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Tuesday 26 March 2019

Dublin will go all-out for victory

Croker 'crunch game' as Mayo determined to end winless run against Dubs: Varley

WE’LL MEET AGAIN: Dublin manager Jim Gavin shakes hands with Mayo manager James Horan after the Dubs have prevailed in their FL Division 1 meeting of March, 2013. Photo: SPORTSFILE
WE’LL MEET AGAIN: Dublin manager Jim Gavin shakes hands with Mayo manager James Horan after the Dubs have prevailed in their FL Division 1 meeting of March, 2013. Photo: SPORTSFILE

Maybe we're just starved of anything interesting happening in this still formative stage of the football year but Saturday night in Croke Park already seems as significant as it gets this side of June.

"We haven't beaten them since 2012, so James (Horan) will want to do something about that," says Enda Varley, formerly of Mayo and currently of St Vincent's by way of outlining the most obvious narrative.

"Especially because if Mayo beat Dublin, they're not going to make the League final. That's significant enough as well," he adds.

"It's a bit of a crunch game. It's only February but I would say it's very significant."

The reintroduction of James Horan to the Dublin versus Mayo story is an obviously interesting plot twist.

Mayo supporters aren't noted for their lack of optimism but the return of the last man to manage their county to victory over Dublin has sent them into an early season frenzy.

"People underestimate how big a thing it was for James to bring that belief system into that setup," says Varley, who was part of Horan's squad in each year of his first term as Mayo manager.

"Because we were at a very low ebb at the end of 2010.

"We lost to Longford. We were basically disowned in the county.

Strongest

"And he made it clear that if we didn't buy into it, it would be 'good luck' and he'd bring in the next person.

"He made us believe we weren't a second-tier county. We're a top level county. We should be in the top four every single year.

"James feels there's unfinished business there," Varley continues. "Had we got over the line in 2012 or '13, I'm not sure James would have come back."

Varley is well placed to analyse the motivations of both teams.

In 2015, after being dropped from the Mayo panel by Horan's managerial replacements, Noel Connelly and Pat Holmes, he joined St Vincent's after six years travelling from Dublin to play with his native Garrymore.

A woodwork teacher in Pobalscoil Neasain in Baldoyle, Varley had been among the sizeable group of Mayo players who met twice weekly at the Spa Hotel in Lucan and went via minibus to Castlebar for training.

"At the time, I was very apprehensive about going into it," he admits.

"But after a couple of months passed, it was like being in any other team. You become friends with them.

"You're on the pitch with them. Off the pitch, they're totally different. And when you're playing with them too."

Ger Brennan being a classic case in point.

"From my own perspective, I thought Ger's perspective would be totally different to what it is. An absolute messer.

"Obviously on the pitch, he's a different man. And you respect that."

Rattled

Varley also reckons he could start a medium-sized bank if he had a euro for every time someone from home asked him "what's Diarmuid Connolly like?"

For the Dubs, he notes, a third loss in four games wouldn't exactly represent a meltdown but it would at least, put them in an unfamiliar situation.

"After the Kerry game, it was the first time I've ever seen Jim … I won't say 'rattled' … but he was making a couple of excuses about boys being late back," Varley notes.

"Which is all valid, but it's the first time I've ever heard him mention that sort of thing.

"So no, it wouldn't be a crisis. But this is why Saturday is so interesting: for a league game at this time of the season, Dublin will be going all-out for a win.

"And I know for a fact Mayo will be going all-out for a win.

"James (Horan) will be looking for a win, particularly given we haven't beaten Dublin in seven years. And Jim (Gavin) will want to put Mayo back in their box."

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