December Road: Mayo and the roads less travelled

Cillian O’Connor well set to top scoring charts but can he land the ultimate prize?

Cillian O’Connor is set to end the Championship as top scorer. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Mayo and the roads less travelled

There was good news early in the week for Mayo GAA when the county finances for the year were reported at the weekend’s county convention. Income of €2,310,471 and expenditure of €2,093,624 gave a surplus of €216,847 for 2020.

Amongst the reasons for this were savings made on the administration of county teams, which yielded an astonishing €992,860 - down to €721,862 from €1,714,722 in 2019.

“Our new treasurer, Valerie Murphy, has worked hard on cost reductions in a number of areas,” said PRO Paul Cunnane. “There’s also the fact that mileage is now being paid through Croke Park, which takes a big burden off counties. It’s one of the biggest cost headings we had, as there are lads in Dublin and elsewhere.

“It’s something we’d hope could be maintained in future because it means everyone’s in the same boat.”


There is another significant influence on the improved figures and that is the financial year, which ends on October 31st, meaning that the bulk of this year’s championship costs will fall within the next accounting period so the county will probably have to put the costs of two championships through in the next financial year.

It also shows the benefits of a more condensed intercounty season, which is likely to become a reality from next year, which will see the intercounty year running from February to July.

Although gate receipts were predictably down in a year during which most matches were played behind closed doors and even when spectators were allowed briefly to attend it was in the low hundred, there was a rise in commercial income by €79,063 up to €542,947.

“Sponsors stuck with us,” says Cunnane, “and the live streaming of matches was quite successful.”

Fourth time around for the Man in the middle

Victory for Dublin on Saturday night would further extend their All-Ireland football winning record to six in succession, while for Meath referee David Coldrick it will be about equalling a record.

The vastly experienced referee from the Blackhall Gaels club in Meath will be taking charge of his fourth senior final, 13 years after his first final in 2007, when Kerry beat Munster rivals Cork.

Coldrick was also in charge when Cork beat Down in 2010, and was again the man in the middle when Dublin beat Kerry in 2015; this will be his first final involving Mayo, which means they have yet to lose a final where he was referee.

He’s catching up on the record holder, Pat Dunphy from Laois who refereed five successive finals between 1915 and ‘19 and then in 1923 had the distinction of refereeing both the late-running hurling and football finals of 1922.

Coldrick is one of five Meath referees to have handled All-Ireland finals.

Number of the day

9 - The number of All-Ireland football finals that Mayo have appeared in since winning their last title in 1951, losing them all (1989, 1996 after a replay, 1997, 2004, 2006, 2012, 2013, 2016 after a replay and 2017); this is the longest unbroken sequence of losing finals in the history of the All-Ireland football championship.

Word of mouth

"It will happen. Whether it will happen this year I don't know. We had our opportunity, we failed so somebody else has to stand up and take them on." - Cavan manager Mickey Graham on whether or not Dublin can be beaten, after being beaten by Dublin in their All-Ireland semi-final.

Is maith an t-anlann an t-ocras

If hunger is a good sauce, Mayo’s next All-Ireland will be getting three Michelin stars. The county may well be fed up (see what I did) with the annual readjustment of their famine, which went from 38 years when they reached the 1989 final to the current 69.

It’s one of the longest-running quests of any county that continues to reach finals. As a matter of interest the current record for bridging gaps in football stands at 34 years for Cork between beating Antrim in 1911 and Cavan in 1945. Galway are next with the 32 years between their 1966 three-in-a-row and beating Kildare in 1998.

Kildare and Roscommon have reached finals since their last wins in 1928 and 1944, respectively.

Shooting stars miss ultimate target

Mayo’s Cillian O’Connor is all but certain to end 2020 as the championship’s highest scorer. The record 4-9 haul in the semi-final against Tipperary leaves him on 5-31 for the championship. Dean Rock is Dublin’s top scorer 21 points behind.

It will be the fifth time in 10 years that O’Connor has claimed that distinction. Curiously it has only twice gone to the All-Ireland champions – Rock himself in 2016 and Donegal's Colm McFadden in 2012.

2019: Cathal McShane (Tyrone) 3-49 All-Ireland semi-finalists

2018: Conor McManus (Monaghan) 2-47 All-Ireland semi-finalists

2017: Cillian O’Connor (Mayo) 3-66 All-Ireland finalists

2016: Dean Rock (Dublin) 1-58 All-Ireland champions

2015: Cillian O’Connor (Mayo) 3-34 All-Ireland semi-finalists

2014: Cillian O’Connor (Mayo) 5-36 All-Ireland semi-finalists

2013: Cillian O’Connor (Mayo) 6-22 All-Ireland finalists

2012: Colm McFadden (Donegal) 4-32 All-Ireland champions

2011: Colm Cooper (Kerry) 2-27 All-Ireland finalists

2010: John Doyle (Kildare) 1-49 All-Ireland semi-finalists