herald

Wednesday 17 January 2018

Gaelic: Let's see if the west's awake

HAVING confidently predicted three weeks back that "Mayo will definitely lose to Cork" in their impending All-Ireland SFC quarter-final, Solo Run is about to engage in a spot of revisionism.

Our verbose and wholly inaccurate forecasting was tied to a couple of reasons, both of which we now admit to being wrong and irrelevant.

Mayo, we asserted, were Connacht champions and were doomed given that eight of the 10 western province winners of the qualifier era had flopped come the last eight.

This year, the football world has turned on its head and chief beneficiaries of the flip-flop has been provincial kingpins, given all four -- for the first time since the back door was introduced in 2001 -- have gone on to an All-Ireland semi-final.

The second even flimsier piece of evidence offered up by Solo Run as proof of Mayo's looming exit was their history of serial underperfomance in Croke Park against teams considered All-Ireland contenders. This, as the 'new Mayo' subsequently proved, was utter rubbish. And so, as the rest of the GAA world writes off James Horan's men ahead of their semi-final clash with Kerry, we have wisely decided that such dismissive utterances are just as fanciful.



Disasters

Mayo, claim the masses, will fall victim to Kerry in Croke Park because, well ... they always do.

The All-Ireland final disasters of 2004 and '06 have been quoted all week long as sufficient evidence as to why the men in green and gold will put an end to all this Western revival but just how applicable those results are, remains to be seen.

Yes, the Kerry team that starts on Sunday bears a close resemblance to the '06 first XV. Seven players overlap both starting teams, another three that came off the bench for the Kingdom (Darran O'Sullivan, Eoin Brosnan and Bryan Sheehan) are upgraded to starting roles, while Paul Galvin is likely to see at least some game time off the bench.

Mayo are a different proposition, though. Of the 15 who started the '06 final, only Keith Higgins and Alan Dillon remain while a handful who suffered that 13-point defeat (Peadar Gardiner, Ronán McGarrity, Trevor Mortimer and Andy Moran) will be involved on Sunday.

"Kerry's good record against Mayo will definitely have a bearing," stated renowned sports psychologist and former Armagh defender, Enda McNulty this week. "How much of a bearing is a different matter."

Us? We've decided to write Mayo off at our peril. But given our recent history of miscalculation ... don't rule out a hiding.

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