So, in the aftermath of last Sunday’s All Ireland football final, the emphasis should be on Kerry’s excellence rather than Mayo’s embarrassment. 4-15 to 3-5 in case you have forgotten, the widest winning margin since 1977. Kerry positively bristling with intent, Mayo seemingly cowed both by the opposition and the weight of expectation.
It’s not unreasonable to suggest that all teams have bad days, and that players are not automatons who deliver at the flick of a switch. Without its inherently unpredictable nature, sport would be a waste of time.
Mayo can go away then and ponder their misfortune. Put this latest defeat down to the side of the bed the players emerged from, or to the alignment of the planets. Sure, hadn’t the supporters already waited 55 years to welcome back the Sam Maguire, another year wouldn’t kill them.
That might be the generous way to go. Sensitive, philosophical even. The players have wives, partners, girlfriends, families and employers, and they simply lost a football match. No one engaged in criminality at Croke Park. Another season ends, a few pints, and we’ll think about next year later.
However, take it as read that Mayo won’t be thinking that way. Okay, there might be some resentment at the stinging nature of the criticism coming down the tracks, but most of the players will recognize that what happened last Sunday was unacceptable.
No one puts a gun to their heads to force them to make the sacrifices they do. They buy into the endless hours of preparation away from the normal world. They buy into it because of their hunger for success. Young men who have a burning desire to leave a mark on the association’s history.
And correctly, they make demands on their county boards. Elite footballers and hurlers are no longer treated like second-class sportsmen. There is infinitely more respect coming from officialdom, but in return, the players now have more responsibility than before.
Mayo gave their people a wondrous day out with their All Ireland semi-final win over Dublin. Not alone were there glimpses of the class that makes a team the best in the country, but there was also belief and leadership, the lack of which had dogged teams that went before.
Kerry might have been coming to the boil nicely after the disappointment of the Munster championship, but Mayo had a realistic shot at winning this final. Suddenly, they were 10 points down after 13 minutes, and even if the gap bizarrely closed around half time, anyone with half a brain knew the contest was over. You don’t give Kerry a 10-point start in an All Ireland final and expect to have a chance.
Mayo’s defense was shambolic, their midfield non-existent, and they only managed one point from play in the entire game. They stood off Kerry as if they were frozen by apprehension. They displayed neither the head not the heart for the battle. They were humiliated.
We shouldn’t go easy on them. In fact, most of the panel wouldn’t want to be patronized anyway. In the context of what the players had put into this championship, and in the context of what an All-Ireland final demands, Mayo were lamentable.
“You can’t go crying; we were beaten by 13 points,” said David Brady who announced his retirement afterwards. “It’s hard to feel upset as we were absolutely destroyed out there. There are no excuses for it. You can’t blame the ref, the weather, the ball, the pitch. Each individual lost his individual battle out there. We hit our peak when he played Dublin.”
One of manager Mickey Moran’s assistants, John Morrison, admitted to the players’ mental frailty. “Where the mind goes, the body follows. It was painfully obvious in the first 15 minutes that our boys were following their minds. There was a bit of naivety and apprehension with coming up against Kerry, and they suffered for it.”
Since Sunday’s debacle, Mayo to their credit, have not been searching for straws of comfort. They deserve no sympathy, just as they deserve no faint praise for reaching the final in the first place. They were awful and Kerry were Kerry.
Someone mentioned that it wasn’t all gloom and doom, weren’t Mayo the second best team in Ireland? Any self-respecting player should ignore that.
Last Sunday might just have been the worst day in the history of Mayo football.
Everyone’s ready for Ryder
America are here, Europe are here, so finally, it must be the Ryder Cup. Strange that after years of frustration and damaged shock absorbers, there’s not a pot-hole to be had in most of County Kildare as all last-minute road surfaces lead to the K Club where the biennial matches get under way on Friday.
You can pick holes in the estimated boost to the Irish economy of