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Murph's Sideline Cut: 'All of Galway is going to have to wear this one for a long time'

TheScore.ie’s columnist made his 2013 debut yesterday and it wasn’t pleasant viewing in Pearse Stadium.

Galway's Thomas Flynn after yesterday's game.
Galway's Thomas Flynn after yesterday's game.
Image: INPHO/Cathal Noonan

I ASKED MY mother afterwards was it as bad as 1983, and she said it was.

So we can call it then – yesterday was a very bad day indeed to be a Galway supporter.

You can try and weigh up what’s worse, losing an All-Ireland to a team with 12 players, or getting humiliated 4-16 to 0-11 at home to your biggest rivals.

But you wait all winter for one game, and then after 30 minutes, you want it all to end.  That was yesterday in a nut-shell.

Mayo came ready to play championship football yesterday.  Alan Dillon took up his position at left corner forward for the start of the game and dumped Jonny Duane on his arse before the ball was thrown in.

They looked tuned in, confident.  Galway looked like they didn’t know themselves how they were going to go.  And when things went wrong, they didn’t have anyone to rally around.

Senior inter-county football is vicious now – tough, cynical, oppressive… a place where it takes a very specific, perhaps not very likeable, type of man to thrive.  At every other level of football, Galway is thriving.  But when it gets nasty, when you’re required to do something you’d be a little ashamed of, we don’t have the stomach for it. That’s harsh, but that’s the reality of it.

James Horan spoke during the week about how he didn’t really subscribe to all this ‘form-guide goes out the window’ talk around derbies.  Mayo were playing in Division 1, Galway were mid-table in Division 2.

He fully expected his team to win, and he didn’t really give a damn how many All-Ireland’s Galway had won in the last 129 years (9 to Mayo’s 3 – just by the way!  You’ll allow me that on this of all mornings, surely).  And why should he?

I wrote last year about Donegal and how great teams show composure on the ball – you couldn’t say that about even one Galway player yesterday.  They are good players but they are fragile mentally, and haven’t had a win to hang their coat on in years.  We haven’t won a real championship game, a dogfight, in so long that it’s starting to feel like we’ll never win one.

You see countless teams do hand-passing drills nowadays in their warm-ups, describing delicate parabolas as they weave in and out of each other’s way.  It’s at high-speed, and the ball whizzes from hand to hand.

Compare the speed at which that drill is done even by ordinary club players to how Galway handpassed the ball yesterday – like a father handing his newborn over to a friend who has a few pints on board.  There was no conviction in how they transferred the ball to each other, no confidence that they were capable of playing their way out of trouble.

The couple of early scores that came directly from that lack of assurance in the Galway backline were really damaging.  But Mayo were there with their foot on Galway’s throat immediately.  They were merciless, and they took considerable joy in turning the screw.  That’s what senior championship football is all about.  And it is a mentality that Galway have to try and sign up to.

Twitter: @saveciaranmurph

People have this image of Galway fans throwing their head back snootily at the modern game and all of its cynicism and defensiveness.  That is utter crap – Galway can still play attacking, fluent football, and be relevant in the game as we now know it.  Look at the scoring rate in Division 1 this year – you’ll have to be capable of putting up big scores to win the All-Ireland this September.

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Deliberate tactical snobbery is not the problem with Galway.  The problem is a lack of mean bastards in the team.  Cocky, arrogant, ignorant players that are a mild disgrace to their families with their carry-on. Galway are in dire need of some of them right now.  And getting two players sent off isn’t what I’m talking about here – that’s just frustration.  I’m talking about sustained, controlled aggression.

You hear rugby players talking about leadership groups in teams – a group of the 5 or 6 big characters in the team that meet regularly to decide with the management the team’s style of play, and set the standards for the squad as a whole.  Who’s in that group for Galway at the moment?

8 members of the 2011 All-Ireland under-21 winning team started yesterday, and the other seven were the players that Galway people were looking to for leadership. Two of those seven were sent off, with three more taken off.

And that’s the big problem for Alan Mulholland now.  That older group failed him, and all of Galway is just going to have to wear this one for a long time to come.  Redemption is available through the qualifiers, if Galway have the stomach for it.

This Week Murph was – on the verge of hating Andy Moran for what he did to us in the last minute in Salthill yesterday.  But goddamnit, he’s just so bloody likeable. After careful consideration, he will be relieved to know that he’s still in my good books.

Mayo’s Andy Moran celebrates with Cillian O’Connor after scoring a goal
Pic: INPHO/Cathal Noonan

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