Monday, April 26, 2010

Groundhog Day: Cork Hammer Mayo in Croke Park

Cork 1-17
Mayo 0-12

Groundhog Day in Croke Park for Mayo. All week we listened to this old palaver about a new team, not intimidated by Heaney and Nallen’s old bones in the dressing room, depressing reminder of past failures. This was new-look Mayo, looking to their youth, listening to the sports psychologists, making things happen and all the rest of it.

What did we get instead? We got a throwback to the mid-nineties. The last fifteen years have been a golden era of Mayo football, but all the great qualities of those Mayo teams, not least their great hearts, went right down the Swanee River yesterday in another horror show fully in keeping with the Bad Old Days of Mayo football.

Yesterday, Mayo delivered a display that was true to the county’s most heart-breaking traditions, a display that predates the memories of the majority of Mayo players in the current panel. Castlebar 1986. Castlebar 1987. Tuam 1990. Croke Park 1992. Croke Park 1993. Roscommon 1994. Tuam 1995. Here it all was again, just like we remembered it, better even than the new A-Team movie.

The stagefright. The crippling fear of losing that denies even the possibility of winning. The abdication of responsibility in the forward line. The bizarre decision-making, that saw Alan Dillon setting up Trevor Mortimer to shoot when any even causal observer of Mayo football in the past decade would prefer to see that possession travelling the other way around. Especially if your car was parked within the blasting rang.

The most bizarre thing about the display yesterday was the inertia of it. The game opened in silence, like the teams were playing in the garden of a nursing home and didn’t want to scare the old folks. It was quickly obvious that Mayo were having a Mayo – if you put the forward line into individual barrels and rolled them down the shale of Croagh Patrick they could not arrive in Murrisk more disorientated than they appeared against Cork yesterday.

Which made it even more upsetting that nothing was done. The Mayo News podcast told us last week about how the Mayo team, in dealing with their trauma after losing to Meath, were now under instructions from their sports psychologist to take responsibility and make things happen when they saw games running away from them. Instead, we reverted right back to twentieth-century Mayo, heads down while Corkmen cracked over points like they were in a training run.

As the game slipped away, this was a golden opportunity to see what Mayo were made of. A golden opportunity to unleash McGarrity, Harte, Kilcoyne, Barry Moran or Tom Cuniffe and say get out there son, and come back with your name on the jersey!

Didn’t happen. McGarrity came on at the half – for Ronaldson, astonishingly, thus reducing Mayo’s scoring threat even more – but by the time Kilcoyne, Harte and Barry Moran appeared the last post has been well and truly sounded, as the shadow of Ben Bulben looked suddenly ominous for the first weekend in June.

Sunday’s wasn’t the worst Mayo defeat ever – this is only the league, of course, and the bar is set pretty dang high for Mayo’s Worst Day Ever – but if the circle that Mayo are travelling in gets any tighter, they will soon be able to see their own tails wagging in the gloaming ahead of them.

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