It won't mean much but Pat Spillane's compliment to Mayo and to Lee Keegan says it all
When Darren McCurry scored Tyrone's second goal and put them five points clear with 12 minutes to go, all looked lost for Mayo.
They had come back from a similar margin against the Dubs but lightning rarely strikes twice and without ever lighting up this final, they looked like a beaten docket again. But then there was Lee Keegan, refusing to accept defeat, refusing to drop his head, showing with the next two balls why he will go down as one of Gaelic football's all-time greats.
For the first, he steamed onto a Matty Ruane hand-pass with the pace, the drive and the determination we've watched him play with for the last ten years. Next thing he sliced over an absolute pearler and in doing so, gave Mayo a reason to believe again. It could only have been a minute later when in driving his team up the field, it was the same man with the same conviction winning one of the hardest earned frees of this final.
If Mayo are a spirited bunch then Lee Keegan has always been their spirited leader. Pat Spillane must have been thinking about the Westport man too when after yet another heart-breaking loss, he tried to comfort the people of Mayo with a compliment he heard from literary giant Samuel Beckett.
"This is now 12 All-Ireland finals they've played in, it's seven in a decade. I'm not too sure whether Samuel Beckett followed football but one of his most famous quotes, it's made for this Mayo team.
'Ever tried, ever failed. No matter, try again, fail again, fail better.
"You must go on, I can't go on, I'll go on," recited Spillane.
Seven All-Ireland finals in a decade. That's a statistic worth repeating because while we all aim to win championships, while we all dream of winning finals, it takes a hell of a lot of wins to make seven All-Ireland finals in a decade. It takes courage, it takes heart too and while that won't be of the same comfort to the likes of Lee Keegan as the holy grail would, it's something they can be proud of too.
It's sport at the end of the day. pic.twitter.com/fBGPOmpf6Z
— GAA JOE (@GAA__JOE) September 11, 2021
"They'll bounce back, they'll be back again next year. Commiserations to Mayo, they are warriors," concluded Spillane.
So often a critic and indeed a lightning rod for this Saturday's winners, Spillane mended a few bridges from his 'puke football' commentary and his covid criticism of Tyrone when he went onto hail their great display.
"We have to stand back and admire a tough and brilliant football team.
"Let's challenge the narrative that 31 counties hate Tyrone. I look at their football smarts, their composure on the ball. I salute them as All-Ireland champions. They've earned it the hard way and what they are is brilliant All-Ireland champions."