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The Galway and Mayo footballers enjoyed plenty of national exposure in the media as a result of two melees and three red cards that came at the end of what had been an entertaining National League fixture at Pearse Stadium on Sunday.
Kevin Walsh's Galway, in division one for the first time since 2011, have made a tremendous start to their league campaign with two consecutive wins over Ulster opposition.
The shadow boxing and experimenting has come to a close, with the end of the FBD League last Sunday for Mayo. This weekend Mayo will make the trip to Clones in the reverse fixture of last year's National Football League opener which was won by the Farney county men in MacHale Park. The top division in the National Football League is a high intensity environment — Mayo want to hit the ground running and they will be targeting a win in this game.
With respect to the FBD league Mayo's season kicks off in earnest this Sunday when they travel to Clones to take on Monaghan in the first round of the National Football League. The FBD was somewhat of a calamitous affair this year with the weather playing puck with fixtures resulting in postponements and last minute cancellations. The decision to call off the Mayo v Galway game at the 11th hour the most frustrating postponement, as almost 3,000 spectators had gathered in Baltic conditions in Elverys MacHale Park. Most wondered why the decision was not made earlier. That re-fixture meant Mayo of course had to play three games in five days, two of which were lost while the other was a draw. Amazingly last weekend Mayo's game went ahead against Sligo albeit after a venue change. It was the only inter county game that took place last Sunday.
Keith Higgins will be another familiar face missing from Mayo’s opening league encounter against Monaghan next weekend, with the Ballyhaunis clubman yet to join up with the panel for the new season.
The provincial club championships really kicked into life last weekend with some mouth watering games and exhilarating displays in all four Provinces and no question the shock of the club season occurred in Leinster as the mighty St Vincent's were humbled by Wicklow champions Rathnew. Credit to Castlebar Mitchels who qualified for another Connacht club final after getting the job done eventually against Sligo champions Tourlestrane but not without a real scare. Castlebar are not playing with the same fluency and conviction of other years which is slightly worrying from their viewpoint but the most important thing is that they are winning.
It was back to the harsh reality for Mayo players last weekend as they played in the final group games of the championship for their clubs. It is not the easiest thing to motivate yourself for — a club game after what they have been through, as most if not all of them will take a long time to get over the heartbreak of the All-Ireland final. It is a weird scenario. People from opposing clubs who were screaming from the rafters for you two weeks previous now see you as the panto villain, while club players playing against you would like nothing more than to have a cut at you, to take you down a peg or two, knowing you will be in a relatively fragile state of mind. For some the club is a great distraction especially if their club has a chance of winning silverware or making it through to the next round. For others it is a burden having to play when you know your team is going nowhere.
Now that the dust has settled on the inter-county season for another year attention turns back to the local scene this weekend with the double header of replays in the Mayo Junior Football Championship on Saturday evening announcing the return to local action. The action will get under way at 6pm with the meeting of Ballycastle and Kilmeena, followed by the clash of Balla and Achill at 7.30pm.
This football lark does not get any easier does it. The feeling of sick in the pit of my stomach the morning after an All-Ireland final is an all too familiar feeling now after Mayo suffered another agonising one point defeat to Dublin in another All-Ireland final. The margin of loss makes it even more difficult to take. The level of Mayo's performance makes it hard to comprehend they did not win the game. Every mistake and refereeing decision will be scrutinised and placed under the microscope for years to come.
Sometimes it’s not about being the better team, it’s about finding ways to win games when you are probably second best on the day. Dublin were able to do that, they were able to get themselves over the line right at the end when it mattered most and they claimed their third All Ireland title in a row.