Need a bit of a rev-up as Sunday edges closer? Here’s MO4Ever – JJMR, taking a first whirl in the guest contributor’s chair, with some thoughts on why we’re better prepared than ever going into this final.
I feel terrible. The final whistle has gone, I have a headache and we have lost another All-Ireland final. Indeed this match was over with a good few minutes to spare. You know that sinking feeling when the other team gets a bit of a run on you. You can see the reaction is not there to suppress it. The points fly over, from all angles. The white flag is raised, points that we couldn’t score, no matter how hard we tried especially in those last 15 minutes or so. Again the high ball in on top of us has undone us. Well, feck it anyways.
As we leave Croke Park the streets are loud; you hear another enormous cheer, which remains in your ears as you make your way back to the car. Again say to yourself several times – well, feck it anyways.
The journey home is torture, 300km or so, and to make it worse each kilometre seems like two. It wasn’t supposed to be like this this year … this team was different!
Of course I’ve been here before. I have the experience, it should lessen the blow but at the moment I’m not handling this well. I don’t want to talk; I cannot say anything that matters to my family. The sports news comes on the radio on the hour, you turn channels but there all the same, the other team has won and they are the champions. Well, feck it anyways.
I wonder how the players must be feeling. I stop for an ice cream hoping that it will break the monotonous journey and in the hope that it will make me feel better. We all turn to ice cream when we want or feel good don’t we! But of course it doesn’t work. I don’t even taste it, it gets eaten like an apple, two or three bites and it’s gone – forgotten, tasteless. Well, feck it anyways.
As we make our way through the various Mayo towns along the N5, the flags and bunting which were smiling back at us as we travelled up to Dublin the previous day now look lonely and sad. All those Good Luck signs don’t mean anything. You’re now back in familiar MidWest radio territory. I listen to the banquet reports. You’re looking to Angelina and the crew to say something that gives you some small crumb of comfort. Talk of winning it next year never does it for me – there are no guarantees we’ll be back in a final any time soon. I know there is no such thing as next year in Gaelic Football. Well, feck it anyways.
We eventually make it home; there would be time for a last round in the local but I cannot face it. The Sunday Game has been recorded but I cannot watch it now, perhaps never will.
I don’t sleep well that night. You hope it’s a bad dream you’re having. In the morning reality sinks in and I’m away early to work. Again Big Des is on the radio, it’s all about the winners, the winning captain, the winners’ hotel and the winners’ homecoming.
I think of the Mayo players again … how they must be feeling but then I stop. In the past it has taken weeks even months to get over it, to be able to file it away. Either I’m determined not to let that happen this time or could it be that I feel a bit different now? I cannot figure out why that is, but my thoughts move to James Horan – how must he be feeling, how must Tom and the rest of the backroom team feel. Who’s going to pick them up?
Fast forward to 2013 …
In the past we don’t seem to do football grieving that well in Mayo. Are we afraid to grieve?
To show weakness, to uncover. It’s easier to look for excuses. Refs, injuries, curses, high balls, ifs, buts and maybes. People better equipped than me have had their say on this great blog and elsewhere on the reasons why we lost. This last year, though, the emphasis has noticeably been more about tactics and match-ups etc. in explaining how we lost .Could it be that previously we have been digging too deep, without acknowledging the real truth? Could we now be closer to the answers?
In the finals we played there were a few common denominators:
- Our backs are decent enough.
- In midfield we could hold our own
- Our forwards need to score more.
But in each final that we lost prior to last year, their forwards were always better than our backs. And, with respect, their management always seemed to be more tactically astute than ours.
In other words for us to win we went to Croker hoping that the opposition would somehow not perform well. If they played bad then we had a chance. Note I used the word ‘hope’.
Last year against Donegal we got closer. Management were more astute, gaining experience. Our backs and forwards were better, but would midfield hold their own? Donegal didn’t come come in hope, they came to win. Jimmy was winning matches.
In the first ten minutes we didn’t hold our own in midfield.Their midfielders got their hands on more ball than ours did for the full seventy. We didn’t work hard enough. They had a plan, targeted us with high ball and all. We got caught somewhat unluckily on the hop.
Again were their forwards better than our backs? Maybe they were for those first ten minutes but at last we had a sideline that reacted to what was unfolding in front of them. Was this why my thoughts last year had turned to James Horan and why I felt somewhat different?
We Mayo folk have been described by others as fragile and nervous. (How dare they?) We’re not supposed to enjoy the build up, we’re afraid to hype up things too much this time. It gets to some people – they don’t put up the same flags that they had before,they’re not lucky so better to buy a new one.
So is this Mayo team in 2013 different?
No it’s not different.
It’s totally different. There was a TV programme in the Seventies called the Six Million Dollar Man – some of you may remember it. The hero was damaged in a crash but the programme started with the lines:
We can rebuild him; we have the technology.
Better than he was before.
Better. Stronger. Faster.
James Horan and the boys are our Six Million Dollar Men. Our team is now better, stronger and faster. James has been given the resources he wanted. He has the technology.
Our management is now professional and astute. James picked himself up shortly after the final whistle and so too have the players. To quote Kieran Shannon: “We are now prepared to die with the boots on”.
This time our forwards are better than their backs, and so too are our midfielders and our backs. And unlike the nation’s soccer team we will have a Plan A, B or C if required. We will give it everything. It is us who will do the targeting this time; we will apply the pressure wherever its needed to lift that load.
So to all Mayo folk: Believe, enjoy the build-up during the next few days, put even more flags up, make sure you bring flags to Croke Park. Dress in Green and Red to be seen and sing those songs.
We are coming to win this time – visualise us raising that Cup.
I’ll buy another ice cream again in the same place on the N5 on the way home from Croker next Sunday evening but this time the taste will be perfect and it will stay forever.