Mayo GAA has often cast parallels with Shakespearean tragedy throughout a long and unrivalled history of near misses and disappointments.
One of the most interesting aspects of Mayo’s defeat to Dublin in the All-Ireland final replay relates to Stephen Rochford’s decision to drop goalkeeper David Clarke, who was perceived a shoo-in before the game to win an All Star, in order to pick Rob Hennelly for apparent better distribution from kick outs.
In theory, you could make a case for this being a perfectly acceptable course of action. From the outset of the championship, there was nothing between Clarke and Hennelly in terms of the selection race. With Hennelly starting the first championship game versus London and Clarke reclaiming the position ever since.
However, taking into account he made three crucial saves against the Dubs in the drawn All-Ireland final as well as doing well on his kick out distribution, until there were three crucial turnovers in the last ten minutes, you would have to say that the unsettling effect a change of goalkeeper would have on a rock solid defence was far too big a risk to take.
Hennelly’s subsequent inclusion in the replay dumbfounded many analysts. Not to be too disparaging about Henelly’s display, his kick outs led to a multitude of turnovers leading to the concession of at least 1-4 as well as the loss of Lee Keegan, who has arguably been Mayo’s most influential player over the course of the championship.
Now, many observers cannot help but cast their minds back to the political machinations from the players into forcing the resignation of Noel Connelly and Pat Holmes after a season where they brought Kerry to a replay in the semi-final while Mayo’s fifth Connacht title was added too. I thought at the time that they brought about an added steel to Mayo after years of setbacks.
For this ousting to take place, and in the subsequent season their new manager Stephen Rochford failing to win a Connacht title with a shambolic defeat to a Galway team, at the expense of two honest and genuine Mayo GAA stalwarts adds a whiff of sulphur to the belief in curses and magic that has enveloped the county.
In reality, the players scapegoated these two men for last year’s under-performance and it led to their demise this year in a roundabout way. The players must take ultimate responsibility for their current manager’s shortcomings as a result.
As Shakespeare’s Macbeth once said after murdering the gracious King Duncan:
“What’s done cannot be undone.”
Luke O’Connor, Pundit Arena