Monday, July 18, 2011

The West Wind - Mayo win the Connacht Final

Just how bad was the weather at the Connacht Final yesterday? Take a look at this picture of the graveyard end goal ten minutes into the second half.

The net behind the goal is billowing like the sails of the Santa Maria as she sped Columbus to America. And it’s a net – it’s full of holes for the wind to pass through. That’s how windy it was all during the game in Hyde Park yesterday, without respite, and that’s not even mentioning the rain, relentless and unforgiving, arriving in great sheets sweeping in from the west.

But someone had to win and that someone was Mayo. It would be unwise to read too much into the victory, or attempt to analyse a football game where so very little football was played. On a day like yesterday’s, victory is a bar of soap, grasped more by luck than by skill.

Gay Sheerin was harsh in his criticism of Roscommon on MWR afterwards, but that could be because his great heart was breaking, and that’s understandable. It seemed like it was more than a football game to Roscommon, and that’s a heavy burden. Fergal O’Donnell’s best policy may be to focus on the many positives from the game, put it behind them and get ready for the next day. There is no better man to do that than O’Donnell.

He could do worse than borrow a page from Wexford’s book in 1996, and have the squad assemble next weekend to watch Tyrone play Armagh for the right to play Roscommon and go on to Croke Park. Put a blackboard next to the screen and anytime any Roscommon panel member sees a reason why Roscommon can beat Armagh or Tyrone, up he goes and writes it on the board. After seventy minutes, Roscommon will be ready for action again.

As for James Horan, yesterday was vindication. His appointment came about in peculiar circumstances – to the say the least – but a Nestor Cup in your first year as manager of a team that contains youths so callow that they must follow Cúchulainn in smearing their chins with blackberries so the men of Erin will think them men, not boys; well, that’s pretty good.

And of course it’s not over yet. The quarter-final awaits, and whomever Mayo will play will find it hard to take Mayo seriously. That suits Mayo just fine. If Mayo win the quarter-final, there will be another reason to do down Mayo and that will continue until Mayo win an All-Ireland.

Maintaining perspective is one of the hardest things to do in life. This blather about Mayo’s sixty-year wait is just that; blather. John Maughan made football in August commonplace for Mayo support. Before that, there was only silence and the Galway hurlers.

The past twenty years have been the best years to support Mayo since the 1950s, and the county’s inability to give itself credit for those great years is one of the reasons why the final step was never taken. But it is by no means as far away as people would have you believe.

It may happen this year; if you’re good enough you’re old enough, and stranger things have happened in the history of the Association.

It may happen next year; Horan’s is a young team and there are fault lines in it that may be exposed later, even among those who don’t need the blackberried chins to be taken for men.

Or it may take longer than that, in which case; what’s another year, after all? All that matters is that Mayo are playing to the level of their ability and things look bright for the next couple of years. Everyone in Mayo can live with that. Maigh Eo abú.