Mayo's strong line of credit helps to ease form concern
Published 23/08/2016 | 02:30
When Cork won their All-Ireland football title in 2010, they may not have fallen over the line but they certainly didn't breast the tape with their chest out against a Down team that hadn't surfaced for years before and scarcely surfaced since.
But the Rebels' credit line was good from the previous five years which saw them lose three All-Ireland semi-finals (including a replay) and two All-Ireland finals to Kerry and when the moment presented itself they were able to exploit a gap in the market with one-point wins in their last two games, having required extra-time to see off Limerick in an earlier qualifier game.
Go back to the middle of the previous decade and Dublin certainly did 'fall over the line' in the 1995 All-Ireland final against Tyrone, relying on a big refereeing decision at the end to preserve a one-point lead.
After four years building towards it and losing two All-Ireland finals and a semi-final, not to mention that four-game Leinster Championship series to Meath in 1991, that team had earned its bit of good fortune. For the next seven years though, Dublin were hardly mapped on the national stage.
In a club context the journey of St Brigid's to All-Ireland club final success had a little touch of providence about it too.
Sometimes teams that look like they're reaching the end of their cycle strike for what has evaded their grasp for so long.
Mayo may not completely fall into this category but after 2015, when they were overtaken by Dublin, how many sensed that their best chance had gone.
Yet here they are back in an All-Ireland final for a third time, territory that the 1996/1997 and 2004/2006 Mayo teams that reached previous finals didn't cross.
Aidan O'Shea, once again a driving force, admitted there has been less focus on performance as results took priority. "We spoke during the week that we were in four semi-finals in the last two years, drawn two and lost two. Everyone says they were great games but we were on the wrong side of them and that's the disappointing part of it," he said.
"This time we said, regardless of performance, we just had to make sure we nudged into the next round.
"Our performance won't make people happy, it won't make ourselves happy but the reality is we're in an All-Ireland final and that's what we set out to do."
O'Shea acknowledges that the consistency in performance that has endeared them to so many has been diluted this summer.
"Everybody knows we've been banging on the door for a few years and we have been very consistent but we haven't been able to get over the line," he said.
"This year, we haven't been very consistent but if we get over the line and win the All-Ireland I'll take that 100 per cent.
"But we'll have to be consistent in the final for 70 minutes. We flashed in and out for periods of time when it was required on Sunday, but at the same time it won't be good enough against a team that are at another level.
"We know that performance isn't good enough. We conceded a lot of scoreable frees, which was disappointing. We need to eradicate a lot of things because that performance in the final won't be good enough.
"We've won all our games since the Galway game struggling along and it's great to be winning games when you haven't been playing your best."
What has come down though is their goal concession rate. From seven games so far they have been hit for three goals and not once have they conceded twice. That hasn't happened in any season since the current cycle began in 2011 but they had to wait until the 2013 final for Dublin to score twice, bringing the total concession rate that season to three from six games.