There is a great comfort about diving into some place for a bite of lunch and opting for the same bloody thing every day. The familiarity with which we go back to the tried and tested leaves one leaving the establishment, our appetite sated, but perhaps cursing ourselves for not having the neck to try something different.
Why didn’t we go for the house special, and then we tell ourselves that if the house special was so reckon’ special, it’d be on the menu all the time.
And so to Sunday
I’ve gone to Croke Park and invariably come back with what I’d expected. My expectations have never ever been widely exceeded when it comes to Mayo. There have been some marvellous days, but to be brutally honest, we often leave having consumed what we thought we would before we got in the door of the place.
We’ve won the matches that we expected to win, and we’ve lost the ones that we kind of expected to lose. We’ve rarely gone beyond that. We’ve delivered what we thought we would deliver. We’ve failed where we thought we might fail.
Maybe it’s time for something different.
The house special.
Jim McGuinness wrote earlier in the week that what Mayo need to do on Sunday is to bring a bit of anarchy to the situation. I’m sure he didn’t mean that they come in swingin’ and flakin’ from the off. But there is a need for something different. There is a need to make sure that this game isn’t over before it begins. There is a need to ensure that the Dubs know they have to be at their best to beat us. The only result that would be galling this Sunday would be if we lose this final without giving ourselves a chance of winning. We don’t want the Dubs to win this final pulling up.
The rest of the country wants us to win, just as we did with Tipperary in the hurling.
We are privileged to be in the final again. We have a duty to play for the rest of the country, to make sure that the showpiece final is a showpiece and we can only do that by putting it up to the Dubs.
What Mayo have on Sunday is a free shot. Dublin are massive favourites and know that they will win if they perform at 100 per cent. No matter what psychology Jim Gavin and his backroom team supply, there is almost certainly an air of expectation about the Dublin players that they will be celebrating next week. They will have seen the paucity of Mayo’s approach all season and they know that if they play at their top standard, they will succeed. Maybe if they only play at 80 per cent.
And because of this, I think there is hope for Mayo. While there is no doubt Dublin were roused for the match against Kerry, there was an edge to their performance that day because there was a strong possibility that they could have lost. That edge fired them on. On Sunday Dublin enter with an air of expectation, no matter how well concealed it will be with layers and layers of plamas praise lavished on what a great team Mayo have been etc etc…and how much they will be respected.
To earn every point Dublin score, Mayo should make sure they work bloody hard for it, to bring a different approach to the game, beyond the tactics that have seen us perform in spurts rather than tidal waves this summer.
And so we approach this game on Sunday with nerves.
We have to hope that Dublin will only win this game comfortably if they perform at their very best. And that Mayo will only lose it if they allow Dublin the freedom to pick them off at will.
I love being involved at the business end of the championship. I don’t get hung up on losses in the past. That was a different country. Every loss had its reasons. No, I love that our team is a top top team who are always there at this end. There is nothing worse that simply not mattering.
Mayo have mattered for the past decade.
And will matter until one day when it will all click and we win.
And when that happens, we will enjoy the success unlike any other team has or ever will. This weekend we will head eastwards in the knowledge that “events, dear boy, events” will happen that change the outcome of this game — that it will have its peaks and troughs and that we will hopefully be able to master them.
As Mayo fans, we are portrayed as bridesmaids and pitied, but nothing could be further from the truth.
We march east proud of our team.
And hopefully we will return west into the setting sun, even prouder.