KEEPING THE FLAG FLYING Mayo fan Oisin Rafter from Knockmore runs across the pitch at Hastings Insurance MacHale Park at half-time in Sunday’s Connacht SFC quarter-final. Pic: Conor McKeown
The online reaction to Mayo’s defeat has been informative
AS always tends to happen when Mayo lose a high-profile match, two thoughts came into my head immediately after full-time at MacHale Park on Sunday. The first was the usual feeling of disappointment that we’d been beaten. The second, however, was the realisation that emotions would be running high on the blog in the game’s aftermath.
By the time we’d finished our post-game podcast chat and I’d opened up the laptop back at the car, comments posted on the blog were already tumbling in by the bucketload. After quickly scanning through them, I hit the refresh button and dozens more were there, with many more added later as the evening wore on.
Although writing a match report for the blog after a loss is a chore at the best of times, it was a productive way to use the time I’d otherwise have spent in the game’s aftermath inching my way out of the place I’d parked in the industrial area close to the pitch.
By the time I’d finished my match report and was ready to hit the road, with the time now gone past seven in the evening, my exit was clear, even if my head wasn’t.
A quick pit-stop at Ballinalack gave me the opportunity to scan the comments again. They were racking up at a furious rate now but I was glad to see that this was only in number as the content, with some limited exceptions, remained fairly measured.
Back at the house soon after ten, I was back online again. By now I was happy enough that the worst of the post-game emotion had subsided and that the blog’s regular contributors were getting into their stride, setting out in often unsparing detail the reasons why we’d lost the match in the manner we did.
So, what were the main themes that emerged from the post-game discussion on the blog?
The first - and most dominant - was a huge sense of frustration about the tactics we’d adopted on the day.
Many spoke about how we’d seemingly learned nothing from the way Tyrone had turned us over last September and how Galway, by employing a simple but well structured defensive shield, were able to do the same on Sunday.
Inevitably, the blame for all this was laid at James Horan’s door. A common theme running through what many different commentators said was that James and his management team are simply out of ideas and that our inability to vary our approach on Sunday was reflective of that simple fact.
While some argued we didn’t have the forwards to match the class of those in maroon, others bristled at that notion. The absence of set plays and the way in which our forwards were repeatedly forced to take on low percentage shots were highlighted in this respect.
As one observer put it so well, it wasn’t a case that our forwards weren’t good enough but rather that our attacking play wasn’t of the required standard. We were unable to create straightforward scoring chances in the right areas.
The mechanics of the qualifiers — back this year but in shortened form, in light of the advent of the Tailteann Cup — also got a decent airing in the blog’s comments, as did some talk about possible Round 1 opponents.
As ever, the debate on Sunday’s game didn’t confine itself to picking over the bones of the defeat to Galway itself. In large part, there was no need to do this as there was broad agreement among contributors that we were the architects of our own downfall at MacHale Park.
Looking ahead at our prospects for the rest of the summer the same unanimity of views wasn’t in evidence.
Many felt we’re already a busted flush this year but others pointed to the long gap to the qualifiers and how this should mean a return to the fray of a number of players who were unavailable for the Galway game due to injury. Not too many would welcome pulling Mayo out of the hat once we’re back to something approaching full strength, went that particular line of argument.
With no game to look forward to now for the best part of six weeks, there’ll be plenty more time for chat - on the blog and elsewhere - about what the remainder of this year might hold for the county’s footballers. The joy of sport, of course, is that this is a question we can never answer definitively in advance.
Are we finished? Or are we set for another charge through the qualifiers and beyond? I’ve no idea but, as ever, I’ll be following the blog’s discussion on this subject closely. Very closely, in fact.
John Gunnigan is the founder of the Mayo GAA Blog.