I haven’t written for this blog in a long time.
When you write for a living, the last thing you want to do with any spare minute you have is open the laptop. Plus, I always like to jot a few words down when I’m on the train.
This is for many reasons: the excitement of going home, the scenery as I head further west is green (one half mayo colours) and inspiring and just the all-round buzz of knowing that there’s a Mayo match and Mammy’s cooking waiting for me when I arrive.
What can you say about Mayo’s league start that hasn’t already been said? The late finish against Roscommon was just vintage Mayo.
How many times have we watched our team with ten minutes to go thinking a defeat is on the cards and you leave at the final whistle wondering if we’re playing with 15 Houdinis?
And as for Tyrone. If you had told a Mayo supporter – with great certainty – after last year’s All-Ireland final that we’d go to Omagh and hammer the losing All-Ireland finalists, we’d have probably asked you for the Euromillions numbers too while we had your attention.
We know it’s only the first two games but it’s been a long time since we hit the National League with such gusto. I’ve said before on this blog how the League is a springboard for the Championship.
A trophy, a big win in Croke Park, more than likely against a Dublin or Kerry outfit. Why wouldn’t that be something to stride towards? James Horan wants silverware.
He full-on went for the FBD – albeit unsuccessfully – just so players could get the taste of what it’s like to have a title in their possession again.
Three years without any sort of cup is three years too long for Mayo.
And you can be sure, he’s going for the League with the same mentality. A win on Saturday is crucial for two reasons.
The first one, obviously, is to keep the momentum going but the second one (and the one that no Mayo fan will want to mention) is to avoid relegation.
It’s a dirty word but we’ve spent longer down that end of the woods in recent years than we have in the top four.
All that’s separating me from talking about Mayo in Division Two right now was one kick of a ball back in March last year.
But, as much as Horan is going for the League, he’s not afraid to experiment either. And that’s the key.
You can experiment with your teams and still win if you’re mixing the new with the old.
Clarke is back in between the sticks but he’s not going to last forever. Hence why Hennelly was the man for the first two games. They are the best two goalkeepers in the county at present, but it would be great to even see another keeper come into the mix before the League is out.
Harrison, Reape and Vaughan have all played a large chunk of Mayo’s games so far this year so it’s no surprise that they’re getting a rest on Saturday. Horan is handing out as much game time to as many players as possible and he’s begging them to impress him.
It’s a strong and experienced team with names that roll off the tongue mixed with youth and new names as well.
Coen and Plunkett seem to have swapped their normal positions with each other. There’s a strong midfielder in Matty Ruane who’s cut from the same cloth as the O’Sheas too.
These lads aren’t stiff either. Ruane, Coen and Durcan all had run-outs during the week for Sigerson.
Some managers might have been wary about the amount of game time they’d have chalked up but not Horan. Let them play as much ball as possible because, at the end of the day, as long as they don’t pick up an injury, it’s for their greater good.
The whole country was talking about Fionn McDonagh last week but we already knew about his worth for years and now his club team-mate, Colm Moran comes into the mix too.
These are exciting times to be a Mayo fan with lads like this coming through.
There’s always been an argument but never any evidence to suggest that we don’t have the forwards in the west. The forwards are there, anyone who’s attended a few club championship games in the last few years or has any sort of ear to the ground can tell you that.
My good friend John Brennan from Mayo News and myself often have long, drawn-out battles about the forwards good enough to get the call-up for Mayo and the list is always plentiful. One of those players was Ciaran Treacy. His kicking against Tyrone was outstanding. He has the nerve and the accuracy to kick from distance.
In fact, all our forwards did so last weekend. When you have that sort of mindset, you win games no matter who is in the opposition defence.
And you can forgive us for getting excited after only two League games. We’re Mayo fans, we’re allowed get excited and sing while we’re winning. But the pundits are even jumping on the bandwagon already saying that we’re the only team to put it up to Dublin.
How are our heads supposed to fit through the gates of MacHale Park with comments like that in February after not even making Super 8s last year?
Last season was a blip. You can erase from your memory all the obituaries that were written for us and all the VTs with Green Day’s ‘Time Of Your Life’ playing in the background. We’re still one of the best teams in the country.
Colm Parkinson asked on The GAA Hour during the week why everyone sets up like Donegal – the last team to beat Dublin in an All-Ireland Series game – but nobody wants to play like Mayo, the last team to come close to the Dubs.
One answer to this is that Donegal proved once that their way can win you a game while we – although we’ve came close – have never proven that our way is one that enables you to beat the Dubs. Another answer is that most counties just don’t have the players to go for it with a team like Dublin.
We break from defence at pace, we work hard in the middle of the park and when the ball is launched in there is someone to collect and someone to run off the shoulder. Often the person running off the shoulder is the same person who has broken from speed in the backs or who has been working like a dog around the halfway line to win a ball back.
It’s a tiresome game they play but it gets results.
And you really respect these athletes when you play the sport yourself. I’ve gone back playing GAA for the first time in about four years.
I still have the footballing ability, but I now have to truck on with the lungs of what seems like a 50-year-old. It’s weird playing for a Dublin club but there’s a good few lads from around the country on the team which makes it seem homely enough.
One of the lads is from Cavan, he’s not too hopeful for this game and he probably shouldn’t be. The last time we faced Cavan was on Paddy’s Weekend in 2017. They scored 1-14 and beat us by two. I wouldn’t expect a similar result on Saturday. They’re bottom of the League, two losses from two and facing a Mayo team who are only getting started.
Dublin play Kerry tomorrow night as well. No matter what the result is there, if we grab a win we’re edging closer to a League final place.
We’re allowed turn into the GAA equivalent of Liverpool fans. We’re allowed to dream when our team is going well. We’re allowed to think all those undesirable thoughts. We’re allowed to say in our minds: ‘I wonder, could this be the year?’
We’re allowed to get carried away. For the time being, though, maybe just keep to yourself.