Tension-filled TV show

Photo: Irish Sun

There are some advantages to watching the final on television.

The main one for me on Saturday evening was the proximity of the TV remote. At the push of a button, the screen switched satisfactorily to black, chiming perfectly with my mood.

It wasn’t a lack of respect for James Horan’s team that caused me to cut off the broadcast from Croke Park with such alacrity once the full-time whistle had sounded. It was simply that I had seen all I wanted to and didn’t really need to witness the afters, certainly not the dreaded presentation.

My mind wandered back to previous finals and how I’d felt once the whistle had sounded and the dream had died. The thick lump in my throat, the sting of salty tears and the urgent need to get the hell out of Croke Park as rapidly as possible. And then the gloomy walk home. Yes, this time the post-match bit was a whole load easier.

The lead-in to this unique made-for-TV final was, though, one that I found harder to handle than any of the others. I was perfectly okay until Friday morning but I then descended into a complete gibbering mess and my nervousness had only become more elevated when the day itself dawned.

Before the semi-final I’d gone for a walk down to Croke Park – which is located less than two miles down the road from where I live – and it had got me nicely into the frame of mind on that foggy day. I had planned to do the same on Saturday morning.

The day dawned bright and clear but my mind was all over the place. I hardly knew where my feet were, still less what I needed to do with them to propel myself out the door. Plans for a Croke Park walk quickly went by the boards.

When I’m at big matches involving Mayo, I often feel that the stress of the whole experience is just too much. So, getting to sit this one out at home should, in theory, have made for a calmer in-match experience.

Not a bit of it. I was instead like the proverbial cat on a griddle from the instant the ball was thrown in.

In fact, I wasn’t even aware the game had started at all and was as perplexed as the Mayo team were when I realised that Dublin had put the ball into our net with just fifteen seconds on the clock.

As our fortunes waxed and waned, I was up and down, unable to settle either standing or sitting. The tension watching the game was at times unbearable, with the contest’s shifting fortunes one minute settling me before then giving me the jitters anew.  

By half-time, though, I was feeling okay. Just two points adrift having shipped two first half goals, we were well in this contest. Could we win it? I couldn’t, in truth, telescope my mind that far into the future. I was instead trying to recall where in the kitchen we usually leave the mugs and the tea bags.

Once more into the breach we went. We didn’t get the lift from having the extra man for the first ten minutes of the second half and I’d say that the hit on Lee Keegan rattled supporters watching on TV almost as much as it so visibly did the Westport man.

But at the second water break we were still in it, only a point in arrears. It was there for us, it was there for them.

The water bottles packed away, the play was back on for the final, decisive quarter. In what seemed like the blink of an eye, Dublin reeled off four unanswered points to open up a clear lead on us.

As I watched all of this unfold on the TV screen, as if in slow motion, it had an air of unreality about it. Not because of what Dublin were doing to us – they’d done this to other teams far sooner and to greater effect in other games this year – but because of its impact on me.

I came to with a start to realise that all of the stress and all of the tension I’d been feeling up until then had, as if by magic, evaporated. I was now perfectly calm.

And then I knew why. There was already no way back for us in this game and so there was nothing to be stressed about any longer. Although the match itself hadn’t finished, the focus, once again, now had to shift to accepting the looming reality of yet another final defeat.

This piece was first published in this week’s Mayo News All-Ireland final review supplement. 

27 thoughts on “Tension-filled TV show

  1. Now let’s leave it there and prepare and plan for the future.
    James is our great hope. Together , young and old , with James they can do it.
    What is done is done, but the future is ours to shape.
    Up Mayo wherever you go. Is feidir linn.

  2. The journey to Mayo took the mind off the game a bit on Saturday.

    We turned on the Tv 10 minutes before throw in and and off again 5 minutes after the game ended.

    Out from the 2 soft goals in the first half I thought Mayo were excellent. Dublin were on the rack in that 1st half but led due to the 2 goals.

    Somewhere as the 1st half wore on, I was thinking this is looking good. We might just do it today.

    I predicted the start of the 2nd half would play out pretty much exactly as it did. At the back of my mind I was dreading the end of the game. I was picturing Costello and McCauley coming in and doing the damage. In the end it was Howard and Mannion.

    Still. When I think back to our form at the start of the league, it was brilliant to see some of the football that we played last Saturday.

    Its early to be looking forward, but we have no alternative but to improve again.
    How much more improvement can be in the Dublin team. Any step up is a step closer to defeating them. Of course there will be other high hurdles to cross before we get the opportunity, but if we keep winning in next years championship we will inevitably come toe to toe with Dublin again.

    I think our lads will be well respected outside the County for the football they have produced over the best part of the last decade. Long may it continue.

  3. Thanks Willie Joe for the nice comments about the Mayo colours and flags in Kiltimagh and Kilkelly .We are proud of our fabulous Gaelic football team. Up Mayo wherever you go.from Jimmy in Kiltimagh

  4. Can someone answer a simple question for me? Why were Dublin fitter than us? Have we any excuse for not being as fit them?

  5. Maybe Dublin are slightly fitter than us, but a big issue is how they hold possession for such long periods. When our players are chasing after them all game it is energy sapping. No other team retains the ball so well. Donegal are probably the closest yet we always seem capable of pressing and turning them over much easier.

  6. Wide ball has hit the nail on the head. Our high, hard, intense and CONSTANT press is the reason we trouble the Dubs. We match their strenght, speed and especially their fitness but the difference is in their game management. They work in bursts, press up in bursts then hold possession move us around so we expend so much more energy. I think if and it’s a big IF, we could bring on 5 more fast fit athletic players a la Durcan, Mullen, Keegan, DOC etc with 25 mins to go and keep the intensity, we would defeat them. Good ball players like Darren Coen, James Carr would be effective against other top sides as they tire but it’s intensity that troubles the Dubs.

  7. Hi,

    Aside from the actual decision not to award a card / free etc for the Fitzsimons hit on Lee, can someone more qualified than me please explain why did it take so long to stop the play as everyone knew it was a serious incident and it could have ended very badly. What would have happened if Lee had swallowed his tong in that instance.. The ref IMO was totally irresponsible and someone should make him explain his actual decision on the grounds of player welfare / player safety.

  8. Losing Durcan was something we weren’t able to recover from. It wasn’t the losing of the game for us but he’s nailed on most games for two points and would Kilkenny have kicked those two before halftime if Durcan was fit?
    He’s such an influence for us driving forward and I’d say Eoghan McLaughlin had more pressure on him as he was the main force driving forward with Mullin. You can’t underestimate what Paddy offers in terms of punching holes and running his man ragged. No doubt James, Ciaran Mc and the lads are stewing over what could have been done better and this will be our spring board for 2021.
    Just over 4 months til start of next championship and of course the league to look forward to and hopefully back up to Division 1. Would be good to blood a new corner/full back and more options in the middle.

    Again, a huge thanks WJ for this forum for us all to take part in free councilling sessions. Especially being away the other side of the world. We were all watching from a distance this year and when crowds are let back, we’ll roar the lads on even louder. We know only one thing to do and that is to come back stronger
    We are Mayo!!!!

  9. Between the blog and the multitude of podcasts you’ve kept us going WJ. I greatly admire and appreciate the fair minded and balanced way you manage the blog – and the inherent respect given to our players. They deserve that. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that bunch have ya something to look forward to and pray for (!) over the last 3 months. Looking forward to 2021 season.
    Merry Christmas
    Stay safe and well
    Up Mayo

  10. I couldn’t articulate it any better myself WJ . My god the stress is a bastard . I had to go off and watch it on my own . I’ll be standing for the whole match and times stuck in the telly with hands on my knees ready to be called upon by Horan . Like you said then the point the nerves go because you know the likelihood of winning had vanished .
    Anyway time now to focus on 2021 .
    Happy Christmas to Mayo fans home and away .

  11. First thing our Mayo county board executive have to do in January 2021 is write a letter to the GAA asking why Mayo are not receiving 276 euro instead of 22 euro per registered player in the county while another county is. Don’t worry about upsetting anyone in Croke Park, they’ll understand why you are asking. There’s vast swathes of cork city, limerick city , Belfast etc etc where kids are being “ lost” to other sports. Why are those places not being funded the same way?

  12. A very happy and healthy Christmas to everyone, your families and loved ones.

    Enjoy the Christmas. We will be back in action before we know it and who knows, we might even get to a game or two sometime in 2021.

    It’s been a year like no other.

    Keep her lit.

  13. Merry Christmas WJ and everyone on the blog. Looking forward to putting 2020 behind us. Intercounty season starting very soon which will help.

  14. I have to say this – I’m very disappointed that there has been no strongly worded statement from the County Board, GPA, J Horan, former players, managers, the Mayo pundits, local press, local radio (with the exception of JP Kean & David Brady) to rebut the bile from.Brolly. Its not fair or right that our players have been yet again subjected to this attack. It happened last year and after other finals. I feel so strongly on this. It definitely wouldnt be tolerated in other counties. I wish you all a good Christmas.

  15. My Mayo u21 players 2020.
    The way some of these improved in 2020 in my view a strong team with depth.
    1. Luke Jennings/Jamie McNicholas
    2. Jackie Coyne
    3. David McBrien
    4. Kieran King
    5. Enda Hession
    6. Rory Brickendon
    7. Eoghan McLoughlin
    8. Oisin Mullen
    9. Gavin Durcan
    10. Evan OBrien
    11. Mark Moran
    12. Jack Carney
    13. Paul Towey
    14. Aidan Orme
    15. Tommy Conroy
    Aaron McDonnell
    Kuba Callaghan

  16. Happy Christmas and a bright, hope-filled New Year to all blog readers and posters, to the man who keeps it all going – WJ, and to our podcast maestro, Rob. It was such a joy these last few months having the football. Isn’t joy a great thing? Even glimmers of it are special, and we’ve had a feast these last few years, thanks to our team.

    Every best wish to you all. I too noticed the vibrant red and green flags up all along the train line as I travelled from Manulla Junction homewards. Up Mayo!

  17. One player I defintely missed, Pat Lambert is an exciting prospect. As he gets into his fuller man strength next year at 21 combined with his pace/skill.

  18. That’s all he wants and craves Goagain, attention. The sooner the U.K. border is closed to the likes of that thing Brolly the better. Just don’t buy or read any rag he spouts his anti Mayo bile in.

  19. Thank you Willie Joe for everything you do for us Mayo mad minions. It’s been a crazy year and we achieved much more than I had hoped and just the little bit less than I could have wished for. I know we will be back.
    Thanks to all our blogging friends, those who simply read and the others whose names are so well known to me. You are family and some day this family will cross the line, together, into glory…our day is coming. ( I’m beginning to sound a bit like John the Baptist!! ).
    I could not be more proud of a team as I am of Mayo. Despite all the odds we are as perennial as the seasons. We will be back and I am looking forward to it already.
    Thanks to James and Ciarán and all the players and backroom team and your families. You are simply the best. Maigheo go deo.

  20. A very big thanks to all the players on that great
    team and management and everyone involved with it They have done us proud when all the pundits have written them off yet again especially Brolly whom i believe spends a lot of time in Mayo,looking forward to next year as i think they will improve more, Thanks WJ for a great blog and Happy Christmas to all

  21. Best wishes to everyone for a great Christmas and New year’s. Like the football this one is going to be different but we will make the most of it. Looking forward to following the blog and Mayo again next year.

  22. Players that could make a big difference to bench next year

    Enda Hession Garrymore
    Peter Naughton Knockmore
    Kieran King Knockmore
    Connell Dempsey Knockmore
    Aidan Orme Knockmore
    Conor Diskin Claremorris
    Frank Irwin Ballina
    Cathal Horan Kilmovee
    Cian Hanley Ballaghadareen
    Sharoize Akram Ballaghadareen

  23. One wise decision next year could be to extend the careers of a lot of our over 30s with reduced training loads and seasons as subs.
    I totted it up and we should have strong talent over the next four years. The key thing for me is will that extend to having a bench and still getting the input of experienced players.

  24. Bruce

    That’s fair enough. It’s fair to say that even a middle size county like Mayo is still only 10% of the population size of Dublin. That can’t be changed. We have to invent other methods to develop what we have here already to it’s very maximum.

  25. Happy Xmas WJ and family. Many thanks for the great entertainment and diversion these past weeks. It helped enormously. Your efforts are invaluable. And well done to the team and panel. Proud of you all. Better times ahead for the green and red.

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