Dublin Beware – Mayo still fight like Evander Holyfield

” Tyson didn’t bite Holyfield’s ear because he was this savage or hungry animal. Stop the crap. He was looking for a way to get himself out – because he knew he wasn’t that guy, he wasn’t a Warrior – or a Samurai – and when you’re not “That Guy”

Guess what you have a great talent for ?

Recognising when somebody is “

Teddy Atlas, on the Mike Tyson ear biting incident against Evander Holyfield

Teddy Atlas is a name that only the boxing fans amongst you will recognise. As I watched Donegal flounder in difficult weather conditions against a ravenous Mayo team yesterday, his words about Mike Tyson whistled a tune in my ear. Teddy would love Mayo. Like Mike Tyson a couple of decades ago, Donegal rocked into Castlebar yesterday evening and found that they were facing not a football team but Evander Holyfield.

Teddy was a young coach and protege to Hall of Fame boxing legend Cus D’Amato, when D’Amato famously discovered, coached and delivered Mike Tyson as the youngest World Heavyweight champion the world had ever seen. Atlas spent a huge amount of time coaching and observing the adolescent Tyson. The enormous potential was never in question but almost everything else in Tyson’s make up most definitely was.

Famously, Teddy Atlas doesn’t necessarily believe Mike Tyson can be described as a great fighter. A great talent yes. A great puncher yes but Teddy’s argument is that Tyson’s weaknesses outside of the ring manifest themselves inside the ring at all the pivotal moments in his career.

” Great Fighters, when the fight comes to them find a way to overcome. Tyson found a way to disappear. Great fighters find a way to show up “

-Teddy Atlas

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For most of this decade Mayo have found a way to show up. To use boxing parlance, August and early September are the championship boxing rounds of the Gaelic Football calendar. It’s a time to show up. Yesterday, Donegal didn’t. Two weeks ago Donegal and Kerry treated the GAA public to an exhibition of Gaelic football. A match with 42 scores, effusive praise from the pundits and beautiful to witness.

As I watched yesterday’s game in McHale Park – it struck me that the Kerry vs Donegal match was a mirage. It was a dreamy exhibition. About as relevant to the destination of this year’s Sam Maguire as the Wexford hurlers. A fortnight ago, I was questioning if this bunch of battle soaked and fatigued Mayo footballers had another peak left in them. Yesterday they gave a very clear indication that they have. Mayo don’t do exhibition football. In the Championship boxing rounds Mayo have a very simple skill. They find a way of showing up.

Dublin have spent much of the last two years steam-rolling teams. Much like Mike Tyson in his heyday. The talent is there for all to see. The flowing movement, the speed, the intricate combination play, the scoring arsenal, it would seem that not much can stop them. My question about them is this. Have they been conditioned by opposition teams that just roll over and die? – Mayo like Evander Holyfield in the Tyson fights, are not going to roll over on the evidence of yesterday. They die with their boots on.

” And now you’ve got a guy across from you – named Evander Holyfield – Who doesn’t give a shit about how hard you punch – doesn’t give a shit about what a finisher you are – doesn’t give a crap about how fast you pull your punches together – You are going to have to make him a believer by doing it.

He ain’t going to cooperate. When the moment comes – You’ve gotta really believe you are THE GUY – When you are a guy (Tyson) that has done these weak things inside and outside of the ring, how do you do the strong thing when you know that you’ve done all these weak things “

— Teddy Atlas

If we know anything about Mayo after the guts of a decade, it’s that they do not cooperate with the narrative of others – they will make Dublin prove their worth if and when they meet again. In fairness though, unlike Mike Tyson, Dublin have rarely, if ever, shown a tendency to do the weak thing. Yet Jim Gavin is obviously worried about something in this Dublin team or else Diarmuid Connolly wouldn’t be togging out today. Bringing Connolly back goes against everything Jim Gavin normally stands for – the importance of the collective well-being over the individual. We have seen it time and time again during the course of his tenure but he has now suddenly made an exception. Why?

I honestly felt last year Dublin were a team that could be there for the taking, but in the championship rounds of August and September, they weren’t required to face a team that could or would ask them the hard, hard questions. That’s not their fault, sometimes that’s just the way the cookie crumbles. This year is different. They are going to be forced to do some hard yards. That’s why I think Connolly and Brogan are both on the bench against Tyrone today and will be a massive part of the psychological makeup of the Dublin team from here to the end.

Those two believe they really are the GUYS.

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Mayo ratcheted up the intensity levels yesterday. They delivered yet another defiant message and it goes something like this. All of you teams left in this competition may be beautiful footballers, you may be talented, easy on the eye, you may be all of those things BUT you are still going to have to make us believers. We won’t back down. We won’t stand back and marvel at your brush strokes. We are going to make you prove it. Yesterday Donegal failed to prove it and as a result Mayo are now a much stronger entity.

” To be the Viking, the Titan, the Samurai, to be the Warrior – to be those things, It has to be inside you. When the moment comes, you have to believe it. There are certain places you can’t lie, That’s why the Ring is called the Chamber of Truth”

– Teddy Atlas

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When the Chamber of Truth arrived for this Donegal team they found out that Mayo had 7 or 8 players that really believed in themselves and Donegal had about 4 or 5. Now make no mistake, 8 players believing it isn’t going to win Mayo an All Ireland this year, but it was enough to get them over the line yesterday.

Any team left in the Championship, facing Mayo, will be facing an outfit that has the spirit and belief of Evander Holyfield at it’s core. The question for James Horan is whether he can get 3 or 4 more of his squad to fully believe it – as the core group of warriors do.
Any serious analysis of this game needs to address the Mayo players who didn’t show up in Castlebar as much as the players who did. Darren Coen, is a good example, he may feel a little hard done by, when he wakes up this morning, but I believe James Horan made the right call to take him off early. He couldn’t afford to have a player on the pitch that wasn’t at the Holyfield level of intensity.

Coen’s had a lovely introduction to inter-county football in the early rounds of Connaught and the qualifiers, however he now knows what the Chamber of Truth looks and feels like. In back to back games he has not found a way to show up. I firmly believe Mayo cannot entertain hopes of winning an All Ireland without the likes of Darren Coen making the journey to the gang already in the Holyfield camp. James Horan can’t make this walk for him. He has to figure it out himself and pretty damn quickly.

The teams that are left in this championship are not going to cooperate – they are going to intimidate. They are not going to sit back and admire his kicking. When a goal chance is gift wrapped, as it was yesterday for him. He has to pull the trigger. To be the Samurai.

Mayo have 8 Evander Holyfields at the moment and they can’t afford the luxury of any passengers. James Horan was ruthless but he was sending a message not just to Coen but to the squad. Get busy living or get busy dying on the sideline.

I wouldn’t single Coen out if I didn’t think he was more than capable of making the transition. I’m sure James Horan will keep faith with him. To beat Dublin, whether it be semi-final or final, Mayo will need to score at least 20 times. Coen has the firepower to contribute significantly to that cause. Whether that is now as an impact sub or a starter. But only if he is at the required level of intensity.

It could be argued he is in last chance saloon territory. He can take comfort from the fact that critics are mouthing that Mayo are in last chance saloon territory for the best part of 3 years.

The Samurai gets comfortable living there.

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