ANOTHER WINTER LIES in store for Mayo in the long shadow of Sam Maguire.
Despite three devastating All-Ireland final defeats in the last six years, Tom Parsons and the rest of the Mayo squad have an unwavering belief that lifting the title in September is written in their destiny.
Source: James Crombie/INPHO
Parsons is a little less damaged than the rest. He wasn’t part of the panel for the two previous losses, but they still hurt.
“The outside influences of the burden of 65 years for Mayo, we take that on the chin,” he says.
“That was my first All-Ireland final. I wasn’t involved in 2012 or 2013. I know a lot of the guys have played in all three and we’ve come up short. We carry ourselves on our history as a team. We just want to represent Mayo as best as possible.
“Last week was tough to take. We definitely felt we performed really well and we did all the things that we talked about in training. As it turned out we didn’t win it. Now we’re at a stage we’ve accepted it, we moved on.
“I can already sense from talking to the players that we’ve had our week where we’ve been very, very dissapointed. This week and the coming weeks is where we reflect, analyse and see where we can improve and really go at it in 2017.
From speaking to the 28-year-old, you get the sense that 2016 has already been put in the rearview mirror. With a group of All-Ireland winning U21s germinating within the squad, Parsons is optimistic the future is bright.
“If we can improve the way we improved throughout the season 2016 at the same rate in 2017, we’ll be in a really good place,” he says.
“Arguably this year our two best players were Brendan Harrison and Patrick Durcan. It was their first All-Ireland final and they improved massively throughout the year. There’s no reason why we can’t have another two new finds next year who could again be our top performers next year.
“It’s promising. A lot of our team are young, eager and ready to go. We’ve a bunch of U21 lads there who won an All-Ireland final this year and they are just ready to rock-and-roll for 2017.”
Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO
As is often the case with a narrow one-point All-Ireland final defeat, mistakes from the losing team are over-analyzed and over-processed. Parsons defended Stephen Rochford’s decision to start Rob Hennelly ahead of David Clarke in the replay.
“To play at the top level, every team needs to be adaptable. If you look back to the Tyrone game, we deployed Alan Dillon at centre-forward. If you look at the Tipperary game, we deployed Barry Moran as a sweeper.
“The call came in the second Dublin game because Dublin were putting severe pressure on short kick-out. We have a very experienced goalkeeper in Rob Hennelly who is on par with David Clarke, has played in All-Ireland finals, kicks the ball out long and has been playing really well in training.
“Would I call it a risk? No. I’d call it adaptibility of a team. Unfortunately, when a goalkeeper makes a mistake it can be detrimental or it can be a goal. Is that the reason why we lost the All-Ireland final? No.
“There was a number of reasons. There was a number of errors, both forced and unforced that we could be done better with around the middle of the field. I don’t think there was one Mayo player who didn’t make a mistake in both games.”
“I 100 per cent back and trust the character of Rob Hennelly and the work he puts in. It’s been difficult for him but he has a strong character and he will be back training and will come back at it. And the exact same goes for the management. ”
Parsons adds there have been “no whispers” of any potential retirements from the squad. Heading into Year 2 of Rochford, he’s confident they have the pieces to solve the puzzle.
“The age profile of the team is good. There’s a huge drive, there’s a huge bond in the team. I don’t think miles on the clock is going to be a huge factor in us not competing or going at it for next year.
“I think top teams now have to be really mentally strong as well. As a group we certainly are really mentally strong.
“If we put it together and improve, it’s all there. Why not?”
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