When London trotted out on to the MacHale Park pitch at about 1.40pm yesterday the entire crowd rose to its feet and applauded their summer thus far. Andy Moran matched that later with his acceptance speech.
The normal practice for a winning captain is to ask for three cheers for the vanquished foe at the back end of the presentation but Mayo’s captain front-loaded his with praise for their opponents.
Moran went so far as to single out London’s four Mayo representatives, one of them being Sean Kelly who, though born in London, grew up in Crossmolina and found himself in awkward territory yesterday afternoon.
“Yeah, growing up you’d rather be playing for them rather than against them but it is what it is. We are over in London seeking a better life for ourselves and if we can keep in touch with home and play Gaelic games over there it’s massive,” he said.
“For us to be playing in the Connacht final today, it’s great for the gaels of London and the games in London and hopefully we can raise the profile a bit and encourage more people to play.”
It would be oh-so-easy to kill London with condescending kindness after their experiences so far but the fact is they trooped off yesterday unhappy with how they played even if they just about beat the bookies’ handicap.
They had a point. Some of the key scores, those claimed when the margin had yet to expand to chasm-like proportions, were conceded on the back of some poor defending and carelessness when in possession.
Small mistakes, big consequences.
“A bit disappointing, really,” said Kelly. “We didn’t really do ourselves justice but, yeah, it’s a great occasion in hindsight. It’s a great achievement to get this far but it is still a disappointing result.
“We are ambitious footballers and thought it would be a lot closer than it was but, fair play to Mayo, they are a great team. We made a couple of mistakes for the goals and Mayo are a good team and punish you. What can I say? They are a good side.”
London could have done it differently.
Paul Coggins could have read the writing on the wall and opted to play with 13 or 14 men behind the ball whenever Mayo were in possession but he didn’t and the Roscommon man took obvious pride in his side’s bravery in going toe to toe.
“We played football,” he said.
They certainly tried but the immediate task facing them now is, arguably, one of even greater difficulty given they must recalibrate for an All-Ireland qualifier against a buoyant Cavan next weekend.
The back door route is one littered with the carcasses of beaten provincial finalists who found it impossible to raise their spirits so soon after such disappointments but Kelly was insistent that London were ready to fly home again.
“That’s up to the lads,” was Coggins’ take on that. “I don’t think it will be that difficult because we have come a long way and we have got another match under our belts before another game next week so a lot of positives out of today.
“We competed very well against Mayo for a lot of the game so we will talk about that and we will head back to training next week. You have to learn and build on everything we have done so far and just keep on improving.”