Jose Mourinho fascinates me. Never a player of note, Jose started out as Bobby Robson’s translator at Barcelona. The rest is history. Like most ultra successful people, Jose has the bully’s streak. His great achievements come, often, tainted with cheapness. His treatment of the Chelsea doctor Eva Carneiro smacked of chauvinistic boorishness. His undoubted brilliance comes tainted with a price.
Correctly identifying Alex Ferguson as the biggest threat in the school yard a few years ago but not having the balls to challenge him, Jose instead took aim at the next biggest threat, Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger. The Professor is many of the things Jose is not. Mourinho cleverly couldn’t attack the Arsenal boss’s methods or standing. Instead he described Wenger as a voyeur. It was a broad stroke, leaving the listener to decide exactly what was meant. It certainly cast Wenger in a new light.
Mayo the footballing county attracts voyeurs. The recent managerial contretemps had a few of the usual suspects sharpening the pencils. So let’s make a few things clear to non-Mayo footballing people. There is nobody harder on Mayo GAA than Mayo people. There are none more critical than Mayo people. Contrary to popular opinion, we are actually aware of our shortcomings. Contrary to popular opinion we try and rectify them. Also what happens within Mayo concerns nobody but its own citizens … ok?
Over the years a number of thorns have pressed the Mayo flesh. The Sunday Game’s Colm O’Rourke and Joe Brolly have been scathing about Mayo. Not alone scathing but deeply personal in the treatment meted out to Ciaran McDonald and Conor Mortimer in particular regarding their dress mode and sartorial style. The ringmasters, Cahill and Canning, indulged them with smirks. Martin Breheny seems to take a big interest in us. Galway hurlers are now on their second attempt to unseat Anthony Cunningham. This has nothing to do with us but Breheny has coupled the two counties together and branded the players over their cheek at seeking betterment.
Martin would do well to recall that the Mayo players have moved on from that particular impasse, their managers were removed and Galway’s isn’t. No need to reference us, Martin. However it’s Eugene McGee that beats the tired old tin once more. First of all thanks to blogs like this one as well as Twitter, Facebook etc. the likes of old men writing tired rubbish are redundant. The only difference between us and McGee is that he gets a fat cheque for his opinions. We don’t but ours are equally relevant. Naturally Eugene has cut at us this week.
Citing the fact that we have reached five successive semi-finals and winning “only” two of them, McGee seems blinded by his bile. Reaching five successive All-Ireland semi-finals in a county like Longford, Cavan or Offaly would be seen as success. Five times being in the top four counties in Ireland merits a bit more than an “only”, Eugene. The first three years of Mayo’s last four appearances saw them take out the previous year’s winners. The last four semi-finals saw them win two and lose the finals; the latter two semis saw two replays plus an extra-time. The last four All-Ireland champions have had to beat Mayo at the penultimate or ultimate stage, Mr McGee. Thats not “only” , that’s not failure if we were to contrast with the counties listed above that he had connections with. Driving through them you might be hit by the tumbleweed blowing thorough their GAA pitches.
The Mayo players are actually the only ones who can tell what’s lacking, what came up short over the last five years. They tried the noble way of getting the message across. They didn’t leak to the press; it wasn’t them that had Marty Morrissey in MacHale Park doing a vox pop with Martin Carney. They have every right to do what they deem necessary in that drive. Be in no doubt those voyeurs that watch us, we will be the first to scream blue murder if things go pear-shaped.
I watched a beautiful interview on Second Captains with that deep soul Ciaran McDonald. Replying to a question about being berated by the media and why the likes of O’Rourke and Brolly were allowed to pour scorn on him, McDonald replied “because they knew I wouldn’t challenge them”. I found that moment moving, Ciaran was a class above crass. And McDonald typifies Mayo people: decent, mannerly and good-natured. They listen to shit hurled at them, smart comments from so-called experts. And like McDonald, they, in the main, let it flow over.
However, I note the silence by certain writers when it comes to looking at other counties. Did those scribes think that Cormac Reilly had a good day in Limerick last year? Colm O’Rourke to his credit lambasted that performance. Did any of them comment when a Mayo player’s boot was tossed into the crowd that day? Any deep opinion, lads, on the “alleged” head-butt O’Shea got from Philly, any comment on Donaghy’s eye-gouging by the same player? Go back a bit” any opinion on John Finn’s jaw being broken, culprit free to this day?
You see, it’s easy to bash Mayo. You won’t bump into their players around Independent Head Office or nearby watering holes. And yet this is the team the played Dublin, not Kerry mind you, not Donegal, not Tyrone … no, Mayo, who sold out not one but two semi-finals within seven days. They must be doing something right, boys.
Thirty-two counties will set fire to hard earned cash from January on. No-one begrudges them, it’s called dream chasing. All will play in the same competition but out of the thirty-two, realistically only Dublin, Kerry, Mayo, Donegal, Tyrone and one bolter have a hope.
Out of the above five or six, Dublin stand ahead, Mayo and Kerry next. That’s realism. Kicking bodies that aren’t interested in kicking back is easy; Eugene McGee has spent the last twenty-five years slicing Mayo. The truth is simpler: Mayo might never win another All-Ireland, Eugene, but they are a damn sight closer than twenty-eight other counties, particularly your own county of Longford, and the two counties you managed as well, Cavan and Offaly.
The facts are plain, over the last five seasons Mayo have hovered between two and three in the rankings. We all can carp. I have – I demand, I’m angry at what I perceive at times as shortcomings, anyone reading my two-pence worth here over the years knows that. But I come with one important caveat … I’m a Mayo man and like all Mayo people I can comment about us because I am emotionally part of the Green and Red. Those that aren’t of us sure think twice before trying to figure us.
Mayo the people and the county suffered most during the Famine of ’48. The county lost half its populace through death and migration. The awful 1930s and ‘50s saw further mass movement of Mayo people, across the nation and across the world. Maybe, just maybe, to Mayo people, football, particularly Gaelic football, is there to be enjoyed, that having suffered dark days, they can see sport for what it really is, manly, honest and fair, not tainted with butts or gouging, sledging or win at all costs. Perhaps if other counties had Mayo’s perceived issues, fairer writers than McGee might deem the last five years for us as five magical ones.