Mayo will be waking up this morning licking their wounds after having their two-point half time lead swatted aside by Dublin who scored 2-6 without reply in 15 second-half minutes in Croke Park on Saturday.
For Dublin, it’s on to a fifth straight All-Ireland decider where either Kerry or Tyrone await but for Mayo, a long winter lies ahead as players attempt to regroup and recharge ahead of the 2020 season.
However, for some, it may be a case of re-evaluating whether inter-county football is still a priority following yet another heartbreaking defeat. James Horan admitted that there will no doubt be changes to the Mayo squad but they have the personnel to deal with it.
“Of course it’ll be hard and no question there’ll be changes in that Mayo group for next year, that’s clear but that will take its own course but we’ve got a huge amount of players and young players involved, if we use that right today it’s a real learning to see where the top standard is so we have to use it that way otherwise its a hopeless cause. But we’ll learn from today a lot of new players in the 26 and a lot of new players outside the 26 pushing hard that didn’t make it today.”
There’s no doubt this Mayo team have been on the road a long time and often enough have had to navigate their way through the qualifiers towards the business end of the Championship. They had a particularly trying run this year coming up against Down, Armagh and Galway just to qualify for the Super 8s where they then faced Kerry, Meath and Donegal.
Following that, they were faced with a seven-day turnaround before taking on the All-Ireland champions in an All-Ireland semi-final and while James Horan expressed that it wasn’t an excuse for losing, he made his stance clear that it isn’t fair on the players.
“Ah, it is hard to ship that’s for sure but if you think about the journey we have been on this year. Apply any common sense to it. The turnaround that they are asking amateur players do to I think is crazy. I haven’t really mentioned it all year, I am not in any way making excuses but we’re coming back from games at 2 am in the morning and guys are up for work on a Monday and just the whole, what we’re asking players to do is very very tough.
“Maybe give it two weeks for a semi-final. That’d be a start. Something simple.”
Mayo’s long and winding road to get to an All-Ireland semi-final may well have played a role in their second-half capitulation. Horan admitted Dublin looked impressive but felt it was a “double-whammy” as Mayo looked tired after a bruising schedule.
“I think if we tried to win a couple more kick-outs and build a couple of scores. I think we’d a couple of chances and we rushed the shots but I think if we got a score in there it would have settled us down a bit maybe but it didn’t work out that way.
“Ah they were very strong and their running is very, very strong and their conditioning is very, very good. They looked impressive when they were running through us, of course maybe our legs got a bit heavy during that period. I’m not trying to make excuses but I’d say our kegs were a bit heavy so that’s sort of a double-whammy it makes them look a lot stronger and us tired.”