‘Mayo For Sam’, is still a realistic prospect for 2017. The Green and Red have qualified for back-to-back All-Ireland finals and this will now be their fourth All-Ireland final in six seasons. It is well documented that Mayo have not lifted Sam Maguire since 1951, and 2017 will present yet another chance for the heartbreak to end.
Here are the five main talking points after the game;
Mayo are finally winning replays
In the last three seasons, Mayo have exited the championship after replays. Back in 2014, a replay went to extra-time such was the lack of a gap between themselves and Kerry. While Dublin accounted for Mayo in 2015 and 2016 after two games before winning the All-Ireland.
2017 has now seen Mayo finally get over the line in replays. They have drawn four games in the 2017 championship, and have been successful after replays on two occassions. This has to be a psychological boost to them in that they are winning tight games in the All-Ireland series.
Aidan O’Shea can do it in a big game in Croke Park
The much maligned Breaffy player was outstanding yesterday. He set the tone in both halves by rising up and fielding both throw-ins. All eyes were on him after the drawn game. Having been positioned at full-back, everyone wondered where he would be deployed.
O’Shea did his damage in the opening quarter when he lined out at midfield, he was everywhere and provided a great attacking platform from the off, before moving back to full-back where he did put the shackles on Kieran Donaghy. Credit where it’s due, for a player who takes a lot of flack, O’Shea put in a very mature performance in the replay as he set the tone for his Mayo teammates.
The more games the better
Mayo have now played nine games in this year’s championship and nobody can say that every second on the pitch has not stood to them as they have approached the business end of the season. There is no substitute for matches, let alone knock-out championship games and Mayo’s path to the semi-final has been of great benefit.
Over the course of two games against Kerry, Mayo looked a lot fitter and a lot sharper. Eight games, six very tight ones, were highly favourable compared to the four games that Kerry had played, where it could be argued that the first game with Mayo proved to be their first real test.
The older guard still have plenty to offer
Adding to the previous point about more games being of benefit, the elder members of the Mayo side have been nothing short of outstanding so far this season. The main names that come to mind here are Andy Moran, Colm Boyle and Keith Higgins. All three have been instrumental in their run to the final.
Higgins and Boyle have combined the roles of attacking and defending very well. Their lung-busting runs and last-ditch tackles have been clear for all to see. And what more can be said about Andy Moran, having played in an All-Ireland final over ten years ago, he is in the form of his life in 2017 and is in the running to win Player of the Year.
A mental block has been eradicated
Mayo have always been able to compete, but they could not beat the top teams consistently in Croke Park. 2017 is Mayo’s seventh year in a row in the All-Ireland semi-final. They have been at the top table for a while now and have remained competitive. But they have failed to lift the big prize.
Arguments regarding Mayo just failing to be good enough, or whether they are ‘bottlers’ annually divide opinion. The 2016 drawn All-Ireland final was the best example of a mental blockage and yesterday should go a long way to eradicating that further. Mayo now know that they can compete with and beat anyone.