Suddenly, we don’t look so bad

There was this great scene in the second season of Prison Break, when the lads had just busted out of Fox River and the reprehensible T-Bag had foolishly parted company for a time with his hand. Having got a vet to reattach it, T-Bag showed his gratitude by informing his hapless helper that he was going to bump him off. As he was about to administer a DIY lethal injection, our recidivist friend tried to console his victim with some platitudes about how Native Indians warriors believed that when they killed an enemy warrior, they subsumed the dead warrior’s soul into their own. “You’re with me now, Doc” proclaimed our jail-breaking friend as he plunged the lethal cocktail into the poor old dog doctor’s arm.

I was thinking about that scene as the yesterday’s match was about to get underway. Tyrone bumped us off two weeks ago and so, in the Native American sense, I guess that made us part of the Red Hand contingent at a wet and wintry Croke Park yesterday afternoon. If that were the case – and I suppose most Mayo fans wouldn’t have needed any promptings from the Arapaho to have been rooting for the Northerners yesterday – then they had an enjoyable day. I had mixed feelings myself, given that my little Dubs were obviously looking to see a home win, but, like many other Mayo fans yesterday, Tyrone’s demolition job on Dublin made me think again about our own performance against the Red Handers two weeks ago.

Tyrone were magnificent yesterday and looked utterly transformed compared to the dull, uninspired bunch that managed to scrape by us a fortnight ago. So what can explain the metamorphosis? I think a number of factors come into play, such as match scheduling (which, like a drunken driver careering along a crowded road, is always going to have a significant impact on proceedings), the hype machine that once again built up an average Dublin team into world-beaters, Alan Brogan’s injury, Mickey Harte’s tactical acumen, Pillar’s complete lack of same and, yet again, some quixotic refereeing. Mix it all together and what do you get? A twelve-point hammering for the Dubs, that’s what.

The decision to put this match back a week undoubtedly affected the Dubs’ preparation and meant that, unlike Kildare last Sunday, Tyrone weren’t forced to line out on four successive weekends. I’d’ve no sympathy for the Dubs on this one: if they wanted their own day out, then they had to be prepared to wait the extra week for it but, of course, that did mean another week of hanging around waiting for the next game whereas Tyrone got some precious time to regroup and recover from the three hard games they’d just played. Yesterday showed was that match scheduling can have a big impact on the outcome but sure didn’t we know that already, in a championship that leaves teams sitting on their holes for up to ten weeks and then sends them out to play for four weekends on the trot after that?

The hype machine – which made Dublin 1/3 to win the game – provided Tyrone with all the cover they needed to get to Croker completely under the radar. Some gobshite on NewsTalk was asking people to text in on Friday with their views on how “the Dublin-Kerry final” would go and it’s obvious that, with Wexford to come in the semis, thoughts around here were already firmly focused on September. On Friday night, I read in the paper that Tyrone had 12 All-Ireland medalists on their team whereas Dublin had just one, the evergreen Jayo. And still the Dubs were odds-on to win.

It’s amazing how the hype machine succeeds every year in building up a limited team into a bunch of supermen. It suits the papers, of course, as every year they spend half the time building the team up and the rest explaining their downfall. And, of course, they do the voting in the All-Stars which last year produced the ridiculous situation of handing awards to three players – Cluxton, Brogan and Whelan – who had all choked at the vital moment in the semi-final against Kerry. But the problem for Dublin is that the hype machine is of no use to them once the ball is thrown in and the manner of their deconstruction by Tyrone yesterday illustrated this in the most brutal manner possible.

It’s impossible to know how the match might have played out had Alan Brogan not got injured but the simple fact is that he did and Dublin disintegrated in his absence. I don’t think it would have made much difference had he stayed on as his replacement, his younger brother Bernard, was one of Dublin’s better players and the only one of their forwards to show any kind of spark all day. Tyrone seemed to have their homework done on Dublin’s fifteen and those plans would, I’m sure, have included how to deal with Dublin’s most dangerous forward. Had Brogan played for the full seventy minutes, the margin of victory may not have been as big as twelve points but Tyrone would probably still have had plenty to spare on them at the end.

As was the case on the pitch, there was no contest where it came to smarts on the sideline yesterday. Mickey Harte laid effective plans to nullify Dublin’s two most intelligent operators – Jayo and Shane Ryan – and his boys were obviously also given instructions to rough up Whelan at every opportunity. In contrast, Pillar put poor old Ross McConnell on Sean Cavanagh and, almost as bad, deployed Collie Moran to mark Brian Dooher (perhaps on the basis that Dooher had done bugger all against us). Surprise, surprise – Harte’s tactics worked a treat and Pillar’s acted like well-directed shots into his foot but, once it was clear that the match was spinning away from them, Pillar was unable to effect any changes to improve matters. Harte’s bench was far better and every change he made just turned the screw that little bit further on the hapless Dubs.

The one straw the Dubs could grab at to explain their defeat, if they were so minded to do this, was the refereeing performance though I’m not sure this would have come close to saving them either. The big complaint they had was that Cavanagh clearly overcarried for Tyrone’s opening goal and had it been ruled out, Dublin might have steadied the ship sufficiently to withstand what came after. And Cavanagh could arguably have walked for the job he did on Whelan but the Raheny man should have got the line for that disgraceful clothes-line tackle on Joe McMahon soon after (Whelo specialises in those, doesn’t he?). Cahill and Keaney should also have been red-carded in the second half for committing yellow card offences having already been booked but an “ah sure they have enough troubles, the poor feckers” view of the rules from the Kerryman in the middle meant that this didn’t happen.

In the final analysis, Dublin were well and truly stuffed – it was their worst championship defeat in thirty years, since Kerry annihilated them in the 1978 final – and the fact that it was a team that we failed narrowly to a fortnight ago that did the stuffing has to make us feel a bit better about ourselves. Could we have beaten Dublin? Well, we couldn’t beat Tyrone (or, indeed, Galway) so it’s all a bit academic now. We certainly gave Tyrone a far better game than the Dubs did yesterday but that doesn’t change the fact that we made our championship exit two weeks ago. However, if the Red Handers do now go on and complete their own three-in-a-row on the Kerrymen next month – and they might, you know, they just might – then the reflected glory we’d get to feel would certainly help to tide us over the winter and assist in germinating all those delusional feelings about our prospects for 2009.

Meanwhile, the women did us proud once again yesterday. Playing in atrocious conditions, they racked up a winning scoreline of 2-12 and many of those points came from beyond the range that their male counterparts were able to score from in fine weather two weeks ago. And they beat Kerry, in Croke Park and all – now that’s a fine target for the lads to match next year.

5 thoughts on “Suddenly, we don’t look so bad

  1. i do not take any comfort from tyrones display om saturday in relation to mayo.in fact it only adds to the frustation as another year is wasted in our quest for sam.i am not saying we would have beaten dublin but i certainly would have loved to have gotten the chance.my thinking has been always to win every game no matter how bad we are playing and see where it takes us and if we do recieve a drubbing at the end so be it.i know everybody wants to forget about the c.mcd saga but it still blows my mind that he was left off the panel.the idea that he slows up the play is total madness and i think alot of this comes from fellows like colm o rourke who also wrote after the 2004 all-ireland that we should appoint j.om as manager immediatly,which was very disrespectfull to john maughan who has easily been our most succesfull manager of the past 30 years.to me we have the players to contend every year but under j.oms leadership i cannot see next year been any different to the last 2 disastorus years and if i hear of any more transition phases or 3 year plans i will get sick.the only thing j.om has succeded in doing is keeping our expectations down and as you can see mine are at an all time low

  2. Greetings from Honolulu Willie Joe, this well known red and green stronghold in the Pacific! – didn’t see the dubs on Saturday but from the reports, Tyrone were awesome. What does it say about us – maybe we were lucky to have met them when they were in warm-up mode. Or maybe, it’s that glimmer of hope the boys will take in to the winter with them, the hope the makes guys like us think that next year might be the year… It shows the value of a sticking with a good manager, one who has won a couple of all-ireland titles…sound like anyone we know?
    P.S. Up Wexford…hopefully they can shake up the big boys now!

  3. It’s frustrating, alright, Mayo51, having to dwell on what might have been. We’ll never know how we’d have done against the Dubs but what we do know is that we didn’t do enough to earn the right to play them. Tyrone’s display also tells us all we need to know about sides in transition – they were supposed to be a shadow of their former selves but now look t them.

    Hope the honeymoon is going well, DB – wouldn’t you have been really sick to be stuck over there if it was our lads hammering the Dubs?!

  4. Tyrone did well but dont rule out Wexford. If Tyrone do make it through, and do meet Kerry, I am convinced they will pay big time for the pain they inflicted on kerry in the past(we’re still paying for 96). I dont think Tyrone are world beaters all of a sudden despite a great show last Sat….i have a feeling their season is going to come to an unsucessful and possibly cruel end. When we reflect on the Dublin team and management i think we are all agreed, in hindsight, that they are a very ordinary side especially without brogan. this must be taken into context when making a judgement on how good tyrone are.

  5. I hope Ted you’re not writing off Cork in the equation above. They did beat the kingdom already after all.
    Also WJ – do you have any thoughts on the minors? They are a big price on PP especially after all the tough/tight games they have been through. Mayo+3 seems surely decent to me, even against the Kingdom.
    But then again……

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