Wednesday 28 September 2016

Comments only served to heap insult upon injury

Eamonn Sweeney

Published 26/07/2015 | 17:00

19 July 2015; Aidan O'Shea, Mayo, in action against Ross Donavan, Sligo. Connacht GAA Football Senior Championship Final, Mayo v Sligo, Dr. Hyde Park, Roscommon. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
19 July 2015; Aidan O'Shea, Mayo, in action against Ross Donavan, Sligo. Connacht GAA Football Senior Championship Final, Mayo v Sligo, Dr. Hyde Park, Roscommon. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

There have been easier weeks to be from Sligo. Particularly if your despair over the Connacht final was profoundly deepened by having to listen to Ger Canning and Tommy 'Tom' Carr as events unfolded. In hell, I am convinced, there will be a never-ending loop of Canning mispronouncing 'Caheragh' and Carr stating the bleeding obvious in his speaking clock voice.

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The most insulting thing that was said about Sligo's performance against Mayo is that there wasn't much the underdogs could have done to prevent such an enormous defeat. This is condescension of the highest order. The truth is that Sligo played incredibly badly on the day and got pretty much everything wrong, from their decision to go man on man with the Mayo full-forward line to a short kick-out strategy which made Russian Roulette look like a safety first option.

There was nothing inevitable about the scale of the defeat. In fact in Sligo's previous five final appearances, they won once, lost twice by a point, once by two points and once by three points. You have to go all the way back to 1956, nine provincial finals ago, for the last time my native county lost a decider by double figures. Portraying Sligo as helpless lambs to the slaughter is the unkindest cut of all. The players on duty last Sunday are capable of much, much better and will no doubt produce it down the line.

The full disastrous extent of the Hyde Park massacre can be illustrated by a couple of statistics. The 6-25 Mayo scored isn't just the highest total ever scored in a provincial football final - only one team in the history of the Munster and Leinster hurling finals, Cork against Waterford in 1982, has scored more. And the 26-point margin ties the previous record for a football final which was set in 1933 by Cavan when they beat Tyrone 6-13 to 1-2. There are hardly many remaining witnesses to that one.

Sligo have come back from the abyss before and will no doubt do so again. After all, Sunday came within an ace of being a very memorable day for the county as only a late Galway equaliser prevented Sligo winning a first Connacht minor crown since 1968. And last Sunday was the first time since 1954 that we had senior and minor teams in the Connacht final.

Perhaps the worst thing Tommy 'Tom' Carr said was that witnessing a defeat like this would make young players unwilling to play for Sligo. Well, I'm afraid that's not how it works, mate. The fact that their county were underdogs didn't stop Mickey Kearins or Barnes Murphy or Paul Durcan or Eamonn O'Hara enjoying careers every bit as honourable as those pursued by the stars of bigger and more successful counties. Sligo was the only county they had and they were able to resist the temptation to, for example, switch allegiance to Dublin.

In 2000 Sligo were on the end of a 0-22 to 0-4 trouncing by Galway in Markievicz Park. Two years later they beat Tyrone in Croke Park in the qualifiers and reached the All-Ireland quarter-final, where they were unlucky to lose to eventual champions Armagh after a replay.

It's a long road that has no turning.

Sunday Indo Sport

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