SLIGO FORWARD MARK Breheny admits that the pain of losing the Connacht final to Roscommon in 2010 carried over, haunting the team in last year’s championship.
This year, they will file out in Dr Hyde Park with the Nestor Cup on the line again.
However, Breheny insists there will be a crucial difference in their opponent’s mindset. Mayo are the reigning champions and seeking their 44th title.
The 31-year-old is glad that the black shirts will be at the longer odds.
“You revert back to 2010 where we were hot favourites and some teams find it hard to carry that tag.” says the St Mary’s man. “Even if you are Kerry or Dublin, to be overwhelming favourites in a two-horse race can have its down-side.”
As he talks his way through the painful memories, Breheny imparted an honest account what were some tough results to accept. He speaks of Connacht finals not as a base camp as they may be seen in Galway and Mayo, but as a pedestal and a chance which must not be wasted.
“I remember going to one, I think it was in 97 when Sligo was in it and prior to that we were not in too many.
“After that we did a bit of a run in the noughties and thankfully since them we have been in three in the last five years. But really when you get there it is all about winning them and we were disappointed coming away in 2010 without the win.”
That 24-month old memory from McHale park seems to drive Breheny and his Sligo teammates on. Certainly ’2010’ are digits which are never far from his lips. It is a problem that is perhaps better aired than hidden.
“It certainly took a couple of months, maybe even a year to get over it (the 2010 final) fully.
“It was just the way that things happened, we had a very good win over Mayo and a couple of weeks after that we played Galway and had a good win after a replay in Markevicz Park. Leading into the final there was huge hype within the county and within the panel and we did embrace it, the big interest in ourselves from a national side of things.
“Certainly this final will be better for us because we are coming in as underdogs and it probably favours us in that we don’t need this hype.”
Despite nailing the favourites tag on Mayo, Breheny was not entirely effusive about his praise for James Horan’s side. Offered a chance to paint the green and red as All Ireland contenders he replied, “It’s hard to know”, before highlighting the strength and conditioning work put in by every county west of the Shannon.
The focus in Yeats country is not on Mayo, but rather on their own capability. A win on Sunday would not be the end of the road for Sligo, though Breheny protests he is taking every game as it comes, the excitement of being among the final dozen counties shines through.
“Getting to a provincial final is brilliant because you already are in the last 12 and it is great to get there but at the moment we are taking every game as it comes. This is going to be a huge task and we are going to take every minute as in that game as it comes as well.
After that, we will have an assessment of that, a debriefing, and see where we go from there whether we win or lose.”
Losing though, is not a word that trips lightly off the tongue. Breheny insists he is in “no doubt” that Sligo can and will prevail.
“You don’t go into any game without the intention of winning it.”