Much has been made of Mayo’s consistent ability to reach the latter stages of the All-Ireland championship, without actually getting over the line.
Since 2011, Mayo have played in a staggering eight semi-finals (including two replays). Seven players have played their part in each of those eight games.
Interestingly, mainstays and veterans Alan Dillon and Andy Moran have both missed out on semi-finals in a particular year. The likes of Jason Doherty, Colm Boyle and Robbie Hennelly have featured prominently since 2011 too, but neither have played in all the penultimate clashes.
Higgins has started in all of Mayo’s games. Ranging from starting in his normal corner-back position to centre-forward in 2013, Higgins has consistently starred for Mayo. The Ballyhaunis man has claimed All-star awards in 2012 and 2013. Higgins is one man who has never failed to perform on the big day and yesterday’s man-of-the-match performance epotomised his leadership qualities.
Keegan is an all-round, all-action defender. His pace, power and skill have been crucial to Mayo’s reign of dominance. His ability to mark Diarmuid Connolly could yet prove crucial in this year’s final, should the Dubs progress to the final at Kerry’s expense next weekend. Keegan’s match-winning score against Tyrone in the quarter-final propelled Mayo to yesterday’s clash with Tipp.
Vaughan has played in a variety of positions under the three management teams since 2011. Full-back, centre-back, wing-back and midfield have been where Vaughan has been positioned. He excels in any position he plays and his energy and fitness levels are two of his most impressive traits. However, the Ballinrobe man is often guilty of giving away easy possession.
Seamus, a long with brother Aidan have featured in all of Mayo’s All-Ireland semi-finals to date. In an area where Mayo have plenty of options, it is a testament to O’Shea’s midfield capabilities that he has featured so prominently. His fielding and aggression in the tackle are arguably his best traits. Pace is certainly an area where the Breaffy man struggles.
Mayo’s most well-known player has been guilty of under performing in finals. However, some of his semi-final displays have been simply outstanding. O’Shea once again lead Mayo’s charge yesterday. Courage, strength and power are all words often associated with the big Breaffy man. A massive performance on the third Sunday in September could see Mayo finally over the line.
A significantly underrated player, McLoughlin’s footballing brain has been crucial in Mayo’s run of dominance in Connacht. Small in size and lacking that added bit of pace is where McLoughlin falls short. All-Ireland finals are the biggest test of physicality and intensity and the Knockmore man has yet to reach the heights of earlier championship games in the finals of 2012 and 2013.
The Ballintubber man has been Mayo’s go-to man up front for a number of years now. His place-kicking ability is second to none. The one-time All-star’s ability to score from play in the time of need has been doubted however and next month’s All-Ireland final will tell us a lot in that regard.
The above players are superb players, but not without their faults. With the exception of Keegan and Higgins, pace is something that the others are lacking. In the modern era, speed is so critical.
These players are all in and around the same age. They have been and are the golden generation of Mayo football. After six consecutive years of featuring in All-Ireland semi-finals, it’s time for this generation to deliver.
Question marks remain and time is running out. A perfect time to prove everybody wrong.
Seán Ó Murchú, Pundit Arena