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The last word on last year

Kevin McStay
Tim Kelly, David Heaney, Peadar Gardiner and Peter Walkin
LET THERE BE LIGHT Tim Kelly, David Heaney, Peadar Gardiner and Peter Walkin (Chairman, Ballinrobe GAA Club) were inspecting the floodlights at Flanagan Park last week ahead of Mayo’s game with Clare next Saturday. Pic: Ray Ryan

The last word on last year

Kevin McStay

A FEW weeks before the Christmas, when sifting through the annual mailbag, I flagged a letter I received from a reader. We promised then to return to it in the new season when space permitted. You probably realise that the 2006 final is the subject matter but with the 2007 season in its infancy, and a recurring theme of it the attempt to ‘move on’ from the scene of the All-Ireland, I thought this might be timely.
We might read it, pick through it and then agree to draw a line in the sand. No more talk of last year, only hope and desire for this year. In other words, we all agree to ‘move on’.
A Mr G Gielty, originally from Achill Island, but now resident in the capital took time out in the aftermath of the Kerry versus Mayo All-Ireland final to pen some words. He says it was ‘an attempt to exorcise the most recent ghost’ and an excellent attempt it was. His letter makes us think about the season from start to finish: the very good NFL campaign, the All Ireland winning Under 21s, the minors who lost out to both Roscommon and Kerry, the two best teams in Ireland.
We all did the maths on the 2006 season and came up with very negative figures. A very simple ‘What if?’ question might well put a different slant on the year as a whole. For instance: What if we had lost gallantly to Dublin? See what I mean?
Back to the letter.  Mr Gielty writes: ‘All of the well worn clichés regarding a Mayo performance in All-Ireland finals over the last decade were wheeled out again yesterday: disastrous, heartbreaking, awful, gutless and embarrassing. One team turned up and played football, the other simply did not or were not allowed. Why Mayo imploded (yet again) requires more analysis. Perhaps we approached the game more in hope than expectation. That does not excuse the hundreds of Mayo followers who skulked out of Croke Park yesterday with ten minutes remaining; they should be ashamed of themselves’.
The letter continues: ‘An immediate concern following yesterday’s mauling is the collateral damage relating to individual and team psyche. I found it interesting that both Liam McHale and John Maughan went on record saying they would have preferred to meet anyone but Kerry in the final. Let’s not forget that both men were involved less than a year ago and if they feared Kerry, is it an indulgence of the imagination to suggest that the team itself were equally afraid? Or is the former management team guilty (like many of us) of giving form to a demon, where no demon exists?’
Mr Gielty then examines how it all exploded so quickly. He writes: ‘Kerry meticulously planned and perfectly executed the battlefield tactic of ‘Shock and Awe’, a military doctrine which advocates the destruction of an adversary’s will to fight through spectacular displays of power’.
He goes on to list the essential components of ‘Shock and Awe’ that were first used I believe in The Gulf War. The four key components are: near total or absolute knowledge of self, adversary and environment; speed of application and timeliness of application; operational brilliance in application; near total control of the operational environment.
His letter sent me racing for my old military manuals for I fear this man is a US vet from Iraq! He tells me he is resident in Skerries these days but at a minimum I am going to have the house watched.

He writes then about the year as a whole: ‘What positives can we take from 2006? Certainly the All Ireland under 21 win; an appearance in another senior AI final; a towering win over Dublin and a fantastic Roscommon minor win’.
Mr Gielty was thrilled to take his seven-year-old son to his first All Ireland final: ‘Having swapped his Dublin semi-final jersey for the Green and Red of Mayo (the impossible dilemma placed by county exiles on their Dublin born offspring!) he got to taste the unique atmosphere of AI final day’.
And he finishes by telling us: ‘Watching the Mayo players troop off the team bus, heads low with many apologies, one got the real sense that the fans’ disappointment is but a tiny fraction of that felt by the players. As before, they will be down for a while but they will get up, dust themselves off and resume the fight to end the 55/56-year-old drought. As they say in Kerry: ‘Is maith an t-anlann an t-ocras!’
I don’t have gongs for a ‘Letter of the Year’ and I really should have. I get some very well thought out, well-written efforts throughout any one year. But this abridged version from an ex islander is top of the pile. One can see immediately his disappointment at yet another loss, his devotion to the Green and Red and the hope he must carry with him that our day will come soon.
Of course he has the added advantage that a Dublin win would also make for a very happy house. But his great wish is for a Mayo day in the sun. Now that the column has drawn the official line under 2006 let’s all look ahead with anticipation to what the season has in store for us.

Johnno and PaidÍ to light up Saturday night
IF I asked you how many really serious clubs are out there, say in Mayo, or in Connacht, what do you think your answer might be? This is obviously not a popular conclusion to arrive at but at most there is a handful. Okay, two handfuls but now I’m including all five counties in our province.
We will be returning to this sad and depressing state of affairs in a few weeks when the column hopes to tell you about the recently held Connacht Club Forum. It might take a column or two such was the number of really interesting presentations on the day.
But for now, know that less than half of the Mayo clubs bothered to attend a forum that really should have been mandatory. I do not have the complete attendance sheet to hand presently, but on a percentage basis, most of our neighbours appeared to have better attendance. Did I mention it was held in Castlebar, our own back yard?
Next weekend one of Mayo’s most progressive clubs will proudly unveil its superb new floodlit venue. On Saturday night, February 17, Mayo will play Clare at Flanagan Park, Ballinrobe in a challenge to officially turn on the new floodlights. The match is down for 6.30pm so most of the crowd at the previous night’s Dinner Dance should have made it back from the hotel!
Paidí should be there on the night and if the current Clare players reflect their predecessors then both manager and players will make the most of a pitch opening! I understand they are the best lights in the province so now you have the perfect excuse to visit the Bright Lights of Ballinrobe.

AND FINALLY, news from the forward trenches informs us two well-known Gaels from the Sweet Plains celebrated significant birthdays in recent weeks. Liam Horan of a neighbouring parish, ventured to Partry, sorry, Paris to blow out his candles. Can it be close to a pair and a half of decades since he terrorised defences as a two-time Ted Webber? By my calculations he was overage for the second campaign.
Meanwhile John Prenty, our Connaught Council Secretary, stayed closer to the 094 area as he prepared for the very successful club forum in Castlebar. I fear it is a while since JP played Ted Webb! But, to both, a belated happy birthday.