Thursday, March 31, 2011

Mayo Aren't That Far Away

Old and New Mayo - Jason Doherty holds off Billy Joe PaddenThere is an air of grimly facing the inevitable about Cork’s trip to Castlebar on Sunday. Cork were sweetly obliging the last time Mayo played them in the League regular season, rolling over to have their tummies tickled by the banks of the Lee. They then turned around in a week to have a loud last laugh by carpet-bombing Mayo in the League Final and setting up the further Mayo humiliations to come.

Cork are now the best football team in the country. There is no disputing that fact. Having finally won that All-Ireland last year, their option now is to win a few more, and claim definitive greatness. If they leave it only at one, you can rest assured their witty neighbours to the north won’t be long reminding them that, yerra, 2010 was a soft one.

And for all that, An Spailpín isn’t despairing about summer prospects for Mayo. If anything, the summer looks rather good.

Of all the bizarre events of that hammering from Dublin last Sunday week at Croke Park, An Spailpín was struck by the fact that James Horan made no substitutions until the second half. How many times will teams go down 4-4 to 0-2 after fifteen minutes in any grade without at least one of the backs getting the curly finger?

So either Horan didn’t notice that Mayo were getting a complete scutching, or else he didn’t care. An Spailpín has no idea, but I’d guess that Horan knew it was happening alright, but whatever was on his mind was more important than two league points against Dublin.

If not, why wouldn’t he have hauled poor Chris Barrett out of there, and sent Ger Cafferkey back? If Mayo have as bad a start as that in the Championship, you can rest assured Horan will do something. But for the League; no. Results aren’t what interest him just yet.

Which doesn’t mean Mayo are playing to lose, of course, or that relegation doesn’t bother them. It’s just a question of relativity, just as we all now realise in the modern world that, while getting a pay cut stinks, it’s still better than losing your job.

Relegation wouldn’t be that bad if, for all his tweaking, Horan can hit on a winning formula in the summer. Connacht isn’t as weak as has been made out, and if Galway can do something against the rising Ross in the Under-21 Connacht Final in Salthill this weekend, that might do their senior team no harm either.

Nor are Mayo necessarily doomed to the trapdoor either. How bothered are Cork about a spin to Castlebar? The League is all about judgement. Cork know from Mayo last year that League wins aren’t worth a damn. It’s only about your last game in the League, and how that sets you up for the summer. Stronger or weaker? Better to suffer now than later.

Issues remain with Mayo, and there are issues with nearly every line of the team. But this Mayo. That will always be the way. It’s too early for weeping by the lovely sweet banks of the Mayo. Wait until the summer, and see what the good God brings.