Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Mayo Championship Preview 2010

Leonard Cohen, like all great poets and artists, is a Mayoman. He’s not actually from Mayo, of course, but that doesn’t matter. Mayo is so much more a state of mind than an actual place, bounded by mere convention of geography or physical reality. Mayo is bigger than that.

And how else but through being a Mayoman in his soul could Cohen, the poet of romantic despair, have written so many songs that so precisely describe the condition of those associated with the team? Tonight Will Be Fine, the song the players sing the tunnel in the hope of avoiding another catastrophe. Ain’t No Cure for Love, as the fans pick the bones of another black day on the long road home. One of Us Cannot Be Wrong, as the Board try to figure out how in God’s name they got saddled with floodlights that they can’t turn on. And for the manager, Hallelujah, of course.

Hallelujah opens with a scene that’s very appropriate to John O’Mahony at the moment. King David is trying to write a psalm in order to give praise to God, and he’s finding it a bit of a struggle:

It goes like this
The fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah

It’s just like looking into Johnno’s head, isn’t it? The baffled king composing Hallelujah. Herding cats is a fine job compared to this. And right now, it’s very hard to see them getting herded to Croke Park anytime in the late summer.

Anything can happen of course. O’Mahony has turned things around before, rejigging Galway after Roscommon hammered them in Tuam nine years ago. Maybe he can take the ashes currently before him and restore life to the husk of a football team.

Johnno was all about positivity after that loss against Cork two weeks ago. The problem is that he’s been talking down Mayo’s chances since he was given the keys of the car four years ago so it’s something of a challenge to suddenly turn that around and expect people to believe in a long summer.

An Spailpín hopes to God there’s positivity in the camp, because there’s very little of it in the county. Whatever else you can say about O’Mahony, he hasn’t been afraid to try players. All his team selections have been radical. But they haven’t worked, and that’s the crucial thing.

There’s no shame in losing to Cork. It’s not like Cork are a bad football team. But to see the Mayo team so lacking direction against Cork was heartbreaking.

Kieran Shannon wrote in the Tribune last Sunday that Mayo haven’t shown bite since 1997. Kieran Shannon must be watching a different a different Mayo to An Spailpín. There was plenty of bite in the team that challenged the Hill in 2006. The team that came back from 1-3 to 0-0 down after ten minutes to beat Galway in 2004. Bite isn’t the issue. Mayo’s issues are deeper than that.

And too deep, unfortunately, to resolve this year. There are many great players in Mayo – again, contrary to popular perception – but they don’t know where they’re playing or what they’re meant to do. They’ll give heart and soul for the colours and the county, but there are too many pieces out of place to fall into place in time to mount a serious run in the Championship this year.

The yearning of Mayo people for a deal sealed on the third Sunday of September is seen as unrealistic by many commentators. It does not seem impossible to An Spailpín Fánach. Mayo reach so many finals how is it unreasonable not to expect them to win one of them, if only by a combination of pox and the law of averages? No wonder the Minister for Education is trying to get Universities to accept people who have failed Honours Maths in the Leaving. As a nation, we're clearly cook at sums.

The happy day will come. It’s not impossible that it will come this year, of course, but it’s not likely. Which doesn’t meant we should give up. Heart with No Companion is another song that Leonard Cohen has written that speaks directly to the true-hearted men from the County Mayo.

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