It was a bit of a damp and drizzly start to the day up here in the capital, though I think things are looking up on that front now, but any day you wake up after having seen your county complete a provincial four-in-a-row (not forgetting the minors as well) the previous afternoon is a good one as far as I’m concerned. There have, for sure, been worse days to be a Mayo supporter.
Before diving into the match reports, I think it’s worthwhile pausing on this point for a short while. I know the opinion is out there among some (perhaps many) Mayo supporters that the only thing that counts for us now is the fourth Sunday in September and our ongoing Sisyphean task of claiming a fourth All-Ireland title. And because it does (or so the argument goes) then days like yesterday are utterly worthless in the scheme of things.
This isn’t a school of thought I personally adhere to. That’s not to say I place any less value on winning Sam for the fourth time and recognise that provincial titles don’t count for much when set against the big one. That doesn’t, however, mean that winning your province counts for nothing either.
As someone who grew into adulthood in an era when we never saw sight of the Nestor Cup at all, suffering defeat not only at the hands of Galway and Roscommon but Sligo and Leitrim too, I was happy enough to stand on the sod at MacHale Park yesterday and see the county take possession of the provincial spoils for a fourth successive year. Sure, our year will still be defined by what becomes of us once we hit Croke Park but those memories of the many dark days in the past help to put yesterday’s achievement into its proper context.
I’ve always felt that a prerequisite for our being truly competitive at national level was mastery within Connacht. This morning’s odds on Paddy Power – which sees Dublin the 4/6 favourites for Sam with ourselves and Kerry at 6/1 and the rest of the field priced at 16/1 and higher – bear out this point. Without these Connacht titles we simply wouldn’t be at the races in the All-Ireland series and it’s our lofty standing in the West that makes us a serious force on the national stage. Without the first, we couldn’t have the second.
And we shouldn’t take days – and achievements – like yesterday for granted either. It’s all well and good to sniff and say that only the fourth Sunday in September counts for us but what if this run of success in Connacht suddenly dries up? Look at the U21s – a provincial four-in-a-row between 2006 and 2009 but we haven’t managed to make a Connacht final, let alone win one, at this level since then. Galway and Roscommon are both improving – both could, with a fair wind, join us in the All-Ireland quarter-finals this year – and we’re not going to be top dogs west of the Shannon forever. We could yet, I fear, find ourselves looking back wistfully at days such as yesterday and wondering if we might ever get back to that kind of level again.
Anyway, enough of the philosophising, onto the match reports.
That should all make for a satisfying read over lunch. Pride of place from the above, in my book, goes to Cillian’s hilarious account of the lead-up to our first goal yesterday and the way that Lee Keegan let him know where he was. By the way, Cillian – MOTM on The Sunday Game last night and out ahead in the MOTM poll here on the site – is one of the three nominees for the GAA Player of the Week so you might want to get onto Twitter or Facebook and cast your vote for him.
Right, that’s your lot. Enjoy what’s now turned out to be quite a warm and pleasant start to the week.