Sour Mayo mood is a sign of de­cline

Rel­e­ga­tion scrap will not de­fine sea­son but they still des­per­ately need to un­earth new play­ers

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - GAELIC GAMES - COLM O’ROURKE

SOME­TIMES I feel like a dog howl­ing at the moon when it comes to the GAA. The last cou­ple of weeks have thrown up a lot of is­sues which would test the pa­tience of Job, a man noted for per­se­ver­ance in the face of over­whelm­ing hard­ship. The GAA has many of this type.

To start. Why could the times for the club fi­nals in Croke Park not have been moved to en­sure that the foot­ball and hurl­ing fi­nals did not clash with the big game in Twick­en­ham? The coun­try watched the rugby and it was only the very loyal sup­port­ers of the four teams who showed up in Croke Park while the view­ing fig­ures on TG4 also suf­fered. Would even­ing games un­der lights not have worked much bet­ter?

Then there is the whole pro­mo­tion of the club fi­nals. On oc­ca­sions in the past I have writ­ten about Fáilte Ire­land and how they do not know that the GAA ex­ists. It does not seem to be on their radar that one way of giv­ing for­eign vis­i­tors to this coun­try an au­then­tic ex­pe­ri­ence is to en­cour­age them to go to a big match in Croke Park. The St Pa­trick’s fes­ti­val is an ideal op­por­tu­nity to give the thou­sands who are around Dublin at this time an ex­po­sure to the na­tional sport.

When­ever I travel abroad I al­ways like to tie it in with some sport­ing event and I’m sure that there are plenty in Dublin for St Pa­trick’s Day who could be en­cour­aged to at­tend foot­ball and hurl­ing matches. I don’t know whether it is the GAA or Fáilte Ire­land who are at fault but you have to work hard on the Fáilte Ire­land site to find out that the GAA ex­ists, never mind that it is the na­tional sport. They obviously have de­cided that it is a hid­den well hid­den.

Now to the leagues. I’m amazed that there is a not a com­plete out­cry from coun­ties who have to play out of se­quence this week­end in or­der to fa­cil­i­tate the fin­ish of the leagues. For what? So as to leave April free for clubs? As if that is go­ing to hap­pen any­way. To en­sure fair­ness in the com­pe­ti­tion the games should have been played in their proper or­der even if it meant los­ing a Sun­day.

The Croke Park an­gle on this is that the fi­nal game may be of no con­se­quence and this has not been chal­lenged. Take Divi­sion 2, for ex­am­ple. Meath, on three points, were sup­posed to be play­ing Louth, who are al­ready rel­e­gated, in this round with a fi­nal game against Down, who are on four points. Down should be play­ing Tip­per­ary in this round but that match has been shelved, Tipp play Ca­van to­day.

Most peo­ple do not un­der­stand what is hap­pen­ing but if Meath had played Louth as they should, and won, it would leave the last game against Down a dif­fer­ent propo­si­tion. As it is, if Meath and Down draw, the post­poned games will have to be played any­way as there are im­pli­ca­tions for sev­eral oth­ers in terms of rel­e­ga­tion. Do­ing it in the or­der to­day is un­fair and com­pletely wrong.

There are other per­mu­ta­tions at the top of the divi­sion in terms of pro­mo­tion but a smart-arse way of do­ing some­thing like this should have been re­sisted by all who are in­volved. Louth, Meath, Down and Tip­per­ary county boards should have in­sisted on com­plet­ing their fix­tures in the proper way.

In the top divi­sion the con­tin­u­ing tra­vails of Mayo is a bit like Agatha Christie’s it just runs and runs and plays it­self out in front of big crowds at ev­ery venue. is go­ing strong for 66 years in Lon­don and Mayo have a sim­i­lar long-run­ning ex­pe­ri­ence. For many years Mayo have been a con­stant like the North star in Divi­sion 1 and after the poor show­ing against Ty­rone last week they face Done­gal in the last-chance sa­loon, the loser heads south.

At this stage of their ca­reers the Mayo play­ers should not worry in the least about to­day’s game. What dif­fer­ence does it make if Mayo are in Divi­sion 1, 2, or 3 next year. That is a life­time away and it won’t bother many of the gem and want to keep it present play­ers any­way. Their race will be run by the time the har­vest moon ap­pears. If there is no Sam then stay­ing in Divi­sion 1 is the least of their wor­ries.

Mayo must gam­ble that the cham­pi­onship and May 13 against Gal­way will de­fine their sea­son. There is hardly any chance this year of go­ing around the houses, so win­ning Con­nacht is the best way to the Super 8. On the ba­sis of cur­rent form that is a long shot any­way and the fall-out from last week’s de­feat could have reper­cus­sions down the line.

The big­gest con­cern has to be Lee Kee­gan as his dis­lo­cated shoul­der rules him out of the open­ing May date. Cil­lian O’Con­nor could yet also find him­self side­lined with a bad ham­string in­jury, and the ab­sence of these two might hole the Mayo ship below the wa­ter line.

In this league Mayo have gone fish­ing but no out­stand­ing for­ward has put their hand up. Maybe they should try and get Diar­muid Con­nolly a job in West­port as he seems to be sur­plus to re­quire­ments in Dublin. Stephen Coen could fill a half­back po­si­tion and when Pa­trick Dur­can reap­pears he could move for­ward, while the re­turn of Keith Hig­gins and Chris Bar­rett will add a bit of speed and steel. Yet even at that there is a great need for an in­jec­tion of new blood, Mayo can­not hope to win with the same play­ers do­ing the same thing again and again. The ab­so­lute def­i­ni­tion of ground­hog day.

Maybe they should try and get Diar­muid Con­nolly a job in West­port

An old war­rior can get a new lease of life when a young voice ap­pears. The dif­fer­ence be­tween the life ex­pe­ri­ences of a 20-year-old and a 30-year-old is con­sid­er­able and noth­ing makes a sea­soned player laugh more than lis­ten­ing to the ex­ploits of a younger group. And there will be plenty of times when they say to them­selves, “did that young fel­low re­ally say that?”

So the thing for Mayo now is not to panic and take to­day’s match for what it is, a league game in March which will not de­fine any player and cer­tainly not Mayo. The mood of the Mayo play­ers re­cently has been cranky and con­fronta­tional which is a sign of de­cline and a break after to­day is needed to get away and pre­pare qui­etly for the big test ahead. This has been a bad league for Mayo no mat­ter what hap­pens to­day, poor per­for­mances, losses, send­ings-off and a snarling ap­proach. At times it has looked like a team fall­ing apart. The good news is that it is not too se­ri­ous.

‘The big­gest con­cern has to be Lee Kee­gan as his dis­lo­cated shoul­der rules him out of the open­ing May date with Gal­way’

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