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We believed the hype

Kevin McStay
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Sam Maguire Cup

We believed the hype

Kevin McStayTO say we were in shock is a little over the top. But what lies between shock and surprise? I suppose you might say stunned. And it did not take too long before disappointment was the overwhelming emotion. By nightfall anger management was on the agenda. It was never meant to end like this but, once again, it has and today we are where we are, a dark place, a somewhat lonely place.
We know the drill by now. Wake up to another horrible day; the result has not miraculously changed overnight and the long drive west lies before us. The weather matched the mood: grey skies gave way to flood rains and we must reduce speed. As if the God’s curse us to suffer a longer journey. Mayo cars with colours still flying can be found in the car parks of the midland restaurants but food is passed up. Meeting with your own today is not a good idea.
News comes through that the idea of a homecoming is shelved. Their best call in the last two days....
At approximately 3.45pm last Sunday the flag was lowered to half-mast. Somebody dead? The detail hardly matters and the forensic analysis is rendered pointless because of the short life lived. Stillborn. Ten minutes. Tops. Beaten again by Kerry, our very own three-in-a-row. This one though is the most embarrassing of all time. 2004 with knobs on.
The flag will not be raised any day soon and this latest cruel capitulation might yet be remembered as the line in the sand, beyond which we can go no further. The hard truth for this team is there is no other place to go; the line reached is the end line.
It is comforting to all, players, mentors and supporters, to know the sporting year is a calendar one and thus we are spared the pain of a National Football League campaign beginning, as it once did, in October. If the appetite to play is back by Spring, then we can thank the human condition, which allows us to move on from traumatic events. Sunday was the first time I realised the hurt a simple line can cause: ‘Mayo, God help ye’.
The answers to Sunday’s debacle are not simple. In fact one is not sure what questions are reasonable to ask. Try clicking on to www.theroadtonowhere.com for assistance.
The anger for many supporters arises from the sense of being duped. Again. The sports supplements, the fundraisers, the ticket chase, the hotel bookings, the banquet. But be fair, we all signed up by our own volition. Nobody pointed a gun. We wrote the features, we penned the columns, and we did the TV work. We buy into it each time the bugle is sounded.
Keep the hype down lads and not a stray word, this time the trip is for real. Listen to the boys. Safe pair of hands on the wheel. This is the year. Mayo Inside So Strong.
The reality, I am so saddened to say, is far from the above. Sam went south again as Sam was always going to do. Temporary deification and excessive antics tricked our own and the sense now is that there will be a price to pay. A barren period may roll out before us and players will fall away. Every critical defeat demands as much. Players will be victims of this preposterous popularity. Their own fault?
In some cases, yes, and friends from neutral corners ring to tell me ‘I told you so’. But that is not the full story either and one of the saddest scenes I have ever witnessed on a football field concerned a most loyal servant.
It matters little what side of the argument you position yourself. But for now we assume he was free of injury. James Nallen made an early exit. To lean on Heaney (the poet rather than the number 3) it was a minute for every year of service. It was hard and harsh while others were allowed to saunter by. He won’t want our sympathy today but O’Neill and Padden might. That too needs to be said. And still others sauntered on.

Plenty to forget in final moments

THE match is more or less a blur at this stage and the only flashbacks concern scenes of Kerry pillage. The early Donaghy goal, a clean leap and clean possession is stopped briefly by the flailing arms of Heaney. And just as you expect Geraghty to give some help-out defence, the frantic corner man peels away from the danger to find his own man. Door wide open now, the ball is drilled home.
Later we find McDonald in a cul de sac under the Hogan. In a rehearsed scenario, Kerry men race in for the kill, dispossess the talisman in front of the nation and break their spirit. The ball is cheaply coughed up to Bomber Og and recycled to Brosnan for a stunning point. They rested their case thereafter.
And as the game played itself out we got a couple of handy frees in front of goal. Conor opted for the tap over when we trailed heavily. Had nobody the spirit or pride to tell him have a cut for goal or take it off him and lash out himself? As each sailed harmlessly over a white feather went along for the ride. Even in that weather.
We all fully realise that all involved are amateurs; that nobody went out to lose; to perform as they did. But on this day of days we stank the new stadium out. We could live with that if the majority had played with a bit of cut, had contested every ball with a bit of temper, a bit of passion.
A cold audit of our ability to perform on the greatest stage will not be kind. I came up with five players that might hold their own, three or four that should call it a day and the remainder looked like beaten dockets.
It was a bad day at the office and it will be a bad few weeks at home. And when you felt it could not get any worse it did. Have a look at your tape when the Gooch goes to ground after a really hard but perfectly fair challenge from Aidan Higgins.
Play acting and diving opened the subsequent play at Act 1 and an uncalled for act closed it. A stomach punch leads to a man holding his head? And a piece of rucking when your opponent does not have the ball? The ‘Big Eye’ of the camera does not lie.
At a time when we are loud in our condemnation of other teams and players for diving and dirty play it should really embarrass us all.
It put the tin hat on this most woeful of days. 2004 was not good and 2006 worse. Mistakes happen, as they did in 2004. The trick is always to make sure they do not happen twice. Change that to read three times.