An ‘Empire State of Mind’

It’s hard to believe that this time next week we will be in New York for the start of the championship. I’m finding it hard to believe because Mayo are only finished up in the league and very well could have been playing in a league decider on Sunday. In my time I don’t remember such a quick turnaround, we obviously didn’t make the league playoffs very often but that didn’t bother us as long as we avoided relegation as it was all about the championship.

I remember we were granted two weeks off after completing our national league programme to recharge the batteries for an assault on Sam Maguire and also to give the management time to finalise the championship panel and organise challenge matches etc. It was a very nerve wracking time I’m sure if you were a fringe player wondering whether you would make the cut or not, because back then you were either in or out, no such thing as an open ended panel. One particular Sunday evening when we were meeting for the first time for the start of our championship training (I’m not telling you the year ), I was sitting in the dressing room watching the door to see who would walk in or more importantly who would not, there’s nearly always a big talking point when a panel is culled. When a certain player walked in I noticed our management team look at each other in bewilderment as apparently this player was told he didn’t make the final 30. In life they say to be persistent and things will work out. This particular guy ate and slept football and simply wasn’t taking no for an answer, the management hadn’t the heart to tell him a second time he wasn’t in and the fairytale ending — he started that year’s Connacht Final such was his persistence. The moral of the story I guess is no doesn’t always mean no.

There is no such leisure for this year’s crop with the quick turnaround from league to championship, no two week break, no time to recharge the batteries, no time for management to think long and hard about the season, no time for challenge matches. I reckon there will be a few high profile players not on the plane to New York. It is a little worrying that there is no let up considering some of the players looked a little tired and jaded in Croke Park last week. This is where Donie Buckley has to earn his stripes, to know what to do to have the team fresh for another run and trying to win that elusive All-Ireland. We are very lucky because of the fixture list and the province in which we play and with utmost respect to New York, I’m sure Buckley is gearing the team for the June 8 and the Connacht semi-final. It makes it a whole lot easier for the management because if we were unlucky enough to be playing in Ulster any one of six teams could take your scalp and you wouldn’t have the leisure of gearing training for June. Imagine playing Donegal, Tyrone or Monaghan on May 4?

Everyone’s an expert

I was at a wedding last weekend when my former team mate Paul Mulligan did the good deed, and needless to say it was full of Charlestown Gaels who all had an opinion on Mayo’s game against Derry in the league semi final. One highly educated GAA fanatic (former team-mate also ) is fully convinced James Horan did not want to beat Derry in that game. I have heard that they trained really hard the week of the game (not sure how true this is ) but if you want your team competitive you keep your training moderated the week prior to a big match. If this is true then James Horan must have a master plan up his sleeve and he has everybody fooled including me, particularly after going public saying he would like to win the competition.

One over-exuberant Liverpool fan at the wedding who has lost faith in the green and red offered me 100/1 on Mayo to win Sam, needless to say I took him on. I’m sure he will have a few uneasy nights between now and September. Cheers Podsie.

Like many other Mayo supporters, I stayed to watch the Dublin /Cork League semi final after the Mayo game and it was well worth it. The intensity and score taking was unbelievable. When are Dublin ever beaten? Ten points down they didn’t panic once and outscored the rebels by 2-14 to 4 points in the second half in a truly unreal display. The comparisons at half time in that game between Dublin and how Mayo looked against Derry were uncanny; Dublin looked out on their feet as Mayo did and incapable of competing. It’s amazing what a few quality substitutes can do to breathe life into a team. I’m kind of glad we’re not playing them on Sunday. No team would be able to cope with that intensity. They are the team to beat again. Maybe James Horan didn’t want another game against the Dubs, not in the league anyway.


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