I’m a bit off the pace where it comes to Mayo GAA matters this week, I’m afraid, as another large wave entitled ‘work’ hit me on Monday (hot on the heels of the buffeting I got from the same quarter last week) and I haven’t had too much time for anything else (apart from my Supernanny rant, that is).
The debate is already well established, I can see, in relation both to Terry Reilly’s piece in yesterday’s Irish Examiner and also to Ray Dempsey’s outburst in the Mayo News following the U21s’ championship elimination and so there’s not a whole load for me to add on either. I can see in part where Terry is coming from, in particular about the absence of proper structures in bringing through talent and the lack of a winning mentality at all levels within the county, but I think that hanging the article on the thread of three league defeats and the minor disciplinary issue that arose in the wake of the Donegal match is a bit iffy to say the least. Also, he should really have been a bit more accurate in his wildly mistaken claim that, of the 2006 U21 team, only Seamus O’Shea and Keith Higgins have come through to senior. A quick read of this excellent piece from last year by his colleague Fintan O’Toole would have quickly set him straight on this rather basic factual point.
Ray, meanwhile, is clearly talking through his hat. He had the chance to have a really serious crack at an U21 All-Ireland title during his tenure but he never even managed to lead the team to a Connacht final, let alone an All-Ireland. I know that the players he picked have to take some responsibility for this but so too does the manager and seeking to lump it all on the lads is well out of order. That sounds to me like someone who definitely won’t be leading our U21 efforts next year.
Okay, onto Saturday night, a match I’m really looking forward to, not least because I’m planning to be there. (It’s also, by the way, one that’ll be preceded by the Connacht Minor League clash with Galway, that throws in at 5.15pm). I know the Dubs are 1/2 to beat us and getting anything out of this game will be very tough but I have a sneaking feeling that we might all be in for a surprise on that front. I have a theory (which I readily confess could be utter bullshit) that Pat Gilroy is aiming to dock his lads at the end of this league in that narrow channel between relegation and the play-offs – so as to avoid another spring clash with the Kerrymen – and so might be well disposed towards doing us a good turn. I think the Dubs’ teamsheet will provide a good pointer on that score but, as I’ve said, it’s only a theory I have. Based, possibly, on sunstroke.
No team to chew the fat on yet, of course, but this Mayo News article says that Seamus O’Shea seems certain to be out with a hamstring pull (with his kid brother seemingly equally certain to replace him) and that Lee Keegan is struggling with a dead leg problem. This Irish Independent report from yesterday says that the Feeneys have now been restored to the panel and if Lee isn’t fit to start on Saturday night then Richie is the obvious man to come in. Keeping him on the bench for any longer would serve no useful purpose and would only end up weakening us for a match where we really need to give it everything. Hopefully James will see sense on this one.
Finally, that Mayo News piece above confirms that Saturday’s match, being a re-fixture, is a freebie even for those who weren’t out on that foggy night back in February. Because of all the bureaucratic genuflecting that comes with all public events nowadays, however, tickets have to be handed out to punters on the way in, where voluntary donations of €5 (or more if you’ve anything left over after paying the Household Charge) will also be accepted. The money raised will be split between the Order of Malta, Mayo-Roscommon Hospice, Western Care and the Western Alzheimers Foundation, all of whom deserve support. So dig deep on the way in and then sit back and enjoy the spectacle of us sticking it to the All-Ireland champions.