Monday, August 01, 2005

Mayo Suffer Belt of Eugene's Crozier

The Mayo football psyche, never robust at the best of times, is reeling this morning after reading Eugene McGee writing about Saturday's Mayo v Cavan game in this morning's Irish Independent. The article is headlined "Only a Miracle can Save Mayo from Kerry Annihilation" and, after giving us the good news, Eugene lets Mayo have it with both barrels.

It's a comprehensive mugging in any man's language: "the pick of the two teams would not give Kerry a game ... an insult to your average under-14 club team ... Kieran McDonald is in danger of being classified as a mere trick-of-the-loop ball player if he cannot adopt a more direct style of football ... it was laughable on Saturday to see the lengths the Mayo forwards went to in order to avoid going for a score." Nothing much to cling to there.

An Spailpín Fánach has to admit to mixed feelings about reading Eugene's piece. It's not cheery stuff and he certainly raises very pertinent questions about Mayo and where they're going, but An Spailpín has been waiting for Eugene to discuss Mayo for years and, as such, I do feel a certain relief that Mayo, and what goes on in Mayo football, are sufficiently important to swim into Eugene's ken.

Eugene McGee is the Saoi, or Wise One, of Gaelic Football analysts. Obviously the competition isn't that hot - Bernard Flynn? Paul Curran? - but Eugene is head and shoulders about the chasing pack, not least because he's so country, so rural, so old-school, in his approach. And as such it was a little hurtful to read Eugene laud Roscommon as "pin-up boys" a few years ago, hail Galway as the team of the 'nineties when Johnno retired last year, but never mention a word about my sweet county Mayo.

All during last year's Championship run by Mayo, after the spectacular come-from-behind win over Galway, the Croker triumph against Tyrone, the deep and lasting trauma of Bradygate, An Spailpín opened his Independent on Monday, only to be disappointed by Mayo, once more, being left out in the cold, being denied the divine light of Eugene's consideration. It got your correspondent feeling like the protragonist in that old Nat King Cole song, "The Little Boy that Santa Claus Forgot." Ouch. Even Eugene's post-All-Ireland analysis last year only mentioned Mayo in passing.

But now we've been noticed. Admittedly, we've been noticed the same way that the gourmet notices the fly in his bouillbaisse, but anything is better than being ignored.

An Spailpín Fánach is nothing if not a keen student of the human condition, and has come up with his own theory about why Eugene McGee mentions Mayo football as little as he does. The very thought of Mayo football makes Eugene sick to his belly, and, because the symptoms are so severe, he needs to limit his exposure, only exposing himself on those extreme, no-other-way mornings, such as this morning, that mean he has no way of avoiding that pack of pie-faced green and red bastards.

You think it's bad being from Mayo? Try being from Longford, where Eugene is from. Mayo mightn't be able to win the Big One, but Longford can't even win the Little One, the Mite, the Pipsqueak. Or look at Offaly, whom Eugene managed to the Faithful's last All-Ireland success, in never-to-be-forgotten circumstances in 1982. Offaly have exactly the same amount of All-Ireland senior football titles as Mayo - three - but they've won those three from ten or so Provincial titles, while Mayo have won their three from forty or so Provincial titles. Offaly make the most of their chances; Mayo waste and squander. If you can imagine what it's like for some poor kid who might get a packet of jelly tots once in a year, at Christmas maybe, watching a rich kid take one lick of an ice-cream and then chuck it, flake and chocolate and syrup and all, into the nearest bin, you get some idea of how Eugene McGee feels watching County Mayo.

Eugene's heart is in the right place. He has his biases, like us all, and this morning it all became too much for him. The only problem An Spailpín has with Eugene's piece this morning isn't the flaking and thrashing he inflicts on Mayo football; it's the punches that Eugene doesn't pull, the shots he doesn't fire, that are distressing in the greatest analyst in the game. Does Eugene think that every man born in County Mayo suffers from some sort of physical defect that stops him being able to shoot in games of football? Or could it be something different?

Here's An Spailpín's two cents - like everything else, it's all in the head. These poor hoors are so afraid of missing that when it's time to aim over the shoulder and swing the hoof, what should be relaxed is tense and what should be tense, relaxed. It's Planet FUBAR on the top deck I'm afraid, and that transmits all they way down to the bottom.

And you can read that last sentence any way you like. In the meantime, Mayo are still in the Championship, and that's never, ever, a bad thing. Roll on Sunday, roll on An Ríocht - we'll do our best to keep it kicked out to them.