Tuesday 23 October 2018

Buoyed Barrett happy to keep fighting Mayo cause

Chris Barrett doesn’t believe that it’s a difficult decision for anyone to re-commit to the Mayo cause despite recent disappointments. Photo: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan
Chris Barrett doesn’t believe that it’s a difficult decision for anyone to re-commit to the Mayo cause despite recent disappointments. Photo: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Mayo go again because, as Chris Barrett puts it, what other choice could they make?

While the rest of the country sifts through the embers of more Mayo heartbreak, analyse why they continue to be nearly men and stand in awe of their resilience, Barrett and Mayo get on with the business of suiting up once more. Simply put, the option of walking away is much less palatable.

"I don't think it's a major decision you have to make. It's not as if you have to sit down at the start of the year and ask, 'Am I going to go again because we lost?'

"Personally anyway the draw is just the enjoyment and I've said it repeatedly, I think we are extremely lucky in Mayo that we have such a good group of players and we've had such success we'll say," he said at the re-launch Ireland's oldest painting and decorating store, Wigoders, which is owned by Dublin hurler Conal Keaney.

"Obviously we haven't won the All-Ireland, but success in the last few years where we've constantly got to the latter stages of the All-Ireland series. It's just the enjoyment of being able to run out at Croke Park in the summer time or McHale Park in the Connacht final.

"It's not a tough decision to make to be honest, and I think most of the lads are the same. By the time January comes around, they are all raring to go again."

So Mayo will go again with mostly familiar faces but for many of the established players, 2018 has seen something of a false start. Keith Higgins was hurling for the spring. Donal Vaughan didn't see league action. Tom Parsons returned late. Lee Keegan won't see action until much later in the championship after a shoulder dislocation. Barrett himself has yet to see a minute's competitive action after damaging his knee on International Rules duty before the turn of the year.

It's the latest in a long line of setbacks he has had to endure since making his championship debut in the ignominious defeat to Longford in 2010, including four surgeries on one knee.

"Since 2011 I've had pretty serious injuries all along the way. I never got back to the fitness levels, the performance levels I knew I could get to. Last year I came back, was carrying a bit of an injury from 2016 to the start of 2017.

Surgeries

"Only started back training around March but got a full block from March to September. The additional 10 games all helped me.

"I hurt my knee in 2012, had four surgeries between there in the space of two years. 2016, had a tendonitis issue with hamstring that lingered. But hopefully now, touch wood."

The injury-free run last year culminated in a brilliant All-Ireland final performance that was notable for the turnovers he generated. Barrett however remembers things differently, including the foul on Diarmuid Connolly for the match-winning score.

"After the match I was getting lots of plaudits but I was thinking in the back of my head that Dean Rock scored three points in that second half and I was marking him. So that's what I had in my head. The last free as well for Diarmuid Connolly had a huge impact on the game as well.

"I'd be very disappointed if I went in after a match and someone was able to tell me something that I had done wrong that I hadn't noticed myself. So I would be very self-reflective like that, so they stick in my mind.

"I pride myself on trying to keep my opposite man scoreless, so there are definitely two (points) there that I kind of would put myself at fault for.

"But in saying that, I was immensely proud of how I played as well like. I'm not just saying that that's all I think about, I think it was a good day for me in a Mayo jersey but it still sticks with me when you lose."

Are there psychological scars for this Mayo team after what felt like their most sickening gut punch?

"I don't think it has a huge influence year to year," said the Dublin-based defender.

"You definitely have to learn from why you lost the matches and I think that's the key thing we have taken from last year, always trying to analyse why it went wrong rather than just saying, 'Oh, Mayo bottled it again in the last 10 minutes' or something.

"Some people just throw a blanket over it, but if you look into the nitty-gritty of the game, there's mistakes that happen that actually lead to it. We've gone into a process of just trying to pick them out rather than going through the psychology thing which is the easy one to throw on it."

Wreckage

That analysis process can be painful but the wreckage of an All-Ireland final defeat must be examined too. Down through the years, there's been several incidents that could be fingered as reasons why Mayo haven't got over the line, but Barrett insists there is never a rush to apportion blame.

"I think blame is not a good word. You can't blame anyone because everyone is doing their best. Everyone makes mistakes and you have to, at the level we're at, everyone is there because they're able to learn and adapt and learn from the mistakes.

"Most of our guys would be able to look back on the match, see the mistakes they made and work on those. They don't need to be pointed out. But nobody gets blamed. In a team sport like that, mistakes happen all the time. When you get to a case that you're blaming people it's not a good thing."

The clash with Galway is coming into view and the GAA's ultimate boys of summer are ready for road once more. They go again. They have to. They want to.

Irish Independent

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