The scorched earth

The state of football in Connacht has been the topic of critical comment by many in the media this summer. Ontheroad returns to the guest slot to give his thoughts on the issue.

If you say it often enough then you start to believe it. “Connacht football is shit” we hear. “Connacht football is junk bond status” we are told. Bear in mind four years of nihilism in Mayo and a nonchalant indifference from Galway, culminating with a Longford/Wexford double uppercut last summer, even those of us from that proud province started to nod our heads in agreement.

Then Mayo went and tore a hole in the SS Cork and sunk it without trace and suddenly we were all forced to revisit the scorched earth tundra-ridden province. “Connacht football is crap” we hear. In relation to whom I ask. Munster, with its twin standard bearers that are Kerry and Cork. Ulster, where if it wasn’t Armagh it then became Tyrone, with a few shapes thrown by turgid mogadon-inducing outfits like Monaghan.

Let’s look at Leinster where all the great media minds dwell. And let’s set a test. Before we condemn or reprieve anybody, let’s set the rules. To conduct this experiment we will focus on the last ten seasonss, i.e. from 2001 to the present. We start 2001 with a Connacht double. Galway win the All-Ireland, Mayo win the League.

Since then Mayo played two All-Ireland finals. They also played in two League finals. Galway have won two U21 titles, Mayo added one. The Mayo minors played in three finals, Galway and Roscommon won a minor title each. Crossmolina, Ballina and Knocknacarra-Salthill won All-Ireland club titles. Yet Connacht football is shite!

Dublin has played in zero All Ireland finals since then. Ditto the great white hopes of Kildare. In fact Kildare has bottom fed around Division Two for many years. They have been sucker punched by giants like Wicklow and Louth in the last few years. They have not beaten a single team of note outside Leinster yet the press see them as a top six side.

Whence Mayo with three league finals, two All-Ireland finals and assorted across the board finals? “Junk bond status” we are told. Kildare have not won a Leinster title since McGeeney took over but the illusion of northern stoicism allied to media lick-arsing has seen Kildare treated like the Kerry team of 1997-2009.

Connacht football is no more in trouble than Kildare, Offaly, Kilkenny, Laois, Longford, Westmeath, Louth or Meath are. If Leinster is now perceived as Dublin or Kildare then God help us and welcome to lazy punditry. Wexford have as good a record at getting to semi finals as the Dublin/Kildare axis has but without half the hype.

If Munster is Cork and Kerry fair enough but it also contains Tipperary, Clare, Waterford and Limerick. I cannot imagine losing too much sleep if any Connacht team drew them. If Ulster is defined by Tyrone and Armagh and Crossmaglen …fair enough. The fact that it then becomes a modern day version of rollerball as the bucks from Monaghan, Fermanagh, Antrim, Derry, Donegal vie in duel of who’s the hardest wee men in Ulster. I spared mentioning the once blue bloods of Ulster football. Cavan are worthy of a thesis in their own right.

That Mayo beat Cork in a single game does not mean all is fine in the province. However general lazy bias and stereotyping should not bestow on Connacht the gratuitous crap that’s rained down on it with monotonous regularity. In 2008 Tyrone scraped a lucky one-point win over Mayo. In the next round quarter-final they wiped the floor with Dublin. Guess who got All-Stars that year and who played in a crap province?

“To hell or to Connacht “spoke Cromwell. Many went there and were glad to. Welcomed by its proud people who shared the little they possessed. Time has forgotten that saying. I haven’t. Passing close to Batterstown, County Meath, in 1996 I espied a sign with the following daubed on it. “Ye took our land but ye won’t take our cup”. Ignorant, insulting and racist but we swallowed and accepted that type of thing.

The land “we took” was land “taken” by landlords years and years ago. The state redistributed it amongst all the Irish people. Those from the western seaboard, Kerry and Donega,l benefitted from it. Just as those from Leinster and Ulster were given succour when driven “To Hell or Connacht” a few hundred years earlier.

Time we stood by the old province and stood up for it. When it was needed it did its bit. I for one am proud of Connacht, its people and its footballers. The main beneficiaries of the great Western exodus funnily enough were the counties of Meath, Kildare and Dublin. Time to find a new doll to stick pins in, lads.

9 thoughts on “The scorched earth

  1. Great Piece and well said. The facts here are strong enough against any Jibba Jabber any day!

  2. ill file that one away for use our my defence whenever the trash talk starts about connacht football! Excellent piece ontheroad!

  3. I think I’m right in quoting Spillane “stats don’t lie”. Great ammunition for the future.

  4. Love the topic and how it highlights the perception created by the media comapred to the facts! Just to add to the pot …
    Despite all the direct route and back door options since the qualifier system was introduced in 2001 (10 years) only once has a Leinster team got to an All Ireland Final and that was Meath in 2001. And they lost to Galway.
    Connacht teams have been there 3 times in the same period – Connacht record 3 times that of Leinster.

  5. I’ve been saying something similar (but not as well and clearly laid out – kudos to you boy) to this when ever the “shite” comment is trotted out. Its usually met with “what have ye won”, which in fairness is usually directed at Mayo as opposed to connaught. Thats a tad harder to answer but is a typical outsiders response based on the perception that whilst we have had more success the hammerings stick in everyones minds.

    Wouldn’t it be nice to bate the Kerrymen though? I’d pay serious money to see the Sunday Game and O Sheas fat head mouth the words Kerry lost to Mayo because ….

    Huup Maayooo

  6. Perception is everything and the sad fact is that no matter the good work we have, peoples perceptions seem to be around what happens on All Ireland final day. Thats more there fault than Mayos but its the reality.
    Its ironic that Mayo would probably be considered a stronger footballing county than we are currently given credit for, irrespective of what the facts show, if we were bowing out in semi finals regularly instead of finals. Getting blown out of it in a final seems to be an insult to all things Irish yet it happened to Cork in recent times against Kerry in both a semi and a final. But Cork did manage to win one, so we do have to win one to shut everyone up. Lets stay in the long grass for now and hope Donegal beat Dublin so we can be underdogs 3 games in a row and finally end the wait.

  7. Just to add in there, Galway have three All Ireland u21 titles since 2001. Impressive, yet fuck all to show for it as of yet.

  8. Great article. I went into exile in Meath as a young fella (1990’s) and know all about the bias held against westerners that made the voyage in the forties to the east coast.

    The fact that the land redistributed was predominanly taken from Anglo stock seems to be entirely ignored.

    I do know from experience that there are a huge number of people from Mayo living in Batterstown, Dunsaughlin etc and none are too shy in planting the red & green flag in their front gardens!

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