HAS Mayo’s imprudence opened a passageway for Galway’s rebirth? Have they unleashed the dormant fear that, regardless of their mediocrity these past five years, the Tribesmen could again be on the move to pip Mayo to All-Ireland success?
Their performance in the Connacht final against Roscommon will provide a clue.
But while they deserved their unexpected win in the semi-final it was achieved mainly through Mayo’s listlessness, a hint perhaps that the sun might have begun to set on the careers of many of those who contributed to their dominance of Connacht those past five years.
Although it is denied, complacency — that indestructible bug that leads you to believe the next game is already won — must also have bitten into Mayo’s preparation. That or mental weariness could be the only reason why Mayo failed to clinch the game when four points ahead halfway through the second half.
No Mayo player could have escaped the towering acclaim that they were the only team to challenge Dublin’s invincibility, or the criticism of those who classified Galway football at the extreme opposite end. Only someone living on Mars could have failed to be affected.
Even when Thomas Flynn breached the Mayo defence with the only goal of the game, there were ten minutes left, enough time for a side of Mayo’s experience to draw a line against Galway’s advance, to batten down the hatches.
They tried, but there bodies rebelled.
It was as if an inspired Galway had cast their old spell over them.
Still, their performance did not justify the vindictiveness of the criticism from so-called ‘supporters’ showered on a team that has given us so much pleasure over the past five years.
These guys have sacrificed much in pursuing that elusive dream. Their social lives have taken a battering. Galway manager Kevin Walsh put it in perspective some weeks ago in stating that over fifty players refused to commit themselves to such a regime of preparation in his county. Potential fame was no compensation for the sacrifices involved.
The best of teams will have an off-day. Mayo certainly had one in the semi-final. The route to the top is now paved with pitfalls. New priorities are required to negotiate them. They must motor without Jason Gibbons and Ger Cafferkey, it seems, for the remainder of their campaign.
Where once Stephen Rochford had ample reinforcements, the shoulder injury to Jason Gibbons and the slow recovery of Barry Moran also from injury had reduced the manager’s midfield options.
Moran did, however, line out for Castlebar Mitchels in their easy win over Ballinrobe on Saturday and while his fitness may be in question, it is to be hoped he will be ready to stand in for Seamus O’Shea or Tom Parsons when and if required.
The absence of Cafferkey is a more serious blow. The talented full-back had begun to produce his best form all season, and while Kevin Keane is an able replacement, without the Ballina man the defence somehow looks less secure.
County men catch the eye with clubs
IN going down to neighbours Crossmolina in the second round of the senior championship on Saturday evening Ballina badly missed the defensive qualities of the aforementioned Cafferkey.
While his presence might not have been enough to stir some kind of a winning spirit among the players, they would surely have made a better fist of the Deel Rovers challenge.
Right now the old Stephenites are in bad shape. Apathy is choking the life from the former All-Ireland club champions. Nothing is going for them.
This great club which represented Mayo in the formative years of the GAA and still wears the county colours is in need of a shot in the arm, some kind of shake-up, maybe new assertive leadership to steer them out of the swamp of apparent despondency.
Charlestown are also experiencing a phase of transition, having lost heavily to Aghamore and again on Saturday evening to Ballintubber at Clogher. The recall of their former great motivator Aidan Higgins is symptomatic of their situation.
Higgins, who once lined out with Mayo, is well past his prime and yet was by no means the least impressive of Paul Jordan’s side. But despite a superb performance by Tom Parsons in the middle of the field, Charlestown are, like Ballina, a bit behind the rest and in need of a stimulus of new young blood.
Alan Dillon and brothers Cillian and Diarmuid O’Connor guided Ballintubber to their easy win over the east Mayo side. All Mayo stars are singled out for special attention in club championship. Dillon, the O’Connors and Tom Parsons were no exception on Saturday evening.
It is the price they pay for football stardom. Their opposite numbers are instructed never to leave their side, to harass them, pester them, annoy them; to forget about football, just harry them on and off the ball.
Mayo’s current representatives survived all such distractions on Saturday and their class stood out. The O’Connors, especially Cillian, got back his old cutting edge and Parsons was by far the outstanding figure for Charlestown. There is hope there for Mayo’s new journey.
While Ballintubber were getting back to their winning ways, their first round conquerors Hollymount/Carramore were surprisingly falling to the championship’s new sensation Aghamore.
Having accounted for Charlestown in the first round, the east Mayo men were given little chance of surmounting opposition that were touted hot challengers for the Paddy Moclair Cup. Predictions may have to be re-assessed in the light of this shock win.
Ballintubber, who accounted for Charlestown without difficulty, might also want to re-evaluate this new force from the east and weigh up their own chances against Jimmy Lyons’ talented side when they meet after Mayo’s championship run.
Of interest elsewhere was the return of Barry Moran to Castlebar Mitchels and the hope that he may yet have much to contribute to Mayo¹s back-door journey. The word is that the Mitchels’ Danny Kirby may be heading for the US and, depending on how Mayo fares in the weeks ahead, maybe back in time for the next round of the championship.
Conor, the youngest of the three O’Shea brothers, was among the most impressive in Breaffy’s stroll over Claremorris at the weekend. That, too, will be good news for Mayo boss Stephen Rochford as was the fact that Aidan O’Shea and Michael Hall were also big influences in Breaffy’s victory.