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The 3 Most Maligned GAA Teams Of The Modern Era

By Conor Neville
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Eoin Cadogan said something yesterday that should have got people thinking about criticism, specifically outsized criticism. Some teams can't catch a break off the press. Here are three teams that are routinely subject to over-the-top abuse.

3. Mayo - 1989 - present

Mayo are the prime target for those barroom psychologists who can't watch a match without reaching for the 'bottler' label at the final whistle.

Bottler is a tough label to stomach.

Favoured for its thoroughgoing abusiveness, the ‘bottler’ label doesn’t simply impugn mere sporting ability. Rather, it establishes the target as an all-round windy bastard who could hardly be described as a man at all.

It's lobbed at Mayo with boring regularity, usually by the gleeful supporters of counties who can't abide Mayo. This writer even saw the word deployed after Mayo lost to Galway in the Connacht semi-final. As if Mayo were somehow spooked and overawed by the prospect of getting over the line in a Connacht semi-final.

The reputation for choking was built over that quarter of a century period in which Mayo reached seven All-Ireland finals and failed to win any of them.


But, if you examine each All-Ireland final defeat since 1989, you'd find that Mayo were probably underdogs in all of them. With the possible exception of 1997, and even then that was very marginal and based on Mayo's surprise win over Kerry in the 1996 All-Ireland semi-final.

In 1989, it was Cork who were a bag of nerves, trying to avoid a third successive All-Ireland defeat. In 2004 and 2006, Mayo were plainly inferior to the side they came up against, though the manner of their early implosion was difficult to excuse. In 2012, Donegal were just that bit ahead of them, more sure of themselves, more practised in their system, more of a machine. In 2013, they were pipped by a sensational Dublin team who had slightly more firepower up front.

Only the drawn 1996 All-Ireland final sustains the 'bottler' charge but Mayo were hardly the first team to surrender a comfortable looking lead against Sean Boylan's Meath. Even then, Mayo entered that game as underdogs.


2. Galway hurlers 1994 - Present

Ger Loughnane's megaphone doesn't help matters.

The abuse aimed at the Galway hurlers proves the maxim that the stiffest criticism is reserved for those deemed to have the greatest potential.


For years, the county's wild success at both underage and at club level, convinced neutrals that senior inter-county success was imminent.

During the 1990s for instance whenever rival managers who were asked who were favourites for the All-Ireland, they usually hemmed and hawed before offering the name 'Galway'.


After 20+ years of sustained success in those other spheres and no accompanying Liam McCarthy, people have largely stopped thinking this.


But there's still a sense that Galway's rightful place is among hurling's elite. Like Mayo, they're rapping hard at the door and there is widespread frustration that they haven't got the job done.

On top of all this, Galway people tend to be unusually caustic and demanding when it comes to their own team.

To get a sense of this, you could do worse than revisit the famous Indo article in which Lynskey, Hayes and (to a much lesser extent, in fairness) Lane ripped into the current crop.


The rage comes burning off the page.

1. Cork footballers (Conor Counihan era)

Both Cork teams are on the end of a pasting these days but at least the Cork hurlers have to do something to deserve abuse.


Eoin Cadogan, who has seen it from both sides, said yesterday that the Cork footballers got it in the neck even while they were driving for an All-Ireland around the turn of the decade.

There tends to be a lot of negativity attached to Cork football. But if you go back to 2008, '09, '10, '11 and '12 when Cork were doing well reaching the semi-finals, getting to All-Ireland finals, there was still a huge amount of negativity attached to the squad.

It was never good enough. We won three National League titles, beaten All-Ireland finalists in '07 and '09, win it in '10. Criticism seems to be par for the course with Cork football.

My Cork colleague Gavan Casey described the Cork public's attitude to their inter-county teams by saying that the football team are akin to the kid you don't send off to the college. The idiot brother dispatched to the priesthood, as Father Ted would have it.

The hurlers, meanwhile, are the kid whose parents had great hopes for it, but has latterly dropped out of its course and gone off the rails.

Even in Conor Counihan's era, when Cork were the most consistent team in the country, there was a constant nagging hum of unimpressed exasperation.

Their 2010 All-Ireland victory is barely talked about these days. It would be interesting to examine the column inches that have been devoted to discussion of Donegal's 2012 All-Ireland victory and the amount given over to reminisces of Cork's triumph of 2010.

The former has had books written about it, songs sung about it, documentaries made about it. Their manager is in demand with talk show hosts and radio producers.

By contrast, the identity of the 2010 All-Ireland football champions is something the casual fan might get wrong in a table quiz.

Even after 2010, some critics were determined to affix an asterisk next to the All-Ireland win because they weren't called upon to beat Kerry in Croker.

A resurgent Down stunned Kerry and maintained their amazing 100% in the fixture in the quarter-final.

Of course, after Cork squeezed by Kerry's conquerors in the All-Ireland final, Down were then written off as the Chauncey Gardners of the 2010 season.

Read more: Balls Remembers How Ulster Football Went From Whipping Boys To Conquerors In A Dramatic Period

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