Seán Rice has been tracking the fortunes of Mayo footballers for decades and believes that for the first time in the modern era there is finally some justification to the sniff of expectation about All-Ireland glory around the county
WE are wary about calling it. Too often we have trudged home from Croke Park convinced that underachievement was and must ever be the ordained course of Mayo football.
Sunday’s is their seventh senior final since 1989, but the All-Ireland shadow stretches back farther, back through the mists of time . . . all the way to 1951. Cautious? Who could be otherwise?
In many of those finals expectation in Mayo rose higher than good sense would have it. Outside the county the team had convinced few that an All-Ireland was within reach. With an unprecedented record of failure against the likes of Kerry, Cork and Meath high hopes were not tenable.
In 1997 the hype went viral. Having lost the final to Meath by a point in a replay the previous year, Mayo were back in the final, confident of beating Kerry. This was it, the bugle call to victory, the day everyone was waiting for. But the worst Kerry team ever to win an All-Ireland elbowed them out by three points.
Midfield star Darragh O’Shea would later write: “We sensed glory, because Mayo were too hyped up, and it was really set up for us to knock them off their perch.”
We dreamed on regardless, unmindful that Mayo relied too heavily on their best few players to win. Followers expected miracles when the truth is the physical and mental strength of the team did not measure up.
Come the next final and the bounce was back in their step, hope hinging more on the belief that the misery had to end sometime, than on any notable change in style or conviction.
It never did end. Kerry won in 2004, and again in 2006, and each time thoughts and hopes and beliefs were flung back into disarray. The horizon seemed farther away than ever.
Since his advent in 2011, manager James Horan has wrought serious change and for the first time the candyfloss image has begun to disappear. He led his team to the semi-final in his first year, to the final against champions Donegal last year, and now to their seventh final since 1989. Once again there is a sniff of expectation in the air . . . subdued, but with some justification at last.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
Galway’s U20s aim to halt Cork’s All-Ireland hurling treble in its tracks
THE Rebels are on the march and have a clean sweep of the senior, U20 and minor All-Ireland hurling titles in their sights – but Galway U20s have the opportunity of stopping resurgent Cork’s treble quest in the first of those deciders at Semple Stadium on Tuesday (7.30pm).
Jeffrey Lynskey’s charges gained revenge on Dublin in the recent Leinster Final and will be seeking the county’s first title at this level since 2011.
Galway are the outsiders to carry the day, but will be looking to the likes of team captain Seán Neary, Ian McGlynn, Seán McDonagh, Donal O’Shea, Oisín Flannery and John Cooney to lead the way.
Meanwhile, the county minors will also set up an All-Ireland Final against Cork if they ovecome Kilkenny in tomorrow evening’s (Friday, 7.30pm) semi-final in Thurles.
See full previews in Tribune Sport, part of 18 pages of coverage in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie
Corofin show no mercy in thrashing hapless Oughterard
IS there anything to be said for splitting Corofin in two? We jest, of course, but the Dublin-like dominance of the North Galway club on the local scene in the past decade shows no sign of abating.
A new championship, a new-look team, but the same old classy Corofin who were in seventh heaven after bagging a record seven goals in their 27-points victory over hapless Oughterard.
That Kevin O’Brien could spring dual county star, Daithi Burke, and Galway senior footballer Ian Burke, as second-half substitutes when the game was over as a contest, highlights the embarrassment of riches in the Corofin camp.
Nine of Corofin’s starters were on the starting 15 that won an historic three-in-a-row of All-Ireland titles in January, but the introduction of former Galway minor Matthew Cooley, who scored a goal off the bench on his senior club debut, highlighted, too, how they have young talent coming through.
Leaving aside the lack of resistance, particularly in the second half, the ruthless manner in which Corofin annihilated their Connemara opponents was frightening for all other pretenders to the throne.
As warnings go, this was savage, as Corofin signalled their intent about securing an eighth successive county title, with a clinical brushing aside of an Oughterard outfit whose heads-dropped early. Corofin had 11 different scorers, including seven goal scorers; all bar one of their 17 points, were from play.
Darragh Silke who finished with 1-7, ran riot in the second half, and was the game’s best performer, and Micheál Lundy (1-3) proved a handful on the inside line, but Corofin had quality dotted all over the field, and in truth, won without clicking into high gear.
If things went their way in the opening half, Oughterard’s spirits might not have been drained so soon, but they failed to convert the chances they had.
That was the big difference in the first half-hour: Corofin converted 10 out of 10 scoring opportunities that presented themselves, whereas Oughterard hit five wides, including two shots that should at the very least have troubled goalkeeper Bernard Power.
For Oughterard, this will cut deep. The 2019 All-Ireland intermediate winners were unbeaten in championship last season but got a rude awakening on their re-introduction to senior. Their first championship match back in senior in nearly 20 years, and they’re annihilated. To add to the embarrassment, it was televised live on TG4 for all to see.
It was effectively over at half-time, but it shouldn’t have been. Oughterard had enough of the play, and enough chances, to be still in with a shout at the change of ends and they just failed to punish their more ruthless opponents.
Full report in this week’s Connacht Tribune.
Ó Fatharta lauds minor squad for response to Mayo reversal
GALWAY minor football manager Dónal Ó Fátharta has praised his young charges for the manner in which they responded to their Connacht final defeat to Mayo.
Ó Fátharta’s squad turned on the style when taking down Leinster champions Kildare in their All-Ireland quarter-final at Pearse Park, Longford last weekend to set up a semi-final meeting against a Kerry outfit chasing an incredible six-in-a-row of titles at this grade.
However, the Galway manager admitted he was concerned initially as to how his players would respond to the provincial final loss to Mayo. “After the Connacht final, the guys were down. We gave them a week off, which we were going to do anyways. When they came back in for our meeting and the usual stuff, I was worried, but, after that meeting, I wasn’t worried. I was hopeful.
“For the last two weeks, they have worked hard. We played Dublin in a challenge and it was one of those games of 30 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes. We were very sharp that night. That reinforced it for me that there was a performance in these guys. The next challenge is a game in Croke Park, which is another step up, but I am delighted that they are there and they have that opportunity.”
Indeed, Ó Fátharta described his players’ display against Kildare as “a complete performance”, noting: “Structurally, I think we were very good. I think we took our chances, and we did everything that we talk about doing every day. They took their chances when they had to; they worked hard; they put in shifts, and all that sort of stuff. So, we are delighted with the performance.”
See full report and reaction in Connacht Tribune Sport.