The end of the latest adventure

GAA: All Ireland SFC Semi Final Replay

Lee Keegan and Keith Higgins ponder what might have been. Photo: Sportsfile

Lee Keegan and Keith Higgins ponder what might have been. Photo: Sportsfile

It might not have had the drama and frustration of how things ended last year in Limerick, but at the end of the day the result was the same and Mayo were bound for home on Sunday evening, with plenty of questions and plenty of regrets in the boot. In the past 12 months, Mayo have played in four All Ireland semi-finals (including replays both years ) and not got over the line and back to the All Ireland final. Plenty time will be spent over the winter months picking over where it went wrong again and what could have been done. At the end of the day, the better team won. Dublin should have killed us off the first day when they were seven points up, but they made no mistake last Sunday when we were unable to hold onto a four point lead with the game entering the final straight.

There has been plenty written this week already about where it went wrong and who should have done this or done that, but whatever dejection that the Mayo supporters are feeling right now, it doesn't compare to those who wore the green and red with distinction over the past number of years. As part of this job, you get to see the players after full time at both their best and worst and most fragile. Last Sunday, under the Hogan Stand as they packed up their county gear bags for another year, you couldn't but feel for these guys who put their lives on hold year after year, stretch out their broad shoulders and take on the hopes and dreams of a county on them and push themselves through the physical and mental torture for little reward for the most of them.

Playing the captain's part to the very end, Keith Higgins stopped and spoke to the press, as his team mates filtered off to have their post-match meal after departing a very quiet Mayo dressing room. "There's nothing you can really say in a place like that, but look, you just have to keep on going, we've no other choice, I suppose, at this stage," he said.

There was a similar sentiment from one of the younger charges and the breakout young footballer of the year in the country, never mind the county, Diarmuid O'Connor. A visiblely devastated O'Connor told the press pack: "You've no other choice. If you're not going to pick yourself up and try and go a step further, there's no point in playing."

Having to keep going and having no other choice but to do it, could be the mantra of this county when it comes to football. And it's what this group of players will for the most part do again next year, they don't need to be asked to do it, they want to do it and for that, the people of Mayo can be very proud.

The Mayo adventure for this year has had the final full stop written at this stage, the county will mourn for a while, but soon enough these guys will be back in the red of Ballintubber, blue of Breaffy and the green of Ballina Stephintes doing battle against each other for the pride of their parish. But come the dawn of next year, they'll be putting their lives on hold once more and hoping to do so for just short of 10 months; some for the first year and others for the 10th year in a row. We're lucky to have them.

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