Hope springs eternal

Photo: Geograph.ie

This article first appeared in this week’s edition of the Mayo News as the ‘On the Road’ piece in the sports supplement – it’s here.

I could, I suppose, say that at this stage the car knows how to drive itself from our house in Dublin down to Castlebar but, of course, self-driving technology isn’t there yet.

With three cross-country trips completed in the last ten days – much of that mileage covered in the dark – it certainly would have made for an easier time on the road for me if the car were guiding itself along. But it wasn’t and so once again I settled in for another long day behind the wheel.

Sunday’s daytrip to the west was, in truth, an easy enough one. With Storm Jorge now blowing itself out on the far side of Scandinavia, the morning was clear and bright, the sky a steely blue and the roads largely empty as they opened up before us.

We crossed a rain-sodden country, with whole fields transformed into lakes either side of Tarmonbarry. The ominous, hugely engorged Shannon flowed with a silent menace through the village that spans the river.

It was impossible not to think of all those close to the Shannon’s overflowing banks whose minds were occupied with far weightier worries than how a game of football might play out that afternoon.

As we pushed ever further into the west we were assailed repeatedly by sudden, heavy showers of rain and sleet. The temperature clock inside the car stayed stubbornly stuck in the low single digits and Nephin’s squat hump had a decent dusting of snow on it.

We knew it was going to be cold out in the open at MacHale Park. It was.

Of course, because we were there so early it took forever for anything to happen. Then, all of a shot, the music started, the sun appeared and the Mayo team ran out onto the field.

For once in a match against Kerry we were playing in our traditional Green and Red, as the team was wearing the once-off Croí jersey for the game. Kerry lined out in blue, a jersey we’ve done well against them in recent times, notably in last year’s League final.

In a torrid opening half, it was Kerry who played all the football. Seven down at the break we faced into the real possibility then of a right hammering but instead a stirring second half comeback saw us lose by just a single point.

On long drives home from games, I find that invariably it’s the performance on the pitch that frames the mood on the journey. Had the second half played out as badly as the first had done for us it would have been a very long, soulful drive back east.

Our uplifting second half display meant, however, that we set off on the homeward leg in reasonably high spirits. The delicious Asian cuisine we’d tucked into at Lana on Linenhall Street before hitting the road no doubt helped us on our way too.

The light starting to fade now, it was difficult to make out Ben Bulben away to the left as we crossed the border once more on the N5, this time taking our leave of the county. A few minutes earlier it had been far easier to notice the incongruous bulk of the Airbus A380 aircraft standing at rest up on the hill at Knock airport.

That giant aircraft’s flying days are, apparently, done. It’s to be broken up at a facility in the airport and its parts taken away.

At half-time against Kerry similar sentiments were surely being voiced about the misfiring Mayo team but those opinions were doubtless dispelled by the team’s stirring second half display. As we drove ever eastwards in the gathering darkness we did so with hopes that we might yet see James Horan’s charges soon take flight once more. 

97 thoughts on “Hope springs eternal

  1. Jese, serious article. I’d read a longer term book of a few seasons of those. Like an edited ‘On the road’ by Kerouac set in a Mayo match attending context.
    That styling would work excellently for the last wrap up match of each season as well.

  2. Hats off to you in that piece WJ. Very well written.
    You very subtly gave the match a supporting role and brought to life the journey, the moods, the weather and the countryside.
    Maith an fear.
    I have to give you an A+ on this one.
    A very enjoyable read.

  3. Well written piece.

    My Dad and I ( me especially) were downbeat after the Monaghan game, I missed the Kerry game but all going well will be in Salthill and Castlebar.

    Two wins, remain in D 1.

    We’ve only just warmed up.

  4. There will be a motorway some day from Dublin to Castlebar but for the moment us people from South Mayo living here in Dublin have to make do with the Motorway to Tuam and on a bit further on bad roads.

  5. Hope we win the all Ireland before that motorway arrives Mayo88. Those roads through Roscommon are the same ones I travelled , 46 years ago, when I first left Mayo.

  6. Who do people reckon should mark Shane Walsh Sunday week?? Leeroy or Paddy or Oisin Mullin??
    Paddy had Walsh in his pocket last July in Limerick but the fact that Walsh is playing closer to goal in full forward, I would let Oisin mark him and let Paddy out to the wing and maybe let Leeroy do battle with Comer at centre back

  7. Paddy Durcan has done well on Shane Walsh before. I think he’s too big and powerful for Oisin. Paddys six foot and handled him before.
    I’d put Leeroy on Damian Comer.
    If Michael Daly is playing I would put Oisin on him. Oisin would be able to stop him up and make him struggle to stop Oisins runs.

  8. They certainly have more than Shane Walsh in their ranks. All defenders will have to be on alert. Eoin o donoghue for comer would be my choice.

  9. The main threat with Walsh is pace. Leroy can just about hang on to him and Paddy definitely has serious pace to keep him in check. Oisin’s sprint stats in the Aussie rules combine are very good but not sure he could handle someone of Walsh’s pace. Comer also a handful with combined pace and power but he’s rawer than Walsh and not quite as lightening fast. All 3 can keep with Daly who’s a good player but hasn’t the pace of Walsh or the power of Comer. Walsh provides the added problem of being 2 footed but isn’t as consistently excellent as Clifford despite being quicker.

  10. Match ups
    2.Padraig O’Hora on 15.Varley
    3.Oisin Mullin on 14.Walsh
    4.James McCormack on 13.Farragher/Finnerty
    5.Eoin O’Donoghue on 12.Daly
    6.Lee Keegan on 11.Comer
    7.Paddy Durcan on 10.Brannigan
    If Paul Conroy starts I would start Stephen Coen on him as he scored well against Meath the last day.
    Varley caused us big trouble in the Fbd game till O’Hora went back on him.
    Think Oisin Mullin’s performance against Clifford was really good the last day, when they had there one on ones Clifford struggled to get past Mullin or get his shot off and Mullin couldn’t really do much for the 2 points Clifford scored on him, think he should pick up Walsh based on that performance on Clifford.
    I would like to see O’Donoghue start out in the half back line , played really well when he came on the last day kicked a point and set Aido up for another and made 2 big turnover, he has marked Daly before at Under 21 level.

  11. Jaysus, You’d think Galway had won 5 in a row, judging by the ‘respect’ shown in these posts.

    And, speaking of Clifford, he’s overrated. Good, but does some silly things. He should have goaled for the penalty and Clarke was much quicker to react – nearly twice his age.

  12. David Clifford is not overrated. He’s rated as one of the best forwards in the country, which he is on any reasonable metric.
    He’s better than good, he is and will be one of the greats.

  13. Cifford is overrated??? Hes only 21 and look at all hes acheived already.Hes the most accurate forward in the game ,comfortable on either foot.

  14. Crazy talk catcol.
    Clifford is the real deal, serious amount of hype followed him in from minor and he totally lived up to it. 2 allstars in first 2 years at senior.
    He’s a once in a generation talent.

    In other news Stephen coen interview coming up on off the ball shortly

  15. Mullin held him to 2 points. Third when Mullin was in the sin bin. Didn’t do an awful lot of damage in the league final last year. I’m not saying he’s bad, but a bit like Dunphy… not yet.

  16. Catcol, when Kerry struggled in the 2018 super 8s it was Clifford pulled them through as an u19 in his first season.
    Then in his second season, in his first series of finals he was one of his teams better forwards.
    Then in this year’s league so far he is his teams best forward at u21 age. There has not been form like that at 19/20/21 ages in the last 20 years.

  17. League final last year was Clifford’s 1st game in 6 months after recovering from a shoulder operation.
    If we had a forward of David Clifford’s ability over last 9 years – we would have won a minimum of 2 all Irelands. He is different class. Player poor against us – only scored 3 points from play. That’s a bad day for him.

  18. David Clifford is a phenomenon, how can anyone say he is overrated. We haven’t seen the likes of him in many a year. And he’s only 21!! He tore us to shreds in Killarney, he took it to Dublin in 2 all Irelands as a 20 year old!!

    As Southmayo Exile said, if we had a forward of his calibre, we would have a couple of all irelands in the bag.

    I agree on Galway tho Catcol, you would swear they were Dublin such is the esteem in which they are being heralded

  19. David Clifford is the best I’ve seen in the flesh, very like Matt Connor of Offaly back in the day. He seems to be able to buy time. Oisin did as well on him as anyone could and still he had a major influence on the game. I would credit Paddy Durkan’s quick reaction after the penalty for preventing a certain goal.

  20. Clifford is the best inside forward in the country. Don’t know how you would consider him overrated. If the age grades hadn’t changed he’d be playing in the U21 championship this year as well. Think about that!

  21. Never mind Clifford, if Michael Murphy’s father had been stationed in him home county, we’d have at least 3 AI I’d say!

  22. My first memory of Clifford was the all Ireland minor final v Galway. Galway hit the front mid way through the second half, Clifford got the ball out under the cusack on the half way line, soloed with ciotog along the line and as the back converged hit a stunning goal with his right foot.
    Some player. If he stays injury free will probably be the greatest player of this generation.

  23. Please James, get Donie back on board. One of the best GAA coaches of all time. Made such a role in our development as a top team over the last 10 years.

  24. Strange timing donie Buckley leaving kerry. We need to make a move for him, we were the best tackling team in the country under his coaching

  25. Donnie is a big loss to kerry. Would be great to get him back. I think our back room team is weak enough on experience and expertise at the moment.

  26. It’s probably wishful thinking to call for Donie Buckley to come back, but I agree it would be good addition to the back room team. Strange move from Kerry

  27. Unlikely he’d return to us mid-season, even though he was with us for so long. Don’t think he’d do that to Kerry. Would still love to see him back.
    Wouldn’t be surprised if he’s looking forward to a break from it all for a while.

  28. Something must have been brewing behind closed doors for a while now with the Kerry management. Strange timing for Buckley to wall away now. Wonder was he pushed?
    Would love him back. Our tackling and discipline has been poor since he left us.

  29. They say some people can be very clever in taking the positive from a desperate situation.
    Our elected TD’s have a lifeline and the heat is taken away from them with the new Coronavirus.
    Surely Donie Buckley could be enticed to join the Mayo setup even in mid March.
    Would be a huge asset in preparing the team for the hard battles to come this year.

  30. From what I heard Buckley had not the same power or influence in the Kerry Setup as he had in his time with Mayo.I think James Horan and the County Board should make a private call to Donie and test the water and see would he be interested in the opportunity of team coach again.I f not at least they tryed.He knows this Mayo team inside out.

  31. Fair play to Galway if they get Donie. It would surely be a big step towards becoming top dogs in every aspect of the game. I miss his intensity of tackling and the ferocious hunger our lads showed when he was on board. But he didn’t have the same effect on Kerry. They’re not bad but nowhere near where Mayo were at at our peak. It’d break my heart to see him with Galway but let’s wait and see what happens next.
    Mayo…go deo !!

  32. Donie Buckley has departed from the Kerry Backroom Team . BAD NEWS FOR KERRY . Will he Return to the Mayo Setup ????? . Will Kerry’s Loss be Mayo’s gain ???????? .

  33. Thanks for that update, Mac. And to think that our lads were eliminated from that competition on a penalty shootout in the midst of an Orange storm warning in February. Still raging about that …

  34. It would be very hard to see Buckley returning to Mayo but stranger things happen. I wonder did Kerry’s “collapse” against Mayo last Sunday have any part in this departure?
    Probably not. But if he did leave there must be a good reason.

  35. Donie Buckley was with Galway under Peter Ford then he went to Limerick under Micky Ned Sullivan
    I hear he,s a big fan of Galway football like most Kerry people are they say Galway play traditional
    kick pass football like themselves which bloody annoys me the only thing Galway might not have
    enough financially what with running a hurling team as well football

  36. Paul – Galway footballers will raise a few dollars in new York in May. This should be a big help in running the team for a few years. Unless of course someone runs off with all the money and spends it all on something else.

  37. Could never understand all the talk about Buckley to be honest, who was the coach of the Dubs the past 5 years and is there as much talk about him as their has been about Buckley. Mayo didn’t win an All Ireland with Buckley. I guarantee you their are coaches every bit as good working away in Mayo

  38. I completely agree Big Mike. Buckley joined up with mayo in 2013 when we had a young exciting team that were already top 2/3 in the country. We won 3 Connacht titles with him but also lost to Galway 3 years on the bounce. Plenty of relegation battles under his guidance too.

    There was nothing wrong with our tackling in the 2nd half vs Kerry the last day either.

  39. My God I’m away for a day and all Hell breaks loose. Buckley leaving Kerry is something all right – there has to be a big story there. Here’s the statement from Kerry Co Board Chairman (via RTE):

    “I wish to confirm that Donie Buckley is no longer a member of the Kerry Senior Football Management Team,” said Murphy.

    “On behalf of the Board, the senior football panel and management and Kerry Supporters, I want to thank Donie for his very valuable contribution to the development of our players over the past 18 months and wish him the very best in the future.

    “It is not intended to make any further appointments to the senior football management team. The existing management team will continue to take responsibility for all aspects of team preparation and selection.”

    I would go for him again.

    I hear what you are saying Big Mike, but Mayo had a long way to come in the post-Johnno era and Buckley’s work was a huge factor in their development. Go back and look at player ‘endorsements’, even in Kerry during the Jack O’Connor era. I commented to my brother on Sunday that Kerry were benefitting from Buckley through their tackling and that Mayo seemed to have forgotten everything or anything he taught them.

    As for Dublin, don’t forget when Pat Gilroy was appointed, Mickey Whelan and himself were the dream team; we were bombarded with the possibilities they heralded. And, credit them, they delivered in 2011.

  40. Should be remembered that Donie Buckley is not as young as he was, and I doubt if regular trips to Mayo would hold the same appeal.

    I think I heard before that he lives in Clare, which could make Galway a more attractive proposition.

    It is possible of course, that he have stepped down in Kerry for personal reasons, which is a different story.

  41. Gamechanger might answer this one better?, but i always under the impression that Buckley was a Co Board appointment and not Peter Keanes choice, which would make working together a bit dicey. If he comes back to us id be delighted! Maybe he has a serious Gra for the green and red???.

    Saw that U-20 result, what a pathetic showing fron Roscommon. Sickening to think we lost out on a Connacht Title by a feckin penalty shootout. Just shows the regard the GAA hold this particular competition.

  42. Can’t see Buckley coming to Mayo, anymore than than I can see McEntee coming back to Mayo…. Kerry done well to keep it from going public until now…. But it’s been very well known by many for at least wo week’s!…He would be a serious addition to any team…. Galway I hear ya say….. Donegal seem to be open minded about bringing in high profile coach’s and or ex manager’s… they don’t seem to have any EGO problems… Buckley might just want to work with Rochford again, if Rochford can work with Bonnar, I’d say Buckley also can….. You heard it here first…. but it’s pure speculation on my part!….So don’t hold your breath,…. then again I definitely could see it happening!

  43. Forget about Buckley guys. We got more important fish to fry. The tribesmen in 1 weeks time. I’m looking forward to the build up. We gotta bring an intensity to that game that galway have never encountered before. Every guy gotta play like his life depends on it.

  44. Hope the Wexford Galway game is in Salthill, it will be some atmosphere, big crowd, 2 important games, Davy Fitz!!!

  45. I think Donie was never forgiven in Kerry for being involved with Mayo and plotting their downfall in 2017 especially.That kinda thing doesn’t get passed over in the Kingdom. That’s always the impression I got down there with them

  46. @Big Mike… That certainly would be great…We could shout for the ‘Wexicans’ and they could shout for us, or Versa Vica….On a more serious note…I certainly hope that on a much more serious matter of Public Health, that the conditions in Ireland are such that the Match’s can go ahead ..I always wish everyone the very best of health, a I certainly hope that anyone in the vinicity of Pearce Stadium, Salthill next Sunday is in the very best of Health…Galwegians, Wexicans, and (What’s the adjective to describe a gathering of Mayo fan’s?) and of course, all of ourselves!… Here’s to our collective good health!

  47. Great podcast there with James Willie Joe – just catching it now. Interesting too that Donie Buckley was discussed before anything broke!

  48. And, should have added – the news on the players is all going in the right direction. Mattie, Fionn, Liam Irwin, and even Jason Doherty. Presume Cillian and Seamie are also on the way back. And Oisin Mullin too.

    Liked the way JH picked you both up on waiting for players to come back!

  49. Great to see oisin mullin reiterate what horan said ,that he will be playing for mayo in 2020

  50. Leantimes mention of CoronaVirus above got me thinking.
    Just say, if the amount of cases was to multiply over the coming week, to such an extent, that the Gaa felt obliged to start postponing matches in the interests of public health.

    In other words, if both rounds of remaining League games were postponed, and never played, in the midst of an escalating national health crisis.

    Is there a danger, that the current league positions, would count as the final positions, or what would be the solution ?

  51. Will be some crowd in Salthill next Sunday if it turns out to be a double header with Galway v Wexford in the hurling. The Wexicans will bring a big crowd with them.

  52. @Observer 2.. League position’s would be of little real concern in such a seneario… Some things are far more important than Sport!

  53. Observer, if that happened, I would imagine they would null and void the league?? I’d think if they relegated a team without a full program of fixtures would it be open to a legal challenge?? Maybe I’m over thinking it though… Null in void the lot and we all meet again in 2021 . ?

  54. On a side note, watched the first few episodes of ‘ultimate hell week’ on the player just now. Padraig O’Hora fairly holding his own it has to be said…he’s a hardy sort I’d say!!! Was very impressed with him in his recent games for Mayo and great to have such a warrior in our side

  55. I’d say the league will be ok as regards Covid 19. However, I reckon the championship is at serious risk. The peak of the outbreak is predicted for July. If we have 1.9m people infected then I cannot see matches being allowed to go ahead.

  56. Yep have a feeling the championship will not be played in full this year. You have France calling off events with more than a thousand people in attendance at this stage . Even to take an optimistic guess and say 500k people in Ireland were to catch it by mid summer ,they are hardly going to let games go ahead where you’re looking at tens of thousands in attendance.

  57. Here’s a snippet from de paper today:

    In last week’s Irish Examiner GAA podcast, Seamus Moynihan queried the amount of input Buckley was having in the Kerry camp. “I think Donie Buckley is unbelievable and I’d like to see him given more time with the players. He turned Mayo — who were one of the easiest teams to walk through, because they didn’t want to know about tackling — into one of the best in the country.

    “That was down to his training and his ethos. We have the powder up front, we have some unbelievable forwards, we just need to tighten up. When we go up eight points, we’re not certain we’re going to win the game and that should not be the case.”

    Hard, but fair there on our pre-Horan days, and how true given Kerry’s performance last week.

  58. @JP2 it’s not 2020 we should be concerned about (and there really wasnt any doubt opn that)….its 2021 and onward!!!

  59. Yes Leantimes, anyone knows that !!
    It was a simple query as to what might happen with league standings.

  60. Delighted to see Mayo Gaa statement this morning on ‘Social Media Policy” and that comments will be removed, their page will be moderated, etc. Thanks Willie Joe & posters here for your help.

  61. The Gaa might have a penalty shoot out to get the league wrapped up on time. If coronavirus is still a problem in the summer maybe the championship could be decided by penalties too. It seemed to be a perfect solution in the u20 championship.

  62. Wexford won the coin toss so hurlers head to Wexford..
    Pearse stadium will hold Galway Mayo on it’s own..

  63. I hope they finish out the League, because right now Galway are League Champions based on the standings

  64. My team for Sunday
    1.David Clarke
    2.Padraig O’Hora
    3.Oisin Mullin on Shane Walsh
    4.Eoin O’Donoghue/ Brendan Harrison
    5.Keith Higgins
    6.Lee Keegan on Damien Comer
    7.Paddy Durcan
    8.Diarmuid O’Connor
    9.Aidan O’Shea
    10.Kevin McLoughlin
    11.Ryan O’Donoghue
    12.Fionn McDonagh/ Fergal Boland
    13.James Carr
    14.Cillian O’Connor/ Darren Coen
    15.Paul Towey

  65. Does anyone else think In the interest of health and safety that the league should be abandoned? Thousands of people moving throughout the country from different ends is hardly conducive to the containment of the Miles Cyrus. Of course the GAA wouldn’t like to miss out on a few shillings but I think it’s time to call it off

  66. @Sean Burke, ‘Thank God, we’re surrounded by Water’…I hope 500K is an exaggeration, given that the confirmed numbers in the Whole World is just over a fifth of that… But who can truly say? Us being in an Island Nation, You would imagine should be a big help with managing the Coronavirus threat… It’s a much more different challenge in mainland Europe…I certainly have my doubts about game’s going ahead, ..Observer 2. .I don’t know the answer to that question, and didn’t mean to dismiss the fair question you asked, This is the response of the 6 Nations Rugby authorities, who have now suspended most of the rest of the Championship, (inclusive of Italy) are provisionally intending to finish the 6 Nation’s Championship next Autumn, October I think….. Exactly how relevant that is to the GAA competition’s which currently are still all on ? … It’s is still a very evolving situation!

  67. Covid-19 is the best chance of stopping the 6 in a row quest!

    Expect games to go ahead this week, but will be interesting to see what happens over the new few months. I do not think that the GAA is as dependent on game day money as say IRFU, but ultimately, peoples health is more important than sports organisations financial status.

  68. I don’t think I’ve seen it mentioned on the blog yet, or maybe it has. But if Tyrone beat Donegal Saturday, that’s us gone regardless of our last 2 results,? taking into consideration Donegal better scoring difference

  69. Not necessarily @Paddyjoejohntom. Donegal would then need to beat Kerry in Killarney to be sure we wouldn’t pass them. Monaghan also need 1 win from their last 2 games.

  70. Pullhard – I’ve just deleted that comment from you and the subsequent exchange with Leantimes. As already stated, it’s best to stay clear of speculation on this issue.

  71. Don’t think league will be under threat as its too far advanced – if necessary they can play some matches behind closed doors even, or ban away fans or something.

    But right now I’d be leaning towards no Championship being played this year. I just can’t see any way they’ll be able to complete 4 full months of matches – which are in essence ‘large gatherings’ of fans from various parts of the country congregating in certain places. And proper order aswell – unless this thing is somehow under control by May. Wayyyyy more to life than football

    Club football I’m sure will be fine, but they may need to avoid crowd-pullers like double headers and play matches in larger pitches with more open stands, so fans are spaced out

    But one day at a time and all that

  72. Padraig Joyce in Irish Times today saying that he is close to having a fully fit squad for Sunday. Only Silke being a doubt. Bad news for us with all our injuries.

  73. Given how much updates we are getting a day (an hour!) on various cancellations and so on, I’d be amazed at this rate if this game went ahead in a “normal” guise on Sunday .

    Either no crowd or off completely I’d say at this stage

  74. Well I have decided regardless of any possible impending decision on the proposed NFL Match….I will NOT be attending…We have to err on the side of Caution… You would imagine that flights to Italy should have been stopped well over a week ago…. Despite the worries, the number’s of confirmed case’s in Ireland is small…A small population by European Standards…We are an Island Nation, we should with discipline and prudence be able to get a handle on this!

  75. Make no mistake about it Galway are gunning to do their bit to relegate us to Division 2 .The talk around Galway is the Joyce had a chance to do it when he played for Galway and he will be doing his best to motivate his lads to see us over cliff .They are well up for this this one and we have to be sure we can match their intensity cant let them have the last word on this .

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