Should we have a serious crack at the 2010 NFL?

There was a piece with Dublin’s Barry Cahill in yesterday’s Indo where he expressed the view that the Dubs should take next year’s NFL a bit more seriously than they did this year.  That wouldn’t, in fairness, be very difficult because Pat Gilroy and the lads appeared utterly indifferent to how they were performing (which was mostly very poorly) in this year’s league and they only managed to retain their Division 1 status for 2010 by beating the bejaysus out of Westmeath in their final match of the campaign.  Cahill reckons that, after their summer travails dish ear, next spring’s NFL could prove the ideal way to get back on the wagon and he rightly points to the fact that it’ll make a welcome change for the Dubs to be starting their league campaign on the road, away from the early season Croke Park-under-the-lights fixture that the GAA has so cynically manufactured in recent times.  The Dubs do seriously need to get their house back into some kind of order and a decent league run could be good way to start going about this.

What about ourselves?  We’ve now put in two lackadaisical NFL campaigns since the last time we had a serious tilt at the competition that first made the county’s footballers famous back in the Thirties so should we also be looking for a more focused approach to the 2010 league campaign?  You could argue, with more than a little justification, that our 2007 run all the way to the NFL final did Sweet Fanny Adams for us that year, culminating as it did in yet another Croke Park final defeat which was then rapidly followed by our May meltdown in Salthill and the aimless qualifier campaign that ended in such dismal fashion up in Celtic Park in July of that year.  But then an indifferent league campaign in 2008 was followed by an equally indifferent championship run and a mediocre spring performance this year presaged a better, though still far from satisfactory, summer for us.

NFL 1985-2009_I dunno what to think, to be honest, because it’s certainly true that going hell for leather at the league is no guarantee of a happy summer.  At the same time, an NFL title shouldn’t – as it’s often characterized to be – be viewed as some kind of toxic bauble that will guarantee a county to fall flat on its face the minute that Smirking Michael Lyster returns to front The Sunday Game Live.   The Kerrymen (cute hoors that they are) have never seen league success as an impediment to winning Sam (I know, I know, there’s very little that they do see – apart from Tyrone – stopping them from the All-Ireland in any given year): as the table shows (even I was a bit shocked at this little nugget), on every single occasion over the past 25 years that Kerry have won the NFL, they’ve also gone on to win that year’s All-Ireland.  Summer failure after league success appears to be more of an Ulster problem (probably because (a) Ulster counties tend to win the league a lot and (b) Ulster is a minefield to get out of in any given year) but Tyrone have shown recently (in 2003, to be exact) that the Double can be done by Nordies too.

That twenty-five year record also, I think, masks the shift that has taken place over the past decade, most likely because of the structural change in the championship and the increasing irrelevance of winning provincial honours.  In the sixteen year period from 1985 to 2000 (i.e. right up to the change in championship structure), nine NFL champions were beaten within their province in that year’s championship, two lost at the All-Ireland semi-final stage, two more in the All-Ireland final itself while three (Meath in 1988, Cork in 1989 and Kerry in 1997) did the Double.  Under the new dispensation from 2001, six NFL champions (including ourselves in that quite comical Connacht final loss to the Rossies in 2001) failed to win provincial honours later the same year but two of the three who did (Tyrone in 2003 and Kerry the following year) went on to win the All-Ireland while Armagh were beaten (by Tyrone) in the All-Ireland semi-final.  However (and here’s the rub), Kerry have twice recently (2006 and this year) won the league, bombed in Munster and have then gone on to win the All-Ireland.  So while winning the league might still be deemed to be injurious to your prospects of triumphing in the now seriously devalued provincial championships, the Kerrymen have shown us (they have so much to show us in Gaelic football, the hoors) that league success followed by provincial failure no longer has to mean All-Ireland failure as well.  Well, not if you’re Kerry it doesn’t.

So, should we have a right go at the league next year?  (In other words, should our motto, come February, be 10-MO-NFL?)  While I don’t think we should go bald-headed for it, I would like if our 2010 NFL campaign didn’t feature the kind of soporific displays that we saw this year in the league against the likes of Derry and Dublin.  If we went on to win the thing, then it’d be no bad thing: it is a national title, after all, and we’re not exactly tripping over such trinkets at the minute.  And, of course, if we did capture our twelfth NFL crown next spring, then lose to the Fat Controller’s new charges in Connacht in early summer before roaring back to win the All-Ireland via the scenic route, we’d all be drunk till 2025 or thereabouts but that, I suppose, is another day’s work.

10 thoughts on “Should we have a serious crack at the 2010 NFL?

  1. Well WJ its interesting that Kerry also lead the National league winners chart. They passed us out in the early 1970s. we still hang on to second place despite winning it only twice since 1970. Anyway I believe this indiffernce to the league is a Northern thing or more precisely a Derry thing. They hovered up a pile of them in the mid 1990s but never set fire to the championship. Ergo it was decided that somehow or other the league was a bad thing to win. Similarily when that grey tank of footbal Armagh annexed the first ever league in 2005 one was made feel that they were given fifty Hail Marys to recite rather than the joy of winning a national title.
    I believe that winning matches leads to winning more matches. Our problem is that we have SOME players good enough but we have others simply not good enough. Riddle me this one. The Ballaghderreen manager site’s Andy Moran at corner forward for the Mayo championship. Fellow Ballaghdereen man John O Mahoney sites the same player in our half back line at county level. So this years league should see good bye and farewell to a number of guys who have been part of the panel for the last 7 years without ever threatining to win a regular place i.e Austy, Liam O Malley, possibly BJ, and a host of other seat warmers. Time for the likes of Enda Varley, Jason Gibbons, Regan from Bal;laghdereen to be given a proper run, not 15 mins v Sligo IT. Of course we should try and win the league, Kerry have proven that winning is not like a tap that you can turn on or off.

  2. I can only recall two years where good National League Campaigns were followed by championships where we exceeded expectations. They were 1980/81 where a league semi was followed by a Connacht title and 1995/96 where we got to a league semi out of Division 3 followed by the unmentionable final.

    On the other hand good leagues in 1985/86, 2000/01, 2002, 2005 and 2007 were followed by defeats in Connacht. The key is not doing well in the league, but how we use it.

    If we mantain our Division 1 status and bring in a number of new players, and not recycling past failures, it’s as much as we can expect.

  3. Would like to see us give the league a good crack. Just to see us lift a trophy in Croke Park would be something, plus to win a final at HQ might even do something for the mindset of the players.

  4. The thing about Kerry winning the league is that they are in the final most years, then with the clubs until well into October, so residual fitness will be higher than other counties. They can breeze through it on talent alone, fit in a bit of serious training for the semis and final and drop the intensity for the Munster Championship which is not remotely competitive bar Cork. Other counties must face trickier assigments, especially in Ulster, and a good league run, or a final loss in particular will often not be enough to save a managers skin. Tyrone in 2003 I would argue, were a remarkable team on a mission, with an excellent and adaptable manager.

  5. The problem with Mayo is that we are classified in the leading pack of 6 or 8 teams in the country but like a few others in that pack (e.g. Dublin, Derry) we haven’t advanced to the level of the bar that Kerry and Tyrone have set. So we are at the tail end of that group and are kinda stuck there for last few years.
    On the positive side, as been said quite a few times recently, we are getting to finals which proves we are in the hunt and must be doing something right. So many counties don’t even get to a final stage at all.
    But we need to turn the screw and get into winning ways more often and a team to be feared. Mayo are not a team that other counties fear – they may not like playing us because we are unpredictable but not because they fear us. On the contrary I suspect many counties fancy their chances against us – Meath this year for example – because we have a percieved softness.
    I go along with targetting the league title and getting into that winninmg way but also feel that the team is missing a bit of toughness and the FBd and League and club championship should be used to find / develop a few steely players and add a bit of ‘character’ to the team. I firmly believe such players are there in Mayo football but is there any indication that the selectors are out there looking for them? Love to win the league but would be equally happy to see a stronger backbone of the team being discovered and developed.

  6. One more thing that keeps niggling in my mind about this years championship and I know it’s all hypothetical but……
    Kerry are champions again despite a few tricky hurdles and close shaves. They lost to Cork and were less than impressive coming through the qualifiers.
    Just wondering if Mayo a similar trail of matches as Kerry went through what would have happened. If we had lost to Galway at some stage in Connacht (as Kerry did to Cork) and then had to play Longford, Sligo, Antrim and Dublin would we have made it to an All Ireland final. I suspect one of those teams would have scuppered us along the way (to suppoert that view just remember that Meath scuppered us anyway!!). So what is it that makes Kerry winners and Mayo so erratic ??? thoughts ??

  7. We need to use the FBD &NFL to find new players particularly backs & midfield.
    In fairness to JOM a lot of backs were tried out last year
    Playing moran in half back line imo was a success
    we missed cunniffe in championship after playing him all year at chb—particularly good in Tuam.
    He is a disaster at corner back–ref league game against Kildare in 2007
    Howley will be adaquete at corner back.
    We need effective backs & strenght at midfield.
    There must be a Galvin type scavanger somewhere in the county–or are all our footballers too nice.
    As supporters we seem to want style rather then success.

  8. I think Mayo should use the league to rebuild the team a little more. The fact that the middle of the team is the same for the last 4/5 years means shows that the team needs another new injection of young or previously unused blood. What players could be used in your opinion WJ? Maybe Shane Nally, Cathal Freeman, Jason Doherty etc.?

    What ever we do I feel we should be positive in what we do…Why can’t we have a crack at the league and Championship? Talent is not the problem, lets give the lads the support they need and help them believe they can do it.

  9. Agree with the general theme ie We need a few good men and especially to toughen up
    I fear that development squads and underage managers prefer talented players who are easily managed rather than the edgy abrasive type who may be volatile but may also give a bit more on the day Talent is something in football but attitude is everything

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