Darragh Ó Sé: Mayo need to put this tough day behind them
I have sympathy for last year’s beaten finalists because there’s nothing worse than playing a team whose year is all about beating you
Mayo’s Aidan O’Shea and Seamus O’Shea lose out to Roscommon’s Cathal Shine in Sunday’s Connacht football championship semi-final at Dr Hyde Park.
I was watching the Mayo players on Sunday with full sympathy for the situation they found themselves in. When your year is all about winning the All-Ireland, there’s nothing worse than a game in June against a crowd whose year is all about beating you. I don’t care how well you’re tuned in or how much you’ve been guarding against complacency, there’s a part of every player in that team who’s thinking, “Christ, do we have to go through all this? Can we not just turn up in August?”
You could see it in the Dubs as well in that first half against Laois. They ended up with a big score but for a good half an hour of that game you could tell that some of the Dublin players weren’t exactly breaking the speed limit on the way to the ball. It can happen. You wouldn’t be human if it didn’t.
At least the Dubs have an All-Ireland under their belt and a lot of them have two. Mayo have none. They’ve gone to September two years in a row and have nothing to show for it. They know they have it in them to make it there again but walking out into Hyde Park on Sunday, it would have seemed very far away.
The grass was long. The weather was pure west of Ireland – hailstones one minute, sunshine the next. The opposition were the near neighbours, a team on the rise with a league title behind them and their eye solely fixed on catching them on the hop. And to make it all the more unattractive, Roscommon set up with an army of men behind the ball and basically told Mayo that they were getting nothing handy here today.
Aiming towardsYou’d want to be some sort of machine to come out and blow that away. All you want is to press fast-forward and arrive at the August Bank Holiday. That’s what your year is aiming towards. You know it, everyone knows it.
The opposition surely know it. They suspect it at least. And if they didn’t know it for sure, little bits and pieces would filter out and they’d use it to convince themselves. Neighbouring counties leak like a sieve. Always have. What sort of training is the other crowd doing? How much of it are they doing?
Suddenly word gets around that they’re horsing through 200m sprints every night at training. In May! Did ye hear that, lads? These animals are training for August. They don’t think they’re in any danger against us. Well, they’ll soon find out different. Won’t they, lads?
This is what Mayo and Dublin had to face last weekend and it’s what Cork and Kerry will come up against in the next few weeks. It’s a bridge that has to be crossed and it’s a challenge for the managers to get the players focused on it. But ultimately, I always saw these games as being something the players had to work out amongst themselves.
Managers will spend plenty of time in the build-up to them telling you not to be complacent but this is one of those situations where the players can be thinking one thing but doing another. Subconsciously, they have the game won before they go out and it’s only when the prospect of losing it comes along that enough of them shake off that subconscious thinking and go about smartening up and winning the game. There’s very little a manager can do about that.