A few of you have already mentioned Tomas Ó Sé’s excellent piece about us in today’s Irish Independent, which everyone should take the time to read and reflect on. I don’t think I’ve seen so many nails being hit squarely on the head in one go in a long while.
I reckon the Kerryman is absolutely correct in his analysis of the way that we as Mayo followers have come to look at each year in “All-Ireland or bust” terms, heaping undue (and grossly unfair) pressure on the lads as a result and inviting onto ourselves more severe criticism than counties (he mentions Galway in this instance) who have done nothing over the last decade. For me, though, the killer line in the whole article is the one that comes just after this where he says:
Wouldn’t it be a lot worse for Mayo if nothing was happening for them?
We’ve all known those times and it’s not just those of us of a certain age that have direct experience of this either. 2007 to 2010 was one such era, a time where we punched consistently below our weight and never came within an ass’s roar of competing seriously for the All-Ireland. I know John O’Mahony got a bit of stick back then – and I gave him a fair bit of it here, though the site hadn’t anything like the reach it has now – but compared to much of criticism often levelled at James Horan, the Deputy got a pretty easy ride as our place within the footballing world went pretty much to pot under his watch.
Tomas Ó Sé has several recommendations for us, all of which are of merit but the one I want to focus on here is where he says that James and the players need to become more selfish and think only about themselves. Which, amongst other things, means not listening to chatter from outside the camp (including social media, James!) and zoning in completely on themselves and the challenges facing them.
I think he’s right and I think there’s another angle to this too, coming from the perspective of those of looking in. Light-hearted frivolity such as Mayo flags fluttering at far-flung places such as Machu Picchu and Mayo4Sam signs daubed on mountain roads in France (at a time of year when Mayo4Nestor was all we should have been thinking about) might be seen as simply adding colour to the summer but when you look at this kind of stuff – shared incessantly over social media – on a cumulative basis, you can see what kind of pressure it exerts on the team. And when you consider that there was far more of this stuff last year compared to the year before, it’s obvious that the consequent pressure is increasing year-on-year. I haven’t got any documentary evidence to back this up but my very strong hunch is that no other county places such a burden of expectation on its team to deliver the ultimate prize.
Seen in this light, a collective chill pill may be what’s required over the next while and so this is perhaps as good a way as any to let you know about my own schedule over the coming few weeks. With a work trip I’ve on over the early part of next week and then a mad scramble to get stuff sorted before we head away on holidays for a fortnight the weekend after next, I’m not going to be focusing too much on here between now and early July.
A bit of a break might do us all some good over this period, I reckon, though I’m open as ever to anyone who wants to pen a guest post or two to fill in the gaps while I’m gone. And, of course, there’s the little matter of the World Cup to keep minds occupied elsewhere. If last night’s opener was anything to go by, however, a month of theatrical cheating by overpaid soccer players could well be the medicine required to get all in sundry into the right frame of mind for the Connacht final and whatever else the summer of 2014 holds for us.