Monday, August 22, 2011

Mayo on Top of the World After Nine Point Defeat

Kerry 1-20
Mayo 1-11

There’s only one way to win a game but it seems like there are a thousand and one ways to lose one. But as the shutter comes down on another Mayo summer, everyone with an interest should realise what a fantastic summer it’s been.

Even at the end. Nine points is a whacking, but it’s also a fair result. Mayo did nothing wrong, really, yesterday. They executed their game plan. The misfortunate thing about it was, so did Kerry.

Kerry found their feet after about twenty minutes and the longer the game went on the easier it became for them. They had an answer for everything Mayo threw at them, and Mayo threw them their all. It’s just that Mayo’s all wasn’t good enough.

Kerry is a great football county and they are currently blessed with exceptional players and an exceptional manager. People talk about weaknesses in the current team; we’ll see just how vulnerable they are come the third Sunday. Kerry will start favourites in An Spailpín’s book.

So where does the defeat leave Mayo? It leaves Mayo on top of the world.

Under the current Championship setup, a good Championship for Mayo is one where Mayo win their quarter-final. Not making a quarter-final is the only bad year for Mayo. Everything that happens besides winning that quarter-final is a bonus. Staying in Division 1 – presuming there still is a Division 1 – is a bonus. Winning Connacht is a bonus.

Mayo achieved their primary goal of winning a quarter-final this year, and the bonus goals of staying in Division 1, winning Connacht and inflicting a terrible, searing defeat on Cork, the All-Ireland Champions. That makes for a hell of a year in the ledger. Any other judgment is nonsense.

And not only that. This year has been marvellous for reminding the supporters of Mayo football – which means everyone in the county – of what matters. That getting beaten early is not in fact better than losing in the Final. That what counts is surviving for as long as you can, with still being alive at five o’clock on the third Sunday the greatest achievement of all.

And this year has been marvellous for reminding the supporters of Mayo football that we are legion, we are proud and we are not junk bond status.

Willie Joe, Mayo football’s Baptist and the man who runs the superlative Mayo GAA Blog, called his people to Bowe’s on Fleet Street on Saturday night. Reader, they came in their droves.

People that had never met before, from the north, south, east and west of the third largest county in Ireland, came together to celebrate the unique colours and heroic feats of Mayo football, looking back through the years and forward into the 21st Century. It was an extraordinary night, and one that will be remembered for years by those that were there.

Because that night spoke about Mayo, who we are and why we are. Mayo people turned up in droves on Saturday night because we’re not fools; we knew the likelihood of a big night in September was unlikely. But we wanted to celebrate the team and the people and the county in the here and now, because it is a team worth celebrating, we are a people worth celebrating and Mayo a county worth celebrating.

Naysayers will sneer about nine point hammerings and poor Mayo and all this other old blather but the fools, the fools, the fools – even last night, as the remains of another Championship returned across the Shannon the undertakers will have heard signs of life from the back of the hearse. Signs of life that will have grown louder and louder as they went deeper and deeper in the West until, returned among the yew trees and the true-hearted boys, in the gloaming and the heather, Mayo football sloughs off the defeat, rises once more from its bier and turn its head towards the FBD League and the 2012 Campaign.

There will always be a Mayo. Now and forever. Up Mayo.