As Mayo people, it really does not seem to bother us right now because we most definitely dine at the top table in terms of Gaelic football. Not only have the Mayo team won five Nestor cups in a row but more impressively they have qualified for the All-Ireland semi-final five years in a row, beating Donegal twice, Cork twice, and Down in those quarter finals. Two of them, victories against Cork in 2011 and Donegal in 2013, were when they were All Ireland champions.
How would we feel if our team took a hiding at the hands of one of the super powers of Gaelic football, took a hiding from anyone for that matter, as has been happening to many teams this year? Would we want the format of the championship changed? Would we want a two tier championship? Would we keep going to games if we expected our team to ship a hiding?
It is easy right now to ignore such a circumstance but unless you are from Kerry, and maybe now Dublin with their population and resources, football teams in all the other counties come in cycles, this Mayo team are not going to be around forever. I have experienced playing for Mayo when things have not exactly been so rosy and also when we were within the bounce of a ball of being All Ireland champions. Currently Mayo are on the crest of a wave and people should appreciate it while it lasts. Mayo failed to win a Connacht Championship for a full decade in the seventies, imagine what that was like.
It has not always been this good for us
After being in the All-Ireland final in 1989 against Cork and narrowly losing, Mayo shipped an unmerciful hiding in the 1993 All Ireland semi-final against the same opposition. We lost against Leitrim the year after in 1994 in the Connacht final, yes Leitrim, and yet two years later in 1996 with a small stroke of luck we could have been All Ireland champions playing out of division three. As Mayo people we must also not forget that in 2010 when this current crop were starting out we were defeated by Sligo in the Connacht championship and a week later humiliated losing to Longford in Pearse Park, not exactly beaten by two super powers of Gaelic football I am sure you will agree.
So where is the happy medium, who has the answer? A two tier championship would have meant we would not have seen Sligo’s impressive win against Roscommon, we would not have witnessed the comeback of the season when Westmeath overturned a 10 point deficit to beat bitter rivals Meath in the Leinster Championship. Fermanagh would not have caught the imagination of the country pulling off some great results against far bigger teams than themselves. We would not have been able to see Kildare turn the screw on Cork in Thurles. For me that is what I love about football, the underdog getting his day in the sun, but as I mentioned a few weeks back football has gone crazy. Three of the above teams that had great days out this year shipped hidings of 15 points plus. Sligo and Kildare lost games by 26 and 27 points respectively. Westmeath capitulated after beating Meath, which meant that their fantastic day in the sun will barely be remembered by anyone outside the county. Just ask yourself one question. If what happened to Kildare (a football proud county ) this year happened to Mayo in a few years when the golden era team are past it, losing two games by a cumulative total of 46 points, what would we wish for? Answers on a postcard.
Doing anything to win
Having been beaten by Donegal in the middle of May in the Ulster championship, Tyrone have certainly made use of the qualifier route. Their quarter-final win against Ulster champions Monaghan was a deplorable spectacle hindered by cynical and disgusting behaviour on and off the ball. I suggest for anyone not already wise to go to a Tyrone game to see what takes place off camera, the verbals they engage in with their opponents should be a yellow card offence. They do not exactly endear themselves to all that is good about Gaelic football, and Tiernan McCann’s blatant dive when he was barely touched by Monaghan’s Darren Hughes in the quarter final has compounded the theory that they will do quite literally anything to win. Their contest with Kerry on Sunday will be intriguing and I know how difficult Kerry will be to beat in a final, but I hope football prevails and that negative and cynical tactics get found out. Tyrone will use the media frenzy about McCann to galvanise themselves for Sunday´s semi final.
A few final thoughts
It is with great relief that I hear former Armagh player Ronan Clarke is making a recovery after his horrific collision with a goalpost while playing for his club Pearse og. The 32-year-old has been in fine form for his club scoring heavily but his recovery is far more important than any football match. What great wins they were for the Galway minor and senior hurlers last weekend. It will mean their supporters will have the bulk of tickets for the All-Ireland final which should be worth a point or two .At the same time you have to feel for Tipperary´s Seamus Callanan, scoring 3-09 and finishing on the losing side.