Our championship rivals and what we may have to overcome

Continuing the season of guest appearances on the site, I’m delighted to welcome a new voice into the visitor’s slot as JPM – whom many of you will already know as a long-standing contributor in the comments area – provides his assessment of the main challengers for this year’s championship.

In the run-up to our opening encounter I was pondering on whom we might meet along the way on this year’s journey. Below are who I believe are the main contenders (along with ourselves) for ultimate glory and my thoughts on what we have to overcome to get past these forces.

1: Kerry

Perennial champions: There or thereabouts, always. The Manchester United of Gaelic Games. If they’re not winners they are rarely out of the top two. They have contested every final bar three occasions since the dawn of the new millennium. In fact they have won well over a quarter of all the Senior All-Irelands ever contested since the GAA was founded in 1884. A phenomenal record and a tradition of winning.

Since the greats of the late 70s and 80s, every Kerry team that has come online since has been compared to them. It is fair to say though that this current crop are every bit as good (if not better – as the overall nationwide standard has improved) than their illustrious counterparts.

Players of the likes of Gooch, Galvin, Donaghy, Marc & Tomás Ó Sé, and Declan O’Sullivan would all walk blindfold onto any other county team. They could in fact pick their preferred options and demand captaincies as well. It is worth noting that Kerry were the only team to beat last year’s All-Ireland champions but through ill discipline and perhaps a little misfortune they were denied the opportunity to meet them in the decider. 36 All-Ireland titles and their record is best summed up by the 2009 title: “36 and Counting”.

2: Cork

League champions 2010. League champions 2011. Reigning All-Ireland champions. What more can you say? Like Galway, a dual county where in the high streets and back alleys the hurl and sliotar dominate and it’s left to a majority of more rural parishes to maintain a proud tradition that has always been somewhat overshadowed by their more celebrated neighbours.

With respect to Cork though one question always springs to mind – how many All-Irelands would the Leesiders have won if they had not met Kerry so early in the Munster championship? Far more, I believe, than their present total.

This current team is noted for its physicality and size. No other team can match Cork for sheer strength, bulk and height. But they also have proved they have what it takes to win. Their comeback against Dublin in the recent League final showed their strength in depth and their ability to neither lose their focus or desire when it comes to getting over the line.

3: Dublin

Our capital. Croke Park. Dáil Eireann. HQ. Dublin…. H’mm – it has it all!! Population 1 million+ so you’d imagine getting 20 good Gaelic football players should not be so difficult. A great tradition with 22 Senior All-Ireland titles. This year also having the benefit of playing every game in  Croke Park thus using it as their own backyard.

However Dublin (seem to) want to make it difficult for themselves. Currently they’re a lot like us. They get carried away with hype when so much is yet to be played for. They have ridiculous expectations every year and needle-probing post-mortems publicised nationally when everything go awry. Who’d want to be a Dublin manager? I wouldn’t. They will however be exceptionally hard to beat at home especially if everything falls into place for them. On the other hand the biggest mistake would be to fear them, as then you’re onto a hiding and a jeering from 80,000 Dubs which would make it a miserable end.

4: Galway

Our neighbours and traditionally our greatest rivals. They have 44 and we have 42. What have Galway got that we don’t? Well for one they have Padraig Joyce. He has to rank as one of the greatest players ever to don that Maroon jersey. Secondly they have tradition. Nine All-Ireland titles. We have three. We compare ourselves to them and based on Connacht championship wins, yes – we should have many more All-Ireland senior titles. Losing to them is like going to the sun on holidays and seeing it lash for two weeks before your eyes. Life becomes a grind after it. It’s a game we must win above all else. Especially in Castlebar. Who knows what it could lead to? It does wonders for the confidence of the Green and Red. It’s like a dream come true and then waking up after a fantastic night’s sleep and believing you can take on the world if you decide to.

5: Tyrone

“C’mon Tyrone – you’re on your own”. A famous cry. It’s actually with trepidation that I write this. In my opinion of all the counties in Ireland Tyrone has had the greatest highs and suffered the worst lows in recent years in GAA history. Since making the breakthrough in 2003 agony has followed the ecstasy at every turn.

Tyrone will be dark horses this year. No one knows exactly what to expect from them because of everything that has transpired. But they still have great players – even if the questions of age and desire arise.

But I still believe that if they meet Brian Dooher will again stand up to Tomás Ó Sé and Seán Cavanagh (if fit) will still put the ball over and under the bar when required. Also they have minor All-Ireland winners of 2008 and 2010 which we should be seeing breaking into the team. To be honest I wouldn’t begrudge them winning this year. I’d even suggest after what’s happened this year alone that I doubt anyone would.

6: Down

Some would call them the aristocrats of Gaelic Games. Up until last year’s All-Ireland final Down held the enviable record of never ever having lost a senior championship final. They were of course the original team from north of the border to make the breakthrough and they forged the way for Donegal, Derry, Tyrone and Armagh to make similar history.

They are a team that plays with style and purity. No seventh defender. No incessant hand passing. It’s 15 men who all play direct football and no one can deny that it is somewhat of a natural beauty seeing the Red and Black colour triumphed in Croke Park. Down people themselves are very generous and pride themselves on enjoying their days out with good fun. But they are an exceptionally dangerous team to meet on their day. Phenomenally solid down the middle with Brendan McVeigh, Marty Clarke, Benny Coulter, Danny Hughes, Dan Gordon and big Ambrose, Down will undoubtedly have a major say in who goes where this year and with what.


I know there are others along the way too who can stop us (and who would love to) – notably the Rossies and Sligo. Meath and Donegal are also to be watched closely. Based on the above opposition, though, I would suggest the best path to any glory is now to take the shortest route possible. So challenging and fighting for every game is what’s important. After that a slice of luck and the belief that it’s the right time for Mayo men to stand up tall and proud once again will be all that’s asked for.


8 thoughts on “Our championship rivals and what we may have to overcome

  1. Nice one JPM. Very poetic on the Mournemen, and the anguish with which you describe a loss to the Tribesmen suggests you walk among the heron-chokers.

    I think it’s Cork and Kerry and the field myself, as I was saying on my own patch of ground earlier this week. Thing is though, if that leads two semi-final spots up for grabs and we’ve all said it before, a game is only seventy minutes and exists in its own context. If a man is trying to kick a point it doesn’t matter whether or not one his countymen kicked one or curled it wide in 1967. Mayo and one other county really aren’t that far away at all.

    Cork men and Kerry men put on their trousers one leg at a time just like anyone else you know (and I believe it takes Galvin a particularly long time, he favouring the drainpipes these days). Up Mayo.

  2. I must disagree. I think we are a good bit behind Cork and Kerry. We don’t even have a settled no. 3 or 6. I really don’t know how so many voted for us in the poll to win Sam. Our forwards are pretty decent but the backs and mdifeld are well below what is required. A quarter final place would be a great achievement.

  3. Quote from An Spailpin…”Cork men and Kerry men put on their trousers one leg at a time just like anyone else you know (and I believe it takes Galvin a particularly long time, he favouring the drainpipes these days). Up Mayo”.

    Brilliant!!!!! 🙂

  4. Good piece JPM but Cork, Kerry, Dublin, Down and possibly Tyrone are all in a difficult league to us. Big day in Croker have we a hope of beating any of them? Not at all it is a matter of keeping the score down.

    Should we win Connacht. On a given day we are capable of beating all of the teams but so too are Galway, Ros and Sligo good enough to beat us. We face an almighty battle against a Galway team with no expectation. It is a very dangerous task. The winners should be going to Roscommon for the final – 20,000 Rossies baying for blood on their home patch will be difficult to beat.

    We are sadly in the middle of the pack. You would favour the likes of Kildare, Meath, Donegal and Derry to beat us unless we played to the very best of our ability and the game was in Castlebar. There needs to be a realisation of where we are at if we are to go forward – it is a case of loose backs; unpredicatable midfield and potentially good forwards. Work ethic will be crucial.

  5. We are going now where if trevor is back in the side or Dermot I am afraid. How many more chances for those of the losing streak?. Would it be not worth why to give kilcoyne another shoot. Lets hope James see sense after the challange game this weekend. I believe trevor will feature?. We need to look to the future with players who have different mind sets and appetite for the jersey

  6. Cynthia, I think I’ve figured out how you got your nickname. You’re certainly correct about Tyrone being in a different League to Mayo. They’re currently in League Division 2, I believe, while Mayo are in League Division 1.

    I have the height of respect for Tyrone and I feel bad that reads like such a cheap shot. But I want to emphasize that there’s no good reason for Mayo to fear Tyrone. Respect, certainly. Fear, no.

    To suggest that Mayo should fear Tyrone, or Down, or Dublin, doesn’t make sense to me. Cork and Kerry are clearly the best teams in the country but to suggest that Tyrone, Dublin or Down are so far ahead of Mayo that we can only see the lights in the distance only makes sense in terms of curses, piseoga and the bogey man. Up Mayo.

  7. Ontheroad and facetheball, I’ve huge time for you but really. To say Mayo don’t have a settled six isn’t true. Cafferkey’s started there in every single game of the league. It’s the only position Horan hasn’t changed. If there’s one thing we can be sure of, we know who will be Mayo’s centre-half back this summer.

    Now. Neither of you might rate Cafferkey and that’s fine. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion. But to say the position isn’t settled just isn’t true.

    Full back isn’t as settled but if it’s not either Alan Feeney or Cathal Hallinan I’ll be very surprised.

    I think Mayo’s midfield options are strong, which choices between McGarrity, James Kilcullen, James Gibbons and the O’Sheas. Again, you mightn’t rate any of those five lads at all, and again you’re entitled to your opinion. But why you’re in such states of despair is a mystery to me.

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