Mayo selector Seán Carey says the county’s number of All-Ireland final appearances is the envy of the vast majority of counties, writes John Fogarty.
Tomorrow week, they will attempt to win a decider at the eighth time of asking since their last success in 1951 but Carey believes their consistency in making September dates makes impressive reading.
“I think, to be honest, since Mayo have come back into public consciousness in '96, there's 20 years where we've been there or thereabouts every couple of years. There's always pressure but it's a pressure that I think every other county would take. That you're there at the top table and you're competing and your reputation is as a county that achieves and is competitive over that 20-year period.
“So, I'd say that there is pressure but it's a pressure that 27, 28 other counties would gladly take in that time frame if they could have the kind of... maybe not actually winning it, but being competitive, consistently competitive over that 20 years.”
Mayo have been the “kingmakers” since 2012, losing to the would-be champions on each occasion. Carey sees merit in that record. “I think the only thing you can take out of that is the excellence of the group of Mayo players. Some people might look at that differently; I would say that's a sign of the potential these players have.
“You could look at that in a lot of different ways but the fact that it has taken the eventual winners to make us exit the championship, I think there's something very positive about that. Okay, you could wallow in that but the truth is that it's a sign that this group of players are excellent and really, really good at what they do. There's very, very small margins between us and what we want to achieve.”
Of Mayo’s six defeats since 2011, the biggest margin has been seven points – last year’s semi-final replay loss to Dublin. Next to that, it’s four points. “They haven't been beaten heavily,” says Carey. “They've been there or thereabouts. The teams that have made them exit in the last couple of years are the teams that have gone on to claim it.”
Carey wouldn’t say the job Stephen Rochford’s management team were presented with this year was low maintenance but then it wasn’t brain surgery either. “I would have been at all of those big games in the last five or six years and I think anybody who follows football would realise that Mayo have been really, really competitive and that they've been knocked out by the eventual winners each time.
“So I don't think anybody out there can think that there was a massive reconstructive thing that was needed. These guys are seriously committed athletes and they know what they're doing. There's a lot of talent there and I think they believe they can win it and, leaving Croke Park last year, I believed that they could still win it and I believe now that they can win it.”