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Saturday 15 December 2018

'It just felt Mayo were going to get there ... then it just slipped away' - Barrett

Mayo defender Chris Barrett
Mayo defender Chris Barrett

Chris Barrett's performance in last year's All-Ireland final was, you could argue, Mayo in microcosm that day.

So brilliant in so many ways; yet ultimately undone by those tiny errors that separate three-in-a-row champions from perennial September bridesmaids.

For once afforded a sustained injury-free run, the Belmullet native now domiciled in Clontarf enjoyed his most consistent summer ... crowned by probably his finest hour in green-and-red.

Even in defeat, he made most shortlists for Man of the Match. His power and technique in the tackle led to an array of eye-catching turnovers.

But, the man himself reckons, he could have been better.

"I pride myself on trying to keep my opposite man scoreless, so there are definitely two (points) that I would put myself at fault for. But in saying that, I was immensely proud of how I played ... I think it was a good day for me in a Mayo jersey but it still sticks with me when you lose."

Delving into the finer detail, what if he hadn't been tempted to try and intercept Diarmuid Connolly's sublime crossfield pass into Dean Rock's lap?

"I should have just stayed, and if I stayed I probably would have just tackled him and he probably wouldn't have got a point," he accepts.

Plaudits

"After the match I was getting lots of plaudits - but I was thinking in the back of my head that Dean Rock scored three points (from play) in that second half and I was marking him ... the last free as well for Diarmuid Connolly had a huge impact."

Another what-if moment that led to Rock's match-winning free. But did he think it was a free?

"Ah, I don't know. It was probably a 50-50 call, I have no misgivings about the referee for giving it," he stresses. "It's tough to take that I was the one that gave away the free. I think we all have to learn, I made my mistakes in the match as well."

Barrett can only speak for himself but the 31-year-old doesn't buy the argument that Mayo's cumulative All-Ireland setbacks have left too many psychological scars. Those post-September debriefs can be "very tough to take" but they're a necessary evil. "It kind of drags it up again, analysing the Dublin match last year," he says.

"Emotionally it is tough at the time but I think you automatically just forget about it the next year and move on.

"It's still the same All-Ireland but it's a new year. We don't find it difficult. I know a lot is made of it ... 'This Mayo team have a lot in the legs and how do they keep coming back?' But as I said, we are extremely lucky to be in a position to be able to challenge very year."

Barrett's SFC career was launched on the rocks of a 2010 qualifier defeat to Longford but has since carried deep into every summer, even while battling a variety of injuries.

Last year's final, he accepts, "probably was the toughest one to take. I didn't play much in 2016. Came on twice. None of them were nice. Last year we were more in control, more measured, more calm and collected in a final than we've ever been. It just felt that we were probably going to get there. Then it just slipped away."

That remains Barrett's last Mayo outing. He next appeared on our screens receiving his maiden All Star and then, soon after, during the International Rules tour to Australia.

A great experience, something he had always wanted to try, came with a costly climax.

Dangerous

Barrett's jaw shipped the brunt of a dangerous late hit during the second Test in Perth, but the same game left him with a legacy of cartilage damage to his 'good' knee.

"I've had four surgeries on the other knee. Didn't feel it in the match, just that night, next morning it started to swell up. Had surgery when I came back in December," he explains.

"I was only back training the last six to eight weeks. Unfortunately I didn't get any league time - I was hoping to get maybe a couple of matches at the end. Back fully training to get the fitness levels back up for the Galway match."

Ah yes, May 13. D-Day.

"We need to get back to winning Connacht and we need to beat Galway," he stresses. "They've beaten us twice in the last two years which we are not too happy about.

"In my mind anyway, it's probably the biggest start to a championship season that we've ever had in terms of the build-up to the match as well as the calibre of Galway."

Win in Castlebar and the summer could open up. Maybe another shot at the Dubs will ensue. But are they beatable?

"Oh, 100 per cent beatable, yeah. We've been so close. I think we know deep down that we can beat them, we just haven't in the last while," he says. "They're going to improve so we have to improve that little bit more. But Galway is number one priority at this stage."

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