Belfast Telegraph

Mayo lose ninth All-Ireland final

By Declan Bogue

Feeling sorry for Mayo? Well, don't. Not only do they not need your sympathy but they don't deserve it either.

Losing their ninth All-Ireland final since 1989 has made them the story once again. It's not even about quickly moving on from the tale of the Dublin team that put together three All-Ireland titles in a row, it's a case that they haven't been given a moment's thought in the first place.

And there's no surprise in that.

This game was Mayo's to win or lose. They just had to leave the emotion to one side but were incapable of that. More than any great side - and they are a great side - they need emotion like oxygen.

But take Donal Vaughan's sending off. Mad stuff. Utterly unnecessary. Champion teams use moments like that to cool the jets, slot the free and press up using their newly-minted extra man to scramble the signal of the opposition goalkeeper. But Mayo are not a champion team.

Or the curious case of Andy Moran. Two points up, he was withdrawn in the 63rd minute.

After three quarters of an hour, he was tapping his hamstring and telling his management he was gone. At that point, the 33-year-old had been over-used by the Mayo attack anyway, such was their insistence on playing the dinked ball in front of him to outpace Michael Fitzsimons and gain possession.

Moran's greatest assets are his movement and especially his turn. It's possible he had too many turns in the game as Tony McEntee and a team medic examined him and urged him to stay on.

By way of coincidence, it was 63 minutes when Kieran McGeeney was taken off against Tyrone in the 2005 semi-final, an All-Ireland Armagh feel they threw away.

Compare that to Peter Canavan, who played the closing stages of the 2003 All-Ireland final on one leg. Like Moran, he was there to occupy the defence. Could Moran have hung in there? Either way, they only managed one score in the last 15 minutes, a Hollywood effort from distance by Cillian O'Connor.

Most of those people in your life who are agnostic about sport or Gaelic games in particular will have a corner of their heart reserved for Mayo on weeks like this.

That's the way it is for most people. You just cannot blame them. With Mayo, you get heart and soul. You see strong men cry.

And there's something awfully compelling about that. Dublin do nothing of that. While all the sideline photographers wait around for that glimpse of a manager's realisation that he has won the All-Ireland title and the shot of glee, Jim Gavin kept a stern facade, unsmiling.

There is a coldness to how Dublin go about their business.

With David Clarke looking to get away his kickout at the end, four Dublin forwards just grabbed a defender each and wrestled them to the ground to make sure they could not secure possession.

Mayo are no saints either. The trending Mayo fan's hashtag #ThingsLeeDid in an excellent satirical defence of Lee Keegan last year now has another entry, probably the most bizarre - that of throwing a GPS device towards an opponent on the pitch.

At the final whistle, Keegan thumped the turf with his fists before breaking down into sobs.

The Dublin management team did not even crack a smile, becoming in an instant a parody of a caricature.

I'm not alone in thinking this behaviour is highly unusual. We can applaud Dublin's absolute excellence, but we reserve the right to take a team into our hearts. Because of the public face Dublin present to the world, they will be respected as one of the greatest teams of all time.

But let's be explicit about it; they will never be loved as long as the po-faced stuff keeps up.

As for Mayo sympathy, just heed the words of their captain Cillian O'Connor at the losing team's banquet.

He said: "You probably feel like you have to feel sorry for us or pity us.

"We don't want sympathy, we don't want anyone's pity, we're so lucky every day we get to pull that crest on to our chest.

"It's a privilege, so don't give us any pity or sympathy."

A different coaching

An odd phonecall on Monday morning. Punched in the numbers for Coleraine manager Sean McGoldrick, asked him about Eoghan Rua’s incredible All-Ireland Sevens triumph, and gave him the space to bask in his own genius.

Only, he said this instead: “We have a bunch of players who are quite talented footballers. To be honest, they don’t need a lot of management. They are playing the game today, they probably know more about this game than I do.”

That’s an extremely rare thing for a manager to play down his contribution like that.

So my next call was to another Derry football man who would know the score and sure enough, he confirmed that Coleraine is more or less ran like a co-op, with the players more or less running the show themselves.

McGoldrick himself had five sons on the team who have represented Derry; Barry, Sean Leo, Ciaran, Colm and Liam. Niall Holly is a first cousin of the boys. 

He has two daughters; Grainne and Meabh, who have won All-Ireland camogie titles with the club.

He continued: “The game they play today is a very different game than the one I played. The only instruction we give is that when they make a run, the next run is to the sideline to conserve energy.” 

Coming off covering county Championship, with all its’ sneering towards those outside ‘the bubble’ from certain quarters, how refreshing it was to talk to a man like that!

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