After years of hurt, can Mayo cope with winning?

Walking off the pitch in 1982 after hitting the goal for Offaly that ended Kerry’s five-in-a-row bid, Seamus Darby was collared by a supporter.

“Seamus, you’ll never see a poor day,” the fan guaranteed him. Seven years later, the man who scored the most famous goal in football history climbed aboard a boat to the UK with 50 quid in his pocket, borrowed from a friend.

“I probably stayed out at night drinking and celebrating when I should have been at home with my wife and kids,” admitted Darby in an RTÉ radio documentary aired last year. It wasn’t all the free drink that drove Darby to emigrate, that was more down to business difficulties, but Eugene McGee, Offaly’s manager at the time, noted in the documentary how Darby became a ‘prized commodity’ and, ‘for a year or two was brought here there and everywhere, all over the country’.

One can only presume a Mayo player would be opened up to the same sort of temptation if they beat Dublin, ending a 65-year famine in the football mad county.

James Horan, Mayo manager when they played Dublin in the 2013 final, believes they’re a mature enough group to deal with that sort of once in a lifetime success.

“Regardless of what happens, it’ll be the same for those lads next year,” insisted Horan.

“They’ll be back looking to be competitive again, absolutely, and that’s even more important if they win. There’s definitely something in that issue of dealing with winning but I think they will be back, I do. Because that’s the way they’ve been for five or six years, that sort of mindset.”

There is also the obvious concern of how a win might affect Mayo’s hunger heading into 2017. Even Dublin, with all their talent and ability, haven’t been able to put back to back titles together, yet. Padraic Maher admitted after Tipperary’s All-Ireland hurling final win over Kilkenny, their first since 2010, the players eased back and took things for granted after 2010.

Dubs boss Jim Gavin tried, in vain, to counteract any rot setting in after the 2013 final win over Mayo by claiming the team, by virtue of being involved in the September showpiece, were already behind their rivals preparations wise for 2014.

Horan knows a slackening of standards is always a potential problem for winners. “I remember Nick Saban, who I’d follow quite a lot, being interviewed in the middle of the field after some American Football game.

“All of the players were still around, the crowd going mad. He said, ‘Yeah, we’ll enjoy it but in 24 hours it starts again’. There was something in that for me. Obviously not 24 hours but that whole mindset. I think it’s important you plant trees quickly for the next year.”

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