Saturday, October 31, 2015

Dublin Bonfires

I saw the most extraordinary procession earlier today. It seemed like a ragbag army of the wretched, not a million miles away from the sort of scenes we’re seeing in Eastern Europe with the migrant issue. The dispossessed and forgotten, dragging their meager possessions behind them, marching towards what they hope will be a new life.

A closer inspection reveals that, rather than migrants or medieval pillagers, these are the children of the city, getting set for their single favourite thing of the year, the Hallowe’en bonfire.

The skirmish parties consist of two or three boys in groups. One of each group is dragging a wooden palette on the road behind him. Bear in mind that the roads are essentially closed to traffic while these troops march by – the rules of the road do not apply to them.

Behind the skirmish parties, as it inevitably must, comes the heavy artillery. In this case, it’s some sort of trolley piled high with palettes, while the striplings dance attendance around it. This is the centerpiece of the action, the motherlode of the Ceremony of Fire that is to come.

And bringing up the rear, then, were bicycled outriders, for once too pre-occupied to do wheelies, each signaling to the others where the army had marched on ahead.

The entire army is almost entirely made up of schoolboys, none of whom is old enough to shave. There was one girl, a George among the Julians and Dicks. Perhaps more of the fairer sex will come out after dark, once the ceremony has begun.

The boys are nearly all dressed in tracksuits, certainly the ubiquitous grey (off-white?) tracksuit bottoms, but some are wearing labourers’s gloves. More are wearing yellow or orange high-viz vests.

The high-viz vests are initially a mystery until you remember that these are only children. They’re wearing high-viz vests because they’re playing at being grown-ups. Grown-ups wear high-viz vests, therefore the children shall wear high-viz vests, and wear labouring gloves to show that they’re hard.

It’s all very winsome, until you remember that tonight they will build a bonfire that’s three or four times bigger than themselves, light it and then lose all control of what happens next.

The thing could topple over and burn them. The wind could rise, blow a piece of the bonfire where it’s not supposed to be and set part of the city ablaze. They have no idea of the consequences and, being children, can’t have an idea. How could they? They’re too young to understand. Childhood is about Now. Consequences live in a land beyond the edge of that innocent world.

The children’s parents, however, should be a little more aware of consequences. They should reflect deeply about how they’re raising their kids, just as society should think deeply about the annual toleration extended to Hallowe’en bonfires. It’ll be too late when something – or someone – is burned to the ground.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Reform the League, not the Championship

Whisht, a minute now, would ye whisht!
Conversations about remaking the Championship are as boring as ones about the gap between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres in rugby, and about equally pointless. This hasn’t put an end to them, of course. John Fogarty reported in yesterday's Examiner that there are eighteen – 18! – proposals to remake the Championship on their way to Central Council this very winter.

Here are some facts on which all concerned should reflect. The Championship will always be unequal for as long as only Mayomen can play for Mayo, Galwaymen for Galway, and so on. If that rule ever changes, whatever comes after will not be the Championship, or the GAA, any more. It will be something else, and the one cogent and successful expression of nationalism and patriotism since the 1916 Rising will be lost with all the others.

The inequality of the Championship used to be compensated by the fact it was a knockout competition. A lesser county may have no hope of an All-Ireland but it could certainly deny an All-Ireland to its bigshot neighbour. There was a certain joy in that – the Germans do not have a freehold on schadenfreude, after all. There’s nothing about schadenfreude you can’t tell a nation of begrudgers.

Beating your neighbour will always count for more than beating someone drawn out of a hat, whose county-people you don’t know, with whom you didn’t go to school or college, don’t meet at work, and all the rest of it. There can only be one winner every year, but the Championship was comprised of so many smaller Championships, between Laois and Offaly, between Galway and Mayo, between Derry and Tyrone.

That small compensation of softening a few bigshots’ coughs is denied the lesser counties by the back-door system. The story that the back door was there to favour small counties was only ever a lie. Laws, as a friend of the blog likes to remark, were never made for the poor.

However. The problem of inequality among counties was addressed in what your correspondent can only describe as a flash of genius from Kieran Shannon in an Examiner column of a few weeks ago. Shannon's simple proposal should be the Number One item on the bill for central council deliberations instead of the Champions-League knit-one, purl-two around the house and mind the dresser alternatives being proposed.

There are many reasons for the gap between haves and have-nots, most of them down to tradition, but the problem has become worse in recent years. It’s become worse because best teams play each other every spring in the National League, each honing their skills against the others. Other counties don’t get a look in at that highest level of football and then, when they do run into it in the Championship, they get destroyed without ever knowing what hit them.

James Horan, who has proved excellent in his second life as a pundit, remarked on Newstalk during the summer about how much he and Mayo learned from every single Division 1 game that they played. It is unfair that Mayo and others should have access to so much tutoring and other counties should not. Which is where Kieran Shannon’s plan comes in.

Shannon’s simple suggestion is that the League return to the 1A and 1B format. The current Division 1 and 2 can populate Divisions 1A and 1B, with the teams that finished first, third, fifth and seventh in Divisions 1 and 2 going into 1A and those who finished second, fourth, sixth and eighth going to 1B, and the same procedure used for filling 2A and 2B from Divisions 3 and 4.

The point here is that while the Championship structure is set in stone, the League is always open to reconstitution. So, instead of trying to change what you can’t, people concerned with inequality in the Championship should concern themselves with what they can change – the League.

There would be some kinks to iron out over who was promoted or relegated, and about maintaining the balance between the A and B sections of the divisions, but these are small details. The former Division 1 teams now only get half the benefit they used to get from their League games, while the Division 2 teams get to test themselves against the big guns and learn a thing or two before it’s time to load the live ammunition in summer.

People have entrenched views on the Championship while the League, once a competition of prestige, is now a red-haired stepchild to be kicked around the place. A simple change would benefit everybody, and there would be no thumps or spilled pints during the debate. Please note, Central Council.

Monday, October 12, 2015

32 Things - Insider Gossip v Public Service Journalism

RTÉ are currently running an online series called 32 Things Paddy Wants to Know about the upcoming general election. This series is a precise illustration of the failure of Irish political journalism to inform the electorate about how the country is run.

The first of the 32 things Paddy wants to know is who’ll get elected in Cork South Central. This isn’t politics. This is gossip. Personalities are trivial. Policies are important.

The second of the 32 things is who’ll get elected in Tipperary. Again, gossip.

The third and fourth of the 32 things are how Labour and Renua will get on. This is a who’ll bigger, the Beatles or the Stones?-type story. Gossip.

The fifth of the 32 things is how women candidates will get on. It's an ideological topic, but there's no real substance there. The quotas have given the argument a false perspective, so you end up with a cat-fight report from Dún Laoghaire Fianna Fáil. Gossip.

Sixth and seventh are how Fine Gael and Sinn Féin will get on. See third and fourth.

The eighth is who’ll get the chop when Mayo reduces from five seats to four. Gossip, gossip, gossip.

That’s not public service journalism. That’s water-cooler conversation in the Dublin 2 Beltway. Fascinating for Insiders, not worth two balls of roasted snow to Joe or Jane Citizen. Here’s what Paddy and Patricia really want to know.

  1. At the time of the crash, we were told that Ireland was sold into bondage for the next thirty years. Now the economy is growing at six per cent per annum. So – what happened to the projected 30 years of living off hot gravel? Has an economic miracle occurred? Or has nobody really known what was going on since August 2008 they’ve spent the past seven years bluffing for their lives and thanking God and Frau Merkel?
  2. Six per cent growth per annum. Two per cent is ideal, isn’t it? Two point something, maybe? If the economy is growing at six per cent, doesn’t that mean it’s overheating? If it’s overheating, shouldn’t the government be trying to cool it down, rather than heat it up some more?
  3. Or has the government embraced Charlie McCreevy’s belief that if you have it you should spend it?
  4. Doesn’t that run against the advice of JM Keynes, who had the idea of a salting away the silver for a rainy day as a bedrock of his macro-economic policy? Weren’t we hearing about Keynes all during the crash?
  5. Or when they hear “Keynes,” are Roy and Robbie the only men that come to the government’s mind?
  6. I see those lads who terrorized that family in Tipperary had seventy previous convictions between them. How many previous convictions do you need until the Guards start to think you might be worth keeping an eye on?
  7. If you run up twelve points on your driver’s license you’re taken off the road. How can you have multiple previous convictions and still be running around?
  8. A guy with eleven previous convictions, for public order, robbery and assault, got a suspended sentence for beating the head off a girl on a bus recently. He was also recommended to do a course in anger management issues. Any idea where a citizen could do an anger management course after reading that court report?
  9. Speaking of our learned friends, does anyone remember that cutting legal fees was something the Troika stressed over and over again during the time here? How’s that coming along?
  10. Any plans to set up an Irish-Water-esque quango to get that show in the road?
  11. Yeah. Poor example, I know, I know.
  12. Remember when Enda promised a quango cull?
  13. Or the report card for Ministers?
  14. Whose report card are you looking forward to the most?
  15. Alan “AK-47” Kelly?
  16. Phil “Big Phil” Hogan?
  17. Doctor James “Bottler” Reilly?
  18. Heather “A Rebel I came, I’m still the same” Humphries?
  19. Jan O’Sullivan, who’s so helpless she doesn’t even have a nickname?
  20. Alan Shatter, who had the poor Attorney General plagued ringing her at all hours of the day and the night about the nicer points of torts, malfeasances and likewise legalease?
  21. He might even have asked her about fees now and again, of course. Just to break the tension and have a laugh, like.
  22. Speaking of reports, how long it’s been since Moriarty Tribunal Report came out?
  23. Four years? Four-and-a-half?
  24. And that’s resulted in – what, exactly?
  25. And Labour are all fine with that, I suppose? Them oul’ ethics aren’t bothering them? Martyrs for the ethics, Labour. Labour used to be worse bothered with the ethics than great-aunt Maggie with the lumbago. The ethics must have cleared up after Labour got into government. Poor Maggie is still crippled, of course. 
  26. And how are things looking in the North? Not too great?
  27. After all these years, wouldn’t it be something if Ireland were to be finally united by politicians on both sides realising that there are enough cookies in the cookie-jar for all the boys, Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter?
  28. And are we all sure there’ll be enough room in Longford for all those Syrians along with everyone else?
  29. No Minister, I couldn’t name three streets in Longford either. Although I suppose Pearse and O’Connell are always good guesses.
  30. Did you see where the Phoenix reckoned the next Presidential election will be between Michael D, Miriam O’Callaghan and Enda? The Lord save us.
  31. Come here, Do you still have that brother beyond in Cricklewood Broadway?
  32. Do you think he could put me up for a week or two until I find a job and a place to stay? I’ve had my fill of this nightmare country.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Mayo's Civil War

Civil wars can never be won. They can only be ended. The sooner they are ended, the less damage they do. All sides in the current Mayo GAA dispute should come to terms with this fact as quickly as they can.

The very fact a civil war has broken out is appalling; for positions to become entrenched and a long campaign to break out would catapult the county out of the lofty company it’s become so accustomed to keeping, and back to the days of being on the business end of a twenty-point whipping from Cork or a one-point massacre at the hands of Leitrim.

All minds must now concentrate on finding a solution. It is a bizarre thing to say, but the rights and wrongs of the thing don’t really matter now. The dispute must be ended as quickly as possible. And the quickest end to the dispute would be for the current management to resign and for James Horan to return for one more swing on the merry-go-round.

If Mayo win their fourth All-Ireland title in 2016, well and good. But while Horan and the team are trying to do that, the County Board should be spending its time properly planning the succession. If Mayo don’t win the All-Ireland, the team as we’ve known it over the past five years is shattered, and someone totally new is going to have start from Square One again.

But at least the County Board will have a year to make their plans for that contingency. What they can’t do, under any circumstances, is let the current situation fester, unresolved.

There is a meeting tonight. Some speculate it’ll be like the Donnybrook Fairs of the 18th Century, and that’s possible. God knows there’s enough resentment being built up, and no small amount of tub-thumbing instead of reasoned calm. But if ever there were a day to leave egos outside the room it’s today.

Mayo have been so close to Sam in recent years they can nearly smell the silver polish. Everybody knows that. Football people in Mayo all know the pall that hangs over the county of being the eternal bridesmaids on the third Sunday. Once that hoodoo is broken, football is liberated in Mayo and a tradition can be built to rival any county’s.

But what people are allowing themselves to forget is that a team is as delicate a creature as a thoroughbred racehorse, and just as easily spooked. John O’Mahony liked to quip that the opportunity of a lifetime only lasts as long as the lifetime of the opportunity. Cillian O’Connor and Aidan O’Shea are young men, but they have a lot of miles on the clock. Kevin McLoughlin has played in fifty of Mayo’s last fifty-one games, between League and Championship. That’s a rate of attrition that can’t last.

Nobody knows this more than the players. And so they seem to have decided that if die they must, they will die with their boots on. It’s not the done thing to wash dirty linen in public, but in a county whose bottle and appetite for battle has often being questioned down the year, the current team are standing up to be counted, and they have to be respected for that.

I wish the delegates well tonight. I know that theirs is no easy task, and I do not envy them it. And while tempers run high, the delegates should remember this: if Saipan happened tomorrow, Mick McCarthy and Roy Keane would be able to settle their differences inside half an hour. Thirteen years on, each understands the other’s position in a way that they didn’t during that time. The pity of it is that it’s thirteen years too late.

Roy Keane and Mick McCarthy have the rest of their lives to think of what might have been. I don’t wish that on the current Mayo senior panel, the current management, past management or anyone involved in the dispute.

Civil wars can’t be won. They can only be ended, and they have to be ended as quickly as possible. Mayo, God help us.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Rugby World Cup Will Be a Crashing Bore

The Rugby World Cup is the Mona Lisa of rugby union. We all pretend to love it but deep down, we all know it’s not really worth the queue.

Former Wales, New Zealand and British Lions coach Graham Henry wrote a watery preview in the Observer on Sunday in which he posited that a team with ambitions to win the Rugby World Cup must have a world-class fly-half. Graham Henry’s own World Cup was won with a fourth-choice choice fly-half, a man so out of the reckoning that at the start of the tournament Stephen Donald was half-a-world away, fishing.

Dan Carter has been acclaimed as the best fly-half in world rugby for over a decade. And his godlike boots were filled by Mr Nobody? Maybe you could win a soccer world cup with some midfield dynamo from Sligo Rovers filling in for Leo Messi, but it’s very hard to imagine it.

The 2011 Final was a poor game, and a fitting conclusion for a poor tournament throughout. France should have beaten New Zealand in the final. The French themselves should have lost to 14-man Wales in the semi-final, and the Welsh should have carved up by Ireland, who had won their group for the first time in World Cup history.

That World Cup will live in infamy as the tournament that saw the debut of the choke tackle. Historically, tackling in rugby was about hitting someone hard and knocking him down. Les Kiss, defensive coach for Ireland, realised that a law change to help adjust to the professional era meant that, instead of having to knock players over, it is now much more to your advantage to hold them up instead.

The law of Unintended Consequences took over. Running into space is now a schoolboy error in modern rugby. When you have the ball you find the biggest clump of opposition players you can find and head right for them, knowing that your own team are right behind you to support you in the inevitable wrestling match that follows. And then you do that for eighty minutes and pretend you’re playing the same game as Serge Blanco and Barry John and Tony O’Reilly.

Rugby, to its credit, has been good at policing its laws. It’s considerably more aware than some other codes that laws have to be constantly policed, to ensure the game is still true to its original ethos and not twisted out of shape by devious and squirrelly coaches. Unfortunately, both the realisation that the choke tackle is killing the game and that there may be a drugs issue – imagine a sport where a sixteen stone man can pick up another sixteen stone man and hurl him about like he was an empty dustbin having a steroid issue! The idea! – have arisen too close to the World Cup for it to be saved.

This means that, not only will we get the pointless empty-rubber games of the group stages, where the ten nations that compete at the elite level use forty games to lose two of their number, but we’ll also get a whole lot of sterile rugby to achieve even that rudimentary level of crop-thinning.

Not only that, but the organisers have managed to make the most tremendous balls of the seedings, that sees only two nations emerge from England, Australia and Wales, while Scotland and Argentina have been handed Wonka-esque golden tickets to the playoffs. They’ll go the same way as Augustus Gloop once they get there, of course, but still. It’s hard not to feel sorry for whichever of the the Pool A seeds that draws the short straw and has to watch that destruction at home.

The World Cup will be won by the team that makes the least mistakes. England are the sensible bet, as they’re on a softer side of the draw if they win their group. Funnily enough, Ireland could go on a run if they can beat France and win their pool. That would have been a big “if” once, but France are in the doldrums like they haven’t been since before the Second World War.

A quarter-final against Argentina awaits the winner of Pool D, and the winner of that faces, theoretically, a semi-final against England. Neither England nor Twickenham would have any fears for the Irish (the way New Zealand might, for instance) and you can expect the hype to hit record levels should that matchup come off.

The hype will be forced, though. Rugby is played in Intel-esque clean rooms anymore, with all spontaneity or improvisation or joy strictly forbidden. Recycle, recycle, recycle, kick the penalty, recycle, recycle, recycle, kick the penalty. We’ll cheer if Ireland win, but we’ll have to pretend we like it.

Foot rushes, props lumbering towards the line with the Enemy hanging off them, Simon Geoghegan or Brian O’Driscoll flashing through the gap – all these are things of the past. Recycle, recycle, recycle, kick the penalty. Repeat ad nauseam. Fare well, glory. Hail to thee, assembly line. Let’s form an orderly queue, everybody. Greatness awaits.

FOCAL SCOIR: This is the 1,000th published post on this blog over 12 years. I don't post as often as I used to, real life having caught up with me, but still. It's a kind of an achievement, nonetheless.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Mayo Post-Mortem #64 - Defending Without Due Care and Attention

The attending physicians at post-mortems #61, #62 and #63 were in a position to debate whether or not the patient could have been saved. What if Michael Murphy’s goal hadn’t been scored, or Mayo had ever got closer to three points against Donegal? What if Cillian’s shoulder hadn’t been a problem all year? What if Rob Hennelly’s seventieth-minute free had floated over instead of floating wide?

For the current post-mortem, there is unanimity among clinicians. If you’re four points up you then have to go five points up and continue to tighten the screw. Shipping three goals is the diametric opposite of what is required. This year, the terminal event was clear. There is no arguing it.

This year’s is the sixty-fourth post-mortem report to be written in the history of Mayo’s dream-that-will-never-die. The dream-that-will-never-die is a bit of media mythologizing, of course – for many of the sixty-four years since Mayo last won the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship, winning just one game in the summertime would have been a cause for celebration. The recent history of Mayo is one of unprecedented success – with, to tweak a phrase from Raymond Chandler, just that one tarantula on the angel cake.

Coming into this Championship, Dublin, Kerry, Donegal and Mayo were the so-called Big Four. Within this Big Four, there is a Big Three – Kerry, Dublin and Donegal have all been sufficiently good enough to win an All-Ireland. Mayo have not. Whether this is bad luck or poor judgement or a hundred other things doesn’t matter. The Roll of Honour only records who won. There are no footnotes or asterisked seasons.

And that won’t change this year. Mayo will return to the fray having found yet another way to lose, and that will increase the pressure of them even more. You may say that isn’t fair, and you would be right. But reader – what on God’s green earth has “fair” got to do with anything? Winning isn’t about being fair. It’s about winning. Anything else is a detail.

The goalposts keep shifting for Mayo. For years the knock was that Mayo had no forwards. Half-way through the Horan era and the emergence of Cillian O’Connor, the knock was that Mayo had no defence. That Mayo’s big problem was Horan’s tactical stubbornness and his team’s Achilles’ heel of conceding soft goals.

This year, Mayo conceded three goals on Saturday against Dublin, and two in the drawn game. None against Donegal, two against Sligo and two against Galway. It’s hard to see this as an improvement.

The deployment of Barry Moran as sweeper looked like a brave new dawn against Donegal, and was hailed as such. Now, that new dawn seems less clear.

Moran’s selection as sweeper seemed a bold and courageous decision at the time. The subsequent selections in the games against Dublin were less so. Watching the game on Saturday, it was extremely difficult to figure out who was marking whom in the Mayo defence. The current substitution policy has not always been easy to understand.

Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly had trouble bedding in having taken over from James Horan, but they clearly have the team playing for them now. Whether or not they can push on and win an All-Ireland remains the question.

Roscommon’s imminent appointment of Kevin McStay as their new manager, over whom Pat and Noel were appointed in such unfortunate circumstances, will add spice to any meetings between the teams next year – and Roscommon are a Division 1 team now as well.

Is it fair to put such a spotlight on Pat and Noel? No, it’s not. But again, fair has nothing to do with it. The pressure will continue to mount on everyone associated with Mayo football until Sam is brought home or Mayo go into decline, as Meath, Mayo’s tormentors of the 90s, have. There is no law that says that Mayo will always turn out. They didn’t in the 1970s. The team have to make the most of their window while its open.

Talk of this being the current Mayo team’s last gasp is nonsense. While some players will retire from the panel, the core group are in their footballing primes. It’s not like they’re going to go stop playing football for the summer and go off playing cricket instead. They are footballers. This is what they do.

And the Mayo people will support them, because this is what we do. A new generation has been indoctrinated into football by the current team. Whether they will grow up to the same Mayo God Help Us tradition as your correspondent’s own generation or a new, winning one will be decided in the coming years.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Mayo Pass a Difficult Test

It is the lot of the Mayo supporter to walk with ghosts. Ghosts of past players he or she has seen, memories of past achievements and disappointments, echoes of what-ifs and maybes. Mayo went into Saturday’s All-Ireland quarter-final against Donegal with a lot of questions to answer. Some were obvious, like the goal-leakage identified by Malachy Clerkin in the Irish Times on Saturday. Some were a little more taboo; not spoken of, but certainly on people’s minds, shoulder-to-shoulder with all those ghosts.

It is to their eternal credit that the Mayo team and management answered all questions asked of them on Saturday, and more. Had the last of the four All-Ireland quarter-finals been an exam, Mayo would have graduated summa cum laude.

Top of the class were the new management team of Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly. The challenges they had to overcome were many. Firstly, they had very big boots to fill. Secondly, the strange circumstances of their appointment meant that a lot of goodwill was lost at the start. Thirdly, the League campaign did nothing to ease the constantly frayed nerves of the Mayo support.

And fourthly, perhaps most importantly, the last time the Mayo County Board appointed a manager to give a team that one final push to bring Sam home, the appointee dismantled the team instead, put together a ragbag army similar to General Humbert’s, and suffered the same fate – cut down in Longford, beyond mourning or pity. The thought of the same fate happening the current group of players was distressing in the extreme.

Neither Pat nor Noel is a media creature. James Horan’s frequent media appearances have added to his reputation as a sharp analyst of contemporary football, while Jim McGuinness’s guru status is inviolable at this stage.

There isn’t quite the same bang off Pat and Noel, and the helplessless of the Mayo display against Dublin did nothing to dispel that impression. Post-Connacht final talk of a “secret plan” to shut down the greatest player in Ireland currently, Michael Murphy, sounded like people whistling past the graveyard to try to control their terror.

And then, on a dark Saturday evening in Croke Park, Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly rolled a gigantic wooden horse called Barry Moran out between Mayo’s full- and half-back lines and seventy minutes later, Mayo were not only back at the big table, but they were consuming all around them, roaring for more, more, more at the tops of their voices.

For Mayo, Saturday was a story of redemption. Barry Moran, so often cursed by injury, has now played on every line bar the goals. The man has a heart the size of a farm in Meath and to see him work was a joy.

As was the return of Ger Cafferkey. Cafferkey was a permanent selection in the Horan era, and seemed to be taking more of the blame than he deserved for events against Kerry last year. On Saturday he reminded everyone that there is no real substitute for class.

And when we speak of class, what can we tell of Tom Parsons? Missing from Championship football for four years, who knows what sort of grafting that man had to do to tame his natural talent and focus it to the purpose of the group?

Whatever he’s done, it’s paid off in silver dollars. The Mayo heart can only fill with joy at the thought of these proud men and the leadership and character they’re showing, summer after summer, setback after setback.

Was it a perfect display? Of course not. Some of the substitutions were puzzling. Cillian O’Connor was unusually inaccurate with the dead balls. There is always something unnatural about a Gaelic football team sitting a lead rather than racking up scores. But these are small cavils in what was a great display against a very, very fine team. Donegal were leggy and by no means at full-throttle but they still had it in them to bury Mayo. Victory over this Donegal team is no mean feat.

And now, the Dubs. All Mayo is suffused with delicious anticipation of another pop at the metropolitans, not least as previous clashes between the counties have had such edges. The matchups are as stars in the sky, as each management team tries to anticipate and out-general the other. There has never been a bad time to be a Mayo man or woman but right now, for those with an interest in football the summer wine is very sweet indeed.