Our provincial champion conundrum

AISF 2012 full-time

Saturday sees us make our sixth successive appearance in the All-Ireland Series, the latest episode in what is an unprecedented period of competitiveness for us in the championship. We’re become used to being still in with a shout for honours come August each year, even if ultimate success remains as elusive as ever for us.

When we take the field against Tyrone on Saturday it’ll also be with the knowledge that every year since 2011 we’ve surmounted the quarter-final hurdle. Cork in 2011, Down 2012, Donegal 2013, Cork again 2014 and Donegal again last year. All taken on, all beaten, as we’ve made it to the All-Ireland semi-final every year for the last five years.

That’s not the only boast we’ve been able to make since our fortunes took a sharp upturn back in 2011. Since then, we have on three consecutive occasions dumped the previous year’s winners of the All-Ireland out of the championship. We did this to Cork in 2011, to Dublin the following year and to Donegal the year after, flailing the latter without mercy in our most devastating Croke Park performance of the modern era.

We can also claim – if we want to, because it’s true – that every year since 2012 the county that eventually lowered our colours in the championship claimed the Sam Maguire that year. We were the beaten finalist in both 2012 and 2013, we fell at the semi-final replay stage in 2014 and again in 2015, with Kerry and Dublin respectively going on to win the All-Ireland. So near and yet so far for us, in each of those four years.

But here’s the thing – while we’ve much to be proud of in terms of how we’ve performed in the championship since 2011, there’s one glaring weakness in relation to how we’ve fared each year when we’ve hit Croke Park. It’s this: only once since 2011 have we beaten a provincial champion in an All-Ireland Series tie.

That win was over reigning All-Ireland champions Dublin in 2012. Some would have called it a typical Mayo performance: a match we looked likely to win by anything up to twenty points at one stage but where we nearly got caught by a full-force Metropolitan comeback before steadying the ship at the finish and winning by three points.

Dublin were the only one of the three defending All-Ireland champions that we beat who’d managed to hold onto their provincial crown the following year. Both Cork in 2011 and Donegal in 2013 were knocked off their respective provincial perches before we met them in the quarters, both of them consequently carrying the air of damaged goods when we came up against them.

In 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2015 we were unable to get the better of the first provincial champion we came across. This was Kerry at the semi-final stage in 2011, Dublin in the 2013 final, Kerry again in the 2014 semi-final and Dublin in last year’s penultimate round. And, of course, having got past Leinster champions Dublin in 2012, we subsequently lost out to Ulster top dogs Donegal in that year’s decider.

This coming Saturday, we’re once more up against a provincial champion, this time in the form of newly-crowned Anglo-Celt Cup holders Tyrone. Because we’ve come through the qualifiers, this test has been thrust on us at the quarter-final rather than the semi-final stage, which is where we’ve tended to come up (and come up short) against this calibre of opposition in recent years.

Ironically, if we win on Saturday our opponents at the semi-final stage won’t be a provincial champion but will – like Tyrone were in 2013 – a team that has defeated a provincial winner. But to get a crack at Tipperary later in the month we first need to do something we’ve proven ourselves less than adept at over the last few years.

The blunt truth is that in this consistently competitive era we’ve enjoyed since 2011, we’ve consistently been poor at getting past the reigning top dogs from the other provinces. If we want to keep this year’s championship adventure alive for longer than the coming weekend, that’s a trend we have to buck when we square off against Ulster champions Tyrone on Saturday.

19 thoughts on “Our provincial champion conundrum

  1. WJ how do you find the time to research and write this blog? Do we over analyse sometimes? Really looking forward to the contest on Sat afternoon. Maigheo Abú!

  2. Very interesting stats there. And if you go back even further in 2004 when we got to AI Final we beat Tyrone, then AI Champions but not provincial champions in quarter final and Fermanagh in semi. In 2006 we did beat the Leinster champions, Dublin and in 2009 we went down to meath who had come through qualifiers. We also lost to Kerry in 2005 quarter final so overall our record against provincial winners is poor to say the least

  3. Small point. (maybe). Regarding who wins the toss. – – The team defending the hill

    end will have the sun in their eyes for the first half. It will be behind the Hogan

    probably in the second half.

  4. That’s a very interesting observation WJ. On paper it does seem easier to beat a team that has already been beaten earlier in the championship. The shoe is on the other foot on Saturday! But The closer we get to Saturday the more I think we can win this!

  5. Interesting. When you think about it, the amount of games we have been hammering the opposition only to almost collapse and let them back into it…even Down in the final league game this year and our games v Kildare and Westmeath in Championship. Donegal in 2013 was the only game where we didn’t keep the foot down and push on. No lapses in concentration wanted in 2 days time…funny enough I think we are in a good place. I would be astonished if the team can’t get up for this and management have been planning for a possible game like this all year….this is what the whole year comes down too and should be embraced and grabbed at with both hands.

  6. I’d put it another way… Since 2011 the top 4 of Donegal, Dublin, Kerry & Mayo have beaten all “lesser” teams at QF/SF/F stage, so probably the better stat is how they compared with each other.
    w d l Played Points Points per game
    Donegal 3 4 7 6 0.86
    Dublin 5 1 2 8 11 1.38
    Kerry 3 1 3 7 7 1.00
    Mayo 3 2 5 10 8 0.80

    Probably put the hex on them now….

  7. Interesting stuff there Willie Joe,, 3 qualifiers wins in a row should help our Mogo going into Saturday, June 18th should be a distant memory by now. Have we something left in reserve?.. I think the Galway defeat should have brought it home to us that all was not what it should be in Mayo. I think that defeat should be welcomed as a blessing in disguise. More blessings were on the way to Mayo . 2 home games in a row Fermanagh Div 2 & Div 3 table toppers Kildare, only a 25% chance being lucky enough to get drawn 2 home games in a row. and a game against a Westmeath, roundly defeated Leinster finalists, relegated from Div 3 to, 4..in Croker, now that we have overcame these hurdles, we should thank our lucky stars, we are where we are!… In truth we struggled for long periods against all the above. Did we seem to be learning as we went on our way?…. We’ll, Yes & No,. Our forward play has dramatically improved, I would say. A rejuvenated Andy, (as good a forward as is in the game for 50 mins) at the moment, has helped immensely, Cillian has improved, big step up in his play last Saturday. ,Diarmuid. Mayo’s best player of 2016 to return? on your Saturday… Mayo are a huge threat to any team offensively!.. To date where are we falling down?.. Well for me, around the middle of the park,, Injury to Tom Parsons a has denied Mayo their best Midfielder, this last 3 games, the lack of game time for Tom recently been has me worried about how much we can expect from him, (if selected/brought on) V Tyrone… Barry Moran if not selected to start, has to see more game time.. SOS & AOS have yet to be deliver, what we know from the past they are capable of. Can they both? Well plain and simple they both need step up to the mark on the Saturday?.. Donie , done very very well their last Saturday but still we someone to win primary possession of and give the ball off, quickly as that’s what Mayo thrive on… At full back, we have struggled, to date Kevin Keane had conceded too many frees and conceded too many scores from play by his direct opponent. Can he, and can Mayo collectively do something about this?. If we can do better around the middle of the park, the frequency of ball going into the danger area would reduce significantly. Maybe the return of Keith Higgins to defence, with Kevin McLoughlin, playing his current role would help matters more there.. If Diarmuid is available for Saturday, and I do believe that’s very likely, Mayo can afford Keith back in defence… It’s going to be a very warm day on Saturday, can we finish strongly? Well that’s going to be a question for both ourselves and Tyrone.. Tyrone will be out on their feet, If? Mayo can inflict their A game on them. I think our sideline will need to make substitution earlier,.Allot earlier! , no player should be left on the pitch playing on reputation, no matter who that player is.. Allot to get right on Saturday, Allot to hope for! For the first time in 2016, let the world see the real Mayo,!

  8. TommyK, All Mayo season tickets Cairde or Croke Park, are for Lower Cusack to the best of my knowledge!

  9. Lads and Lassies. 2 Upper Hogan for sale on Saturday. Face Value. Text or call 0864127683

  10. Thanks for those stats WJ. Its interesting that since 2011 only 4 different counties have contested the All-Ireland finals: ourselves, Kerry, Donegal and Dublin. If we lose on Saturday then it will be the first time since 2010 that another county outside these four will play in the final.

    In those years Dublin have played in 3 and won 3. Kerry have played in 3, won 1 and lost 2. Donegal have played in 2, winning 1 and losing 1. We have played in 2 and lost 2. This year again 3 of those teams contested the League semi-finals: Kerry, Dublin and Donegal (all on the other side of the championship draw), with us been the odd one out. These four counties have been ultra competitive since 2011. Unfortunately we are the only trophyless county in this foursome. Hopefully that will change soon.

  11. Bring on Conor O Shea earlier if we are struggling in Midfield a fine catcher of the ball young and fast we need him on from the start

  12. JP II- As there’s already a well-established JP contributing on the site, I’ve altered your handle to a more papal-like JP II, unless you can think of a better one!

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