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Ranking Mayo's All-Ireland Final Losses In Order Of Heartbreak (Updated)

Ranking Mayo's All-Ireland Final Losses In Order Of Heartbreak (Updated)
Conor Neville
By Conor Neville
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Obviously, we have had to update this post in light of recent events... 

Here's how we introed the thing three weeks ago. 

For those who find this subject matter a little morbid, we will be stressing Mayo triumphs and their various reasons for optimism soon enough. But we must reckon with the past. Here are Mayo's modern All-Ireland defeats ranked in order of how heartbreaking they were. The defeats that provoked the greatest wails of agony and regret.

8. 2012

Mayo supporters often boast that "we're not going overboard on the hype this year", even in years when they patently were. 2012 is perhaps the one year of which this claim was true.

These days, forgetful pundits often cite this as one Mayo that frittered away. It wasn't Kerry or Dublin they were playing. Only Donegal, after all.


But that ignores the mood of the summer of 2012.


Even before September that year, Donegal had that unmistakable air of destiny about them. They toppled Kerry and Cork along the way and had evolved a style of play which many feared unbeatable.

Most of the buzz surrounded Donegal.

Heartbreak level: Mayo supporters remained relatively upbeat after the game.


7. 1989

In 1989, all the pre-match hype surrounded Mayo but it was Cork who had all the pressure.

They were trying to avoid a dreaded three-in-a-row of All-Ireland defeats, while Mayo's previous All-Ireland final appearance was a winning one. Albeit, that was 38 years before.

For a few thrilling moments in the second half, they led the match following Anthony Finnerty's goal. But Cork came strong in the final quarter and powered away to a four-point victory.


Heartbreak level: It was a hard loss considering the hype beforehand but then there wasn't the accumulation of losses at that stage.

6. 1997

A numb and forgettable experience for all concerned. The '97 final has struggled to compete for space in the public memory with the dramatic saga of twelve months earlier.


 Mayo played well to break their 46 year hoodoo in Tuam in the Connacht First Round but hadn't set the world alight in the intervening games, limping past Leitrim, Sligo and Offaly en route to the final.

The game itself is nearly solely remembered for Maurice Fitzgerald's final and is occasionally named after him in GAA encyclopedia's and the like.

Mayo were flattered to lose by three points in a low-scoring game.


Heartbreak level: Oddly low for a back-to-back final defeats

5. 2004

For obvious reasons, most All-Ireland's later deemed forgettable are won by Kerry. This All-Ireland is little remembered or talked about these days, possibly because almost the same final happened two years later.


Despite a rapid start thanks to Alan Dillon, the game felt over at half-time. Mayo trailed by eight points. We remember the final for then selector Liam McHale's account of how he'd told his wife to throw a bet down on Alan Dillon to score the opening goal. In the midst of celebrating the goal, he remembered the wager and let and extra little yup out of him.

He learned afterwards that his wife had forgotten to put down. As Keith Duggan, who related the story, put it, "he had learned to expect nothing from All-Ireland final day".


Heartbreak level: Getting fairly high. Didn't do themselves justice.

4. 2006 


Keith Duggan seems to have been inspired to write House of Pain off the back of this one. The All-Ireland has given us nothing if not vivid quotes. David Brady, introduced early with Mayo already trailing by eleven points, remarked that he felt he was being "sent out to look for bodies". Ronan McGarrity compared the last few minutes of an All-Ireland final when you're getting hammered in front of a disinterested Croke Park to "being adrift in the Atlantic Ocean".

The 2006 final was almost a repeat of the 2004 final except with an extra dose of humiliation and a greater sense of "not this shite again". The scoreline was significantly less respectable than in '04. Kerry hit 4-15 and led 2-6 to 0-1 after 15 minutes.

Heartbreak level: Getting crushing now. Genuinely believing in the curse.

3. 2013

Mayo supporters probably don't want to hear this. Balls recalls a conversation with one Dublin fan who let a yelp of relief out of him at the final whistle only for his mood to quickly turn to one of sympathy for the rival supporters.

John O'Mahony and his wife walked past him seconds after the final whistle. Our Dublin friend tells us he can't, in his entire life, ever remember seeing two more depressed looking people. John O' had an expression halfway been sombre and thick and looked like he wanted to get out of there as soon as possible. His wife, on the other hand, appeared ready to cry. She shook our Dublin friend's hand and kept repeating "ye deserved it, ye deserved it" in a rather dazed fashion. This took an impressive amount of magnanimity in the circumstances.

2013 must rank very high in the heartbreak stakes. As formidable as Dublin were, that summer it felt like Mayo had that air of destiny about them. Following the humiliation of Donegal in the quarter-final, the result that convinced many their name was on the Cup, Joe Brolly even declared them "champions elect".

Heartbreak level: ... But this time, it wasn't different. The agony was exquisite. Seven All-Ireland final losses in a row. How is that possible?

At the homecoming in Castlebar the day afterwards, the Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council, Cllr Johnno O’Malley roared, "America got Bin Laden, Mayo will get Sam Maguire."

2. 1996


Probably the most famous All-Ireland final of the last 25 years, this match is still provoking fights in chippers. A Meath man was fined €500 for starting a row in a fast food shop in Westport late last year.

For more on Mayo's All-Ireland run in 1996, head here.

Heartbreak level: Only second in the sequence but still vividly remembered. It's probably the only All-Ireland final they held in the palm of their hand. A six-point lead with twenty to go in a low-scoring encounter is not insubstantial.

A series of unfortunate events - Colm Coyle's freakish equalising point and Pat McEnaney's decision to single out Liam McHale in the replay - certainly cost them.

Losing to the pantomime villains of the GAA made it all the more poetic. If there is a signature Mayo loss, this it it.

1. 2016

Naturally, we have to caution against recency bias. Indeed, as a history lover, this writer suffers from whatever is the opposite of recency bias.

But taking everything into account, this has to rise to the top of the heartbreak charts. The bizarre, needless pre-match goalkeeper switch which backfired. The error that cost them the penalty. The free sliding wide at the end when the chance was there to level it. The two own goals in the drawn game...

We heard beforehand from various curse experts that the Mayo All-Ireland curse didn't apply in October. Apparently, the original curse contained some small print specifying that the curse was only applicable to September. This appears to have been mistaken.

Heartbreak level: Too much now. Hollywood has conditioned us into believing there should have been a catharsis by now and yet still it goes on.

It takes a lot to knock the 1996 match - one of the most famous All-Ireland finals of all time - off top spot. But the sheer accumulation of final defeats, and the increased sense that God has it in for them lifts the 2016 final above it. After all, 1996 was only their second All-Ireland final defeat of the sequence.

You'd need only watch this to be convinced. As Mayo's longstanding forward of the 60s, 70s and 80s Billy Fitzpatrick says, "it's not normal what's going on..."


Read more: Balls Remembers: Complete Modern History Of The Increasingly Bitter Dublin-Mayo Rivalry

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