I haven’t been off to sulk, honest. We had an extra day in the west with the kids yesterday and didn’t return to the capital till last night so I never got the hour or so I would have needed to sit down and post something. And it would have had to be done over GPRS again, which is a pain in the posterior at the best of times. So it was easier to wait until this morning when I was back at base with my 3 MB broadband line humming again.
Well now, where does one start, after our worst hiding in Connacht since 1995 and the first time I can recall that everyone else bar ourselves and New York are still in the race for the Nestor Cup? A good place to begin, if you’re up to it, is the excellent Mayofans.com discussion board. I know, I accused it of being overly quiet a few days before the game but it’s been far from silent since Sunday evening, with a stream of intelligent and to-the-point observations about the Salthill debacle and where it leaves us.
The respective Bainisteoir viewpoints have already been widely disseminated. In case you’ve somehow missed them, Peter Ford reckoned all the pressure had been on us prior to the game (an odd observation, given that he was almost certainly for the chop had Galway lost), while Johnno, as you’d expect, took it on the chin and said it was all about sticking together and seeing who was up for turning the situation around.
In that context, I have to admit that I have a bone to pick with the Mayo News, in particular Mike Finnerty’s match report where he claims that it’s the end of the road for some of the team. While it’s not quite at the level of the Connaught Telegraph’s reaction to the sixteen-point hiding we got from Galway in 1982 – where a blank space was left instead of a picture of the Mayo team – Finnerty’s conclusion that it’s the end of the road for this team is, I would suggest, mildly over the top.
It doesn’t take any great expertise to conclude that we played crap on Sunday but I don’t think you can write off this group of players based on it. There are a whole load of reasons why it all went pear-shaped on Sunday: Ford’s absolute need to win this match, Johnno’s lack of focus due to the election which led to significant indecision beforehand as regards team selection, all of our injury problems, the moronic ref we had on the day and our inability to face up to Galway’s physical tactics are all, I believe, in some way relevant. As well as this, nothing seemed to go our way over the course of the seventy minutes – had Conor’s effort gone in at the start of the second half or Pat Harte’s soon after, we could have got back into it. Had a different ref been there, Galway would almost certainly have been reduced to fourteen men before the break. Shit happens. We move on.
The first obstacle to be removed is the election. By the weekend, Johnno will know his fate and, regardless of how it goes, from next week he’ll be able to focus all of his attention on the team. The way the polls are going, he’ll be doing well to get a seat but, from a football perspective, it doesn’t really matter what happens. The important thing is that this seemingly endless election campaign, as all its attendant distractions, will be long over by the time we take the field again.
The squad apparently got together last night for an initial post-match assessment, where, undoubtedly, there would have been plenty of honest exchanges about what went wrong on Sunday. I recall Johnno once talking about all the soul-searching that went on in Galway in 2001 when he told the squad then only to turn up if they were really committed to doing what was required to get back into the running. No doubt he was imparting a similar message last night.
While the seven-week wait to the next game now seems like an eternity, it’s probably a good thing in that Sunday’s defeat can be in some way compartmentalised and considered a one-off. For us, the championship season now begins on July 7th.
PS Now that I’m back in the land of 3MB broadband, I’ll be able to upload the video clips I’ve got from Sunday, which I’ll do over the course of today. I’ll post again once they’re all up.