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We live to fight another day

Sport

CHASING THE SUN Mayo supporters were basking in the hot summer sun as they watched the All-Ireland SFC Qualifier against Monaghan last Saturday. Pic: Conor McKeown

A Fan’s View
Anne-Marie Flynn

IT was a historic occasion, if not a memorable one.
The sun beamed down on Mayo’s first ever championship clash with Monaghan, and the tailbacks at Ballyvary were a sure giveaway that this was a championship weekend.
They caught this driver by surprise, as did the lines of cars parked on the N5 – we thought we’d left early; must be out of practice! But we brazened it out and sailed on through left at the roundabout to find parking a stone’s throne away from HQ.
(We flew home the Pontoon way after too; thanks to my savvy co-pilot).
I’d not been too hopeful earlier in the week, but as the weather lifted so did my optimism, and on the way into the ground I was happy enough to call it: Mayo by three.
We found ourselves in exactly the same spot as we had occupied for the Galway game, basking in the sun on the terraces, right on the 45’ down the Albany end.
A tale of two mediocre matches, but two glorious days in the sunshine with pals, which was the height of ambition for the year, post-September.
I know we’ve referenced it before, but post-2021, with every game, it feels like the ‘all or nothing’ mentality that accompanied us for so many years is evaporating. Maybe it’s because the worst has already happened, or perhaps it’s simply because expectations have dipped.
But either way, that sense of desperation – and sometimes fury – that permeated the Mayo crowd appears to have lessened. And that’s not a bad thing.
Possibly as a result, the Mayo crowd once again was noticeably sedate.
Much has been made by ex-players of the positive influence of the loud Mayo support, but to be fair, the way the game is being played at present doesn’t offer may many opportunities to raise the decibel level.
Much like in the Galway game, there were periods of the game, despite the large crowd, where you could hear the players calling to each other. Maybe it’s the possession game. Maybe we’re saving it for bigger days. Or maybe we are just spent.
Mayo had a relatively lively first half, the highlights being Diarmuid’s incisive movement, Jack Carney’s tenaciousness, the revival in Enda Hession’s confidence and Oisín Mullin’s audacity, jinking his way from the back. Someone in our company, clearly as taken with Oisín as Lee Keegan (“he’s a beautiful man”) was heard to bellow more than once: “Go on, you stunner!”
Neither of them are wrong, to be fair – and seeing him back in full flow was indeed a thing of beauty.
For once, the big calls went our way. It felt, like we were riding our luck on occasion, though, and we should have been further ahead at half-time. A frustrated Monaghan man behind us was heard to yell: “Get the ref a new whistle, that one isn’t working!”
We know what being on the other side of those calls is like, even if, in the cold light of day and playbacks, they proved to be correct.
In the second half we lost all sense of direction, and it was left to veteran warrior Lee Keegan, reminiscent of Chris Barrett against Tyrone in 2013, to grab the game by the scruff of the neck with a sensational score. It was almost like he rolled his eyes, shrugged his shoulders and said: “Right lads, if you’re not going to kick the ball over the bar up the front, I’ll have to come up and do it myself”.
The possession game really drives people crazy, but for those of us in the stands, buffered by the breeze, it was only when you went down onto the pitch that you realised how searing and oppressive the heat was, even at 6pm.
It’s hard to blame the team for playing in a way that conserves energy, particularly when substitutions were in short supply and came late in the day.
There is still a lot of discontent in the comments sections and in the WhatsApp groups, but why?
Mayo did – just about – all that had been asked of them. They got the job done. They deployed a (rotating) sweeper. They had a plan. They took on the defence – at times.
 In the toughest draw they could have got, they beat Monaghan, another Division 1 team. And still we grumble. Sometimes we might be better off just stopping to smell the roses.
It wasn’t pretty, but did it really need to be? Mayo are no strangers to poor form in the qualifiers; limping over the line only to burst into life when it counts.
Will we do that this year? Who knows? But at the very least, we live to fight another day, and that will do for now. Let’s hope the sun will shine on us again this weekend.

 

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