It's easy to lay blame from the outside

GAA: Opinion

Playing through the pain: Tom Parsons and others played through the pain barrier for Mayo. Photo: Sportsfile

Playing through the pain: Tom Parsons and others played through the pain barrier for Mayo. Photo: Sportsfile

Now that the dust has settled and Mayo’s 2015 attempt to win back the Sam Maguire cup for the first time since 1951 came to a very disappointing end, I was somewhat amazed at the way the media and general public analysed the situation. You have to be thick skinned to be a manager of a senior inter-county team; I know I will never be. The knives are most certainly out. Everybody bar the team’s kit man has had some level of blame directed towards them.

The Saturday evening of the game and the Sunday after it was general disappointment, by Monday the players had turned incapable of winning anything, and by Wednesday it was, “What the hell are we doing with two managers anyway and which of them is making decisions”. It’s easy to be wise after the event has taken place but not one person, nor journalist or expert TV pundit has any idea what goes on within any team’s preparations or circumstances. The Mayo team that had given us one of the best comebacks of all time in the drawn game were all of a sudden being cast aside by comments such as “it’s as well they lost, it’ll save us a fortune not going to the final and getting hammered by Kerry again” — harsh to say the least.

Word has it that the entire Dublin set-up were in the National Aquatic Centre at 9am the morning after the drawn game, and thereafter they were shipped off to some form of oxygen chamber which heals the body and injured muscles 10 times faster than the norm. If that’s not professionalism of the highest order then I give up, and I have no doubt very expensive rehabilitation to boot. Without confirmation, I’m sure most of the Mayo players were at work on the Monday morning, still buzzing from their great comeback with adrenalin still hiding the fact their bodies needed a lot more than six days to heal to go at it again.

Playing through the pain

Two players in particular were in big bother for the replay, Donal Vaughan and Tom Parsons. Vaughan’s dislocated AC joint meant he was in real trouble and when the Mayo team was announced, I thought there is no way he can play, so I was truly amazed when he took to the field, obviously not right and far from 100 per cent. And when you watched his attempt at defending Ciaran Kilkenny early on where he wasn’t able to lift his right arm over his head to try to block Kilkenny’s shot, you knew his day was done. Donal Vaughan obviously went to great lengths and pain to try to be right for the replay travelling to the sports injury clinic in Santry the week before the replay for expert rehabilitation advice. I’m sure there was a strenuous fitness test which he passed, and he obviously told his managers he was fit and raring to go. Some will question the decision to play him, others will question Vaughan himself, but here is a prime example of a Mayo man putting his limbs on the line in pursuit of the holy grail. Donal Vaughan was no doubt in agony after the game.

In a more secretive instance, Tom Parsons' broken thumb was kept very quiet. Some wise GAA people I spoke to yesterday were still blissfully unaware he had a broken thumb at all. I knew early on in the week before the replay but didn’t breathe a word of it to anyone. Parson’s broke his thumb 15 minutes into the drawn game but played on in that game and played well. A Mayo supporter from east Mayo questioned me about it outside Croke Park before the replay which was the first word I had heard about it from the general public. Not one person in the media area of Croke Park had any idea either, which is impressive at keeping things tight within the camp. Tom had surgery on his thumb last Wednesday and won’t play football for the rest of the year, another putting his limbs on the line for the cause.

Going through the mill

People were questioning the substitutions of Colm Boyle and Barry Moran, but as outsiders how were we to question the decisions. Their legs must have been gone; their bodies had been through the mill. Boyle most certainly goes full throttle for everything and after all the ploughing and hitting he did in the first game it had to have had an effect. I don’t imagine he was in an oxygen chamber in Ballindine between the games. In those desperate last 10 minutes Mayo had lost their three chief ball winners in Seamie O'Shea (harsh black card ) Moran and Parsons' and their wrecking ball Boyle, and with the greatest respect to our substitutes, they are not of the calibre of the men they replaced.

Power from the bench

Compare that to what Dublin brought onto the field and there was only to be one winner. Dublin had two former footballers of the year in Michael Darragh McCauley and Alan Brogan, and Mayo’s chief tormentor with Mayo roots Kevin McManamon to bring on in time of need. I’m not as disillusioned as I was this time last year; Mayo were beaten by a better team but I am disappointed for the team who give their all year after year. It bemuses me that the same supporters that pat them on the back when they win are the first to insult and abuse them when they lose. They should be treated the same no matter what the outcome. They are amateur sportsmen who have given us some wonderful days out. Sunday’s final will be intriguing; will Kerry’s backs handle the Dublin forwards seems to be the key question? It will be nice to watch a game without putting myself through the emotion mill again.

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