Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Days of Wind and Timber - Mayo Blown Away in Salthill

This piece is, I believe, in the print edition of this morning's Mayo News. Sadly, it doesn't seem to have made the cut for the web edition, but this is a small matter to one with the power to cut and to paste.

Galway 2-10
Mayo 0-09

THE SEANFHOCAL TELLS US “ní hé lá na gaoithe lá na scolb”; the windy day is not the day for thatching. The deeply saddened Mayo contingent coming home from Sunday’s defeat in Galway could be forgiven for reflecting that this particular windy day wasn’t so terribly great for Mayo football either.

It was a ill wind indeed for Mayo. WB Yeats asks “what need have you to mind / The monstrous crying of the wind?” in his lovely little lyric for Maud Gonne’s daughter, To a Child Dancing in the Wind. Neither a child nor a poet had any business out in Páirc an Phiarsaigh on Sunday, dancing or otherwise. Galway came at Mayo with the ferocity of fifteen heron-choking hurricanes, and Mayo were blown away by half-time. In fact, such was the, ahem, commitment in the exchanges that a worried parent would have been forgiven for giving a gasúr a tenner’s worth of loose change and sending him or her up to the amusement arcades for a hour’s Tetris; the football was strictly over-eighteens fare.

Mayo can have no complaints. They gave as good as they got in the handbag exchanges, but it’s hard to claim seaside robbery when only three players score and you finish seven points in arrears on the only register that matters, the scoreboard. Peter Ford – on the business end of disgraceful mutterings in Galway over his management prior to the game, for reasons that are unfathomable from this, beaten, remove – planned his ambush perfectly, and when the time came, Mayo fell head over heels into the trap. Cormac Bane’s two expertly finished and clinically dispatched goals in the first half-hour put Mayo on the ropes; when nothing happened when O’Mahony played his aces from the bench, David Brady and Ciarán McDonald, and when both Conor Mortimer and Pat Harte were desperately unlucky with goal chances early in the second half, it was just a question then of shipping the final punch and the tumble into the oblivion of the qualifiers.

On the bright side for the county Mayo, there are seven weeks until the qualifier match, which is an aeon in football terms. It’s like a whole new Championship, really, and any hangover that may exist from Sunday’s disappointment will be long gone. On the less bright side, one of the reasons John O’Mahony was able to resurrect Galway in 2001 and take them from a comprehensive whacking from Roscommon in Tuam to their ninth All-Ireland in a single unprecedented and still unrepeated summer was the good fortune of drawing Wicklow in the first round of the qualifiers. With the Division 4 teams losing in the Championship before Provincial Final level now condemned to the Tommy Murphy Cup, Johnno may not be as lucky next time out. Donegal or Armagh, anyone?

But no matter. We shall take the poet Kipling’s advice, looking at triumph and disaster and treating both impostors the same. We are Mayo, after all; it’s not like we’ve not been here before. If we in Mayo have learnt anything as a football people in the past eighteen years, since the first coming of Johnno brought us to our first All-Ireland final since 1951, it’s how to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves down, and start all over again.

There is, however, one small request that I would like to make, on behalf on the fans, like myself, who wouldn’t know that much about football really, but who are inclined to measure their lives in Championship summers. This is the second time in ten years that Galway have ended Mayo’s Championship before the schools have got their holidays, and both times have been under the stewardships of Mayo managers – Peter Ford this year, and Johnno himself in 1998. So the next time some Saoi or Wise One of Mayo football burns with the missionary spirit to bring the gospel outside the heather county, could he or she please be so good as to travel a bit further than Galway next time? Manchuria Mitchells could do with a good coach I’m sure, or Shangri-La Sarsfields, or Abu Dhabi Davitts. Anywhere, in fact, but Galway. They have forty-four Connacht titles and nine Sams, and they’re not finished yet. They don’t really need any more dig outs from us.

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