Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Championship Rolls On Minus Mayo

Might as well get used to it....One of the few good things to come from Mayo’s humiliation in Derry is the (relative) absence of cries for John O’Mahony to be taken hence from his place to residence to the summit of Nephin, and there to have the blood eagle cut from his back under a full moon in punishment for not winning the All-Ireland. It could be that the county realises we have a limited cache of Messiahs, and need to make the current one last as long as we can.

No matter. Mayo got kicked in the derrière in the Derry air, and it’s all over now until the FBD League, when we stand watching Mayo 2008 against Sligo IT, while wearing the same overcoats we’ve had to wear throughout this thoroughly wretched summer. Even the traditional post-defeat invective, where such and such a player is condemned as the biggest disgrace to the jersey since Old God’s time, seem to have lost a little impetus. What’s the point? Sometimes, it’s plainly obvious that a team isn’t good enough. Rather than improving after last year’s humiliation Mayo disimproved, not repairing the fault lines so hideously evident against Kerry and generating two more, caused by the absences of Ciarán McDonald and Ronan McGarrity.

O’Mahony tried more options than he was given credit for in the League, but none of them took off the way he and the county would have desired. By the time the game in Salthill came around panic had begun to set in, and by the time Mayo re-appeared in the qualifiers O’Mahony was ringing the changes at a furious rate, in the manner of a parachutist who has tried three rip cords to no success, and is now beginning to brace himself for an inevitable and unpleasant impact.

Talking to people, it’s interesting to note that, as ever, no two people have the same view of a game, a team or a season. To some, the old guard are all washed up and must go the way of the cooper and the stonemason. To others, the young guard’s inability to step up meant that it was only the veterans that kept the colours flying for as long as they did. Believe whom you want to believe. It doesn’t really matter at this stage. The panel can concentrate on the club championship, and get some pints in. More luck to them, and we’ll see them again in 2008 when the road goes ever on.

As for the rest of this season, An Spailpín would see Sam as being either Kerry or Cork’s to lose. I do not rule out Tyrone – it would be the foolish, foolish boy that would – but one can’t help but think that the absences of Brian McGuigan, Peter Canavan and someone to play fullback will come back to haunt them. As I remarked to Noel Walsh on All Points North yesterday, Cork and Monaghan finished their provincial finals with stronger teams than when they started. Laois and Galway, by contrast, have serious problems, are quite vulnerable indeed against Derry and Meath respectively. At this point your correspondent would see Derry, Monaghan, Cork and Meath as coming out of the qualifiers to face the provincial champions, and after that it’s all down to the draw. Insofar as your dull-witted diarist can interpret the runes, it’s an open draw who faces whom in the next two rounds, with the Provincial Champions - if they survive – playing at fixed points in the semis.

There are some tasty ties in prospect. What will Sligo be like next time they’re out? They would be the choice opposition of any of the surviving qualifiers, as they well know themselves, but if they have any remnant of that lightning they bottled in the Hyde perhaps the dream can go on.

A Cork v Dublin quarter final would be delicious, of course, not least as An Spailpín believes that it would give Frank Murphy, that great man of Cork GAA, the opportunity to pull his finest stroke yet. Frank baby, drop me a line – you and me should talk some time, like two men of honour.

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