A sense of deflation has descended upon us Mayo folk after Mayo's shock defeat to Kildare in the qualifiers, and now with the two groups of four for the Super 8s decided it is hard to comprehend Mayo not being involved in it.
With all the talk and debate about the new quarterfinal structure over the last few months, the general expectation was that Mayo was going to be a big part of it. Even after the loss to Galway supporters were not too despondent as the draw had fallen kindly for us to take our place in the new format. Keeping Mayo, Tyrone, and Monaghan away from each other seemed ideal to have all the big hitters in the last eight.
That is the thing that is hard to get your head around. As the GAA slogan suggests "nothing beats being there". I was so looking forward to seeing how it panned out as long as Mayo were in one of the final groups. I could not wait to see what team Mayo would get to play in Castlebar in a group game.
It is a bit sickening that we have been to the penultimate and ultimate stages of the All-Ireland championship consistently for the last six years, losing narrowly on every occasion to the eventual All-Ireland champions, be it at semifinal or final stage, and now we have to sit back and watch the rest take centre stage.
This will be Cillian O’Connor’s first year as a Mayo senior footballer not playing in a semifinal or final. Had Mayo made it through to the Super 8s however I would have been slightly worried if I am honest. Worried that Dublin or Kerry might give us a hiding because of the mileage on the clock and the enduring path it took to get there along with the missing players that Mayo simply cannot do without.
I would still have taken the gamble however. It seems despite the rally cry from some of our more experienced players that Mayo have great strength in depth in their squad, the evidence will prove otherwise. Despite Mayo bringing on a host of seasoned campaigners against Kildare along with our find of the season in Eoin O'Donoghue, the first substitution in Newbridge was not made until the 55th minute, which considering the heat and draining conditions was a long time going with the same 15.
When we factor in what Colm Boyle, Keith Higgins, and Kevin McLoughlin have put their bodies through over the last seven years we always knew it was going to catch up on them. It had to have taken its toll. They were dead on their feet in Newbridge.
It insinuates that the manager does not exactly have the greatest of faith in his reserves and preferred to leave his tried and trusted in the action for as long as possible when some of them had nothing left. History will suggest Mayo would have grown into the competition. We will never know. A rest for the players is not ideal but welcomed. The reality of missing out on the Super 8s will properly hit home when they get under way tomorrow in Croke Park.
Kildare and Roscommon stood up when it counted
Personally there are absolutely no sour grapes towards Kildare making the Super 8s. They have completely turned their season around. No doubt the #newbridgeornowhere stance has galvanised them, some will suggest they got unfair motivation because of their off field actions. They looked very composed and confident in their emphatic win over Fermanagh in their round four qualifier. It is hard to believe this is the same team that went on a 12 month, 12 game, losing streak. Now they have notched four championship wins in a row.
Full credit must also be given to Roscommon who put the disappointment of a very poor second half in the Connacht final behind them to win a sensational game against Armagh. For some the Rossies' 2-22 to 1-19 win against Armagh was the game of the season. The booby prize for their win is a Super 8 group with Dublin, Donegal, and Tyrone. Monaghan and Tyrone, the other two successful round four winners making Roscommon the only provincial final losers to get through. Tyrone's win over Cork confirmed one thing, Cork football is in a dire mess of biblical proportions. Their 3-20 to 0-13 hammering by Tyrone means they have lost against Kerry and Tyrone by a cumulative total of 33 points which is alarming for a county of its size, population, and tradition.
For us Mayo fans we will have a long summer without football although hopefully our U20 team will give us something to shout about when they take on Derry in the All-Ireland semifinal on Saturday afternoon at 4pm in Carrick-on-Shannon. The congested season is all fine and well but I am sure there are many Mayo supporters who would like to attend the U20 game but also watch the two Super 8 games taking place in Croke Park.
What beggars belief is that Mayo and Derry are playing each other in the U21 hurling championship at the same venue 21 hours later. How the powers that be could not have organised a double header in Carrick-on-Shannon for the two games defies logic.