Monday, June 27, 2011

Mayo's Dogs of War - First Class Display from Second Class Citizens

It’s funny being a second class citizen. As Vincent Vega remarked about Europe, it’s not that like it's totally alien. It’s just the little differences.

If Meath, say, dog out a win on a day so miserable that it could have come right out of one of the more gloomy episodes of Peig Sayers’ life, then Meath are a team with mental strength, team that are never bet, a great bunch of bucks. If Mayo do it, it’s a further indication of the decline of Connacht football.

If Kildare, for instance, shoot nine first half wides then Kildare are a total football team and a credit to Kieran McGeeney and his lovely hair. If Mayo do it, it’s Mayo God help us all over again.

If Tyrone hold an opponent to one point in the second half it’s testimony to how organized and professional an outfit they are. If Mayo do it, it’s because Galway are but a shadow of past glories and hey, Connacht football is only for gimps anyway.

Mayo people, if they are wise, will ignore all this and take a huge amount of positives from the game yesterday in Castlebar. A friend of An Spailpín likes to quote Seán Boylan’s remark that football isn’t won in the head or the heart but in the belly.

Mayo showed some serious fight in the second half to hammer Galway like a nail and they should draw considerable strength from that as they look ahead to the rest of the summer.

Football is in a process of evolution. The conventional midfielder doesn’t exist anymore. There are goalkeepers, full backs and full forwards, and then there is the maelstrom of the middle third where only the strong survive.

In An Spailpín’s ideal world Willie Joe soars for the high ball under the clear blue skies before horsing it inside for Jimmy Burke or Noel Durkin. But in the real world, where you have manky weather and big question marks hanging over you, you fight for your very life.

And that’s exactly what Mayo did against Galway. They didn’t play in the Mayo style. They couldn’t – the TV really didn’t show what it was like to be out there in the teeming rain and into the teeth of a gale. Mayo fought like savages, and they came out on top.

Mayo were Kings of the Dirty Ball yesterday. Inspired by the O’Shea brothers, Mayo fought like junkyard dogs for every ball between the 45 metre lines and that’s why they won.

This is tremendous and heartening news for Mayo. John O’Mahony talked a lot about rebuilding, when he was actually destroying a team that got to two All-Ireland finals in three years, an achievement was never recognized, celebrated or built on for what it was.

The rebuilding has only started under Horan, and it’s on these young men that Horan has brought in that the future of Mayo will be built.

Mayo are a flawed team. I personally can live with that. I’ve seen lots of Mayo teams that were the best team in Ireland in June and long forgotten in September. I prefer this way. There’s plenty for James Horan to work on – he may need to consider buying a bicycle for Robert Hennelly to get up and down the pitch if Hennelly’s going to be taking many more frees, for instance – but yesterday was a heartening win for Mayo.

The country outside Connacht will hold its nose at the prospect of the Connacht Final, and that’s fine. Maybe the media will insist that all Connacht players be belled for the rest of the Championship, and have continuity announcers warn innocents that a particular afternoon’s football may contain scenes of a Connacht nature. And that’s fine too. We all have to live our lives according to our different lights.

Right now, in a lonesome Dublin exile, there is one happy Mayoman after seeing his team show a little bit of bite. It’ll be fun to see if anybody needs a rabies shot this summer after seventy minutes muzzle to muzzle Mayo’s Dogs of War.

FOCAL SCOIR: Big thumbs up to the beautiful and wonderful Vintage Irish Book Covers blog, from which I’ve sourced the photo. Wonderful site. Beautiful books.