Game day – are we up for this?

It’s game day once again, this time under the lights at Croke Park in a National League Division One Round 3 match against Dublin. The match throws in at 7.30pm this evening, it’s being shown live on RTÉ2 with live radio commentary on Midwest as well. Meath’s David Gough will ref it.

I don’t tend to frame pre-game pieces on the day of a match with a question. Heading once more this evening to Croke Park to see Mayo take on Dublin in the League, however, it’s impossible not to have all manner of questions about our ability to take the fight to our opponents.

In this respect, our recent record against them in the League stands as a sharp rebuke to us. After we drew with them at Croke Park in 2014, we got thumped in Castlebar in 2015 and then lost narrowly to them at the same venue in 2016. From then on, though, this has been a grim fixture from our point of view.

We suffered a twelve-point scutching at Croke Park in 2017, a four-point beating that was in reality a decisive defeat at MacHale Park in 2018, an eight-point hiding at Croke Park in 2019 (even in the League campaign we won, we still couldn’t give them a proper game at HQ) and a depressing six-point loss at MacHale Park in 2020.

Of all our League fixtures over the past decade, this is without question my least favourite one. We never seem to be up for this game, as this piece by Malachy Clerkin in today’s Irish Times confirms. Hence my wondering about why we think this evening might be any different.

At first blush, our team selection for tonight isn’t one that screams emphatically about how much we mean business. A more considered appraisal, though, shows that reaction to be a tad unfair.

Nine of this evening’s starting team lined out in last year’s All-Ireland final, while two more – Jordan Flynn and Aiden Orme – joined the fray then from the bench. The four who didn’t see action last September – Rory Brickenden, Donnacha McHugh, Jack Carney and Paul Towey – are all promising young players whose development will definitely be aided by lining out on the big stage tonight.

We’ve no idea, of course, what kind of Dublin team we’ll be playing. They haven’t named their side yet and when they do they’re sure to make changes to it subsequently before the ball is thrown in.

What we do know, however, is that this is a match Dublin will have jotted down as a banker for collecting two points from. And, seeing as they have yet to pick up any League points in this campaign to date, that means their need for a win tonight is that bit stronger. We can, then, expect to see a formidable Dublin team facing us later on at Croke Park, one that’ll expend all the energy they require to get the two points they so badly need.

Which bring the circle back to where I was at the start – where are our heads at? Are we finally, after years of craven submission in this spring fixture, going to have a proper cut at them?

I haven’t a clue if we will, to be honest. I won’t be surprised – but will still be disappointed – if once again we allow them to roll us over. I will, though, be absolutely delighted if we give them a long overdue bellyful.

A win tonight puts us in a great position in Division One. Our top tier status all but assured, a second victory in a row over Dublin in the bag, we can ease off the pedal for the remainder of the League and begin to turn our focus more keenly instead towards the Connacht Championship and that meeting with Galway in late April.

A loss tonight, though, and we’re back in much more familiar territory. Not yet in a relegation battle but knowing that we’re scrapping for points from here on and knowing too that we’ve just handed Dublin a renewed lease of life.

I know which outcome I prefer. I’m heading to Croke Park later on this evening, though, without the first idea as to which scenario is the more likely.

So, here’s to the high road. Here’s to being pleasantly surprised. Here’s to a long overdue win over the Dubs in the League and, with it, our first ever victory over them in a regulation League match played in the capital.

Are we up for this? I sure hope we are. Up Mayo.

54 thoughts on “Game day – are we up for this?

  1. I too would prefer to go with our strongest team and try to get the win. We should really take the chance to keep them down when there’s a chance. On the other hand though, imagine if some of the young lads really perform well what it would mean for championship. Even Tommy, Eoghan and Oisin had to start somewhere. Besides, surely we’re much fitter going into this game, than in previous years, as championship is only weeks away.

  2. Excellent appraisal of what we face tonight in Croker. If we play the first half like we have in the first 2 league games then we will be in serious trouble by halftime unless Dublin are as poor as they have been so far in the league. Are we to be the whipping boys once again and allow them to walk all over us? Let’s not forget what Small got away with against us last time we played them. Expect fireworks if we decide to take them head on. This will be a real test for our newer lads.

  3. Philly Mcmahons piece in the Indo…if this is what counts as sporting journalism. After the thuggery Mayo encountered we had no choice but to learn to stand up for ourselves…especially when refs were afraid of the backlash in national media if they wrongfooted Dublin. A win tonight would be lovely.

  4. Early in the day and already phillys piece is creating a stir on social media. Going to be a long day looking at all these clowns on Facebook and Twitter called Anto and Damo and the like, telling us all emphatically “he’s dead right”
    Think I’ll preserve my sanity and log off till after the game.

  5. Is it because we are playing the Dubs or is there a small biteen of an obsession with tonight’s result ???
    Like posters said previously… JH is not too bothered about winning the league or possibly staying up ….
    Let’s get behind the lads this evening as always but championship is what matters.. that’s when the minds and bodies need to be at their bests and JH know his best 26 ..
    Safe journey all

  6. @Larry Duff, take my advice don’t be wasting your time on looking at the shite that is on Facebook, Twitter etc.

  7. I really hope we start our strongest possible team. I’d way prefer to get to 6 points in the league as quickly as possible and then experiment. Also beating Dublin twice in a row would give a huge boost to confidence should we meet them again later in the year. Like Mickey C said on the podcast beating them in 2012 league gave them so much confidence for later that year. Up Mayo!

  8. Looking forward to this one. It’s a short walk to HQ from home here in Dublin and it would be lovely to get another win tonight as we missed last August’s semi-final heroics. The pressure is really on Dublin to get a result more so than us and it will be interesting to see how they react. We’ll look after ourselves! Safe travelling all. Maigh Eo Abú

  9. If James Horan is not worried about staying in Divison 1 then I am very worried.
    This game is important the attitude that “league doesn’t matter” belongs in the 90’s or maybe the 70’s.
    It does matter.Wining several in the last 10 years certainly didn’t do Dublin any harm.
    It’s not fatal at all if we lose tonight …..but it does matter

  10. First quarter of this game is very important, Mayo could be beaten before halftime , if we can go in at half time only a point or two down a win should be on the cards, as second half is always our best. No soft goals from throw in or early in first half.

  11. The league looks to be very competitive this year, so we should be taking the points where we can find them. I would hope and expect that JH isn’t just writing off this fixture as a mere learning experience. Win this game and we are more or less safe and can fine tune ahead of the championship.

    As for the Indo, it has been a rag for some time now. Thankfully many of its sports columnists are behind a registration pay wall, so there’s absolutely no chance of me catching any of their so-called analysis.

    MacMahon has gotten up to some amount of skulduggery on the GAA pitches of Ireland over the years, so it would be quite amazing if he’s pontificating on alleged foul play. But live long enough and you’ll see, hear or read anything.

    I also second Mayo 88’s thoughts on Facebook and Twitter, they are tremendously polarizing negatives for our society and the best thing I ever did was deleting them.

    Hopefully the young guns can get a result this evening.

  12. @Larry Duff.
    I always thought Philly and co were great at acting up in their own back yard. They werent so brave elsewhere.
    Imagine John Small or Philly punching someone off the ball in Omagh or down in Cork. Not a chance.
    Philly would be wise to look a little closer to home and the reaction of his own team when they lost in the semi final last year. Perhaps he would like to write a piece about that next week.

  13. We do have a strong bench, probably stronger than Dublin’s but we definitely need to within 3 or 4 points with 20 minutes to go. The younger lads will learn alot from today.

  14. The league matters to a certain extent. I think it’s crucial to stay in Division 1, it’s just better for players to be playing against similar calibre players. I hope he keeps the same team that he names for thrown in. The Armagh game next weekend is as important as this game in terms of league points so will folk be just wanting the result for that game as well. We need to get into the habit of people Dublin no more so but blooding young guns is more important. I just have a sneaky feeling we’ll beat them again. Im saying all this now but I know as soon as half 7 comes I’ll be a bag of nerves and all I’ll care about is the win. Mayo Abu

  15. Folks
    FFS McMahon is only looking to build his following by stoking controversy.He doesn’t care about Dublin football or Mayo football.He just wants cash which he can get by getting attention.Same as Brolly…just looking for the next gig.
    Don’t pay attention…..

  16. we’ll all be wise after the event. if we’re well beaten then James was right to blood the newbies.If we are narrowly beaten then James is still right to have given the newbies a chance and if we win then we’ll all agree that James is a superb manager. Now let’s all be positive and enjoy tonight

  17. I wouldn’t bother listening to a fella who eye gouged and bit on the football field and that’s only half of it.

  18. Of course the League matters. Never more so now we have the compressed championship schedule. You have to generate momentum going into the Championship which is remember only two months away. Staying in Division 1 is a must.
    I hope for once we are ready to take this game to Dublin from the outset and not just go through the motions as we have on our last few visits to HQ for this fixture. Fascinating piece by Malachy Clerkin in the Times. Time to put this run to an end and go out and win.

  19. There is more than one Mayo person who thinks that there is a grain of truth in the Indo article, some times we get too precious in protecting our own.

    Anyway, about to set out on the trip to Dublin shortly, and hopefully we have something Positive to talk about later this evening.

  20. Dublin team named and they’re missing a lot of players too. Looks similar to what played against Kerry. No subs named however and dessie Farrell is fond of a few late changes.

  21. Exciting… like yourself,WJ, I haven’t a clue what to expect. It’s like going out on a summer’s day in Ireland…will I bring the coat and umbrella or stick on the shorts and tee shirt!!
    I hope we bring all we need to give Dublin a bellyful but I won’t be surprised if I’m traipsing off home chewing a wasp.
    A win would mean so much more than safety and an opportunity to experiment more for last games of the league. Two in a row would be good for Mayo.
    Hope we rise to it and give it our best shot. That’ll be good enough.
    Up Mayo…go deo.

  22. Bit too much sensitivity on show regarding Philly McMahons article.

    It’s like people are craving to be liked and have nice things said about the team and feel that the team is above criticism, no team is and no individual is either.

    There are probably some here name calling and throwing the toys out of the cot who haven’t even read the article.

    The truth is we would have loved a Philly McMahon playing for us and anyone who wouldn’t is blinkered.

    There’s feck all wrong with his article, a player who has played against Mayo on many occasions gives his opinion, that’s it, no need for the uber sensitive hysteria.

    If we were to pick out the positive things he said regarding Mayo and the supporters, people would be saying he was a great man, time to start toughening up mentally and stop this craving to be liked and throwing tantrums when people say something we don’t like, giving people cheap entertainment at the over reaction.

  23. If we can’t beat that Dublin team we need to give up,Mayo by eight points,safe travel to all as sailor said to the priest,whilst you have the hammer in your hand,well Mayo have the hammer in their hands over Dublin,use it well

  24. I’m intrigued to see how some of the newer lads perform today. I’m not sure there’ll be any changes before throw-in. Delighted Jordon and Mattie are partnered in the middle. Lookit, it’s sink or swim for all our newer lads tonight, but I’d be confident they’ll surprise a lot of people. I’ve tons of faith in James’ ability to develop young players. If it’s too early for some of them then fair enough. Better we find that out tonight. Great thing about James is that regardless of how tonight goes he’ll continue to put his faith in them and more often than not it eventually pays off.

    As Billy said in last night’s pod, on paper our FF line is incredibly small. Possibly expect Orme to come out to HF. Aidan may potentially start at HF too…

  25. I’d agree with that, Viper. As I said earlier on today on the same topic, the article was designed to provoke a reaction among Mayo supporters and if the comments posted about it here are in any way representative of Mayo fans in general then it succeeded in that aim.

  26. ‘We would have loved a Philly McMahon playing for us’…Yeah I love watching lads that roll oround on the ground feigning injury. Twould be brilliant to have someone that spends all their time sledging. The rest of you that don’t agree better take your ‘blinkers’ off and don’t be so sensitive.

  27. @Walter white, If that’s what wins you 8 All-Ireland medals then I’ll take it any day as opposed to a nice lad who will win nothing.

    I’d take a Philly McMahon in the morning as would every other county, well any that have actual aspirations to win an All-Ireland that is.

    No use telling the grand kids we didn’t win an All-Ireland but we were nice lads, to hell with that, nobody cares.

  28. Philly is going for the joe brolly avenue to try and kickstart his career outside of gaa. Luke Fitzgerald did it in rugby and now has a podcast and slot with the indo. Wouldn’t read too much into what either say, they are both irrelevant to what goes on with Dublin / Leinster / Ireland now, its just their opinion.

  29. Some of ye have played right into his hands. Getting all riled up. Outside noise. History is written by the winners though so we unfortunately just have to suck it up. Until we win an all Ireland we are easy pickings.

    Colm Boyle was asked in his interview if there is any consolation having been involved in those epic games….no was his answer. You want the winners medals.

  30. Agreed yewtree, I just chuckled when I read the philly article this morning. I have no doubt he is on the windup a bit and knows that mayo fans will get all worked up when they see it, and he’d be right.

    We are an awful sensitive bunch as fans at times where any questioning of the mayo players is heresy. Would be water off a ducks back in other counties. All part of the fun and games.id prefer reading that than some of the dull polite cliches brogan and Gooch write

  31. Fair play to you Viper. Personally if I was to pick a DUB from that team, I’d rather a Jack McCaffrey or a Bernard Brogan…It wasn’t Philly’s antics that were key to winning those All Irelands but sure if that’s what you think fair enough.
    And as far as it goes I am not being sensitive, I don’t read the Indo and I definitely couldn’t be arsed reading the musings of Philly McMahon!

  32. Never thought Philly was that great a player personally. Brilliant in the replay vs us in 2015 and dominated gooch in the final but wasn’t particularly good any other year. Mick Fitzsimons usually got the hard marking jobs and got on with things quietly but effectively.

  33. Yep JP agreed,even if he is on the windup a little isn’t there quite likely some truth in it if those are his genuine observations, he was after all at the coalface himself for all those encounters so if he says lads were posturing and doing certain things to be seen doing it then he could well be right.
    The only thing I would call him out on was him complaining about verbals, by all accounts he was one of the worst in the game for sledging

  34. @Walterwhite, why bring Jack McCaffrey into it as if I said that Philly McMahon would be my number 1 choice, I never said that at all.

    You’re getting too tied up with “antics” and not looking at the bigger picture, should we have cancelled Keegan for throwing a GPS at Rock when he was taking a free ? You see where this is going.

    Personally if a player can do a job for me and has 8 All-Ireland medals in his pocket he can roll around in a dung heap for all I care.

    Do you think Philly will lose any sleep because you wont read what he writes ? He’s probably reading some of the comments here and having a good laugh to himself as he polishes his 8 All-Ireland medals.

    It’s game day so I’m not interested in any tit for tat regarding Philly McMahon, just like Joe Brolly he’s clearly living rent free in a few heads here, not mine though, I have far better things to do.

  35. I’d agree with Walter on this one. Funny business didn’t do much good to win the game for Dublin in August when they were facing a potential loss.

    There are many ways to increase margins instead of playing beneath your dignity.

    I’d argue THE crucial thing that got Dublin over the line again and again was their bench. It was the essential margin.

  36. I didn’t say Philly was your number one choice Viper. I am not getting tied up with anything. No i don’t expect he will lose sleep Viper.. for instance he doesn’t know I do not read what he ‘writes’.

    Of course I would have to know what he has to say for himself before I let him inside my head..rent free..lol..Me neither Viper

  37. @Swallow Swoops, I’m sure Philly’s 8 All-Ireland medals helped eased the pain of losing a SEMI-FINAL last August somehow, he still had 8 more than any Mayo player after the final, so it changed nothing.

  38. @Walterwhite, the simple answer in the sporting world is yes, I’d rather have a Mayo team with a Philly McMahon that had won so many All-Irelands than a team of nice lads that had won nothing and I think the majority of people on here would agree with me.

    There’s no doubt that Philly McMahon would do your head in playing against him, but you know what, that was how valuable he was, putting forwards totally off their game most of the time.

    I wish we had at least one Philly.

    Take it from me, nice fellas will win nothing.

  39. I suppose if that is the case Viper you would prefer him to a Lee Keegan for example because he has the medals.

    I always thought that was a funny cliche ‘nice guys win nothing’. Jack Mac always came across as a decent fella to me..surprised he has the medals to show for it.

    Anyhow I don’t want to get into tit for tats it’s game day. HON MAYO

  40. I’d say Philly would be cracking his hole laughing if he saw that he, rather than the game, was the main topic of conversation here two hours out from throw-in.

  41. Haha.. Philly wasn’t what was of interest to me in that exchange Willie Joe. Having said that you are probably right.:-)

  42. And Philly wrote an article that has some in a spin, he’ll sure be delighted if it helps Dublin win?. We got O’Rourke for the headache, Spillane for the earache, And Joanne can’t well, ease our heartache..Brolly gives us an Ulcer, writing about our culture.. Cahill says allot, about very little… When they come on the Telly, I put on the bloody Kettle… “We’ll be right back after this short break” Ah for God sake!,…. Spillane tells Wheelo that football’s simple game, he won 8 All Ireland’s, it led to his mighty fame. He repeats himself so much, he’s driving us all insane.. As once again he tells us about the “definition of insanity”,.. You’d certainly get confused, waiting for him to bring any clarity. .. My prediction for this Match…None of the above pundits to have a clue!

  43. Leantimes, you crack me up with your observation about pundits talking about “the definition of insanity”. It’s one of my bugbears. It’s supposed to mean a lot but I don’t think it means much.
    Anyway, Mayo by three.
    Fingers crossed.

  44. Monaghan 8-4 ahead of Armagh at half time. Should be further ahead too. Rian O’Neill gone off with a leg injury which could be important for our game next week.

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