Mayo go down fighting, but it’s not enough

It was not to be once again for Mayo.

On Sunday they travelled in their thousands to Croke Park and left disappointed once again. Six times since 1989 Mayo supporters have made that trip to Dublin 3 for the showpiece occasion in the football season and six times they have returned empty handed.

In the same time period, the Tribesmen have raided the capital and bought Sam home twice.

Manager James Horan has done a massive rebuilding job since he took over Mayo following the despair of 2010 when they were eliminated from the championship at the hands of Longford - before June was even over.

Since then back to back Connacht titles, a league final appearance, and now an All Ireland final appearance have been achieved - but no Sam Maguire.

It would have been easy for Horan to bemoan the fact that Mayo did not get a deserved free in the build-up to Colm McFadden’s goal, which put Donegal 2-1 to 0-0 up with barely 10 minutes played. Instead Horan pointed out that it was a Mayo error in defence that ultimately handed the ball to McFadden to finish to the net.

That is where Mayo are at now, they have moved past excuses. It is about taking responsibility for their own actions on the field, and that shone through in 60 minutes of the game.

It would have been easy for Mayo to crumble and let Donegal steamroll them as they may have done in past finals when Kerry got a run on them early. But they did not. They steadied their nerve, puffed out their chests, and got stuck back in to Donegal and never wilted in the face of what looked to be inevitable defeat from as early as Michael Murphy’s first score of the day.

Allowing Donegal to grab a seven-point lead was always going to take a miracle to overhaul.

All the talk in the build-up was that Mayo could not allow Donegal to build up a three or four-point advantage heading into the final third - thus pulling back a seven-point lead was going to take a huge effort.

They did pull it back to three at the break and on a couple of occasions in the second half, but as soon as they did, Jimmy McGuinness’ Donegal were able to push on again. It was not helped when Mayo hit three wides in a row as Donegal were beginning to feel the pressure at that stage.

However the truth is Donegal is the best team in the country, and there is no shame in Mayo having been beaten by them. Mayo were rank outsiders at the start of the year and, when the likes of Kerry, Kildare and Tyrone, who were all ahead of them in the pecking order, lost twice over this championship year, Mayo lost only once.

It is the hardest loss to take, but they did so standing up and fighting, not lying on their backs as they could have easily done.


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