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Mayo rising: Croker no-show against Dublin 'complete anomaly' says Barrett

 

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KEEN RIVALS: Kerry’s Paul Murphy and Mayo’s Chris Barrett at yesterday’s Allianz FL Division 1 final launch at Croke Park. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

KEEN RIVALS: Kerry’s Paul Murphy and Mayo’s Chris Barrett at yesterday’s Allianz FL Division 1 final launch at Croke Park. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

KEEN RIVALS: Kerry’s Paul Murphy and Mayo’s Chris Barrett at yesterday’s Allianz FL Division 1 final launch at Croke Park. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

And so Mayo are back in an Allianz Football League final despite giving game-time to over 30 players and despite a mid-campaign 'mini-meltdown' against Dublin and Galway.

How did that happen?

Chris Barrett can cite several reasons - including the division-altering defeat Tyrone inflicted upon Dublin, and also his belief that it's "the most competitive squad I've been involved in with Mayo."

But then how could they face Dublin on the back of three victories, buoyed by the prospect of a rematch with the enemy ... and only score three points from play in a 1-12 to 0-7 defeat?

"The Dublin game was a complete anomaly," Barrett surmises, ahead of Sunday's Division 1 final between Mayo and Kerry.

Blazing

"I can't even put my finger on what happened. I'd say a lot of the supporters and ourselves were looking forward to a Dublin-Mayo match in Croke Park, that it was going to be all guns blazing. But no one sparked to life. We played poorly; I think Dublin played poorly even though they beat us by six or seven ... so we didn't take a whole lot from that game."

What followed, a week later, was equally painful but more beneficial: a seventh straight loss to another arch-rival.

"I think we learned from the Galway game a lot," Barrett recalls. "We played well in spurts ... played really well for 15 minutes in the second half. We were with the wind, came back to a point, and probably thought collectively 'Aw, here we go, this is going to be fine' ... but we completely lost of composure, I think; lost our discipline as well."

He believes the lessons of that night "stood to us" in Kerry. That redemptive triumph in Tralee, followed by Sunday's shootout win over Monaghan, paved the way for Mayo to reach their first NFL decider since 2012.

Barrett hurt his knee that year, the start of a recurring battle, and didn't feature in that league final loss to Cork. Seven years and several All-Ireland heartbreaks later, he's hoping to land that elusive national title - albeit not the holy grail.

The Belmullet clubman, who turns 32 next week, married Dearbhaile in December and then resumed training with James Horan's much-altered squad in mid-January.

"This is the earliest I've been back since I can remember - five or six years at least. It's great," he enthuses. "I'm still a little but behind the curve in terms of fitness but getting a few games in the league against top-quality players is huge and can only bode well for the summer."

Clontarf based, the 2017 All Star is part of Mayo's capital cohort that extends into double-digits. It makes the work-life-sport balance challenging, with Mayo's spring training often split into two groups midweek, although the staging of several collective sessions in the Midlands has helped this year.

Barrett disputes the 2016 thesis of Dr Ed Coughlan, once part of their backroom team, that "until Mayo's students settle for courses in NUIG and GMIT, and their bankers, accountants, teachers and engineers move home to make a crust, they won't be winning the All-Ireland."

Barrett's reponse? "You can't write an article like that and expect it to hold water when we've been so close to doing it. It's not ideal obviously and if you were to choose a college for a young Mayo player growing up, it'd probably be NUIG," he accepts.

"But you have to take the view of what's best for the individual as a person rather than him as a Mayo player," he adds.

"It's not ideal but that's the hand we're dealt. We're from Mayo. Geographically we can't change it so we just have to learn as you go."

That doesn't make the commute, even as a passenger, any easier. "The worst is the Tuesday session and you had to go down to Castlebar," he reveals. "You get back at 1am and you're staring at the ceiling for another hour because your mind can't shut off that quickly.

"You're up then again at seven for work and you're like a zombie for the day. That's what I would struggle with most. I think they're beginning to realise that we have to find ways that can work for everyone."


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