Inside Track with John McIntyre
OUR hearts ache for the greatest Gaelic football team to now probably never win the All-Ireland title. Another cruel, devastating final loss for Mayo at Croke Park last Sunday continues a cycle of big-day heartache. We cry because of them; we cry for them; we cry with them.
Though Dublin deserve enormous credit for becoming the first county in over 30 years to win three All-Ireland titles on the trot, it’s still the luckless Mayo footballers who dominate the post-match narrative. They were again heroic on the sport’s biggest day only to fall agonising short in another epic struggle.
The sporting gods certainly have not shone down on Mayo over the past seven years during which time they have lost three All-Ireland semi-finals, including a replay defeat to Kerry at the Gaelic Grounds, and four finals. Incredibly, three of those were by one-point margins to Dublin, while they also narrowly fell to Donegal in the 2012 decider after being hit by an early two-goal salvo.
That’s a wretched run of results by any standards and though a couple of those defeats were largely their own fault, they just can’t seem to catch a break when they most need it. Mayo again pushed the champions to the wire, but that is no consolation to a group of men who again emptied themselves in trying to end a protracted 66-year All-Ireland famine.
Having made their fourth final in seven years after a marathon run of nine matches, Mayo were utterly undaunted by Dublin’s reputation or the fact that the title holders looked better than ever this year and had steamrolled their way to Croke Park on the third Sunday of September. They didn’t blink when Con O’Callaghan netted a wonderful individual goal after just 90 seconds or when Dublin pulled two points ahead at a critical stage of the second-half.
Instead, they just kept going to the bitter end only to be denied by a nerveless Dean Rock free in the 76th minute. The margins were that close. Sadly, Cillian O’Connor had hit the post from a difficult place ball moments earlier, a chance to have edged Mayo back in front. The title could have gone either way but, once again, it’s the lionhearted Connacht men who are engulfed by despair.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.