“I didn’t go out with the intention of coming home the way we did,” he said of that 13-point humbling. “We were mortified. The one thing I do like is that I don’t associate this Mayo team with what went on in them years.”
Unfortunately, the former midfielder wasn’t pressed for more on his assertion but the dots could be joined: this group are better than what has ever been there before in Mayo. They’ve died better, recovered better, won better.
No Mayo team of the past would have been able to absorb the freakishness of two own goals in an All-Ireland final to secure a replay last year.
No other Mayo could have persisted despite two of their star players clashing heads, one suffering concussion, in the ’14 semi-final replay to force extra-time.
Mayo might not yet have purged their past as the perennial you-know-what’s but they have severed the ties to the county’s reputation as distant losers.
Consider that 13-point difference 11 years ago or the eight points between themselves and Kerry in 2004 and contrast those figures to the county’s last six championship exits, three at final stage and three at semi-final, where their average margin of defeat has been just over four points.
Bear in mind the three of those exits have come after replays, one which obviously went to extra-time.
The “oh woe is me” negativity spawned from the final defeats in the 2000s and 1990s that continues to echo (it wasn’t long ago that Liam McHale was predicting Mayo’s All-Ireland famine could reach 80 years) finds no audience among them now.
”Do I believe I can win an All-Ireland? You better believe I do.”
“What else are we going to do? There’s no point giving up.”
“My attitude is that if I give it everything now, I know I will win a few All-Irelands. I know I will.”
“I don’t know if it is a football thing or Irish or whatever but we aren’t as good at looking at things that we have done well. Some lads like watching their positive clips over and over again. But there is definitely a place for both..”
But there has been a refreshing lack of bullshit from this Mayo group too:
“The best team wins at the end of the year and that hasn’t been us.”
“Maybe I left the hand in there a small bit long or whatever. Some people might say it was a soft free but whether it was or not it was given. .”
“I suppose we don’t value it (six All-Ireland semi-finals in a row, now seven) as an achievement until there’s silverware on the table”
“I think it was Pádraig Harrington that said ‘consistency is over-rated’. You just want to get one and sneak off into the sunset!”
Public outpourings of grief have now been replaced by an indelible stoicism, prompted by the four seasons of James Horan who had in his own words “cut away any of the rubbish that was associated with the inter-county team”, which had included as much about what was being said about Mayo football as being done.
On paper, this Mayo team’s record of final and semi-final defeats may so far stack up to mean just as little as those near-misses in 1996, ’97, 2004 and ’06 but this period of stability and presence says so much more.
Not to be seduced by the self-perpetuating sense of doom that often consumes the county or to succumb to that nagging feeling their time has come and gone takes impeccable resolve.
Regardless of tomorrow’s result, this is well and truly the era of New Mayo.
The Mayo that haven’t gone way. The Mayo that doesn’t wear defeats as badges of honour.
The Mayo that have changed their county’s tradition for the better.