Monday, September 18, 2006

Kerry Won't Find Greatness in Crushing Mayo

To lose one All-Ireland final in humiliating circumstances at the hands of a barnstorming Kerry side utilising direct balls into a big man in the full-forward line was unfortunate; to lose two in such a manner, frankly tiresome.

Two years ago Kerry's utter obliteration of Mayo in gaelic football's showpiece occasion was built around the use of pinpoint, raking balls into the veteran John Crowley, whose physical domination of his various markers from early on that day helped cow Mayo into a whimpering submission which their supporters would have hoped never to have to endure again.

Quantum leap: 2006; Kieran Donaghy. Oh boy.

In the lead up to the game I wondered, while perusing the rainforest-decimating quantities of preview coverage, whether the bottom line for yesterday's game could possibly be so simple. Mayo would have to either a) win such a huge amount of clean or broken possession in midfield as to deny Kerry the raw materials to deliver toward Kieran Donaghy; or b) failing the execution of a), when the inevitable good stuff was directed at the towering full-forward, somehow scrap, spoil or kick away its usefulness through diligent and ferocious marking.

Of course it wasn't that simple. None of that allows for the timeless wisdom of Seamus Moynihan's performance, or the failure of Mayo's half backs to even do their direct opponents the courtesy of introducing themselves at any useful point, or the glimpse into the future and the glittering All-Ireland medal haul that awaits Colm Cooper as his ascension to greatness continues.

But still, when Donaghy pulled that ball out of the air after eight minutes, dispensing of David Heaney like a man taking off a vaguely troublesome cardigan, it did look awfully, shockingly straightforward.

Then again, it is one thing knowing someone is going to shoot you, another altogether to catch the bullet.

When I used the word 'tiresome' to describe yesterday's events, I'm sure it was an adjective I did not alone deem necessary. 2004 was pitiful for Mayo; we turned away, shook our heads and left them with it, once again.

This time, they were back, and, we could only presume, the better for it. The word throughout the recent weeks was that they had learned lessons from 2004: they were taut, mean, had not gotten carried away with hype but rather had kept themselves coiled to spring into action, tearing at the unsuspecting Kerrymen's throats. Moran and Morrison had created a vastly different psychological habitat: one in which the Mayoman was not persecuted and wretched, but rather walked tall, and was unforgiving of demeanour.

So when these supposedly hardy stormtroopers turned out to be the same old Home Guard of previous campaigns, we groaned: "I've seen this episode before, and it was rubbish then."

All this tortured "whither Mayo?" discussion is a distraction from the main question today, however. Namely, is this Kerry team, gulp....great?

Order, order, please gentlemen!

Yes, yes, okay! Savaging the gentle herbivores of Mayo twice does certainly not a great team maketh. But, taking the last five seasons as an epoch of sorts (2001 being the absolute end of Meath's prominent days and the year of John O'Mahony's Galway team's last All-Ireland), Kerry have played in four All-Ireland finals and a semi-final, and won two.

If you consider that the Armagh and Tyrone teams (the only other winners outside of the Kingdom) of that time have there own claims on posterity, not solely in terms of achievement, but in the way they intensified the fundamentals of what it meant to play top-class inter-county football, then due credit must be paid to the way in which Kerry - unlike the other traditionally strong footballing powers - have remained at the level, or thereabouts, that can be construed as the benchmark.

And yet, and yet. While their cathartic defeat of Armagh in this season's competition will be offered as further proof that the Kingdom have risen back to the unquestioned pinnacle, students of the county's football history will still feel that a victory for the ages on the most hallowed of September Sundays remains an outstanding prerequisite for this team to share wallspace prominence with the legends of the '70s and '80s.

That is why all of us who slumped back into our seats eight minutes into yesterday's match, cursing poor Mayo for, well, just being themselves, and anyone who wants to see this Kerry team get another chance at that indisputable respect they remain just short of, are hoping. Hoping that, many miles north of Killarney, injuries are being recovered from, loins being girded and plans being hatched to bring the other team to have won two All-Irelands in five years back to Croke Park in September.

Anyone for best of five?


Blogger Fence said...

Let's not forget that Mayo are the best of the rest. They were unbeaten this season before the final.

It isn't Kerry's fault that Mayo fell to pieces, and the manner of kerry' victory says a lot about the team, in that they were fairly ruthless. Which stood to them when Mayo scored their lucky goals. Other teams may ahve sat back and then been in trouble, not Kerry.

As for whether or not they are great, well, that really only comes after the fact doesn't it?

9:04 a.m.  
Blogger Tommy77 said...

It's not Kerry's fault that Mayo were so poor, and they were magnificient in the way they set about Mayo, and also in the way they responded to Mayo's slight resurgence.

But I'd still imagine they'd like to come out on top of a really hard-fought all-ireland final, against a team who didn't wilt under the pressure of the day, just to fully wipe away the memories of '02 and '05.

Mayo earned their final place fair and square, but their tactics were awful, their spirit was, a few players aside, pretty weak and they frankly looked like they didn't deserve to be there. If they were the best, it doesn't say much for the rest.

10:01 a.m.  

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