So it’s over.
Yesterday finished for us way worse than feared, certainly after that stirring first half performance the lads put in. At that stage it began to look as if it might become one of the truly great days for us but by the end our hopes were smashed and our Championship run was over.
It’s been a hell of a run too. Matches in each of the four provinces, games played in three different jurisdictions where supporters were handling three different currencies. Days with great weather, days where it rained all day long. All manner of highs and lows.
Nine Championship games. That’s not our highest total ever – we played the same number of 2016 and contested ten the following year – but the ludicrously constricted nature of the Championship as it’s currently structured made it feel like we’ve been playing ball without a break all summer long.
Talk of structures and reforms and putting the world to rights can, though, be postponed until some other time. One thing we can say about our own situation is that it’s only now, with the swirling dust beginning to settle, we can start to appreciate fully just how costly that loss to Roscommon back in May was.
That defeat sent us hurtling off on the mad seven-games-in-eight-weeks trajectory. While the team did hugely well to stay afloat during this crazy schedule and push onto the final four, the damage was done. For sure, it caught up with us in the second half yesterday.
But hindsight is a wonderful thing. At the start of the year, an outcome involving a League title and a run to the All-Ireland semi-final wouldn’t have been sniffed at. Certainly after Newbridge and everything that followed last year.
Of course, not reclaiming Connacht was a box not ticked. And, sure, the manner of yesterday’s defeat wasn’t something we’d have wished for. But then again few teams get what they wish for when locking horns with Dublin these days.
On the plus side James has brought through a large amount of new players this year, showing again his talent for developing young lads and getting them ready for the rigours of inter-county football.
With a changing of the guard perhaps gathering pace over the winter, the new lads are likely to assume greater roles and increased responsibilities next year. But, so soon after yesterday’s end to the season, it’s as well not be writing any obituaries just yet.
With that in mind let’s finish on an upbeat note. In the wreckage that was the second half yesterday, a truly uplifting moment occurred with the reappearance of Tom Parsons onto the field of play.
What fortitude and perseverance Tom has shown in the fifteen months he’s been recovering since that horrific knee injury he suffered. How great it was to see him galloping round Croke Park in the colours once again.
Let Tom’s comeback be our metaphor now as we move on from yesterday’s loss and, in time, turn our thoughts to next year and what we might do then. Yesterday was a bad setback, for sure, but we’ll learn from it and our aim now has to be to redouble our efforts and come back even stronger next year. Which we will. Up Mayo.