Caught Between Logic and Hope: Mayo to End Wait

Posted: September 21, 2012 in GAA
Tags: , , ,

Donegal v Mayo, Croke Park, 3.30, M Deegan (Laois) * Live RTE

 

AT this stage rational and impartial thinking is a commodity that’s rare on the ground in Donegal and Mayo. As we move into the weekend that we’ll take to our graves, the line between logic and hope is becoming more blurred by the hour.

The game has been all consuming this week; analysis fatigue has set in.  The relentless stream of analysis, opinion and interviews have fed the unquenchable thirst for the game but would make you nostalgic for the days when your media consumption was one of the locals on a Monday or Tuesday and the paper on the morning of the game.

The importance of Sunday to both counties not just from a football perspective has been mentioned all week. There has never been and probably never will be an All – Ireland with as much deep rooted emotion attached.

Concerning ourselves with the overall context of this final and its importance to each of the counties is the prerogative of Journalists and bloggers, while we get all emotional into our laptops. It is hard not to get swept away by the importance of this game but I expect James Horan has avoided and will avoid talk of the past good or bad. It has no relation to this Mayo team. When it comes down to it, it’s the team who avoids been wrapped up in all this emotional baggage who have the best chance of success.

Mentally both sides could argue that they have the advantage. Donegal will argue that this Mayo team carry the burden of 61 years and a history of final day disaster. Mayo, perhaps more convincingly, can say that Donegal’s present of fan hysteria and favouritism far outweighs their inglorious failures.

Either way some players will underperform. Equally some will write their name into folklore. The systems that both Horan and McGuinness have created will allow for bad games and therefore will allow both teams to get a foothold in the game. There will be no capitulations this Sunday.

If Mayo can stay with Donegal for the first half and even build a lead, its then that any psychological advantage Mayo have will come into play. No matter how focused and task driven Jim McGuinness says his players are, finding themselves in this position will not be what they expected and not something they have faced this year.

Mayo can and must dominate midfield. Contrary to belief, clean ball can still be won in the modern game and Aidan O’Shea and Barry Moran are a better mid field pairing than Gallagher and Kavanagh. O’Shea is the figurehead of this Mayo team. As a footballing county, Mayo had a tradition of tough, ‘raw boned’ men that sadly has been lost in the last decade. O’Shea and others have given Mayo back this edge that’s vital to a team’s inner belief and how the opposition now perceives them.

Again Kevin McLoughlin will be Mayo’s most important player. The speed and accuracy of everything he does along with his work rate has seen him become one of the quiet leaders of the team. His performances have been as effective and more impressive in an attacking sense than that of the much loved McHugh.

The tactical question of this championship has been how to play McHugh. Pushing up on him as Cork did in the first half can be effective but we also have to have faith in what has brought us to this point. Not making exceptions for exceptional players might be naive but we also must trust that our system will match their’s and that in the end we will have the footballers to finish the job. I don’t have the answer; I trust that James Horan does.

Our full back line have been fantastic all year, I expect the same on Sunday. I relish seeing Kevin Keane mark Murphy and Cafferkey doing battle with McFadden. We should have no fear in that area, our full back line is equal to Donegal’s forward equivalent in quality, if not in praise.

A tough afternoon awaits the Mayo full forward line. They will have less space to operate in than they have ever experienced before. As in the semi final, little is expected of the likes of Varley, Conroy and Doherty and like the semi-final it is position that can provoke a defiant, proud reaction.

They will need to win ball inside for Mayo to gain some platform near goals. If the full forward line can get onto quick ball I expect our scores to come from our support play that has been Mayo’s trademark all year.

Victory on Sunday would mean everything. Pride in our County is always something that has come easy to us as Mayo people, probably more so than most. James Horan and his players have allowed us to carry that pride with a lot more ease.

Sentimentality is not going to have any bearing on Sunday but that line between logic and hope has truly evaporated in my mind.

‘The Kings of September’ by Michael Foley recounts the 1982 All – Ireland Final between Kerry and Offaly. In the days leading up to final, Sean Lowry of whom we claim some ownership attended a funeral of a neighbour. At that funeral he spoke to a stranger by the name of Declan Carolan who articulated  better than anyone the beauty and significance of an All – Ireland. His words inspired Lowry on that day when the impossible happened.

 Remember that, when you go out on Sunday, you’re going to be playing for people that you’ll never see. People you’ll never meet. You’ll have people in Australia and New Zealand who’ll have their chest out Monday morning if Ofally beat Kerry, but you’ll never see them or have the feelings they’re feeling. You’ll never realise the lift you give them if you beat Kerry on Sunday.

That is what it’s all about. On Monday morning I believe that every Mayo person will walk chests out, with a pride that hasn’t been felt in six long decades.  For the players it is an occasion that will define their lives. They are staring immortality in the face. Go on and take it boys.

Prediction: Mayo by 2

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Comments
  1. George Nguyen-Xuan says:

    I understand Sean Lowry’s neighbour was indeed Declan’s Mother Isobel Carolan. Declan himself at that funeral in 1982 also had earlier career as an RTE radio sports presenter but that was a very long time ago…

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