Thursday 17 October 2019

League glory leaves Mayo star Doherty dreaming of bigger successes

Jason Doherty: ‘League win proof that we are doing a lot of things right’. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Jason Doherty: ‘League win proof that we are doing a lot of things right’. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

It was only at the final whistle following Mayo's Division 1 league final defeat of Kerry that Jason Doherty could appreciate the enormity of it all.

It wasn't the Sam Maguire triumph that a football-mad county has craved since their last All-Ireland SFC victory in 1951, but final successes in Croke Park have been few and far between so Doherty soaked in every drop of it.

It's often hard to appreciate the emotion which a song can evoke but as 'Green and Red of Mayo' by The Saw Doctors belted out over the tannoy, the 29-year-old was unexpectedly caught in his tracks.

"Just hearing the 'Green and Red of Mayo' being played out was just a great feeling, and just seeing the fans singing it and seeing grown men crying probably hit home how big it is to win national title in Croke Park," Doherty said at the launch of Physio Led Personal Training at Sports Physio Ireland earlier this week.

"You have so many fans up in Croke Park. I remember saying to Cillian (O'Connor), 'Just listen, you forget about this,' and that really hit me when that was playing.

"Often you (would) be daydreaming about, do you know, winning titles in Croke Park since I'm six or seven, maybe younger. One thing I always wanted to do, or daydreamed or visualised was getting a picture with the family and girlfriend with the cup on Croke Park.

"Just off the pitch or on the steps or somewhere, and I got that just off the front of the Hogan Stand and that just meant a lot. So that was a great buzz to kind of get that. It's a start. It's a cup in Croke Park, so that was a serious buzz."

The Burrishoole attacker neglected to book Monday off as would normally be done following an All-Ireland decider so it was back to work - he works as an engineer with the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland in the capital - as normal the following morning.

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Living in Drumcondra, Doherty hadn't far to walk from GAA HQ after the game and despite passing by Jones' Road or seeing the famous stadium in the skyline every day, playing there is something which never loses its lustre.

Last summer was a difficult one, however, as it was the first time since joining the Mayo set-up under James Horan in 2011 that he hadn't made it to Croke Park for a big knockout game.

He "wouldn't be the best spectator" so Croatia was the port of call for a holiday on All-Ireland weekend as Dublin secured four-in-a-row, but he's hoping to right the wrongs of 2018 this year.

The first step is a trip to the Big Apple to face New York on May 5 - where a major Mayo fundraising drive will take place that weekend - and Doherty is keen to reclaim their Connacht crown.

Kevin Walsh's Galway have had their number in recent years with three successive Connacht SFC defeats - as well as league supremacy - but they are intent on going the direct route to the 'Super 8s' if at all possible.

"Yeah, I think it is, to be honest," Doherty said of the need to go the direct passage. "It's definitely a firm target. The first target this year is definitely to win Connacht. That's to go over, beat New York and move on.

"Ultimately, the next big one for us is a Connacht title. We've probably let ourselves down the last three years in that competition and we're definitely targeting putting that right in 2019."

League success hasn't clouded Doherty's thoughts on the need for further improvement though and he knows things will have to be raised another few notches if they are to be in the shake up come summer.

"It's proof that we are doing a lot right, but dwelling on that and if we continue to play at the level we played last Sunday and don't progress into championship then the Kerrys, the Dublins, the New Yorks, the Galways, the Roscommons, they'll quickly pass us out," Doherty said.

"We saw how quickly Tyrone's season changed in the league from having a poor start, to thinking they're on a downwards trend to finishing on very much an upwards trend. Kerry flying it, Dublin doing the same, so there is a lot of teams that probably will be putting stuff that went wrong in the league right and the playing field will certainly level out unless we keep developing."

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