It was that all too familiar feeling in Croke Park last Sunday, when Maurice Deegan blew the full time whistle. While 'The Auld Triangle' drowned out the celebrations from the Hill and Dublin supporters around the ground, for us Mayo folk, we sat back and took stock of what had happened, just like we did in 89, 96, 97, 04, 06, 12, 13, and now once more in 2016. If you have not heard the last lamenting few minutes of Mid West Radio's commentary from Mike Finnerty and John Casey, it captures the feeling we all felt as well as anything could. "It's just not meant to be, it's just not meant to be for Mayo," was how Mike called it, before a few seconds of silence came from their microphones before he was able to try to put some sense on what happened. While when he could finally get some words in Casey emotionally adds "is there ever a God going to smile on us," and, "Ah give give us a break, give us a break for God's sake, that team deserve something."
But unfortunately deserve means nothing, it does not get you over the line. Dublin did get over the line and they were the better team on the day last Saturday, Mayo stuck with them and doggedly would not go away, that is what those men are made of. They gave their all and they left nothing behind them in their pursuit of greatness.
It is unfortunate that this game will be remembered for how one change made by Stephen Rochford did not work out and almost all those made by Jim Gavin did, those are the fine lines that these games are won and lost on. It was never going to be an easy choice by Rochford to take out David Clarke and drop Rob Hennelly into the starting 15, a lot of time and thought would have gone into it and plenty of agonising too. It could not have been easy to take out a man who had been so good for Mayo for so many years on the biggest of days. But that is the decision he is there to make, he made it in what he saw as being in the best interests of Mayo football. If it worked he was a genius, but in hindsight we can all see it was the wrong decision, that is a simple of matter of fact, but it was done with the best of intentions. It has been a tough week for all involved in the Mayo set up, they have gone so close again and come up so short, over 170 odd minutes of football, just one point separated Mayo from a team who have the potential to be one of the best and most succsusful of all time. The margins are that small, it is the marginal gains that Mayo have been looking for, for a long time and will continue to look for again over the winter and into next year. Whatever the disappointment we as supporters, or those who are in the priviliged positions to get paid to follow them around year on year, feel, it is nothing compared to that that players and management team feel and will feel for a few weeks.
The have got to dust themselves off now, and tomorrow most of them will go into battle against the brothers they have soldiered with all year in the peculiar civil war that is club championship. No other sport sees guys who have given so much together having to face each other so soon after, on such regular occasions as the GAA. There will no doubt be some yahooing from the sidelines at some of the actors in this particular drama this weekend, from people who just seven days earlier were giving them their full support, local pride and all that, another odd quirk in the game we all love so well.
But there are only a few short months to go until they will all be back together on the field in the dark, damp, and cold nights of January, once more putting their lives on hold, all for something everyone in this county craves so much. For that we must applaud them and thank them. It is an emotional rollercoaster following this Mayo team, and no matter how much from the outside we feel the twists and turns, they feel it at a much greater speed and intensity and they are all willing to do it once more, without question or fear. Maigh Eo Abu!