Saturday 21 April 2018

Mortimer brothers know giving up is not an option

A dejected Kenneth Mortimer takes his boots off after Mayo’s quarter-final defeat to Cork in 2002. Photo: Ray McManus / Sportsfile
A dejected Kenneth Mortimer takes his boots off after Mayo’s quarter-final defeat to Cork in 2002. Photo: Ray McManus / Sportsfile

Jackie Cahill

Kenneth Mortimer suffered more than his fair share of disappointment during his Mayo career.

A double All-Star recipient at corner back in 1996 and 1997, Mortimer experienced the heartbreak of All-Ireland final defeats in both years.

Brothers Trevor and Conor both know, too, what it's like to see the Sam Maguire flirt from the Hogan Stand but decline the offer of a trip home.

Trevor lined out in 2004 against Kerry and was a substitute in 2006, when the Kingdom won again.

Eight times since the county's last All-Ireland success in 1951, and excluding replays, Mayo have reached finals but lost. And yet, year after year, generation after generation, they keep coming back for more.

"What alternative do you have?" Kenneth asks.

Trevor in the 2006 All-Ireland final against Kerry. Photo: Damien Eagers / Sportsfile
Trevor in the 2006 All-Ireland final against Kerry. Photo: Damien Eagers / Sportsfile

"Give up? That's obviously not an option that merits any type of consideration. It's not a question of, can you do this anymore? It evolves over a period of time.

"Every team has different characteristics in terms of age profiles, players, management and tactics, all of which change year on year.

"It's very, very difficult to legislate for the mindset of a group year on year but it's quite obvious that this Mayo group are very strong mentally, plus the fact that they have some very good players."

Trevor reflects: "When you're at it, there's nothing else. It's the best thing you could be doing, to be quite frank.

"When you're 25, 26 or 27, up to 30, what else is there to do to forget about the mundane 9-5 in the West of Ireland? Go out at the weekend and have a few pints with the boys? That gets boring, or you get married and that stops.

"For all the talk about the losses, there were far more wins than losses and there's nothing better than playing for Mayo in the summer. Big games, big crowds."

The next step along the road for current manager Stephen Rochford and his men is Clare, in Ennis, on Saturday.

There's a novel feel about the tie as Mayo prepare for a qualifier fixture outside of their home patch in Castlebar, or Croke Park, for the first time since losing to Longford in 2010.

"It's obviously very dangerous," Kenneth notes. "Purely from the point of view that you're playing a team that do appear to be improving significantly over the last couple of years.

"If you were to take it on the basis of the Derry game, it's obviously not going to be easy.

"The other side of it is that it's the first time they've had to play away from home, or outside of Croke Park, in a qualifier for a long time.

"It makes a significant difference to the approach of both teams.

"Players are far more comfortable playing on home ground than travelling away from home.

"While Mayo will undoubtedly have a significant level of support there, it's still a ground that they would not be used to playing in. That brings its own challenges."

Trevor smiles as he recalls that Longford game from seven years ago.

"I was dropped, thankfully in hindsight!

"Speaking personally, I never went into a game thinking that we were going to win, or win handy. One that's fresh in the memory is the game we played in Derry (2007 defeat) but I know from personal experience that the bigger the team, the better we'll play.

"The more pressure we're under, or if we're the underdogs, the better we play. But this is a difficult one, because Clare are no bad team.

"They gave Kerry a good run and last year, they gave them a good go as well.

"Mayo should beat them but how far they're going to go after that is open for debate. They're lucky in one respect because they could have got a perceived tougher draw.

"They won't be concerned about how they win, it's about getting to the Bank Holiday weekend in August. That's where the train of thought has been for the last five or six years and while that's fine, you can't just switch it on, despite what a lot of people think.

"From what we've seen so far, they could do with a good performance on Saturday."

After reaching those successive All-Ireland finals in 1996 and 1997, Mayo were caught by Galway in Connacht in 1998.

It would have stuck in many a Mayo craw that Galway went on to win the All-Ireland title that year, and again in 2001, with a supremely-talented bunch under the stewardship of a Mayo man John O'Mahony.

In Kenneth's eyes, what Galway had, and what Mayo didn't, were bona-fide scoring forwards.

He says: "It was subsequently proven that they had comfortably the best set of six forwards in the country that year, and for a couple of years.

"Mayo have been very, very close, and particularly over the last five years or so, but teams with the best forwards have won the All-Ireland for the last 100 years, and probably will for the next 100."

The more things change, the more they stay the same, it seems.

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