Home Features Opinion: Five Reasons Mayo Can Win The All-Ireland Crown Next Year

Opinion: Five Reasons Mayo Can Win The All-Ireland Crown Next Year

Napoleon Hill is one of the most successful authors in the history of the United States. His most famous work, Think and Grow Rich (1937), is one of the best-selling books of all time and at the time of Hill’s death in 1970, it had sold 20 million copies. 

Hill’s works examined the power of personal beliefs and the role they play in personal success, and one of the most enduring quotes in his self-help manual concerned defeat and how to overcome it.

“When defeat comes, accept it as a signal that your plans are not sound, rebuild those plans, and set sail once more toward your coveted goal.”

Hill’s words of wisdom may serve as sound life advice but I don’t know if it’s the type of enlightenment that the Mayo senior panel will want to be digesting in the days after they were narrowly beaten by Dublin in a thrilling All-Ireland final replay at Croke Park on Saturday.

Mayo manager Stephen Rochford could certainly draw a thing or two from Hill’s writings, and while the Crossmolina native publicly refused to place blame on Robbie Hennelly for Mayo’s defeat, he must learn from his mistakes in Saturday’s All-Ireland final replay and rebuild Mayo for another run at an All-Ireland title in 2017.

GAA Football All Ireland Senior Championship Quarter-Final, Croke Park, Dublin 6/8/2016 Tyrone vs Mayo Mayo Manager Stephen Rochford celebrates at the final whistle Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan

Selection issues aside, Rochford had Mayo playing their best football of the year when it mattered most on Saturday, which is always a strong sign that a manager is able to get the best out of his players. The Mayo boss doesn’t really need to rebuild a burned down house with this Mayo team either – he has a strong side with a number of key players in their mid-twenties, so he just needs to refrain from changing the house’s infrastructure.

Mayo have a hungry, determined and highly skilled panel at their disposal heading into next year and here are five reasons why they can break their seemingly everlasting All-Ireland drought next September.

1. They Were So Close This Time… And Even Closer The Last Time

A lot of the pre-match build-up to Saturday’s All-Ireland final replay focused on Dublin’s all-star forward line and how it would be very difficult for Mayo to replicate their defensive heroics from the first final two weeks ago.

Mayo were outstanding defensively in the first game and limited Dublin to just four points from play in the opening 35 minutes. Despite conceding two own goals through Colm Boyle and Kevin McLoughlin, Mayo never folded and never lost their focus.

INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Cillian O’Connor may have succumbed to pressure with the final kick of the game in the replay, but Mayo were more than a match for Dublin and never crumbled even when Dublin mounted significant leads in both games.

They weren’t intimidated, they were not over-awed and they weren’t outmatched. Crucial mistakes cost them dearly, but that’s high level sport, the margins for error are thin and any and every mistake can ultimately be fatal.


2. They Have Youth On Their Side

The strength of Dublin’s bench has been a key part of their success during the Jim Gavin era and being able to consistently bring on the likes of Michael Darragh MacAuley and Kevin McManamon has been invaluable to the Dubs at the backend of games.

Both MacAuley and McManamon have been used as key impact players off the bench during the past few years but Dublin have also introduced youth off the pine in the form of Paul Mannion, Cormac Costello and Eric Lowndes, highlighting the tremendous depth and talent Dublin GAA have install for the future.

Mayo don’t quite have the same production line of young players ready to step in and immediately make a difference, but they do have a core group of players that are in their athletic primes.

All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Final Replay, Croke Park, Dublin 1/10/2016 Dublin vs Mayo Mayo's Lee Keegan celebrates scoring a goal Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Cathal Noonan

Aidan O’Shea, Lee Keegan, Cillian O’Connor, Diarmuid O’Connor, Kevin McLoughlin and Patrick Durcan are all under the age of 27. The oldest player in Mayo’s starting side on Saturday was Andy Moran at 32 years of age.

Donal Vaughan and Tom Parsons are 27 and 28 respectively and while Mayo may be prone to making the most spectacular errors possible, ultimately, some of they’re most influential players are all around the same age and show no signs of slowing up.


3. They Still Want It

I don’t think any of us would begrudge the entire county of Mayo if they just decided to pack in Gaelic Football as a sport at this stage. The Yew County have lost five All-Ireland finals in the last 12 years and are runaway leaders when it comes to being the most tortured fanbase in Irish sport.

The curse, the drought, the 65-year wait, the eternal misery, whatever you want to call it, it’s a factor and you can see it in the Mayo team.

Maybe that’s discrediting the professionalism and focus of the Mayo players, maybe they’re unfazed by it, maybe they genuinely don’t take it into account when they’re seemingly down and out, but from the outside looking in, it appears as if they’re fully aware of their county’s torrid history in All-Ireland football finals and they’re determined not to let history repeat itself again.. and again… and again.

Their thirst for victory and their determination to succeed is evident in the players on the field and it seemingly takes their game to a higher level. Not in terms of how they play or their execution, but rather in how they simply won’t relent even when they’re bodies are clearly and visibly exhausted.

GAA Football All Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final, Croke Park, Dublin 30/8/2015.Dublin vs Mayo.Dublin's Diarmuid Connolly, James McCarthy and Philly McMahon clash with Aidan OÕShea of Mayo .Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

It helped that Saturday’s game was close heading into the dying minutes but Mayo still had to score two points within six minutes, or what was supposed to be six minutes of added time. With Dublin actively looking to wind down the clock and content to just spray the ball from sideline to sideline, Mayo had to work as hard as they ever had all year to generate turnovers and they did.

Mayo turned those turnovers into legitimate scoring opportunities but unfortunately O’Connor’s only miss on the day was when it mattered most.


4. To Be The Man, You Have To Beat The Man

Ric Flair was an iconic wrestler in both the WWF and WWE and was a true master of the microphone. One of Flair’s everlasting Flairisms was that in order ‘to be the man, you have to beat the man’, essentially, to be the champ, you have to beat the champ.

Mayo may have only won one of their last six matches against Dublin in the Championship, but with the exception of last year’s seven-point loss in the semi-final replay, no other side has consistently pushed the Dubs closer to defeat.

Over the last six Championship meetings between the two sides, Dublin have scored just five more points. In excess of 420 minutes of football, Dublin have scored just five more points through six games.

Mayo have played Dublin in four of the last five Championships so there’s a high probability that they’ll face each other again at some stage during next year’s Championship, and hopefully for the mental wellbeing of Mayo fans they’ll come out on the right side of the nailbiter for once.


5. At Some Stage Something Has To Give

Ireland is home to the Blarney Stone, whereby those who essentially kiss the stonewall of a castle are said to receive the gift of flattery, or at least that’s what they say. So essentially, we’re no strangers to curses, myths or the supernatural.

GAA Football All Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final Replay, Croke Park, Dublin 5/9/2015.Mayo vs Dublin.MayoÕs Keith Higgins, Cillian OÕConnor, Tom Parsons and Lee Keegan.Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/James Crombie..

The mystical workings of the universe seem to have a lot more credence in this part of the world than other countries, but even the biggest skeptics must have been questioning a priest’s curse during these last two weeks.

Two own goals in the first final and a goalkeeper dropping an uncontested high ball straight through his hands in the replay is unusual if not downright strange, but at some stage, something will have to give.

These mistakes and lapses in concentration can’t keep happening. At some stage or another, these droughts end. The Boston Red Sox ended the Curse of the Bambino in 2004, the Western Bulldogs ended their 62-year Premiership drought in the AFL over the weekend and, at some stage, luck will eventually roll your way and Mayo, for all the reasons listed above, will finally reclaim Sam.

Jack O’Toole, Pundit Arena

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