STICKING TOGETHER Mayo's Ryan O'Donoghue is consoled by injured team-mate Cillian O'Connor after the All-Ireland SFC Final at Croke Park. Pic: Sportsfile
KEVIN McStay set the tone and tens of thousands of Mayo people all over the world nodded when, just as the RTE panel handed over for Joe McQuillan to throw in the ball and start the 134th All-Ireland football final, he said enough was enough.
“We are the only unbeaten team in the country this year,” said McStay. “There is nothing left for Mayo to do in an All-Ireland final now but go and win the bloody thing. They have shown us every way how to lose them. They got themselves into a fantastic position, they have never played this team before, there is no baggage.”
There is now. Plenty of it to put alongside the other ten finals they have lost since 1989. Two points down at half-time, Tommy Conroy shoots a goal chance wide, Ryan O’Donoghue does likewise with a penalty. Only concede two scores in the opening 25 minutes of the second-half. But both of them are goals and they only score three points in that time. Failure again, clearly enough is not enough for the most hard-pressed fans in the world.
To compound it, they lost by the exact same scoreline as they went down to Dublin last December, the first time ever that the same score has been repeated two years running in the All-Ireland final. It would take Mayo to be involved in that.
“To win on this big day, I’ve never experienced it, must be magnificent,” added McStay.
“To lose on this big day, I know a little bit about it. It’s another country, it’s shocking. And the Mayo boys have to go through that again.
“But they are a young team, there were a lot of players brought through. Today, they were well off it. There were no would haves, could haves, should haves. There were fleeting moments but by a good bit Tyrone were the better team.”
McStay said that Tyrone’s march to glory was all the more remarkable given that nobody fancied them to make a title bid in Brian Dooher and Feargal Logan’s first year in charge.
“I wouldn’t say they were rank outsiders but they weren’t really in the reckoning. And then the Covid hits. It’s actually an amazing story,” added McStay.
“I said it was poised at half-time. The game was beautifully poised. But then Tyrone just blew it wide open, took the game over. Goals, the golden goals, they were the ticket to the Sam Maguire for sure.
“The missed penalty will be the talking point but I think, no question, Tyrone were the better team. A five point win in the end, two points at half-time, dominated the second-half of the game, really dramatically.
“They were two very clever goals,” lamented McStay as the bid for that elusive fourth All-Ireland title for Mayo stretches to 71 years.