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Mayo players have proven their mettle


STANDING TOGETHERThe Mayo team stand for the national anthem before the recent All-Ireland SFC clash against Donegal in Castlebar. Pic: Sportsfile

Edwin McGreal

OVER time you get to know people.
Take the Mayo senior footballers, for example.
A decade working at Mayo matches, observing the games, the players, interviewing them, watching them progress from a young age and speaking to scores of people on the ground in clubs all over the country gives you invaluable insight.
You learn plenty to be able to assess them, to know their strengths and weaknesses, their quirks, their flaws and what makes them who they are.
You form, what you are confident of, is a rounded opinion of them.
They are proud to play for their county, keen to leave their mark.
They have an insatiable appetite for progress and improvement.
They can be quite demanding of it, in fact.
And on the field of play they have stood up to an incredible amount of hard questions and, more often than not, come up with the answers.
A group the likes of which we have never seen in this county unless your memory stretches back to 1951.
But don’t just take my word for it. If there’s a more balanced and measured football man in this country than Kevin McStay, I have yet to meet him.
He won an All Star in 1985 and has observed Mayo football closely across 40 years.
The current team might be flawed as footballers at times, McStay observed on this week’s Mayo News Football Podcast, but you cannot question their character.
They are the best Mayo team since 1951, McStay argues.
Underlining it all is their integrity.
“It will take a while for us to see the likes again of some of the players who will be waving goodbye. Because they were heroic, there was huge honesty and bravery at all times. That was the one thing that marked them different to a lot of the Mayo teams I saw over the years,” said the Ballina native.
This group of Mayo players have been somewhat flawed in terms of forward ability. Flawed in often going down to the level of lower-ranked opponents.
But when their backs have been to the wall, when the gauntlet has been thrown down, this Mayo team have consistently come up with the answers.
Saturday evening’s All-Ireland semi-final and the explosive Dublin display was beyond them. It was galling because it has become so rare – for a Mayo do-or-die game to be over long before the end.
Mayo were a ‘yo-yo’ county before 2011. This group changed all of that, changed perceptions of what people think of Mayo. They changed what being from Mayo is about for so many in this county of ours.
Saturday’s game was not long over when a newspaper column from Joe Brolly hit the internet. It seemed to be written with the glee of a man seeking to dance on the Mayo grave whenever he would get the chance. He has plenty of form in this regard.
He has done so several times this year, this decade and before. But particularly since 2015 when the players voted ‘no confidence’ in the management of Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly.
To Brolly that contentious move spoke of a character flaw in this group and everything he has said and written since about this Mayo team has been pursuing with zeal this narrative he has tried to create.
Every chance he has got he has tried to fit a round peg in a square hole.
His attacks have been personal and vicious.
After Saturday’s match he took from his prepared narrative. Fundamentally, he said Mayo had enough good players to win an All-Ireland but ‘just not enough good men’.
You can question many things about this group but they certainly do not lack for character.
Just ask Kevin McStay if you want measured, balanced analysis.
If agenda-driven, personal attacks are your thing, you know where to go for that too.

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