Mayo Hunt for All of Ireland’s Glory: Is One of Sport’s Weirdest Curses Ended in 70 Years? | ATM news
Mayo has suffered more than its fair share of grief over the years
What do all athletic curses have in common?
Of course there is a backstory. But the most fabled and discussed curses are backed up by a range of athletic outcomes.
Legends like this are picking up speed.
If the drought at the Boston Redsox’s World Series had lasted less than 86 years, the “curse of the bambino” would not have gained such prominence.
The same could be applied to the Chicago Cubs.
But the Mayo Gaelic footballers have had a barren time competing with the crowd.
1951 was the last time the Westerners took the GAA All-Ireland Football Championship title. Since then, they have competed in 12 finals including reps, but have returned empty-handed each time.
You found new ways to lose during this run as well. Take, for example, the 2016 defeat to Dublin, where they conceded two own goals, a remarkably unusual occurrence in Gaelic football.
When that kind of luck has conspired against you, the idea that greater forces are at play is believed.
The story goes that the victorious Mayo team returned to the county in 1951 while celebrating the victory. Amid their cheers, they failed to properly observe a temporary funeral, and the presiding priest consequently declared that the county would not win another All-Ireland title while these players were alive.
It just so happens that only two players are still alive from that victory 70 years ago: Paddy Prendergast and Mick Loftus.
Over the years history has likely grown legs. But with every Mayo defeat in an all-Ireland final, many become believers.
On Saturday evening, the supporters see their greatest chance to end the 70-year waiting period. James Horan’s side defeated the conquering, six-time victorious Dublin team in the semi-finals last month, and move into Saturday’s final against Tyrone as marginal favorites.
Are you getting any overdue luck in your 13th playoff since your last triumph?
This is how the previous 12 evolved.
1989: cork 0-17 May 1-11
The Mayo team photo from the 1989 All Ireland final against Cork
Cork got into this final after losing both the 87 and 88 All-Ireland finals to Meath.
It was Mayo’s first final since 1951 and it showed that the rebels pulled away early and took a 0-3 to 0-0 lead.
But an Anthony Finnerty goal shortly after the restart gave Mayo the lead and they had a number of opportunities to extend their lead. Finnerty had the best chances but hit the side netting when he hit the goal cleanly.
The game was level until the last 10 minutes, but Mayo scored his final point in 56.
For Mayo, her final grief was just beginning.
1996: Meath 0-12 Mayo 1-9; Repeat: Meath 2-9 Mayo 1-11
Mayo and Meath get caught up in a 27-man brawl in the final 1996 iteration
Where do you start with this one? This finale will survive much better finals. It won’t be remembered for the level of the game, or for the fact that Mayo was six points ahead of the middle of the second half of the tie and still managed to let Meath back in.
No, this finale will only remember one thing – the fight that broke out in the seventh minute of the replay. It involved 27 players and ended up with umpire Pat McEnaney Meaths sending Colm Coyle and Mayos Liam McHale to the line. Many others could have followed.
Referee Pat McEnaney sent Mayos Liam McHale and Meaths Colm Coyle off the pitch in 1996
The duo’s sacking was a major setback for Mayo. Goals from Trevor Giles and Tommy Dowd gave Meath his first win since 1988.
1997: Kerry 0-13 May 1-7
Mayo’s Ciaran McDonald shot past Kerry goalkeeper Declan O’Keeffe from the penalty spot in 1997
Maurice Fitzgerald was the hero for Kerry with 0-9 from 0-13. Mayo was five points down at halftime and although they came back to the minimum in the second half between the teams, Kerry was just too good for them.
It would be seven years before Mayo would make it back to the All-Ireland final, where they would meet Kerry again.
2004: Kerry 1-20 Mayo 2-9
Mayo supporters exit the game before the final whistle in the 2004 final against Kerry
Alan Dillon hit the net after just five minutes, but Kerry recovered and was leading 1-12 to 1-4 at break. Münster were 11 points before the 50th minute, and a consolation hit by Sub Michael Conroy in the 69th minute couldn’t even cover up how easy it was for Kerry.
Colm Cooper scored 1-5 while Dara Ó Cinnéide scored 0-8 from placed balls.
Colm Cooper scores Kerry’s goal against Mayo goalkeeper Peter Burke in the 2004 final
In terms of final defeats, 2004 was the lowest Mayo followers thought they could leave – then happened in 2006.
2006: Kerry 4-15 Mayo 3-5
Mayo’s David Brady comforts his teammate Conor Mortimer after losing to Kerry in 2006
Kerry was in the lead 2-4 to 0-0 after just 13 minutes and soon pushed himself up 3-6 to 1-0. Mayo goals from Kevin O’Neill (two) and Pat Harte kept them in the chase as they fell 8-3-2 at break.
But Kerry kept going and ended up 13 points ahead.
2012: Donegal 2-11 May 0-13
A dejected Lee Keegan and Jason Doherty after the 2012 final against Donegal
Mayo continued her slow start and conceded two goals in the first 10 minutes. Michael Murphy took the first in the third minute and Colm McFadden added the second.
It took Mayo 16 minutes to score through Kevin McLoughlin and while they scored five unanswered points, Donegal led 2-4 to 0-7 at break.
Jim McGuinness’ team stepped forward after the restart. Points from Richie Fenney and Lee Keegan reduced it to four with four minutes left, and Seamus O’Shea was blocked by a shot in stoppage time, but Donegal managed to claim his second triumph.
2013: Dublin 2-12 May 1-14
Mayo started this final well and dominated the first half, but couldn’t put it on the scoreboard. Andy Moran opened the lead in the fourth minute and after Diarmuid Connolly equalized the game, Mayo hit over three unanswered points.
Unfortunately for the Connacht side, Rob Hennelly gave Dublin a way back into the game when he allowed Bernard Brogan to finish a high Paul Flynn kick in front of him and score a goal.
At halftime, Dublin was just one point behind with 8-0 to 4-1. Hennelly made up for his mistake with three great saves in the second half.
With 50 minutes on the clock, Moran slashed Stephen Cluxton’s ball to level the game at 1-9 apiece. But within four minutes, Brogan scored his second goal.
Mayo’s goalkeeper Robert Hennelly, left, Colm Boyle and Aidan O’Shea after the 2013 All-Ireland Final
Mayo was two points behind in stoppage time when Cillian O’Connor opted for a point rather than throwing in the ball for an attempt on goal.
2016: Dublin 2-9 May 0-15; Repeat: Dublin 1-15 May 1-14
Cillian O’Connor was Mayo’s savior with a point in the seventh minute of added time to get the first game draw. It was an extraordinary game. Although no Dublin player scored, they led 2-0 to 3-0 after 30 minutes thanks to the two own goals.
In the replay, Dublin saw massive improvements and a second-half penalty from Connolly and 0-9 from Dean Rock were enough to get them over the line.
Dejected Mayo players after losing to Dublin in the 2016 All-Ireland Final Replay
2017: Dublin 1-17 May 1-16
Four years ago, a contender produced one of the greatest games ever to be seen in Croke Park. It was a competition that was tough. Dublin took an early lead with a goal from Con O’Callaghan. But Mayo dug in his heels and a green flag from Lee Keegan after the break put his side one point ahead.
Westerners’ hopes were dashed when Donal Vaughan took on a challenge in which he joined John Small, who received the red card from Joe McQuillan.
The tie went straight to the wire and Dean Rock held his nerve to finish the competition despite the best efforts of Lee Keegan who threw his GPS to distract the Ballymun sniper.
Dean Rock puts the profit for free, despite a flying GPS tracker
2020: Dublin 2.-14. May 0-15
Mayo’s fate was still the same behind closed doors.
They had to regret the admission of another early goal. Rock turned the ball into the net within 15 seconds, and O’Callaghan added another at half time.
The Connacht champions dug their heels in, but their fight faded when a superior bank steered Dublin home.
A version of this story was originally published on SkySports.com in 2017.