YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS Mayo manager Kevin McStay reacts during Sunday’s National League match at the Box-It Athletic Grounds in Armagh. Pic: Sportsfile
COMPARISONS are subjective, but if by chance there was anyone in Armagh on Sunday evening with a knowledge of the workings of Brazilian lyricist Paulo Coelho they surely noticed a similarity in the words of Mayo manager Kevin McStay.
Coelho, from Rio de Janeiro, has yet to kick a point in the cut and thrust of gaelic football chaos, but one of his quotes came to mind when McStay addressed the media in the aftermath of Sunday’s epic in Armagh.
“Be brave, take risks, nothing can substitute experience,” Ceolho once said. McStay was of a similar mind when faced with a bank of voice recorders following Fergal Kelly’s final whistle.
“I’m straightaway going to put very positive words on it from a Mayo perspective,” said the Mayo manager. “I know we were five up, and most people will concentrate on that. But I’m not going to go down that road, I’m going to concentrate on what got us there; really good, smart positive play, great attitude, energy, enthusiasm.”
The Mayo men had indeed been brave. They had taken risks and the experience gained in the bubbling cauldron in the centre of the ancient city will surely stand them in good stead in the future.
Of course, there was also a sense of disappointment after losing a five-point lead in the closing minutes of the game, but McStay wasn’t dwelling on it when asked for his thoughts.
“This was championship stuff essentially. A great atmosphere, a fantastic ground, and we knew Armagh were going to come back at us, in every sense, and I tap my hat to them. It wasn’t easy on them to make good choices in the last 10 minutes either,” he reasoned as the stadium still throbbed with undiluted excitement.
McStay was only a few minutes removed from the action when he spoke with the press in the media room high over the pristine pitch.
Thousands of fans were still sprinkled across the green carpet, posing for pictures, trying to put words on what they had just witnessed and most importantly of all, trying to get their breath back.
The match had been a full-blooded encounter between two teams hell-bent on securing victory. However, mistakes at both ends paved the way for a share of the spoils and the Mayo boss was philosophical in his summing-up.
“It’s only week two of the national league, there’s lots for us to tidy up. We came here on the back of a great week’s training, and we did have a real shot at it.
“We’ve a national league point, and when the totting is done after round seven it will be a very important point,” he added before being asked about his thinking at half-time following a timid enough first period.
“We were coming into it just before half-time and said we’d stay with the same 15, give them a chance, look for a little bit more from everyone.
“Maybe a couple of decisions coming down the straight could have been better. We could have punched points instead of going for the jugular, but we’ll tidy up, get fellas back and go again.”
What was different about Mayo in the second half? Was there more aggression in their approach?
“Yeah, definitely. We felt we were pushed off the break a little bit; legitimately pushed off the break, because they were a bit hungrier. We don’t want that for our team, we should be every bit as hungry as anyone, and in the second half we were.”
Soon, McStay was ready to go but not before his thoughts on the late free awarded to Armagh were sought.
“Fergal Kelly is a good referee. A few decisions go in your favour, a few don’t. It levels out over the course of a game.”
Then, it was time for Armagh’s hospitable and busy PRO, Finbar Burns to take the scribes to the bowels of the stand where Kieran Donaghy, the former Kerry great and current coach with the home team, waited.
“It’s hard to put words on it because you’re a bit disappointed with some parts of the play – some of the skill errors and dropped balls – but then you’re just proud of the way the boys showed real determination and passion to keep going to the very end, even when it was lost.
“Three minutes’ to go we were down five points. It was frustrating to be in the position but we showed huge character. So, it’s hard to put into words, but I’m proud of the group the way they kept going even when they weren’t functioning at their best,” he explained as thoughts turned towards home and the trek towards the western sea.
Back in Brazil, Paulo Ceolho would have been happy with what the afternoon had delivered — bravery was evident, risks had been taken and a lot had been learned.