Mary Hannigan of The Irish Times is one of my favourite journalists. Her TV View column in Monday’s Times is a must read as her humour, caustic wit, and wry take on things invariably brings a smile to my lips.
And despite being hugely disappointed by Galway’s defeat to Kilkenny in the All-Ireland final (again ) and also saddened by the fact that Mayo did not close out the deal against Dublin when they were four up going into the last quarter on Saturday, she did so again this Monday.
Her take on Cyril Farrell really took the biscuit. “Tonight it’s going to be lonely…..around the fields of Athenry”, said Cyril. The wintry child enveloping his soul, having dreamt of seeing the small free maroon birds fly. Some weekend. Mayo, then Galway. The West’s having a wake."
And in that five word sentence she summed up what had happened the Mayo footballers and the Galway hurlers on both Saturday and Sunday. Both sides and their massive support had traveled with huge hopes to the big house in the East only to be well beaten by superior sides.
Lee Keegan's miss was huge
Mayo had put themselves into a really good position to maybe pull the rug from under Jim Gavin’s side when they went four-up, however they did not push on, with that being epitomised by Lee Keegan’s poor effort at a point that would have turned that four into a five point gap. Keegan is a superb wing-back and he is one of the top players in Gaelic football, however his effort that dropped short to Stephen Cluxton was a big moment in the game and one he will regret over the coming few weeks.
Seamus O’Shea too will be disgusted to have let his emotions get the better of him and his neck squeeze and throw down of Dublin’s Johnny Cooper was a moment of reckless behaviour. A black card was a very severe sanction, a yellow would have sufficed, however the Breaffy man was a big loss to his side for the remainder of the game. Looking at a very dejected Keith Higgins after the final whistle had blown was not easy and there was a feeling in the stadium that perhaps for some of these brave and valiant Mayo men the chance of a Celtic Cross was gone, or if not gone, hanging by a thread. Calling a winner between Dublin and Kerry is not easy, however, Dublin will improve enormously courtesy of their two jousts with the Connacht champions.
Galway get the old familiar feeling
The Galway hurlers have now been defeated in six All-Ireland finals since 1990 and once Kilkenny took a grip on proceedings in the second half, Galway never looked like winning. In fact there was an inevitable feel to the outcome for the entire last quarter as Kilkenny’s grip on proceedings became almost vice-like as the second half wore on. And while Brian Cody's men only won the game by four points on the score-board, it felt like a good bit more, with Joe Canning's late goal from a free purely a statistical detail.
After the 2012 All-Ireland defeat to the Cats, Galway disappeared for two years before getting on a run this year. It is important that Anthony Cunningham and his panel of players reflect on what went wrong last weekend and try to build on the work they have done this year to come back stronger and more streetwise in 2016.
However, as we all know, and the Mayo footballers do too, saying it, thinking it, writing it and doing it, are entirely different things. The harsh reality is that Kilkenny are the current Kings of hurling in the country and it will take an exceptional performance or team to knock them off that pedestal. Hopefully, that will happen sooner rather than later, and if they wore maroon jerseys that would be all the better.