Here we are now, all the lads and ladies! Cast your mind back to June: who would have thought that the lads would come through three rounds of qualifiers and beat the reigning Ulster champions? Or, indeed, that the ladies would reap revenge on Galway to gain supremacy in Connacht once more before galloping their way into a semi-final spot against the Dubs?
I talked about the year of the underdog last week when I mentioned how the ladies team, against all the odds, managed to sweep into the final four. I still believe this rings true.
Michael Gallagher of the Western People used a colourful phrase last week which I had never heard before – “Die dog or shite the licence”. After a few minutes on Google and a brief conversation with the auld lad, I found out the meaning.
This phrase describes perfectly how I felt after the lads lost to Galway. It felt as if we had hit the wall. We thought we were invincible but it was soon plain to see that we were anything but. The dog was either going to die in the qualifiers or it sure has hell wasn’t going to shite the licence come August!
We played all three qualifiers in a very unconvincing fashion and even though we were winning, it didn’t seem like the Mayo team of the last few years. And, then, to play like that against Tyrone – unbelievable! It makes you wonder if the whole Galway fiasco was just a dream?
It also made me think of Manchester United under Ferguson. They often played match after match, scraping by on one-nil scorelines, playing poorly for a good chunk of the season. Chugging along in second gear but still grinding out results and then really turning on the style when needs be.
It’s the sign of a great team, one that can play poorly but still win games and then to have the odd trick up their sleeves for the likes of Tyrone. The dog is most certainly alive and kicking and if he does shite that licence, we’ll have to get it framed!
I talked about the girls’ glory over Galway last week so I won’t repeat myself. I know it’s a cliché but their quarter-final win against Westmeath wasn’t exactly one for the faint-hearted.
The game hinged on a single point running into the final stages before Niamh Kelly, thankfully, fired over a score meaning only a goal would do for Westmeath. Again using the word thankfully, it was a goal they did not get.
Ladies manager Frank Browne mentioned the six-week gap between the Connacht final and their quarter-final as a reason for the mistakes they made against Westmeath. In fairness to Browne, he has put the girls through their paces in challenge matches throughout the six-week gap. It all goes back to that fact of being able to fork out the wins despite not playing as good as you can be.
Dublin will be a tough task for the Mayo ladies. They put on a blitzkrieg of a show against Westmeath and then narrowly beat surprise packages Donegal in their quarter-final tie. Much like the boys, I feel the ladies have been hiding a trick or two up their sleeves and wouldn’t be surprised if they play the trump card against Dublin. When you have experienced warriors like Martha Carter mixed with the youth and enthusiasm of the likes of Doireann Hughes who grabbed a vital goal the last day, it’s the perfect mix.
Frank Browne said in an interview with the Western People that he had got a text from one of the players on the men’s senior team which read “Quarter-finals are all about getting to the semi-final.” It’s so true. Who cares how you get there as long as you get there? And we are there: who’d have thought it?