The curtain came down on the 2015 football season in quite possibly the worst weather conditions I remember for our showpiece game. I felt sorry for the players, the supporters, the umpires; even the referee was offered a sigh of sympathy. Some of the most sought after seats in Croke Park were all of a sudden not as appealing as they would normally be as they were exposed to the elements, with some supporters not returning after half time. Many people are of the opinion that conditions do not affect the top players and they can adapt to whatever is thrown at them, I beg to differ. Some of the finest exponents of the GAA game were left to look like they were quite literally playing on ice, sliding all over the place, and that the ball was covered in oil. Keeping your feet was almost impossible when you went full throttle, and handling the ball when it was fired at you was as difficult as peeling an orange in your pocket while wearing a pair of boxing gloves. Bernard Brogan, one of the most skilled players on view was the prime example; he spilled up to six balls in the first half alone that he normally would have gobbled up. Let no one tell me players do not mind playing in such conditions.
Final showed we are not far away
I have to admit last Sunday’s final gave me a little pep in my step again as it most certainly conveyed one thing. Mayo are not as bad as has been portrayed in the last few weeks, and with a little stroke of luck and a few tweaks we will not be far away again in 2016. To put things into perspective, in the last four years Mayo have lost narrowly to the last four All-Ireland champions, twice in finals and twice in semi-final replays when the eventual winners were very lucky to get a second chance against us. If you ask any of the Dublin players in 25 years time to reminisce about their glorious 2015 All-Ireland winning campaign they will most certainly mention those last 10 minutes against Mayo in the drawn game, hanging on by the skin of their teeth and wishing for that final whistle to give themselves a little reprieve and another chance as they were most certainly a beaten team if the game went on much longer. It did let them regroup, which they did with aplomb. The same happened to Kerry in 2014, Mayo have been credited with preparing Kerry for the 2014 final and now Dublin in 2015.
The final itself was a right mess and one of the most error ridden games you are likely to see but as mentioned earlier the conditions were the reason for that. Dublin were in complete control from start to finish and indeed should have won the game more comfortably. Kerry had been warned about Philly McMahon in how he punished Mayo in keeping Aidan O'Shea on the back foot and as far away from the Dublin goal as possible, so I was a little amazed the same scenario developed with Colm Cooper. The Gooch spent most of his day in his backline chasing McMahon. It is not exactly where you want one of the best forwards of all time if you are a Kerry supporter. A telling memory from the game is after McMahon pointed for Dublin the Gooch had his hands on hips and was panting heavily and my lip reading skills told me that he was frustrated by the situation he found himself in, chasing players rather than being chased.
The big talking point
I have to admit I had no idea about Philly McMahon’s eye gouging incident on Kieran Donaghy until I watched The Sunday Game later that night. It looked deplorable and dangerous at best and for me there has to be repercussions. This is the same McMahon who threw his head at Aidan O'Shea in the semifinal drawn game and on two occasions rolled around the ground against Mayo as if he had been picked off by a sniper when in fact he was not touched at all. If it had been a Tyrone player for example he would have been lacerated. I feel The Sunday Game analysts did not want to spoil the Dublin celebrations by castigating McMahon again even though he deserved it. He “plays on the edge” is a little bit of a cop out for one of the most dangerous incidents you are likely to see on a GAA field. Social media has torn the analysts apart for not making an issue of it. If it was on a rugby field he would be suspended for a few months. Let us see how this one unfolds.
Back to home front
It is back to the bread and butter stuff for many of our county stars when they take to the field with their clubs for the county senior quarter finals this weekend. I expect Breaffy, Castlebar, Knockmore, and Ballintubber to make the semi finals with the most likely upset happening in Ballina where Kiltane may throw a spanner in the works against Knockmore. On a personal note congrats to the Charlestown ladies' team on winning the Intermediate county final last weekend, another great win. Former Mayo star Deirdre Doherty notching a fine personal tally of 3-08 for the Sarsfields.