The day before

Graphic: @Granuaile4Mayo

It’s one of the shortest days of the year, with a hesitant dawn only now starting to break up here in the capital shortly before 8.30. It’s nearly Christmas, it’s nearly All-Ireland football final day.

In a year of unprecedented upheaval of people all over the world, the lead-in to this year’s All-Ireland final – to say nothing of when it’s being played – has been different from all the others we’ve been in over the last few years. But, in its own way, it’s still been fun and it has certainly been unique.

As tomorrow will be too, of course, with the game played out without all the usual fanfare and, frankly, a lot of the nonsense that surrounds All-Ireland final day. The great cathedral of Gaelic games will be empty aside from the players, their backrooms teams and a few other essential people. An All-Ireland behind closed doors at Jones’ Road.

But, you know, that’s okay. I know I’ve certainly got into the rhythm of watching matches at home on TV and it feels like the right place to be for this one too. There is, I know, an eerily empty atmosphere at the games so, on that metric, I’m confident our living room will be well ahead – we can be rather shouty here when a match is in progress.

As I’m sure the rest of you can be too. I’d imagine there’ll be plenty of roaring at TV screens tomorrow evening, not just within the county but across the world as well.

As I noted in the piece I did for the All-Ireland supplement in the Mayo News this week, this decider provides those of us who’ve been lucky to go to finals as a matter of course to experience what watching one at home feels like. Of course, many Mayo fans based in Ireland often find themselves in the same boat too on final day – Croke Park only fits 82,500 punters after all – so we’re all getting their experience as well tomorrow evening.

It’s hard to know how the two teams will react to this unique atmosphere. Have our lads a better chance – not least given the major injection of youth this year – because the build-up has been so quiet? Is it possible that, despite all the wonderful support we’ve given the team over the last rollercoaster decade, they’re better off without us?

As ever, with the match now just up ahead, there are so many unanswerable questions to ponder on. But, as is invariably the case too, we’ll get our answers to them out on the pitch tomorrow evening.

So, just another day to get through first before, on the last Saturday shopping day before Christmas, it’s the day itself. Yes, that’s the kind of year it is.

We should have a team announcement at some point today and there’s also the final episode in our All-Ireland final podcast preview series ‘The Final Countdown’ to come later on too. Stay tuned for all that and do what you can to keep those jangling nerves at bay. Up Mayo.

60 thoughts on “The day before

  1. The most surreal week in the build up to an All-Ireland final. Bizarre even.

    I’ve said it before the game is there to be won. Why wouldn’t it be? We’re strong, atlethic, experienced, aggressive and lead very well.

    The rhetoric of Dublin are unbeatable, greatest team ever, Fenton greatest midfielder since time began, Clarke and his kickouts, no midfield for Mayo and then, my personal favourite from the “fan” sites Mayo are bottlers…. Let the media say what they want to sell papers or content. Neither form refuse ink.

    The ball will be thrown in at 17:00 tomorrow, and the match will start, what will happen minute by minute no one can predict but one thing is for sure the men from the West, in the green and red with a splash of white will fight tooth and nail to win.

    An unstoppable force meets and immovable object. Boom.

    Can’t wait, Mayo by 3. (I hope)

  2. Willie again thank you for all the work you do on this blog. To quote a famous hurler ‘I love my county’ and they have brought so much joy over the past 10 years. Dare to dream.
    Maigheo Abú.

  3. Im going to be negative for a second, as I have all year (its worked so far), but I actually think the lack of crowd will suit Dublin even more. Pressure comes from the Hill too, they gasp and groan as much as us when they’re in bother. Lots a people saying Dublin haven’t trimmed anyone in a final, because their nervous etc and its such a big day. A lot of them nerves won’t be there tommorow. It will be a cold empty arena, a bit like the Dublin ‘process’. I genuinely fear they’ll cut loose entirely and it could get 04/06 style messy. This is a pressure free zone for them, the 5 in a row is already in the bag.

    Maybe im over negative, but thats my gut feeling. Before I get slated and the whole “i hope the team dont read the blog”…(they don’t), it doesn’t mean im not living in hope or supporting the lads. I’d give anything for a win. Its not impossible.

  4. Kerry couldn’t lose to Offaly in 82.

    Liverpool couldn’t lose to Wimbledon in 88.

    Leeds couldn’t lose to Sunderland in 73.

    Kerry couldn’t lose to Clare in 92.

    Davis couldn’t lose (at 8-0 up) to Taylor in 85.

    Brazil couldn’t lose 7-1 to Germany in 14.

    South Africa couldn’t lose to Japan in 15.

    Italy couldn’t lose to Korea in 66.

    New Zealand couldn’t lose to Munster in 78.

    Dublin couldn’t lose to Mayo in 20.

  5. Twas the week before Christmas when all through Mayo
    Not a creature was stirring, not even Willie Joe
    The flags and the scarves were all hung out with care
    In hope and expectation that Sam would soon be there

    The players were settled asleep in their beds
    With visions of defeating the dubs in their heads
    Mccdonald in his predators and Horan in his hat
    Discussed kickouts and match ups in their last pre match chat

    Meanwhile in Dublin there arose a great clatter
    The Dubs jumped out of bed to see what was the matter
    The sky above Croker filled with lights green and red
    And the men of 51 appeared over their head

    Tallest among them and smiling so happy
    They knew it must be Balintubber’s Paddy
    Inspired by legends the 2020 team came
    Paddy rose up tall and called them by name:

    Now Leroy! Now Chris!
    Now, Oisin and Mathew
    On Aidan! On Kevin
    On, Ryan and Patrick
    To the top of your sport
    Climb up the Hogan stand
    And bring Sam home
    Just as you planned

    Then clear as a vision, I saw stoppage time
    And history and hope all started to rhyme
    Mayo losing by one but there’s still time yet
    Cillian lays off to Tommy who blasts to the net

    The shriek of a whistle sounds out like a friend
    Bringing 69 years of hurt to an end
    But I heard Paddy exclaim as he drifted from sight
    Merry Christmas to Mayo and to all a great night

    Here’s to hope

  6. When all beside a vigil keep, the West’s asleep, the West’s asleep… until about 5pm tomorrow….

  7. Love that Daithi! Getting excited for the game tomorrow but I still cannot get my head around the fact there is a final going on without us. I know I am being selfish in this way, I have been one of the few that has been lucky to get into the see all the games, the nerves, the excitement, it all adds to the game. Tomorrow morning we will be getting up, thinking about the game being on but going about our daily Saturday chores, which for me is doing the shopping for my elderly parents. Then it will be a check on the animals, instead of doing the usual, “Will we meet at the big tree for one before hand”, “I’m going into see at least the second half of the minors”, “Is there many there, is it easier to drive”, “where will we meet after”. The “do you think we can do it” conversations are still happening thankfully and I think they do have a chance. You always have to have hope.

  8. One thing is for sure. We will be in my opinion by a distance the best team that Dublin will have faced this year. No doubt about it. Pace, Power and as we like to say, if our forwards click we can keep the score keeper busy.

    Dublin will be asked questions that lets face it they have not been asked since their drawn all Ireland final with Kerry all of 17 months ago.

    How well will our young lads do under pressure ?

    Dublin have the same conundrum. How well will their young lads do under pressure ? They certainly haven’t had to deal with it before.

    Every Mayo player and the management believe they can win this final. Yes. It will take a mighty performance but Mayo are still a work in progress and we could well get a mighty performance tomorrow.

    I believe our 1 point Connacht final win against Galway will stand to us tomorrow. It was a test for our new look team. A big test and we came through it. We will have improved again from that.

    The stats for tomorrow’s game have yet to be penciled in to the record books. Not a ball kicked yet.

    Kevin Mcstay did say that he never started a Mayo game where he felt they could not win.

    This final has not started yet and I do firmly believe that we can win tomorrow. I am fully with the players and management in this belief.

    Let’s forget about the word impossible.

    It’s possible that 33 hours from now that Mayo will be the 2020 All Ireland champions.

  9. Just listened back to Brolly there on Midwest. Some complaints about him on here. I cant say he said anything out of order. Called it as he and a lot of people see it. It was a dose of reality in my opinion. It was an good interview I thought and I was never a fan of his on RTE.

  10. Willie Joe, your piece in the Mayo news brought a tear to my eye. I was one of the multitude who came along to the Camden Arms in 2017, where I was delighted to get the chance to shake your hand and thank you in person for this wonderful, amazing blog. I’ve been trasna na dtonnta since 2000, and have been lucky enough to make it home for all our finals since, except 2006, when I was skint altogether and watched it nursing a few miserable pints on the Kilburn High Road. In the ordinary course of events I’d be making for the airport right about now, but London’s locked down again this week so even the pub is out, and this’ll be the first Mayo final I’ll watch from my living room, just like almost everyone else.

    Two thoughts about the game, for what they’re worth. First, I think that it’s midwinter helps us. Not pandering to clichés but just in the nature of things, I think our lads are more used to playing in colder conditions. I think a lot of the reason why Kerry pasted us in the Super 8s last year was because the day was just so hot, and I think the colder it is tomorrow, the better.

    Second, I hope we’re going to be as aggressive as possible in trying to score goals. I think there’s no reason to be afraid of the Dubs and have no doubt we can beat them, but nonetheless we’re the underdogs, and rightly so. With two evenly matched teams, it makes sense to press a goal chance instead of taking the safe option, if one reckons there’s more than one chance in three of it coming off. Obviously players don’t stop in the heat of battle to figure the probabilities, but great forwards – and we undoubtedly have some now – can assess these kind of situations instinctively. I’d like to see us pressing every fleeting goal chance to the max, even if it wouldn’t make sense to do so in the same situation against other opponents. Taking the long-shot, high-payoff option significantly more than we would otherwise. Two analogies: when one is behind in a backgammon race, it makes sense to position one’s pieces to play for (long-shot) high doubles, which is different to what one would do if one were ahead or more even, because the long shot offers the best chance overall of winning. Likewise, in no-limit poker, it can make sense to go for low probability gut-shot draws and the like that one would never do in a limit game, because the potential payoff in the event that one hits can be huge.

    Tomorrow the payoff for us is Sam Maguire. I reckon that if it turns into a points fest, that will suit Dublin better; but if we can stick them for three or more goals we’ll win, particularly if we can get some early on. So Cillian, Tommy, Leeroy and all, get your goal boots on. Beside myself with excitement in my London kitchen, wishing our magnificent team every good thing for tomorrow, go mbeirigí an bua agus beannacht, MAIGH EO ABÚÚÚÚÚÚÚÚÚÚÚÚ

  11. Daithi, you are inspired, and I’m ready to go in there now and play myself after that. I wonder where they’d let me – I might do something at full back given no pace ; )

    I agree that we should back our team though our nerves are making us sick.

    I believe in preparation, good analysis and a cagey game plan. Surely Horan will have that and so will Ciarán McD. They have to believe Dublin are beatable and then ensure we have the tools at our disposal to do the job.

    I don’t want to see a repeat of the twelve minutes in the second half last year. You’d like to think we have the resources not to let that happen, or if it does, respond to it. We won’t lie down but we must be properly prepared.

  12. By the way, Revellino, I like what you said here:

    “ I believe our 1 point Connacht final win against Galway will stand to us tomorrow. It was a test for our new look team. A big test and we came through it…”

  13. It’s a state of mind guys, believe till the final whistle, confidence is a huge part of life especially Sport.
    I have been on this journey for many years, and for some reason, as the days grew closer to the final doubt would set in, a little more each day, but believe this, no such doubts this time, with only one day to go.
    I have awaken from the propaganda machine.

    We know the Dubs very well at this stage, there’s ” scores to be settled ”.

    Best of luck to all players & management, be ready.

  14. Have just watched the 2017 final back. What a colossal match that was. One point in it after an almighty battle and especially after the loss of an early goal.

    The smallest of margins between the teams with 7 or 8 key moments from our perspective – Jason’s missed goal chance in the first half; Cillian’s missed free in the first half; Donal’s daft sending off; clear penalty for Leroy not given; Cillian’s missed free on 70 minutes (the width of the post); possession lost on 72 and a half minutes when all was level; the Dubs dragging us down after their free and David’s final kick out over the line.

    Each one of them was a tiny contribution and avoiding any of them could well have seen us home. There is no reason why those tiny contributions can not go for us tomorrow. The width of the post was all that was in it.

    I believe the 2020 crop are even more fearless. They are destined for great things. And as I read somewhere this morning no Dublin team has ever won an All Ireland in a year ending in 0. One of the teams will break free from the past tomorrow. Let it be Mayo.

  15. Very hard to look at tomorrow’s match without the hope , emotion and hunger we all seek . But it would be a massive shock if we win . Reality is , like other years Dublin have a stronger bench . They will go all out to deny Cillian space . Nullify our stronger players and push up on our kick outs and force Clarke to go long with our kick outs. Never pessimistic as a rule but Dublin look far stronger 26 .
    We could play out of our skins and still lose. I hope and pray we win , my heart and mind are obsessed with tomorrow, wishing we win . Probably take 3 or 4 goals .
    Where there’s life there’s hope.
    Heart . Mayo by 2
    Head Dublin by 6

  16. Same Joet1480. Not in the mood for anything and am impatient as hell. How can we suffer until 5pm tomorrow?!
    @Closed doors that Sky promotion got me. Never mind those Christmas ads everybody is crying at these days!!

  17. @ My ball.

    All the experts went with Kerry over Cork.
    Cork had no chance they said.

    All the experts went with Donegal over Cavan.
    Cavan had no chance they said.

    The experts haven’t got too much right this year.

  18. @swallow swoops I remember listening to the great Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh speaking about the Irish language many years ago.

    He had a bronze statue of a tree bent double. He said the tree is like the Irish language. The stormy winds have it bowed but it will not break. One day the storm will stop and the tree will stand tall again.

    That analogy is a powerful one for this Mayo team. They do not need the wind to blow behind them. They just need the storm to ease for 70 minutes and they will stand tall among the Victor’s again.

    Whatever the outcome I am proud of these lads and the ones that went before all the way back to 1985 when I first saw them.

  19. God, Daithi, you’re making me feel my age when you say “all the way back to 1985”. My first time in Croke Park was way back in 1955 when Mayo drew with Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-final. They beat us by a point in the replay, Jimmy Curran getting all Myo’s scores. We’ve a much more powrful forward division this time!

    I have not seen one Mayo flag in Dub;lin’s soutside where we’ve lived since 1976, so I’ve planted my beloved green and red flag in ourf ront hedge and a smaller one in the car window. Every time Mayo have played since 1955 I, like Kevin McStay, have thought Mayo would win that year. And each year I was wrong, I oiuld be wrong again if I thought Dublin will be beat us tomorrow!

  20. That’s beautiful, Daithí. Being able to withstand the storms – we might need this ability on Saturday, and I feel we have it.
    I like that image of the tree bent double.

  21. Nerves shot to bits now ,dont know what to think , I read one article and think maybe they could do it then i read another like peter canavan s and think oh jeez we havent a hope . Then I’ll pace up and down in my head , can we do it , no dubs are too good, aragh of course we could win , no it’s impossible. Think I’ll have a drink .

  22. I’m in the same boat today as you, Sean! I think I will have a drink a bit later. I was grand until this morning and then I woke up to discover I’d turned into this lad here.

  23. Not enjoying the build up this year at to be honest. Completely written off and too much sycophantism of the dubs. It’s hard to listen to. Going to switch off until tomorrow at 5.00pm.

    Up Mayo

  24. best of luck to Mayo tomorrow whatever happens they will do us proud and never say die. the heart says Mayo by 4 but the head says Dublin by 5 after extra time

  25. Geenie Mac, Backdoorsam, you mean we could have extra time? I hadn’t thought that far ahead. I hope we can avoid that, just because it’s so energy sapping. But que sera sera.

  26. Very funny WJ. I wonder is there a Mr. Spine tingles. Coz that’s what mines doing. Its normally followed by a sickness to the stomach on the day itself and an almost complete meltdown once the ball is thrown in. It’s all a bit of blur from there.

  27. “If we are marked to die we are enough to do our ‘county’ loss; and if to live, the fewer men the greater share of honour”.

    It was interesting to hear the RTE podcast with McStay etc yesterday referencing the fact that the Limerick players said they enjoyed their All Ireland win more this year than two years ago. With the lack of crowd this year the win really was for the players on the pitch. No external unnessaries. Just intrinsic motivation.

    There’s something poetic in that. I hope our lads finally do it tomorrow, not for their families, not for us supporters, not to bridge the 69 year gap. I hope they do it for themselves. The honour will truly be all theirs. They don’t need us tomorrow!! Let the battle commence.

  28. As a Galway supporter I agree with Revellino assessment of the 1 point win over us. I thought Galway played very well at times in that match and Mayo had to really battle to get the win. We also played Dublin in the league with a strong team after the trimming against Mayo a week before. We really played well at times in that match too and lost by 6 points but one of the goals was a lucky one with last kick of the game. Now the Dubs raised it and caught us down the middle for the first goal but we matched them at stages and did well in midfield. Is there any case for Parsons to go into midfield as an extra man and withdraw a forward for say 20 minutes and let him give it his all perhaps first 20 minutes but that’s probably not realistic.

  29. I think the build up is very low key compared to other years. Maybe its the year we had or thats its so close to Christmas or the inevitable result…
    I would put S.coen in FB line leeroy back in HB line. Play kevin mc as a sweeper put paddy durcan on fenton . Bring AOS out as 3rd midfielder bring McCormack into HB line move conor loftus to HF move Ryan O D to the bench. Half
    And dare i say it play Robbie ahead of David in goal…we have to limit possession as much as possible to Dublin . At various stages i would stwitch to one on one and then reset to defensive set up again. Very important not to lose it in first 10 minutes.
    Mhaigh Eo Abu…

  30. Will the team be named today? And will the team travel tonight or in the morning? Heard something about them travelling on a train there and back on the game day, hardly right though , is it?
    Writing this text and listening to Christmas music being played outside over a public sound system, very odd.

  31. Chesney

    I had the same thought about seamie o Shea. Hasn’t played but is training away and is experienced enough. Just to counter some of the power in midfield for Dublin for a time.

  32. Ah Ref has video of the train whizzing by on Twitter if you want another 20 secs of high emotion! Off to their destiny.

  33. Dublin’s pace terrifies opposition coaches & probably players as well. That I presume is the rationale for opposition conceding one half of the pitch when Dublin have the ball leading to such boring spectacles over recent years.
    While we have a lot of pacey players we also have a few who struggle to keep up with oppositions when asked to turn – therein lies the danger.
    So assuming James Horan sticks with the semi-final team we will probably concede a lot but hopefully no more than 2 goals and hope to outscore them.
    I am always amused when I read or hear about 3 or 4 Dublin players surrounding an opposition player in possession and dispossessing them. If that occurs then 3 or 4 colleagues are unmarked looking on – making instant right decisions of when to get rid of the ball is a game changer.
    Lets hope its a better game than what we have had to endure when Dublin is playing and that Mayo players slow it down, dictate matters and take a rest – without the ball Dublin is impotent.
    Stranger things have happened.

  34. Listening to the Colm Parkinson podcast on the commute home.

    Ger Brennan is struggling badly to veil his bitter dislike – he says hatred himself – of Mayo. A real lack of balance to be honest.

  35. In 1989 I watched the AIF from my (Kildare) nanny’s couch with my auntie teasing me that Cork would win. I was 7 and bet her 50p that Mayo would win. I was that fast up to bed crying I didn’t pay the 50p and she didn’t come looking for it either. I repaid it in 2016 hoping for a change in fortune but no dice.

    In 1996 I was on the Canal End, ready to let loose, when the ball hopped over the bar down the hill end. For the replay I was in Ballina for my uncle’s wedding (family eh!)

    In 1997 I was in the very highest row of the Cusack, players like flies on the pitch.

    In 2004 and 2006 I was in the Cusack (stayed till the end, never leave early).

    In 2012 I was again in the Cusack, about 4 rows back, jesus the tears that flowed at full time that day. Ditto 2013.

    In 2016 and 2017 I was proud and very near broken leaving Croker but you always go back don’t you.

    Now in 2020, the strangest of years I’ll again be on the couch for an AIF for first time since 1989 and I’m hoping and praying that the outcome will be different and the tears will not be of sadness but of the greatest joy I’ve ever known.

    Up Mayo

  36. NiallMc – the more I hear of that Dublin sycophancy the better. Far, far better than talking up Mayo, which had been the case in previous years.

  37. Trying, and failing miserably, to keep busy and occupied to save myself from going deranged In the past I have fried my brain and posted detailed tactical analysis and where we should attack to win the games, etc etc. All for nought. Looking back there undoubtedly were chances to win previous finals and we didn’t take them. Either we weren’t good enough, or smart enough, to take the chances that presented themselves but those chances were there. For all the success of this Dublin team I firmly believe we can beat them. Looking at it rationally and statistically then we should be beaten by 6 to 8 points but I have a feeling there is going to be an upset on the cards. Despite everything, I just can’t see us being beaten! I don’t know what it is but I think tomorrow is going to be our day.
    Call it heart over head, call it denial but every dog has his day, and every great team gets beaten someday. tomorrow is going to be OUR DAY.

  38. Well said Pebblesmeller. And Sean Burke is way more positive than usual so that’s a sign for me! Sorry Sean 😉 Come on Mayo!

  39. I hope everyone has as much chance to enjoy this as possible. Mayo are yet again down to the final two. They may not hear you, but shout yourself hoarse anyway! Up Mayo!

  40. I know he’s a club-mate of yours at Vinnies WJ, but that’s really got my back up. Sneering at us at times.

  41. Rock

    I heard that podcast. Ger is likely still harbouring resentment over Mayo having the nerve going to the hill 16 end to warm up in semi final 2006. You imagine all the winning since would have eased the fury but there ya go. No pleasing some people. For Gers sake let’s hope dublin continue the winning streak or he won’t be happy.

  42. HI, There appears to be a Programme available for 7euro at and selected Centra and Supervalu.

  43. Team named:

    Mayo will face Dubin in tomorrow’s All Ireland final in Croke Park at 5pm.

    Mayo manager James Horan has named an unchanged team from the semi-final win over Tipperary last time out. This weekend will see Cillian O’Connor make his 95th Mayo appearance at senior level (35 league 59 championship. He made his championship debut against London 2011. The Mayo team named has a combined 506 championship appearances between them. The game is live on both RTE Two & Sky Sports.

    1. David Clarke – Ballina Stephenites
    2. Chris Barrett – Clontarf
    3. Oisín Mullin – Kilmaine
    4. Lee Keegan – Westport
    5. Patrick Durcan – Castlebar Mitchels
    6. Stephen Coen – Hollymount/Carramore
    7. Eoghan McLaughlin – Westport
    8. Conor Loftus – Crossmolina Deel Rovers
    9. Matthew Ruane – Breaffy
    10. Kevin McLoughlin – Knockmore
    11. Ryan O’Donoghue – Belmullet
    12. Diarmuid O’Connor – Ballintubber
    13. Tommy Conroy – The Neale
    14. Aidan O’Shea – Breaffy (C)
    15. Cillian O’Connor – Ballintubber

    Support the team & donate to the team training fund now >>

  44. That’s the only place to get to the bottom of this WJ!

    Man – Bowes for a few pre-final pints seems like the height of decadence right about now.

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