Mayo's heartbreaking wait for Sam continues

Forever faithful: The thousands of Mayo supporters wait in MacHale Park for the Mayo senior and minor teams at the home coming on Monday evening. 
Photo: Sportsfile

Forever faithful: The thousands of Mayo supporters wait in MacHale Park for the Mayo senior and minor teams at the home coming on Monday evening. Photo: Sportsfile

The first Mayo man I met early on Monday morning in the staff room just nodded at me. Smiled a sheepish, bashful smile, shrugged his shoulders, looked a tad embarrassed and said nothing. And he was right. Because, unfortunately, there was nothing to say.

He had been in Croke Park - and the pain of another All-Ireland final defeat was clear and obvious in his cheerless eyes. Sunday had been another glorious day full of heady excitement, anticipation, and expectation for the green and red hordes in the big smoke. If I heard it once, I heard it 20 times - "This is the year".

And as we have seen regrettably all too often with Mayo and with the Galway hurlers, it ended with nothing to show for any of that belief and hope, but melancholy, and another bagful of "what-ifs" to be dissected on the journey home.

Mayo huffed and puffed, but the reality is that Dublin were that little bit better and in Bernard Brogan they had one marquee forward to do the scoring business, whereas on the day, Mayo had none. The sad thing for Mayo is that if they had one real star forward in their inside line last weekend, to do serious damage from play, they could easily have won the game. Yes, Cillian O'Connor is a really fine player and he shot 0-8 from frees, however, he is very young and he still seemed a tad injured and was not at full throttle. Alan Dillon is not getting any younger and had a disappointing game, and while Andy Moran did notch 1-2 from play, he did not really scorch the Dublin rearguard and he was subbed out by the finish. To win an All-Ireland a team needs at least one forward in full flow, causing carnage in the opposition's defence.

Go back over the last five or six years, or even go back to Galway in 1998 and 2001, when the team had top forward men such as Padraig Joyce, Ja Fallon, Michael Donnellan, Derek Savage, Paul Clancy, and a very under-rated Niall Finnegan. Joyce was a prime example in the difference between winning and losing. In 1998, Joyce hit 1-2, and in 2001 he shot 0-10 when torching the Meath full-back line.

Sadly for Mayo, they did not have such a forward last weekend. And that is why they lost. To win, you need one key guy troubling the umpires regularly and the stats bear that out over the past few years.

In 2012, Colm McFadden and Michael Murphy hit 1-4 each for Donegal.

In 2011, Bernard Brogan notched 0-6 for Dublin. Cork had Daniel Goulding, 0-9, and Donncha O'Connor 0-5 in 2010. Kerry had Colm Cooper with 0-6 and Tommy Walsh with four points in their win over Cork in 2009. And Tyrone had the sensational Seán Cavanagh show in the 2008 win over Kerry, with the Moy man hitting 0-5.

The harsh reality is that to win an All-Ireland title, you need at least one hot-shot. Have Mayo had one over the past decade?

Mayo are by far the best team in Connacht and have been for the past few years, however last Sunday's defeat will hurt them hard, and it will be interesting to see if they can bounce back again in 2014. Personally, I would like to see the county win an All-Ireland. Men like Andy Moran and Alan Dillon have put in 10 years of hard graft to try to make it happen and it would be nice to see them get the ultimate reward.

Unfortunately, for those two dedicated servants to Mayo football, time is pressing on and it is starting to look very likely that their window of opportunity to do so, is closing fast. If not closed already.


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