Friday 24 January 2020

Billy Keane: Tipp have sown seeds for a fairytale, but Mayo have waited so long for their golden harvest

Mayo will need Aidan O’Shea, here celebrating the win over Tyrone, at his best against Tipperary Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Mayo will need Aidan O’Shea, here celebrating the win over Tyrone, at his best against Tipperary Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Billy Keane

Billy Keane

Tipperary and Mayo kids who lived free range all summer are being measured up for school uniforms. But the talk of the day out in Croke Park postpones the inevitable.

The turf is at home in Mayo and the lobster pots will be brought ashore before long more. In the Golden Vale, the yield from the Tipp cows will soon be back down by gallons a day and the grain farmers are praying for fine weather.

A man I know from Fethard, who is more of a planner than most, had his chimney cleaned before the rush.

The very same small boys and girls who have outgrown last year's school clothes are indulging in larcenies that would have their ancestors banished to Van Diemen's Land for life: orchards are being raided for inedible crabs and too green-eating apples.

Or maybe the kids are chasing Pokemon to kill what seems like the endless waiting for the day out at the match.

The old folk who want to slow down the inexorable march of time will ask where has the year gone? And will this finally be our year?

There's a comfort in the continuity and tradition - and tomorrow Mayo take on Tipperary for the right to contest the 2016 All-Ireland football final.

Is there one more shock left in this the 'Year of the Underdog'? Have Tipp a chance, and is it a big chance or a small chance ?

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There was a time when Tipp's All-Ireland dream lasted no longer than a fresh '99' in hell.

But the path to glory by the back door has proven the All-Ireland system to be fair enough if you're good enough.

Tipperary is a hurling county but there are staunch football enclaves. This occasion is a massive tribute to the resilience and loyalty of the football men and women who held onto traditions going back a hundred years or more. This is Tipperary's third time in Croke Park in the one year and their heroes will not lack confidence.

There have always been good footballers in Tipperary. The problem was there was never enough on the field at any one time. This Tipp team was written off by most observers when they lost too many stars to hurling - on either short or long-term exile.

Years of work have gone in to the building up of strength in depth and now Tipp are in the All Ireland semi-final.

The game is an adventure for Tipperary. For Mayo, though, this is a quest. The winning just has to mean more to Mayo.

The stories of heartbreak and yearning load up the Mayo landfill to the full. A barman in search of news, or gossip or the national mood need never leave the confinement of behind the counter.

I meet a good many Mayo people at holiday time and every man and woman among them crave success. I have friends and family in Mayo and clichéd as it may seem, I feel your pain.

Mayo people have achieved so much since the last All-Ireland win over 60 years ago. There is more to life than football. Still, though, I can see the need for validation. It's as if Mayo people feel an undeserved sense of inferiority or failure. Be very proud Mayo, very proud.

Mayo should win but there are formlines, too, that favour Tipperary. Mayo were well beaten by Galway, and Galway were well beaten by Tipperary. Although I know Mayo have improved a lot since then.

The win over Tyrone proved Mayo do not lack skill or courage but Tyrone didn't attack as their young players can. Then there was Sean Cavanagh's sending-off. Wrestling and high tackling are against the rules and the ref was right.

As for Tipp, I have no doubt they will do their talking with their feet. Liam Kearns has Tipp kicking straight and through because defences used to endless foreplay are not set up or accustomed to fast ball.

Mayo are a footballing team, if you play football with them. This might just be the game Gaelic football so badly needs to keep up with the majesty and drama of the three hurling semi-finals.

Mayo need Aidan O'Shea and Cillian O'Connor to be at their best to win this. Tipp are that good, but they'll have to put a stop to Lee Keegan, who's fast heading for Player of the Year.


Mayo are bigger but Tipp are faster and Croke Park is suited to speed and running, more so than high fielders and hard-hitters. Midfielders will soon become redundant, what with short kickouts and hand-passing. There are tales of players being sent away by fortune tellers who were unable to read worn-out palms.

Tipperary went at Kerry from the off in the Munster final in Killarney and were getting the better of us until they began to play as if there were speed cameras watching. Tipp need to attack all day long

Mayo might just win a very enjoyable game, but try a small saver on the draw by way of an insurance policy to cover the cost of another day-out.

Irish Independent

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