It’s Thursday, with the longest build-up to a big match that I think I can ever recall continuing apace. There’s been loads of chat about every aspect of the game over the last few days including a fair bit of discussion about the possible size of the Mayo crowd at Croke Park on Sunday. This particular issue is, I reckon, worthy of some focus as Sunday draws ever closer.
Although we’re always credited with bringing a big noisy following to HQ – and the poor old Kerrymen are constantly lambasted for doing the opposite – this hasn’t always been the case, in particular at the quarter-final stage. It was only the true believers who were there on that marvellous day that we knocked the then defending champions Cork out of the race two years ago and the size of the crowd we brought to Croker for the Down match last August Bank Holiday weekend wasn’t much to write home about either. Those who chose to sit out both of those matches missed what turned out be two scintillating displays by the lads.
There’s set to be a big attendance at Croke Park on Sunday. Donegal have a huge and very loyal following, Cavan – who had half the county there last Saturday for their qualifier match with London, from what I could see – are likely to have sizeable support on what seems all but certain to be their last big day out of the year and while the place won’t be teeming with Kerry supporters they’ll still have a reasonable hard core at it (way more than that pathetic Cork crowd will muster the following day).
If we’re going to be heard at all on Sunday – the Kerry gang are likely to have fecked off home before our match starts to come to the boil and, given the way they shouted for Tyrone last Saturday, I think most of the Cavan support will swing in behind Donegal – we need to bring out own raucous following. If anyone was in any doubt about how important a big Mayo crowd is to the team, then Andy Moran’s plea during his victory speech in MacHale Park for a big turnout at Croke Park should be enough for you. If there ever were a match where a big, loud Mayo following could count for something, then this is the one.
And it looks like Andy’s call is being answered. @MayoGAA tweeted yesterday that their ticket allocation is selling out rapidly and they said it’s looking like there will be a big Mayo crowd there. If you haven’t got your ticket yet, details on how to do so are here.
There’s not much to report on in the papers this morning. Declan Bonner, who is now Donegal’s minor manager, is quoted in the Irish Examiner taking a swipe at James for his comments about the opposition’s physicality. Whatever. Darragh Ó Sé’s column in the Irish Times (always a good read) mentions our match briefly and he reckons we’ll do it.
No word on the team yet, though I guess we’ll hear something later on today. A possible straw in the wind in this respect, however, comes in that Irish Examiner piece referenced above which concludes with the suggestion that we might name Keith Higgins to start at half-forward, i.e. the position he ended up in during the Connacht final. I’ve heard this rumour from more than one source over the last few days and I think there may be something to it – the idea, as I understand it, would be that Keith would play in a withdrawn, sweeping role to provide extra cover at the back and to prevent any disastrous one-on-one situations occurring close to our posts.
We’ll find out soon enough, I guess, if this is going to happen. By the way, I’m going to be offline for most of today with work stuff so I’ll probably be well off the pace on the team announcement on this occasion but will have something on it when I get back into action later on this evening.