The rising graph

As the build-up to the 22nd starts to gather pace, I’m delighted to welcome back into the guest slot FourGoal McGee who discusses how our form line has risen inexorably over the last three years.

For many years, we have stood on the sidelines,  roared ourselves hoarse, dissected every move, debated every possibility and hoped that, this time, it would be our year. Season after season we looked for the signs of strength in every line, leadership in every jersey, skill in every part of the field and the level heads on the sideline that would turn such resources into a force to be reckoned with. But year after year, we headed into the winter asking “Why? Oh why….?, as we watched other counties emerge from the footballing peloton and pull away when we were in sight of the winning line. Lamenting our basic inability to string a few good performances back to back, we continued to make suggestions and give (often uninformed) advice.

Individuals regularly emerged over the years to raise the spirits. If only we had a few more of him, we would think, but our strategy of trying to build teams around individuals never worked. The weakest link defines the strength of the chain and if the man we relied on had an off day, we didn’t have others of equal ability to pick up the load when the horse was tired. As a result, great players came and went – always without the coveted Celtic Cross. And we waited …. again…. maybe next year.

AIMF 2008

At the minor final in 2008, I got a feeling in my bones that I hadn’t felt since I followed the U21 team in 1983. These guys were different. They played with a confidence not usually associated with Mayo. We didn’t get that one across the line, but the signs were there of a new energy coming through. The huge challenge would be to take the lads that were emerging from this group, blend them with those emerging from the All Ireland U21 winning team of 2006 and turn them into a team that could realistically challenge for the major honour. No pressure then!!!

The signs over the next two years were not positive and the performance against London in the first round in 2011 left us wondering if the new manager, JH, had what it took to steer the ship in the right direction. The use of a sweeper throughout the League and on that day in Ruislip did not suit our style and it was not until it left us staring at major potential embarrassment that it was reassessed. But from Ruislip on, the graph slowly began to rise, culminating in the dumping of All-Ireland Champions Cork out of the quarter-final on the August Bank Holiday weekend.  We went away thinking that maybe… just maybe, the basics were there. A return to the sweeper system brought the defeat to Kerry in the semi-final and left us wondering again about the ability of our sideline to work the necessary magic.

Cork 2011

Winter 2011 brought a shake-up in the management team with the introduction of Cian O’Neill and a focus on full-team development. O’Neill might have had his critics, but his introduction brought a step-change in Mayo. Strength began to appear in every line and despite a few ropey performances in the League, the underlying trend was of a team improving as the Championship approached.  The demolition of Dublin in March, compared to the fiasco in the February fog, underlined a developing maturity but it was the win in Croker against our nemesis Kerry in the League semi-final that showed the difference in this team. The fear was gone. The graph continued to rise. A competent run in the Connaught Championship allowed us to arrive almost unnoticed in the quarter-final where we dismissed Down and made a few people sit up and take notice. The nice soft lads of Mayo were suddenly playing serious football and the leadership development was underlined in the semi-final, when, without Andy Moran, All-Ireland Champions Dublin got the same treatment that we had meted out to Cork a year earlier.  Sadly, the final was not the result we wanted but this team did not lie down and die, and it was not going to quietly go away. As we headed into the winter, the Irish Rail slogan “We’re not there yet, but we’re getting there!” came to mind.

AIF 2012

And so to 2013. Again, the League was ropey but the defeats were by small margins and the signs as the campaign progressed were of a team getting to grips with the outstanding issues as Donie Buckley’s coaching began to tell. The League semi-final defeat against Dublin at the time seemed significant, but the aim of staying in Division 1 had been achieved and going further was never part of the plan. Galway in Salthill in May beckoned and many were calling this as close. JH laid it on the line in the week before the game when he said we expected to win! “What?” asked the astonished media, “not talking up the opposition? Unheard of!” And then Joe Brolly started love bombing us!

But the following Sunday, JH let his men do the talking on the pitch. At half-time in Salthill, I texted my son (a Dub) that we had announced our arrival as contenders. The graph had risen again and we have continued to build our credentials as serious contenders in what looked like an easy run through Connaught. Donegal fell to the new “Mayo curse” – our developing habit of unceremoniously dumping the previous year’s All-Ireland winners out of the Championship.

At some stage in the Championship, you need to have your nerve tested and that came with the wobble in the first 20 minutes against Tyrone. The response to that was emphatic. The points by Lee Keegan and Chris Barrett left me in no doubt at half-time that this would be our day.

Tyrone 2013

And so we are back in the final. But this time we feel different. We have a team that puts in consistently strong performances, not just back-to-back, but in every game. We have strength in every line, we have leaders in every jersey, skill in every part of the field and the level heads on the sideline that have turned these resources into a force to be reckoned with. We are now looking at the product rather than looking for the signs that it might be produced. We now have the team that is emerging from the peloton as the winning line approaches.

Is this the year we dared to hope for?

Is this the time we kept the faith for?

Damn right it is!


43 thoughts on “The rising graph

  1. For God’s sake, may the next nine days pass quickly!
    Getting more and more nervous as it goes on and reading pieces like this which only make the heart pump faster are not helping!
    Don’t know will I make it through the next nine days at all!
    It’s been a long time since the three games against Cork, Sligo and Longford in 2010.
    I’ve always thought we owe Ballintubber big time because if they hadn’t won the Mayo championship in 2010, it could very well have been Tommy Lyons in charge of this team.
    Now that’s not a thought worth relishing!

  2. All that is fine and dandy Fourgoal. Lest we forget though, in 2004 Mayo were back in a final. Had a good run through Connaught with Galway and the Rossies despatched.

    Then Tyrone. Champions who were unbeatable because they had an unbeatable system of swarm defence. Maughan’s Mayo dismantled them. Ropey enough semi performances against Fermanagh, but we did the business. Back in a final. Maughan’s second coming with all the lessons learned. McDonald our marquee forward.

    Significantly Kerry were without Daragh O’Shea and Seamus Moynihan. There was never a better time to beat them and they hadn’t been all that impressive in getting to the final.

    Need I go on?

  3. Good point catcol and you could say they were very similar runs in comparison to this year. But you also challenge your statement regarding ‘McDonald our marquee forward’ who in fairness was the catalyst (the go to guy) for most of our best play between those AI runs of 04-06, by quoting FourGoal (Fantastic article btw!)…

    ”Individuals regularly emerged over the years to raise the spirits. If only we had a few more of him, we would think, but our strategy of trying to build teams around individuals never worked.”

    Thats sums it all up really regarding this Mayo team. Everybody has put a shift in to get Mayo to where they are now over JH tenure. No particular player has consistently been looked upon to get Mayo out of the ropey moments in games. Tactics, teamwork, belief in each other have. The prima dona age is over in this set up as we all know by now. Just one more game..

  4. Going to be a long wait to the throw in on the 22 Sept alright.

    I made some efforts to pass the time today by draping the whole office I work in (based in Dublin) in red and green bunting. Worked a treat.

  5. I’m not normally one to get carried away with hype about mayo, but I have watched back a lot of the highlights from those games on YouTube in the 04-06 era, and while we had some excellent players back then, the current team is light years ahead of the 04-06 side. When I see some of the individuals that played in those finals, I realise that we were quite a distance short of what was required then. I could pick 6 or 7 lads off those sides who would not even make the mayo panel if they were playing today, and this gives me hope that we finally have a serious team

  6. Agreed Mac

    The thing that kills me is how good Heaney was against Dublin and then so easily thrown aside by donaghy. They weren’t near smart enough or strong enough, bar of course Dave Brady. He shut donaghy down fairly lively.
    C mort was held like a puppy, try that holding caper with Carolan or feeney or freeman and see what happens. You’ll get a sore hand and forearm.
    I still cannot figure for sure why Kerry could overwhelm Mayo, it was a terrible spectacle for Mayo people to watch

  7. The problem in 04/06 is that we had to many individuals and we were relying on lads who often didnt preform on the big day, we now have much more of a team with everone working hard for each other and thats what is needed to win an all ireland

  8. We should enjoy the remaining 9 days of the build up. It will have come and gone before we know it. These are the last 9 days of a 62 year famine. In total a famine that has lasted 22,645 days! (counting leap years). What about plans for the homecoming on Monday night?. Its no good trying to organise this at 6pm on Sunday for a major event that is happening 24 hours later. This should be organised weeks ago. The entire population of Mayo will be there. Numbers swelled by Mayo people who live in other counties and Mayo people from abroad. Maybe 100,000 trying to get in to Mchale park to get a glimpse of big ears. What will health and safety have to say about that? Donegal organised theirs well in advance last year and it did not do them any harm. Anyway we are on the move now and we wont be stopped. 9 days of hunger left until we feast in glorious victory,

  9. We have 75 minutes to Football to play and that’s all I am going to think about. Too many false dawns. Plenty teams deserved to win All Irelands and didn’t because they had it won before they got on the pitch. Can’t see that happening to us but likely to come down to the hop of a ball and for once, lets pray it hops in our direction!

    Come on Mayo!

  10. Talking to Sligo, Ross, Leitrim and Westmeath colleagues at work today, all of them, but especially the dreamy-eyed Westmeath man, were drooling at the notion that their county would ever be in an AIF…..that they’d ever in their lives get to have that feeling of elation of getting there…..that they’d ever experience the honeymoon period after the SF as the county colours up and the infectious wave of euphoria and expectancy makes its mark on young and old…..The huge ‘lift’ that getting there gives to a county’s ethnically die-hard citizens……its sporting faithful !

    So for all of those poor devils who would love to get a sniff of Croker on the big day, lets be proud of the fact that our men have gotten us there yet again, enjoy our stress, our wobbles, the pain in the gut, the shaky knees, the head cupped in the hands, the shock scores by the opposition, the ‘fuck-it-no-way’ moments that are bound to arise, and the nervous waffle many of us inflict on strangers left and right of us as if our collective mental Mayo telepathy can turbo-boost the lads on the field and change the flow of things !!

    So let’s go and fuc%&ng win it !!………As Seán Burke correctly pointed out the other day, if we can reproduce and sustain the high-intensity game we’ve delivered in past matches this year, we can do it………once and for all !!

  11. Will we say the same thing about our current panel as most are saying about the 04/06 teams if we dont win this year???

  12. NYC

    I don’t think we can say that, after the year they’ve had. They battered everyone, not many can do what they’ve done to donegal and tyrone and Galway in such a short space of time.
    I think your trip home will be worth it, what day are you flying?
    It’s a long haul to face after a loss, specially if you see our winning opponents on the flight back to NYC with the jersey on while yours is wrapped up for another winter. This time will be different, Mayo are not going to let this one slip if they can at all.
    I feel it in me bones.

  13. Great post FourGoal!

    You don’t win because it’s your turn.
    You don’t win because you “deserve” it.
    You don’t win because you’re a great bunch of lads.

    You win because you are the better team and you outplay your opponents. Sometimes you need a bit of luck, but good teams tend to make their own luck.

    In some cases, it can be a moment of genius or vision from a key player. Take the Heineken Cup Final of 2006. Five minutes from half time, it’s 10-10 and Munster have a scrum on the Biarritz 22, about 10 metres in from the right touchline. Peter Stringer notes that Serge Betsen has moved infield to cover Anthony Horgan, and in doing so has left the blind-side undefended. He feeds the scrum, takes the ball from Anthony Foley’s feet and gallops in untouched, on the undefended blind-side for a try. O’Gara converts and Munster never lose the lead from then on. Pure genius and a great example of a key player reading the game.

    Munster had lost two Heineken Cup Finals before this and the Biarritz team was stuffed with top-class players. Several pundits predicted Munster would once again calf under the pressure, but they didn’t. They were absolutely determined that they would not lose this time, and they went out there and just won it. Not because it was their turn, or that they deserved it, or because they were a great bunch of lads. They had a plan, they stuck to it and they were the better team on the day.

    There was another key factor that day – the fans. The Munster faithful travelled in great numbers to Cardiff, the stadium was a sea of red and they cheered and sang all day. During the match, pictures from Limerick were shown on the big screen in the stadium, and several players said that this gave them momentum when Biarritz were putting them under pressure. In fact the Chairman of Biarritz even complained that Munster had been given an advantage by those pictures having been shown.

    I see a lot of parallels between Munster of 2006 and Mayo of 2013.

    I won’t be at the final. I’m way down the food chain when it comes to All-Ireland tickets and feel I don’t deserve one, so I’m not looking for one. But for anyone who’s going, it’s your job to sing and cheer your heart out and lift the team when they need it. Every ball won in midfield, every pass, every turn-over, every score. Fuck it, every minute of the match – just let them know you’re there and willing them along.

    We can all post our thoughts on strategy and match-ups and who should start and who should not (I won’t as I’ll be talking out of my hole), but once 3.30 comes next Sunday week, none of us can have any direct input into any of that. All we can do is believe, support, cheer, sing, wave the Green and Red and lift our lads as best we can. And once they deliver, we can party like we have never partied before.

    It’s within our grasp. Let’s fucking take it.

    Carpe Diem! Maigh Eo abú!

  14. Great piece Four Goals McGee, I concur completely. Win loose or draw we are watching the best Mayo team of our time. The time has come to hold our heads high. This has been a great year already. Who knows what will happen on the 22nd of Sept. Time to let Dublin and Tyrone worry about us for a change.

  15. Great piece, agree with all of what you say. ( and that’s odd ,I usually find something I can argue on).

    Really looking forward to next weekend now, the minors been here too is such a feat, we really are living the dream , Gaa wise.

  16. Well said Gerry in Laois but nothing beats being there!! I remember standing in McHale park last year in the pouring rain and the crowd or lack of it was disopointing to say the least. I realised something that evening the best was yet to come!! JH and the team have mentioned on enough occasions about the supporters getting behing the team and giving them the extra push. Well lads and lassies the time has come its now time to get behind the team and give them the extra push to overcome dublin so forget about McGraths and Quinns get in early and cheer on the minors then before seniors even come on the pitch shout your hearts out let’s be heard these lads deserve it. The whole country is behind us and everyone wants to see Mayo win, we are the lucky ones to get tickets be mayo be proud.

  17. Wilie joe id like to say the web site is truely a credit.the count down is on and im that anxious i dont know how to act.i love mayo and the fact i was born there i deem a privilege.this is” our” year. 10,000 miles ,made in mayo!

  18. This is going to be the longest wait ever, but what the hell, its only another week after 62 years. Driving everyone around me mad talking about the match and asking for tickets. All very quiet from both camps, things will start to heat up from Monday. Dublin have this match won before they step on the pitch – fantastic! Lets keep the heads down and put in 4,500 seconds of concentration next Sunday and the long wait will be over.

    Come on Mayo!

  19. I hear that the team are away and out of the county this weekend as the beginning of the end of their final preparations are being put into place. I think its a good idea to get away and get fully focused on training rather than being surrounded by all the hype and other distractions like ticket hassle etc on the penu

  20. Feckin smart phones! …..on the penultimate weekend before the final. No meet the players events this weekend which is a good thing also. Also a crucial weekend for Cillian’s prospects of playing…as JH said himself – its all going to depend on whether he’s fit enough to participate in the final AvB game this weekend. Please God he’ll make it through with flying colours.

  21. Great post Four Goal. Agree with poster who says “Win, lose or draw this is the best Mayo team of our time”. Will be hugely disappointed if they do not win but if luck goes against them, let’s not disrespect the great effort and sacrifice they have all made and the brilliant football they have played to bring them to the point where people are finally saying that we are among the 2 best teams in the country. I remember in 1997, 2004 and 2006 pundits (especially Ulster ones) did not give us this respect.
    We are definitely good enough to win on Sunday as long as we get even 50% of the luck on the day.

  22. The next week is what gaa supporters dream about, the build up, the nervous tension, the excitement, the buzz, everyone talking about the game. Enjoy every second, the players will do their job professionally and prepare well have no fear of that. We will all enjoy the Craic this week and next week too when we win!

    As ger loughnane famously said at half time in the 95 all Ireland hurling final when Clare trailed Offaly:

    -“We’re going to do it”

    Hon mayo!!

  23. We really should enjoy this build up, win lose or draw we might never be here to witness this again. I know people from other counties who would give absolutely anything to be where we are now, its incredible. To see the Green and Red flag flying high on the North/South quays in Dublin as i drive into work every morning fills me with pride, goosebumps, and can bring a tear to the eye. I don’t think people from outside the County actually know what it means to us, from the first day we head out into the fields lamping the battered size 4 around the place, their is only one thing in our young heads,and that is to win the All-Ireland for Mayo. Most of us will never represent our county in an AI but we still kick every point, take every hit as we watch from the stands. One day we will get over the line, it may well be in 8 days time, if we do, i know one thing is for sure, I will die a happy man.

    Maigh Eo Abu.

  24. been around the county today and it loks amazing with flags, bunting etc. nerves are at me and can’t wait to throw in at the minor match. c’mon Mayo!!!

  25. Mày I interrupt and arrive as the real four goal.
    I got a call from a good friend of mine who is an avid Dublin supporter and questioned me about my input into the blog.
    I agree with my impersonator and all who agree with his comments.
    My own belief is that this Mayo team is by far the best team in the country
    This year and all we have to do is contain the dubs for the first fifteen minutes
    Gain our composure and play football.
    The dubs will let us play and that is where we will capitulise on the talents that the players possess.
    Forty seven years ago this October that name stuck to me and has been clinging since.
    Was hoping Cillian would replace me this year so roll on Sept. 22nd.

  26. Is it just me or has there been a seachange in the collective psyche of Mayo people this year?

    Our minors are worthy favourites to win our first title at that grade since 1985 and our senior team have swept all challenges aside with assured displays all summer.
    There has been a justifiable rise in confidence on foot of these displays and even the media have jumped on the bandwagon. For once we are seen as credible contenders rather than the supporting act at the coronation of the new kings.

    I think that we head for Sunday with a pep in our step borne of a conviction that this time we can do it and that’s not just false bravado or heart ruling head like in the past. We as a county believe that this time we are prepared and we’re not afraid to say that we expect to win.

    I think we looked at the swagger that accompanied Donegal last year as a county appearing in their second ever final and they had the air of a people that couldn’t ever contemplate defeat. It was a shock to me as I was expecting our four final appearances since they last graced Croke Park on a final day to give us an edge. Many fellow supporters have said something similar to me and the fact that we were outnumbered left us and the team on the back foot from the word go as well.

    This year we are ready to meet the Dublin challenge on the pitch and in the stands in my view. It’s up to every Mayo man, woman and child that is lucky enough to have a ticket next Sunday to shout and cheer as loudly as two Dubs each and leave the rest to James and the team.

  27. The emotion is certainly rising! We are good enough……….but so are the Dubs! As I have said many times in the past – football is a funny auld game and anything can happen on the day. All we can do is wait and hope (but Jeeeeezus it isn’t easy on the nerves!). N joy the week …………we may never be the same again.

  28. Willie,
    Like many who write blogs or comment on them, I chose a name to honour someone who actually walked the walk rather than talked the talk. You are one of the heros of the Mayo saga. I was never skilled enough or dedicated enough to wear the Mayo jersey into battle. I watched, tried to learn and now that my playing days are over, I try to coach some of the next generation.
    We all owe a huge debt of gratitude to people like you who gave so much to our county. It is those who take to the field that are the custodians of our dreams and when those dreams get closer to reality, the joy it brings is enormous.
    Thanks for your kind words. We have one thing in common. We both believe that the famine is coming to an end.

    Keep the Faith!

    (The other) Fourgoal

  29. Reply to Sean Burke.
    Yes Sean that’s me, just went back a few years, incl. the 60’s, back to 67.
    Up Mayo, roll on the 22nd.

  30. Wow!….Willie McGee on the blog….I remember as a young buck, me dad talking about you…I pictured you as 10 foot tall.

    Jeez, I can’t wait for that flight Wednesday night! Getting very excited now.

  31. Willie. It’s great to have one of the legendary names of Mayo football onboard. I remember being brought to my first game as a 5 year old back in ’68 in Crossmolina at a league match against Clare.
    I looked back at the great archive here as my recollections were very dim. I did recall that we scored several goals ( 5-7 to 0-7) and my father a proud Knockmore man getting very excited by one of the goals scored by a P Hughes.I assume that to be the bould Peter but I may be wrong. You got one too that day and Joe C got 2 and John Morley got the other. Legends one and all.
    Corcoran and McGee were my first heros of Mayo football as I kicked a ball around the back and dreamt of AI glory. Little did I realise that 45 years from that first baptism to Mayo football that we’d still be waiting.

  32. “Is this the year we dared to hope for?

    Is this the time we kept the faith for?

    Damn right it is!


    That for me says it all. Mayo to win (as I have been saying all year, no-one is going to beat our lads this year) by 5 to 7 points and not only will grown men cry but the Hogan will shake to it’s very foundations.

  33. @willie Joe….ah it’s doubtful I will make it to Bowes, jeeze I’d love to but chances are ill be in Ballina on the eve, get the mass over ( we need the man above on our side), head for dinner and a few pints and an early night as we have an early start in the morning , as I want to be their in plenty of time for the mighty minors.

    Of course, no tickets yet, but still cautiously optimistic that some of my friends in Mayo, Cork , Tipp or Dublin will come through.

    Was just chatting on the phone there with my uncle in Quenns, he was over in Gaelic Park today. All the talk is of the match, most neutrals he spoke with are leaning Dublin. But he’s not wavering, says Dublin are a great team, and it will take a great team to beat them. We’ll be that great team to do it.
    I’ll tell you what WJ, I’ll see you in Mchale Park Monday night for Sam’s homecoming. 😉

    @Pebblesmeller, your enthusiasm is infectious. I too have many of the same feelings. Over here, of course, people just don’t understand. My work colleagues and neighbors are flabbergasted that I am going to Ireland, for a football match. The easiest thing to say to them is, it’s like the College Football National Championship game here.
    As sports fans, they understand that, but really, I tell them it’s much more than that, some thing they could never understand, i was born and raised there, still remember my first O’Neills football from Courell’s sports shop on the corner of Pearse street kicking that balll up the field in front of the house, till it was too dark to see it…..Mayo is calling me home, for this is our time. .

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