The Mayo players were enjoying the fruits of their labours judging by the noise emanating from their dressing room deep in the bowels of Croke Park last Sunday evening after their four point win over Galway, as their victorious manager Kevin McStay was giving his thoughts on what had happened that afternoon to the press pack.
A obviously joyous Mayo manager was delighted to claim the National Football League Division One title, but knew his side had little time to celebrate with Roscommon coming up this Sunday afternoon in Hastings Insurance MacHale Park in their Connacht Championship opener.
McStay's initial observations were very much delight - but it's only one step on the journey he wants to take this year. "Relieved, quite satisfied, delighted, and there is a part of me saying, ‘cool down now,’ because we have to get ready for next Sunday. That’s just the pity of it, the timing side of it but that’s nothing anybody can do anything about. But overall I’m just delighted, yeah. It’s great to come up and win a national title, so very pleased" he said.
As for how important he saw winning the division one title was for this side, in terms of their overall growth he acknowledged they'd take plenty from it saying: "We’ve won lots of national titles here before, this team hasn’t, this current Mayo team. I think it’s important in terms of their development, I think they’ll take a lot of confidence, I think we all will, from the manner of the victory because there were plenty of errors but I think we still showed the greater desire to win it, which is always nice, and I think we’ll take a lot of momentum, a lot of confidence from winning today. But I’m very away of how dangerous next week’s fixture is and there is part of me already where my brain is jumping to that, I’m kind of nearly afraid to talk about what happened today, in one respect."
While there were plenty of Monday Morning Quarter-Backs in the build up to the game discussing the merits of how Mayo should approach it with championship so close, chasing their approach was something that never entered their minds the Ballina native said.
"No, we’re competitive animals. In fairness we knew about this fixture for the last three months or whatever so that was always in the plan and in the way the backroom team went about preparing the team, so there was no issue about our energy or our fitness. It’s just the psychology of putting a lot into a big match like today, which was added to by the fact of who our opponents were and then jumping straight back to a game where there will be a lot of expectation. But I’m really looking forward to that challenge now, of our team playing with added expectation now that we’ve won the national league."
"I don’t make the fixtures and don’t have a say in it but all I do is react to them and do the best I can for Mayo around those fixtures, so we planned it very carefully in the last three or four weeks almost as a block. But you can’t go beyond a final, today was a final on its own merits that we gave a lot of respect to.
"I said to the TG4 boys that while the league was really good for us, we were really good for the league. We gave a lot of respect, we togged as strong as we could every Sunday - and this Sunday to try and clinch it. We picked a team that we thought could win it, and added to that as the match went on, and I have to see the tape and I know we made lots of errors, but I thought our last 10 minutes, once we saw that this was there to be won I thought that we pushed on quite well."
With Roscommon coming up on Sunday and the visitors chomping at the bit to take down Mayo, McStay praised his captain Paddy Durcan for the way he framed the upcoming challenge and getting everybody out to support the side again this weekend after he collected the cup on Sunday, according to his manager. "Paddy did great in receiving the cup and framing where we want to go this week. We will see them all down in MacHale Park next Sunday when we will need every piece of energy we can get because that was a tough game of football out there.”
Mayo goalkeeper Colm Reape claimed the man of the match award for an eye-catching display with a number of big saves and slotting three points from placed balls, McStay was delighted with his performance - but it didn't surprise him one bit.
"Ah but sure look, that’s his job [the saves]. There are going to be chances from time to time. He was great. I am so pleased for him. He has come a long way in the last six months. A great credit to his coach and to the other two keepers, Rob [Hennelly] and Rory [Byrne] for keeping him honest. There is great competitiveness in the goalkeeping club. He was really good, and not just his goalkeeping.
"His housekeeping around the square was really, really good. And he hit three big frees, so that is a fair day’s work. He got man of the match I heard, so great, I am delighted for him."
Another man who was picked out by McStay was Conor Loftus who continued his assimilation from attacker to ball-playing centre-half-back last weekend and McStay is happy with how things have gone so far in that regards. "What Conor brings to it is he’s a gorgeous footballer, he’s a forward in a former life, he’s very accurate. He’s also very crispy on the ball, he covers ground very quickly.
"People just think he’s in there for kick-passing the ball, but he’s doing so much more than that. He’s a very good reader of the game. He’s a natural footballer, he knows where danger is. We’re very pleased with him. I know there’s a debate, but that’s just noise as far as I’m concerned. We’re very pleased with Conor, we got a great show out of him in this League. That was only his eighth big game in that position so he’s going to get better and better, I’m sure.
"He’s around a good while. He’s 27, 28, he’s around a good while. He’s a confident young man, a very together fella, so nothing out there would frighten him too much. He’ll get stuck in, he has that honesty we’re trying to get into the team. Good, strong attitude – he’s definitely a strong centre back for us, we’re very pleased with him."