Connacht Tribune - Opinion Piece
More heartbreak for Mayo that is shared by us allSeptember 26, 2012 - 10:16am
Only the most callous or cold-hearted Galway supporters could have taken much pleasure from witnessing the despair etched on Mayo faces after our neighbours and greatest footballing rivals suffered their sixth All-Ireland Final defeat since 1989 at Croke Park on Sunday.
The banter between supporters from the two counties might not always be the friendliest when it comes to championship showdowns in Pearse Stadium or Castlebar, but it’s one of the joys of the GAA that supporters of neighbouring counties – even bitter rivals – tend to support each other when they get out of their provinces.
There is hardly a GAA supporter in the country who would not begrudge the Mayo men an All-Ireland title success at this stage, and it’s incredible to think that a county which loves its football so much has been waiting since 1951 to be crowned national champions.
That’s why there was so much caution in the air north of Headford and Clonbur last week, as Mayo people more than anyone realise that titles are hard-earned. They were not losing the run of themselves, simply because they had been burned at this stage so often, with the heartbreaking defeats of 1996, 1997, 2004 and 2006 taking their toll.
How sad, then, that they endured such a nightmare start, just as they had done in their last two final appearances. They could hardly have asked for a worse introduction to the 2012 decider than conceding two goals inside the first 10 minutes and having to wait 15 minutes for the first score of their own.
Suddenly, all those painful memories must have been flooding back for their shell-shocked supporters. One can only imagine the despair of Mayo fans who had flown home from London or Chicago, only to find their team trailing by 2-1 to 0-0 with barely 10 minutes on the clock.
A moment of pure class from Man-of-the-Match Michael Murphy set the tone for what was to be a monumental day for Donegal football, while there was no better man than Colm McFadden to pounce when a significant slice of luck presented him with the chance of ramming home the northern side’s second goal.
It’s to the credit of the Mayo players that they fought back and made a decent contest of it, that they were not buried under an avalanche of scores as they had been in their previous two finals against the Kingdom. Team manager James Horan, who has transformed his county’s fortunes, has to take immense credit for the character shown by his side against the odds.
Aidan O’Shea and Barry Moran worked hard to get the Connacht champions back into contention and Donegal could not celebrate their second All-Ireland title with conviction until the dying minutes of the final.
And yet Mayo never really looked like getting the better of the strong Donegal full-back line or registering the all-important goal which might have turned the game on its head. They worked hard, they have had a good year, but they never really recovered from the despair of gifting Jim McGuinness’ men such a significant lead so early in the decider.
At least the fact that they lost to such novel champions lessened the pain somewhat, as there would have been little consolation in defeat had it been a Kerry, Dublin, Tyrone, or Cork man who stepped up to collect the Sam Maguire Cup on Sunday.
For more, read this week's Connacht Tribune.