I may be just over 1,000 miles away from where the action will be taking place tomorrow but there’ll be a little bit of Hyde Park over here on the Adriatic come throw-in time in this year’s Connacht final. Sure, I feel like a proper idiot in not being there but I’m not sure the rest of the family would agree. And I hear it’s set to be wet and cool in Roscommon tomorrow whereas the Connacht final that’ll be played out over here is all but certain to happen in bright sunshine with temperatures in the low thirties.
Despite having kept in touch with developments back home since we set off nearly two weeks ago, it’s difficult when you’re loafing round in flip-flops all the time to keep your mind on Gaelic football – after all, there’s beer and pizza to be thinking about too. Because of this, I feel even less well-placed than normal to proffer any kind of opinion about how tomorrow’s decider will go. In any event, Ed dealt fairly comprehensively with the match preview side of things in his guest post yesterday.
One thought I did have, though, was that tomorrow does look set to be a defining moment (of sorts) for James Horan’s Mayo team. Under his predecessor, we lost virtually every game of importance (the 2009 Connacht final being the sole exception and carelessness nearly cost us that one too) and so you could argue that the last high stakes game we did the business in was the 2006 All-Ireland semi-final.
If you’re of the glass half-empty mindset, you could quite plausibly argue that we’re still on the downward trajectory that we were so obviously heading in when The Deputy jumped ship after Pearse Park last year. Sure, we retained our Division 1 status in the league, but then we needed extra-time to avoid a humiliation akin to USA v England, Belo Horizonte, 1950, over in Ruislip. Added to that, we were truly awful in the first half against Galway and although we beat them comfortably enough, common consent would have it that this was the worst Galway team in living memory. If you take this view and hitch to this the opinion that Roscommon are an improving young team who will tear fearlessly into us in front of the baying home support at Hyde Park, you can only reach one conclusion about how tomorrow’s final will go.
But, putting on the rosier-tinted frames, it’s worth noting that we did retain our Division 1 status despite experimenting widely throughout the league (something The Politician never dared to do) and that, despite the near-death experience against London, we did manage to shake clear of them in extra-time. Moreover, despite being widely touted to lose against the Tribesmen, we eventually swatted them away decisively in the second half of that game. And it wasn’t our fault that they were no great shakes.
So which is it? Eternal optimist that I am, you won’t be surprised that I’d lean towards the latter. The wins over London and Galway do not of their own constitute any kind of trend but set against last year’s shocking championship campaign, getting as far as the Connacht final (beating Galway on the way) has to count as progress. Roscommon at home cannot, of course, be discounted and it now appears obvious that Fergie O’Donnell’s lads will provide strong opposition to all comers west of the Shannon in the years ahead. But if we play to our potential, there’s no reason we can’t reclaim the Nestor Cup tomorrow and, with it, a place in the All-Ireland quarter-finals.
Best of luck, tomorrow, lads – even at this remove, I’ll be shouting loudly for you. Only without the raincoat.