|Mayo manager James Horan hugs a player after the win.|
Anyone with the slightest connection to the GAA is being asked the question – have you a ticket for the All-Ireland final please?
It’s an annual event, but this year the search for a seat at Croker is more intense than ever as two underdogs compete for the biggest prize of all.
Mayo fans shouldn’t be in this position, of course, according to some experts. The consensus among the pundits last weekend was that they were only going to Croke Park last Sunday to make up the numbers in the semi showdown with Dublin.
Pat Gilroy’s team hadn’t played like the All-Ireland champions all summer, but that didn’t deter anyone bar the most fervent Mayo fan from tipping the Dubs for a swift return to the All-Ireland decider.
Thankfully for Mayo nobody told their manager James Horan, a man who models his team and his own methods on the way Gilroy runs the Dublin set-up.
Horan never said publicly that his team would win the biggest test of their time together, but there’s no doubt he believed it after watching the way Mayo took the champions apart for some 50 minutes last Sunday.
In that spell Mayo played with a swagger and a confidence worthy of All-Ireland contenders. They also put up an impressive 10 point lead on the Dubs.
Then Mayo did what Mayo teams always do – they went asleep. They allowed a dogged Dublin to rediscover their mojo, and they almost paid a heavy price.
For 15 minutes or so it seemed like Mayo couldn’t get the ball out of their own half. They conceded score after score as the Leinster champions got within three points of their Connacht opponents and within sniffing distance of a famous comeback.
Eventually, after a brilliant save by David Clarke from Bernard Brogan, Mayo found their spirit again and fashioned a famous win.
For now, Mayo can celebrate their win and their fans can search furiously for tickets, but someday soon reality will have to check back in around Castlebar and Ballina and Achill.
If Mayo play against Donegal as they did for most of the second half against Dublin, they will be destroyed in the final in just over two weeks from now.
Nobody will know that better than Horan. He admitted that much himself on Sunday night when he said that Mayo survived the mother of all scares in a game he described as a “battle.”
Now back in training, the Mayo players will digest Horan’s analysis of their performance on Sunday, work out what to do next against a stronger Donegal side and prepare for the biggest fortnight of their sporting life.
The hype will be intense between now and Sunday fortnight. The fans and the media will want a piece of each and every Mayo player, and Horan will do well to protect them from the pressure.
He will also do well to keep the demand for tickets away from his squad. Like everyone else, they will be asked that question in the coming days and weeks – any chance of a ticket?
No matter how many times the question is asked, the Mayo players will know it’s a great dilemma to have.
They have a real chance now to win the Sam Maguire, even if they go in against Donegal as underdogs. That alone makes it all worthwhile.
(Cathal Dervan is sports editor of the Irish Sun)
Trap’s Under Pressure
GIOVANNI Trapattoni’s assistant Marco Tardelli can’t understand why his boss is under scrutiny in the Irish media right now.
World Cup winner Marco is perplexed by the questioning of some reporters at the media sessions in the build-up to Friday’s qualifier in Kazakhstan.
It seems he cannot understand why the media are fixated with the relationship between Trap and his players after the decision of Everton midfielder Darron Gibson to effectively quit international football.
Gibson, annoyed and rightly so at his lack of game time at Euro 2012, is just the latest player to fall out with
Trap and joins a list that includes Stephen Ireland, Andy Reid and Kevin Foley to name just three.
According to the gospel according to Marco so to speak, the Irish media and fans should never question Trap. His results, say his right-hand man, are good enough to ensure that Trapattoni is placed on a pedestal and never subject to scrutiny.
Now Marco should know well that any manager at any level is only as good as his last results. And right now Ireland stink as a competitive soccer team.
We went to Euro 2012 full of hope and lost all three games, badly at that, to Croatia, Spain and Italy.
We play Kazakhstan away on Friday night in a World Cup qualifier fraught with danger and on a plastic pitch at that.
And if Marco thinks the critics are bad at the moment, just wait until he sees what happens if Ireland don’t beat the minnows this weekend.
Kazakhstan, in case you don’t know, is the spiritual home of one Borat. And already we have the mankinis waiting for Trapattoni.
As criticism goes, he ain’t seen nothing yet.
GAA: Much has been made of Bernard Brogan’s poor form in the Dublin shirt this season, but even he couldn’t plan for the brilliance of Mayo goalkeeper David Clarke when he got through on goal in Sunday’s All-Ireland semifinal. Clarke’s save from Brogan was truly world class and reminiscent of a certain Gordon Banks stop from Pele. That’s how good it was. Seriously.
SOCCER: Roy Keane wants to get back into management and he may not have too long to wait as Bolton struggle to adapt to life in the championship. Owen Coyle is under real pressure at the Reebok, so don’t be surprised to see Keano linked with that job in more places than the Irish Voice in the very near future.
SOCCER: It will be great to see Aiden McGeady play for Spartak Moscow against Celtic in the Champions League group stages. McGeady has thrived since his move to Moscow, but he knows as well as anyone than the Celtic fans will reserve judgment on his improvement until he plays at Parkhead before Christmas. Should be well worth watching.
GOLF: Thanks to the Labor Day holiday we got to see some live golf on our TV on Monday night, and it was quite brilliant as Rory McIlroy won in Boston. He’s favorite now for the FedEx and that $10 million bonus, and he probably deserves it after his recent run of form.
RUGBY: Warren Gatland will coach the Lions in Australia next year, a deserved recognition of his job with Wales and a fair kick in the teeth for those who kicked him out of the Ireland job and questioned his ability not so long ago.
HURLING: Kilkenny may have lost to Galway in the Leinster final, but you can’t see past the Cats in Sunday’s All-Ireland final. Only a mammoth performance from Joe Canning will stop the Black and Amber.
WEDDING: Good luck to Cathy Foley, once of the Irish Voice, who gets married in New York this week. And a big hello to Niamh McCarthy and her mum who are over for the wedding. Enjoy.
HEROES OF THE WEEK
MICHAEL McKillop and Jason Smyth discovered that the streets of London really are paved with gold this week at the Paralympics, but they are not alone. The Irish team in the English capital have been raking in the medals and, more importantly, doing their country proud. Well done to one and all.
IDIOT OF THE WEEK
THE South African Oscar Pistorius has probably done more for Paralympians than anyone, but his silly comments about the Brazilian who beat him in London this week were badly timed. Pistorius did issue an apology the next morning, but by then the damage was done after he had come across as a bad loser.