Resolute McLoughlin is nobody's victim
Plenty of steel
That has its upsides too. McLoughlin wouldn’t be what you’d call spiky by nature but there’s plenty of steel there and the idea of other counties occasionally overlooking his team present opportunities. In last year’s league Mayo seemed to be limping along before Dublin arrived for a rearranged fixture on the last day of March. Mayo tore through them like a twister through Oklahoma, winning 0-20 to 0-8.
Four weeks later they were in the league final, where Cork beat them precisely because they didn’t take them lightly.
“The turning point was the second game against Dublin after the first one was called off,” he says. “We knew we had to win that game and as it happened we put our heads down and played really well. We tried to continue to play well and as it happened we ended up in the final here. I don’t think Dublin were ready for what we had that day. We were very prepared that day.”
As for how prepared they are for the beginning of this year’s go-round, the smart bettor might keep his hand in his pocket just for now. The defeat to Leitrim in the FBD league a couple of weeks back put Horan in bad humour with his players – he cited laziness as a more telling factor than post-holiday rust afterwards. Whatever Kerry are met with when they land up to Castlebar today, we can take it that McLoughlin and co won’t be sparing the horses.
Whether or not it will be enough is anyone’s guess. These are January squads, fragmented by college demands and distance at this early stage. McLoughlin trains in Dublin during the week with seven other senior players and a half-dozen under-21s and only sees the rest of the squad on the weekend.
Mayo haven’t been relegated from the top division in the league since he was in primary school, so they know what they’re about. Even though they’ve lost their first home game of the year in four out the last five campaigns, they generally find a way. “[Home form] is a small bit patchy, I suppose, but James likes to try out new guys every so often in the league,” says McLoughlin.
“You can’t just stick with your same team every day. You see with the Corks and Dublins, panels of depth and strength – that’s something we need to work on as well.”
Forward, always forward. Nobody’s victims, nobody’s fools. Whatever you might think.