayo people often look at our team thru rose tinted glasses!

    As a Mayoman in exile believe me I’ve heard an awful lot of criticism over the years. We get little credit for top table consistency even from people from weaker footballing counties.

    We need to win this and boy will I enjoy it if we do.

  18. Wow only Kerry have made more All Ireland finals than us since 1989? That’s mad when you think about it

    That said Dublin have won their last 4 in a row, they’re the most clinical final team we’ve seen in a while for sure!!

  19. Just a feeling Kerry will pull it off on Sunday. If not, Dublin will be really tested and scrape over the line. Speaking to a well connected friend (in GAA) Kerryman earlier today the word is that they’re very fit. They’ve been doing sand runs on the islands. Very united, one last hurrah etc. I have to say I was impressed with them in the league in Castlebar. They were more tenacious than normal. I don’t know why but I just have a weird gut feeling that Dublin won’t go all the way this year, despite being class. And this is why, oddly again, I kind of want another crack at them.

    Dublin owe us nothing. Kerry on the other hand will 100% use the fact that they “didn’t get the credit for beating us in 2014 (Darragh OSe mentioned this last year before we lost the semi) AND they use last years final defeat as motivation. The best time to beat Kerry in a final is when they’re current champs. For all their final appearances they’ve only ever lost back to back once, 64 & 65.

    Not to state the obvious but if we do it it’ll be the hard way! The thing is…we can do it.

  20. Interesting about all our football teams bar minors in AIF s. Unfortunately with the exception of U21s they all came a cropper and by fairly big margins. The U21s struggled and stumbled their way to a final, playing in fits and starts, just like our seniors. I will be more than thrilled with the same outcome. Up Mayo,

  21. Mayo have not got out of 2nd year and we are in the final. IF our key players are fit for the final (SOS, COC, DOC), think this is our year. Hope funds are provided to ensure our big 3 get to 18th fully fit. Hon Mayo!

  22. Nice piece John, a while back someone in the national media wrote a piece with a similar ending statement, it might have been Keirh Duggan after 06, not sure. The sentiment was along the lines of “don’t feel sorry for Mayo, one of these days they’ll be showing up to a county ground near you, and beating you” and we have and will continue to do so. And one of these days, that beating will be on the 3rd Sunday in September.

  23. Good man John.
    We’re not always on the same page but we’re together on this one.

  24. Excellent analysis John but I have to suggest that those suggesting that Mayo have failed to beat a Div 1 team on their journey are conveniently overlooking the fact that the NFL ended in April last and that Tyrone are now a Div1 team. They were the Div 1 team who most “experts” thought a month ago were most likely to challenge Dublin. The “experts”, most of whom are well paid for bestowing their wisdom on us, are also overlooking the question of what happened to the other Div 1 teams – Roscommon [those early season much talked and written about trailblazers], Monaghan, Donegal, the new rising stars of Cavan and the departing Cork and Down. If Mayo, Dublin or Kerry did not beat them then who did? As far as I know nobody voluntarily opted out of the 2016 championship.
    It is amusing, though, to reflect back on those, many on this site, who feared for Mayo’s “great mistake” in allowing McStay and MacHale to depart to our [or my at least] nearest and dearest opponents. Somehow now it does not seem to have been a major mistake.

  25. The coverage for Dublin kerry is unbelievable. Absolutely every angle covered. How can the brilliant kerry (Only team with any hope of beating Dublin) overcome the seemingly unbeatable dubs. The have the fittest fastest biggest and most skillful team. The best ever, with Einstein as a manager.
    The cute kerry hoors don’t really have a hope.

    I agree that the dubs will most likely beat kerry, but only because kerry are past it. But the media won’t see it that way.
    Dublin the greatest ever football team will win Sam tomorrow and will be made wait 3 weeks for the presentation.

    Maigh Eo abu

  26. Tonyk, I have a feeling that they’ll be waiting a bit longer than 3 weeks for the presentation. They probably will beat Kerry, but they won’t beat us.

  27. First thought on Sunday’s game is the very likely prospect of an absolute thriller and maybe the game of the year. That wouldn’t be asking for too much after all the mediocrity that’s been served up all year so far. What a peculiar thing it is that a ball game can infect a population so pervasively! At a deeper level of course it’s not just a ball game but an all important constituent of the blood stream that gurgles through the vessels of so many .Your article John, with so many others remind s yet again of the amount of thought invested and the hopes fears joys and continuity that the game engenders in the minds of the people.Backdoor puts it in a nutshell… no matter what happens on the 18 th the FDB will be heard to call out its invitation like a shower of rain rolling in from the Atlantic! There’s no way to stop it. It’s just life on this part of the planet.
    Whatever happens, this team has marked itself out as a team apart from all others in all ages.They’ve done their business over the years without any swanking and can possibly come through another year yet again unadorned to be ready at the next point of entry! It is the game that keeps them going, the feel of the ball in the hands and all the consequences that flow from it.
    There is no guarantee also that some how or other, because of the teams persistence and excellence and or in the face of so much rejection that it will be handed an All Ireland this year. There is an intimation here and there that this has to be the year… knocking for so long and all that! And when the day is done and our great hopes and wishes are yet again undone we are left with the usual and only trophy’ God loves a trier’ . But what if there’s no God? There’s always the FBD and another campaign.There’s no better place to go to.

  28. Kerry have built this up horribly for themselves and put huge pressure on their lads. I had a feeling they would do it but you would worry that they might implode if Dublin got a start like against us last year or even like they got on Dublin in 2009. I think they are terrified of the train home if they lose

  29. Sitting here in Dublin listening to Saw Doctors and dancing round the kitchen in my Muigh Eo poloshirt with my little girl

    “too win just once”……lump in the throat and nervous anticipation…..enough said. Hon Mayo.

  30. Joe Ruane i agree the best result would be the Dubs giving Kerry a hiding then we might get 5/ 2 or more in the final. Prepare the ambush then because ,as John said, they won’t know what to expect from us.

  31. Well said John. Looking forward to the FBD start already, The team this year has everybody puzzled. Cannot wait for the Real All Ireland final tomorrow afternoon.

  32. Hey WindyCity, you have a good memory, Keith Duggan did say that. I also remember that piece too.

  33. I can’t believe that 45% have gone for Kerry. On what basis? Yes they have good forwards, but everywhere else they are average. Dublin I think will win the midfield battle and I wouldn’t be surprised if the score at the end was similar to the league final.

    I am often wrong however!

  34. I just can’t wait for September 18th to come now.
    I’d rather play kerry in the final, because over the last number of years, we’ve beaten all the top teams apart from them, it would be even more sweeter beaten kerry cause they beat us in 2006, 2004 and 1997 finals.

  35. I thought Kerry had a chance but seeing the team they named they difference in quality between the teams is stark.

  36. AndyD ,I was never a fan of the long, and the short,mainly because until after Limerick I felt he kept his head down on rte ,and felt they were overrated for the cakes win,only my opinion,but felt J Horan got us a long way,and now S Rochford will finish the journey

  37. No convincing evidence to suggest a serious Kerry challenge to the Champs this weekend. Very little also to indicate any major downturn in Blues form. The end result looks like a win for the Dubs by 5 to 9.But then who can legislate for the unexpected happenings on big days? One thing’s sure…. the outcome of the day will seed our thoughts no end for some days to follow! And another …won’t it be grand to sit back and watch all the blood letting.
    And what about this? When we beat whoever in the final can’t we have the other crowd then maybe two weeks later,after we ‘ve gotten over the height of the celebrations? That could make two AIs !!

  38. Reading all the fawning commentary today about the Dubs, I genuinely hope they win by 10+ points and beat Kerry out the gate. The country will go into overdrive and not Jim Gavin or anyone else will be able stop the players heads from believing the hype. The back to back talk, the greatest since Heffo’s army talk, the greatest ever talk, it’ll all start to seep into the psyche and with it will come the inevitable arrogance.
    That’s when the sun will truly start beckoning the blue Icarus’s to it’s warm inviting glow.

  39. Too right, Liam! As well as the mountain of oleaginous claptrap about them in the context of tomorrow’s game there’s also (in the Examiner – shame on them for publishing this nonsense) the wit and wisdom of Dr David Hickey – here. The good doctor reckons the Dublin team comprise “an exemplary group of Corinthian athletes, a credit to the code”. Yes, Philly and Jonny and Dermo and all.

    He also expresses himself to be “very p***ed off with the lazy journalism that the Dublin team have a disciplinary problem”, taking issue with why Dublin ended up with 12 men the last day. In doing so he seemingly ignores the fact that Connolly’s first yellow was actually a stonewall black, his second yellow was also justified as was Fenton’s black card. I’ll grant him O’Gara’s red but that’s since been downgraded.

    All in all, it’s shocking stuff but I’d lay much of the blame on the paper for printing this nonsense. Gavin started it all off, of course, with his esprit de corp bullshit and no amount of eye-gouging, biting and all the rest is going to change the narrative, with the media apparently happy to play along with this.

    Lookit, Dublin are a really good team who have proved their worth repeatedly and they shouldn’t need to be coming out with this kind of stuff. It’s sad and more than a bit nauseating that they continually do so. Nobody would think any the less of them and might possible give them more credit if they showed a bit of honesty about how they play, i.e. as dark and dirty as it needs to get at times.

  40. I thought you had to be an intelligent guy to be a doctor but Pat Hickey seems to prove otherwise with the Corinthian spirit of the great dubs undermined by the cheek of some who should know better questioning their discipline. The good doctor must have been in the theatre when philly. Connolly etc were up to their normal antics last year. Mind you I also thought you had to be an intelligent chap to be a solicitor/ lawyer too and then I listen to joe brolly and I really wonder

  41. @ Willie Joe

    As a lifelong Barcelona supporter and member, it made me sick to read his comparison of Dublin to Barcelona. Having said that, the man is clearly delusional so maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on him.

  42. Just read that article.
    What a load of shiite.

    But if it helps inflating the egos further, then it’s no bad thing.

  43. @to win just once
    I think those articles show their intelligence only too well. There’s plenty of brain donors given access to national media, Dr Hickey is not one of them. The narrative of the next 3 weeks has been written…

    Dublin= Corinthian spirit, unjustly targeted, sportsmen, highly disciplined, Philly’s charity work in Bally’er, Connolly visiting Temple Street etc., etc., etc..

    Mayo= Lee Keegan, dark arts, physicality, chokers, Aiden diving, Lee Keegan, physicality, chokers etc., etc., etc..

  44. I think that’s it exactly, Liam, they know full well what’s they’re doing and they’ve been careful to include us in their narrative as they’ve developed it over the last few months. What annoys me most – given that what they’re saying is baseless, untruthful propaganda – is how dutifully the media are playing along with it. They’ve got much of the national media in their pocket at this stage, by the looks of it.

  45. I wasn’t sure who I wanted to win tomorrow but it’s clear now we need the jacks to win pulling up 20 mins to go,the media go into overdrive the greatest team of all time playing poor Ould mayo in final..do they even need to show up,how many sleep’s til the 18th.MAIGHEO ABU

  46. The more bullshit like this the better, from our point of view.

    Would prefer Dublin from that aspect, but expect the Kerry media mafia to crank up the volume if they do it. They’ve been coming out with unbelievable stuff this week, led by Bombast sorry Bomber Liston which can be distilled thus: Kerry are hurting, hurting very badly, Kerry have lost the last 3 championship matches to Dublin, therefore they cannot lose this one. How about that for a leap from premise to conclusion?

  47. They can spin all they want the fact is everyone in the country knows that connolly is a thug with a lack of self control and Philly mac and Johnny cooper and dirty players. Theres no covering that up and despite what they are trying to do. They have unfortunately put lee in the limelight and he will have to watch himself. Whatever about Dublin or Kerry we need to get ourselves right for a big performance on the 18th.

    I only got time to watch the Tipp match back today and the following stood out to me.

    We need mcloughlin back to sweeper, big barry did a job the last day but he adds nothing going forward, without kevins surging runs from deep we are far too ponderous going forward, also Kevin is a bit lost in the forwards as he hasnt played there all year.

    While Tipp def got a number of soft frees we did leave the hand in high on a number of occasions, this needs to be rectified before the final, can’t be giving away frees in scorable positions.

    A number of times the ball went into Andy Moran which he won but he had no support and had to hold the ball up. If we are using the first time ball into the full forward line we need at least 2 in there and runners of the shoulder, we could really make hay from this and see it as a opportunity.

    Doc needs to take on the shot more and improve his accuracy, there was a number of occasions he got himself into great positions but didn’t put the ball over the bar.

    The vast majority of Tipps wides, if not all of them were due to Mayo pressure. We are certainly tackling more and we are much better defensively as a unit.

    Finally Regan is better when he starts. He finds it hard to find the pitch of the game when he comes of the bench.

    I hope tomorrow isn’t competitive, I hope its a crap game with an easy winner, then we sit back and watch their heads expand for 3 weeks!


  48. Gavin will have egg on his face if one of his angels is caught on camera again indulging in dirty and dangerous play tomorrow. There’s nowhere to hide in Croker with cameras at all angles, especially for an All Ireland semi final.
    Remember last year in the drawn semi – the stuff they got away with was outrageous and then an ex-Dub player coming out that week slating our lads for rough play. Classic case of going on the offensive to cover up your own wrongdoings. It was pathetic. And I agree, the media are buying it and have been for a while.
    There is every chance of something kicking off tomorrow. Dublin going for the back-to-back, being touted as one of the greatest all time teams, while Kerry are trying desperately to prevent the unthinkable: a fourth championship defeat to them since 2011. Intriguing to say the least as neither team will give an inch in this one.

  49. Kerry won the AI two bloody years ago only, they have massive talent coming through with two of the last going for three in a row minor titles. They have the greatest history of us all at the top of the roll of honour . Obviously you all know that shit so then stop worrying about how theyve set themselves up for a big fall lol, its calculated dont you worry about that , all out and lose so be it , kerry will always have comfort in knowing they will be back sooner rather than later.

    Kerry by 7 points tomorrow.

  50. NiallMac83 – Barry Moran did what he was instructed to do: fill the space and catch anything that came in high to Quinlevan. When he got to the half line he laid it off and hared back to his position, like a good Donegal back under Jim McGuinness.

  51. I’ll join Liam in a prayer that Dublin win handsomely and are presented with Sam and the freedom of the city of Dublin , all Mayo will be doing on the 18th is the ceremonious kicking out to dublins gods on the field before they return to the hotel to be congratulated and feted for the winter.
    We must all bow in the presence of greatness

  52. Any true Corinthian doesn’t spout his charity from the rooftops.
    If I was Fitzmaurice I’d play a psychological trick. In the refs meeting pre-game pull out that article.
    “Nevermind that bullshitter Hickey we just want fair play’ and walk out the door. (conveniently leaving the article to be perused.)

  53. Just re read dr hickeys article again and its simply incredible what he trots out. The greatest irony of all is his comment about the victim that is D Connolly and how he gets messed about and that other players would be taking care of it “:settle it out of court so to speak” Yet when poor Diarmo got sent off last year the dub co board spent the whole week and loads of money employing lawyers to get Diarmaid free to play in replay. Corinthian spirit my arse

  54. It’s difficult to make an argument against the idea that today the best two teams in the country will play for the right to walk up the steps of Croke Park on the 18th of September.

    Mayo have not blazed a trail through the championship this year. Like a damp sod placed in a smouldering hearth they refuse to be extinguished.

    The Galway supporter roaring his way out the car window, “Where’s your six in a row , Now Mayo” after his team humiliated mine is gone now. The Messiahs of Roscommon blowing their load into a paper thin February air, gone for now.

    Mayo still stand to await their fate.

    Todays result should matter little to Mayo. We will still have to beat whoever wins. One thing for sure, Mayo don’t need any motivation. In fairness to the lads it is difficult to get up for a Fermanagh, Kildare, West Meath in the same fashion as the Dublin, Kerrys and Donegals of this world. Against Tyrone, Mayo simply Out Tyroned, Tyrone. We got a long overdue rub of the green along the way.

    I believe that the dubs will prevail today because they are a much better outfit than Kerry. The yerras say that they are hurting, wounded animal stuff and all that brings. To me that sounds like desperation spake. We will see.

    The world as I see is turned upside down. The Dubs are the victims of bullying and The Yerras are Telling anyone who will listen to the whinge, that they are Hurting. Show don’t tell springs to mind.

    Meanwhile Mayo are left hung out to dry. Will the damp sod continue to smoulder, or will it burst into flame? I cannot barely wait for the 18th.

  55. Heading into town shortly,, if we die we will die with our boots on, the dubs are waiting at the end of the tunnel for a hand cart, what’s coming is significantly different. See ye on the 18th, !!

  56. Going back to that 06 article by Keith Duggan,, I remember it well. At the time it lifted my spirits somewhat after the final disaster and I e-mailed him to thank him. He graciously replied and it is clear that not only is he an outstanding writer, he has tremendous admiration for Mayo and their glorious struggle to land Sam. Such a contrast to the idiotic and peevish rantings of Spillane, Brolly, Breheny, Cahill, Carr etc.

  57. Joe, ah the damp sod smouldering! As the sad proprietor of many such damp sods down the years I can confidently testify that the feckers never burst into flames but persist with a pretence at providing warmth and comfort. I prefer to think of our fellas more like a baulk of old oak wood – a right whore to light but once it gets going it would roast the arse off ya.

  58. I’ve done a bit of digging for that Keith Duggan piece – here it is. I recall feeling so uplifted by his conclusion, it was just what we needed then. Pity from the other 31 counties was the last thing we needed, then or now.

    Weep not for Mayo; look to yourselves
    Keith Duggan

    Sideline Cut: On Sunday last, 82,000 people witnessed Kerry reconfirm their status as the insatiable, deathless winners of the Sam Maguire. Their 34th All-Ireland championship was achieved at a canter that seemed unimaginable at mid-summer.

    And the rest of the country can but admire Kerry and wonder at the internal dynamic that pushes them towards a need for multiple Celtic Cross medals. If it is a form of greed, it is a magnificent one. And, of course, the sense of entitlement and composure that seems to possess Kerry players and teams on September Sundays makes the plight of Mayo, once again cast in the role of beautiful losers, seem all the more poignant and pitiful.

    By freezing against Kerry twice within three years, Mayo have become an object of pity and perhaps derision among football counties across the land. Kerry won another All-Ireland title through gargantuan physical effort, through consummate football ability, through mental toughness, through arrogance and through a grim-minded adaptation of the more negative realities of the modern game. They look well primed to win more All-Irelands this decade, and the thing about Kerry is they know how to lose and win with a touch of class – they have had plenty of practice.

    The thing I admired most about Kerry on Sunday last was that they destroyed their opponents without once belittling them. Kerry All-Ireland football victories are generally a reflection of the better nature of the game and of sport in general, and in that sense, last Sunday’s finale was heartening.

    But as Kerry house the Sam Maguire in all the familiar abodes, the story of Mayo is the more interesting part of the equation of this year’s final. Once again, the totality of their collapse meant what ought to have been the climactic minutes of a long, gruelling championship were played out in muted, slightly hallucinatory circumstances. As Kevin O’Neill noted, one could write a thesis on the psyche of Mayo teams on All-Ireland final days. It was as though the sight of Kerry jerseys induced an LSD-type flashback that had a physical as well as a psychological effect – because some of the Mayo guys seemed to be moving in a slower motion. Afterwards, Mayo fans spoke of their hurt, embarrassment and frustration, all of which should be remembered.

    But it is important to remember that since 1996, only Mayo have reached All-Ireland football finals as frequently as Kerry. Mayo know how to get there – which is more than can be said for the majority of other serious football counties. Already, the revisionism has begun on the management style of MickeyMoran/John Morrison, which can be now slammed by Hard Chaw traditionalists as New Age, all josh sticks and fancy jargon. But the fact is, they got to a league semi-final, and won a provincial championship and a semi-final that has been deemed The Greatest Match of All Time. That hardly constitutes a bad year.

    The criticism over the removal of O’Neill last Sunday has substance; and maybe even the disapproval of not starting David Brady is justified. But it ought to be remembered Moran and Morrison resurrected O’Neill’s career and persuaded Brady out of retirement.

    As for the performance of the players, it is wrong and curmudgeonly to harangue them for behaving like the amateurs they are in the face of another dog-whipping by Kerry. The truth of it is that very few of us can even imagine what it is like to be out there in Croke Park in those conditions.

    Maybe there is truth in the general belief that for Mayo to actually win an All-Ireland, they must develop a meaner streak. On Sunday, James Nallen’s record of one yellow card in a decade of service was presented to him and he was asked if maybe he ought to have been a bit more cynical over the years. Nallen’s reply was dignified and profound: he played the game how he played the game; clean was his philosophy. If Mayo wanted an alternative centre back whose philosophy involved the removal of opponents’ teeth, then they were welcome to select him.

    Mayo play clean and they play stylish and on days like Sunday, when it goes bad, it makes them look like dandies and pretenders. Over the past few days I kept on wondering how the football life of Ciarán McDonald would have evolved if, for whatever reason, he had moved to Kerry at the age of 15. McDonald has, for better or worse, been the bright, burning emblem of the best and worst of Mayo football. In Kerry, flair is important and celebrated but fairly rigidly harnessed into the team ethic. It could be argued that in Kerry hands, McDonald would have become a more fully realised player and added a few All-Ireland medals to his name in the process.

    But maybe in those circumstances, some gift to Gaelic football, something intangible and arguably more precious than a medal, would have been lost. In Mayo, McDonald has, under several managements, played as an out-and-out free spirit. As late as this year, arguments raged as to whether his highly strung, daring genius was detrimental to his team and anathema to the speed and urgency of the modern game. McDonald infuriates some observers, who believe him to be self-indulgent on the ball and ponderous, complicating the fundamentals. Their frustration is understandable.

    But I have come to think of McDonald as someone helplessly in thrall to the finer possibilities of Gaelic football, a guy who plays the main game – the contest we all watch on the field – but also a game in his mind where he is constantly and helplessly computing passes and angles that the rest of us cannot see, partly to put a colleague in a scoring position but also for the plain aesthetic joy of it.

    Maybe he does not possess that eye for the main chance, that winner’s coldness that so many managers and players will tell you counts for everything – although he was pretty icy in clipping the score of the year against Dublin a month ago. But here is the thing: in Ciarán McDonald, Mayo have a player who can play the game of Gaelic football like nobody else on earth. His capacity for elevating what is a fairly simple and rudimentary game into the realm of the sublime, often through a single foot pass, has to be classified as a form of genius. It will not always win you the championship match and, when it deserts him, as it did in the second half last Sunday, the sight can be shocking and dismaying to behold. But the fact remains he can ordain prosaic league Sundays and high-octane championship days that are brutally loaded with effort and brutally lacking in class with one transcendent moment that stays crystal clear and alive long after the season ends. If the game has no room for the celebration of a gift like that, then we might as well say to hell with the game.

    There is no denying Mayo and her talisman are in a dark and uncertain place right now. But only one county is fully entitled to feel pity for Mayo. That is Kerry. And Kerry are too respectful, too cautious and too damn hungry to ever allow pity to come into it. If you belong to any other football county and shake your head at the plight of Mayo, you are only fooling yourself. The old adage that winning is everything in Gaelic games is a complete nonsense, except for the footballers of Kerry and the hurlers of Cork and Kilkenny. If winning is everything, we may as well end the championship now. For the vast majority of counties, the idea of winning the big prize is just a summer conceit, a mass delusion.

    And if Mayo are the beautiful losers of Gaelic games, then most other counties are just regular, everyday losers with nothing to distinguish them. Don’t pity Mayo, because they will be turning up and beating you before too long.

    © 2006 The Irish Times

  59. All this talk of turf and lighting fires can mean only one thing, winter is coming!!!
    I’m feeling the cold already…

  60. Feeing a bit embarrassed now. That great article followed by my inane comment on turf fires…

  61. But you ll know Cosa Bana that a sod of turf , spodge or the very best, has more meaning than an All Ireland for an awful lot of people!!!
    That article does indeed put things in their proper perspective.And after reading it a second time I see that it gives the answer to the question …why do so many counties even bother year after year?

  62. Keith Duggans article, excellent by the way, was a reflection on a similar piece he wrote in 2004 after Kerry beat us. His message? Don’t worry about Mayo, they will be fine. He is of course correct.

  63. Correct, John – originally I thought that the paper had simply repeated the 2004 article two years later (not a bad idea had they done so as it would have been equally relevant) but it was only this morning after I’d sourced the 2006 piece and re-read it that I realised that this wasn’t the case.

  64. Late changes on both sides. For Dus, Bastick and Flynn off. MacAuley and McManamon on. Maher on for O’Brien for Kerry. That will move Donkey into FF

  65. now we know its the Dubs … and Kerry nearly did it by targeting Cluxtons kick outs. not an impossible task I think… but Connolly was superb…

  66. Dublin won the 2nd half 13-5. Apart from a ten minute wobble before HT, they completely dominated. The first goal was well taken but the 2nd was a bit of a fluke.

    I was particularly impressed with cooper and the Dublin full back line. Their tackling over the pitch was immense.

    We have our work cut out.

  67. A farce if K had won. Given two goals and beaten by two…could have been a massacre.

  68. Small bit of schadenfreude in seeing Kerry blaming the ref. McMenamin’s a class act and my favourite player outside Mayo but that was a free all day long. If Shane Enright pulled out a kitchen knife and went ISIS on the umpires I seriously doubt he’d get the line, what the fuck does he have to do to get a black card?
    On a positive note, there won’t be a Hutch or Kinahan shot in Dublin tonight..

  69. Mayonaze, not sure in what way Galway is a “weaker football county “. They beat Mayo this year and won the Connacht. They are also in tje minor final. Mayo yet to win anything this year…

  70. We won the U21, Marybeau, and in case you didn’t notice, we’re in the All-Ireland final so we may not be done yet. By the way, while posters from other counties are always welcome here I have to remind you that this welcome doesn’t extend to those intent on winding up the natives. Take due note of this caution, please.

  71. Liam, I watched back the replay and Mc Manamon, and in the dying moments of games and 2013 final, he makes cynical fouls when dubs are ahead and is never punished for them. I hope the management see this and get in the refs ears for this, as the margins are milimetres.

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