BIC’s employees needn’t worry about the month ahead. Their children will be fed and watered, their standing orders will move cash to new bank accounts without a second’s delay, and they might even have enough notes left over for a celebratory pint or ten. ‘Thank God for Lixnaw’ they’ll say, ‘Mr. Fitzmaurice will head straight up when his day comes’. Empty biros are surely dotted around the Finuge clubman’s living room, their contents emptied onto notebooks weighed down with red ink denoting the errors made by Mayo and Dublin last Sunday.
Nobody extracts capital from weaknesses quite like Eamonn Fitzmaurice. Everybody knows that Mayo and Dublin are capable of filling troughs with quality, but their respective deficiencies pressed out the dominant flavour that overpowered the potential of last Sunday’s bout. Those imperfections are unlikely to be as discernible when the teams break the deadlock next Saturday evening, but they’ve been laid bare for all to see, handing Fitzmaurice the template that will structure evenings of fine tuning ahead of September’s third Sunday. Kerry might need to see a panel beater themselves, but one suspects that their frailties may not be as exposable in under three week’s time. The Kingdom sank back towards harmful old habits against Tyrone, practices not seen since the first edition of the 2015 Munster Final. Kerry’s defensive troops were noticeably more resolute at the second time of asking. On the evidence of their enjoyable tussle with Tyrone, such efforts at improvement will need to be revisited.
Mayo’s clash with Dublin was billed as the game that could restore our faith in the 2015 Championship. The game never reached the required pitch. For football’s sake, the worst championship in living memory, to those of all ages, will be begging both sides to make the most of their second chance. In truth, if it had not been for ten exceptionally exciting minutes as the game’s conclusion beckoned, it could have been the most disillusioning spectacle of a summer of disillusionment. It might have been anyway.
It was a feast of cynicism, a fact underlined by the countless examples that could have been hurled at the CCCC this week. Dublin’s ill-discipline was a constant irritant to the game’s neutral viewers, and was a contributory factor towards producing a match spoiled by incessant interruption. Cillian O’Connor was hardly remarkable from open play, but this was belied by his haul of 1-9, 1-8 of which came by way of placed balls. For his composure in converting the litany of opportunities he was gifted, the Ballintubber native deserved to be presented with crystal for providing the game’s best performance. Perhaps that’s indicative in itself.
As far as quality is concerned, more frustrations were heaped upon the viewer. During the game’s third quarter, Mayo chucked away a bin bag full of opportunities as Dublin moved into a seven point lead. However, Cluxton’s hopes of securing a clean sweep from kick-outs began to disintegrate dramatically as Mayo grappled with Dublin’s eccentric restart strategy. It was now the turn of the metropolitans to showcase their own frailties. That’s why we’re looking forward to a replay that will surely go further to delivering on its promise, and it’s also why Fitzmaurice had to use more ink than a stressed leaving cert student pursuing a career in medicine.
Mayo will be looking back to one of their darkest days as an ironic source of inspiration. Twelve months ago, they were the ones offering an unlikely replay. More gallingly for the luckless Westerners, their performance as they wasted a five point lead was far more beautifully crafted than Dublin’s was last Sunday. It proved to be a profitable reprieve for a Kerry team who built on that momentum to win an exceptional replay.
Whether Mayo can repeat Kerry’s feat or not remains to be seen, but if Diarmuid Connolly’s suspension is upheld they might be handed the boost that pushes them into another All-Ireland Final. Whatever about that, this awful football championship sorely needs a game to rival that epic replay that took place in Limerick last year. Two games and the country’s three best teams still remain. August didn’t save us, let’s hope September can.