Photo: Mayo Mick
The good news is that the worst of the immediate aftermath to Sunday’s defeat is now behind us. The hours after the final whistle sounds are always so awful, waking up the following morning to the sinking realisation of what happened the day before is even worse. All of the day after is appalling and yesterday was no exception. But it’s over, the process of moving on has begun. We’re over the worst. And this time we have our marvellous minors and we have the Markham Cup.
Photo: Mayo Mick
And it also looks like we could have James Horan at the helm for next year. In this piece in the Irish Examiner, Terry Reilly says that while James was expected to step down after Sunday’s final due to work and family commitments (this was pretty much an open secret for months from what I can gather), it now looks as if he changed his mind after the game and may now stay in charge for next year.
If this is the case, then clearly it’s great news. While we can all criticise the team’s game management on Sunday – in particular during the second half – no-one can deny that James has transformed the county’s standing in his three years in charge, taking us from the utter car crash situation he inherited back in 2010 to where we are now. It’s going to be even more difficult to come back and challenge again next year but our task would be immeasurably harder were James and his backroom team to walk away now. If they remain in post, then we’ve every chance of going full tilt for it again next summer.
In the immediate aftermath, I have to admit I was more negative about the future than I am now (which you’ll be able to see for yourselves later on when I put up the article I did for the Mayo News post-match supplement, a piece I wrote early on Monday morning when my mood was at its lowest). Assuming James does stay on and uses the time between now and next summer to blood some new players, in particular in the forwards, then we can expect to start the championship next year as one of the favourites for Sam. Paddy Power have us down as second favourites at the minute and we’re likely to remain so between now and the start of the 2014 championship.
With Kerry’s fortunes arguably on the slide (with their old lads getting older and the conveyor belt of new talent having dried up) and Cork’s fortunes largely dependent on their new manager (who has still to be appointed) being able to make better use of the talent at their disposal than Conor Counihan was, it could well be the case that neither of big two in Munster will challenge seriously next year. I’d also expect Donegal to continue their backwards slide – making McGuinness’s achievement of driving that squad to an All-Ireland win all the more astonishing in retrospect – with Tyrone most likely to re-emerge as the main threat from Ulster.
Dublin are set to remain completely unchallenged in Leinster and while both Roscommon and Galway should both improve next year, you’d have to fancy us for a fourth Connacht title on the trot. When it comes to the shake-up (and it’s Connacht v Munster, Leinster v Ulster in the semis next year) it could well happen that the 2014 final is a re-run of the one we’ve just had.
If it is, we can expect that James will spend the winter months thinking deeply about how to take this Dublin team down, just as he did last winter in relation to Donegal. And, sure, don’t we always beat last year’s champions the following year? Doing so to the Dubs in next year’s final would be sweet indeed.
You’d have to hope that Jim Gavin will have ceased talking out of his arse by then as well. His post-match comments on how the game was reffed were a complete joke, and his rationale for the bookings his players picked up late on for their cynical fouling was just pathetic. James was quite right to call Gavin out in the delicious way he did over his hypocritical stance on the issue and the Dublin boss would be well advised to learn a bit about being magnanimous in victory. Not that he’ll need such training for next year if we’ve anything to do with it.