The calm before

Sweet Jesus and His Holy Mother, it’s the night before the big game.

The last few days really have flown and the game’s approach has been a quiet, unheralded one. Befitting, maybe, this still surreal pandemic era we’re now calling normal life. Or maybe, from our perspective, it’s that we’re inured to what most pundits expect will be our fate at Croke Park tomorrow.

Whatever it is, it has made for a relaxed lead-in to the match. For many of us there’s been at least a bit of mild panic about tickets – children, this is what life used to be like for those finals before thousands of us were lucky enough to get our paws on season tickets – but they started appearing in volume 72 hours or so ago and so hopefully most who want to go will be able to do so.

A team announcement at some point today would have given us something to talk about – if only to wonder if all fifteen named would actually start – but the absence of such news isn’t something I’d be at all bothered about.

Dublin often don’t name their pick until approaching midday of game day and then proceed to make three or four changes to the named fifteen before the ball is thrown in.

We might name our team later tonight or early tomorrow or not at all. That’s all fine.

What Mayo GAA did do tonight, though, was provide details of this year’s Championship panel. You’ll find that here. It’s a list that stretches to 41 names and those of a facetious mindset might observe that the names of tomorrow’s first fifteen are included in it, hiding in plain sight.

A number of times when we were playing in All-Ireland semi-finals (and finals), friends of the blog used to gather in Bowe’s pub in Fleet Street up here in the capital. More than once, I pitched up at Croker the following day with a big porter head on me as a result, as I’m sure a few of you did too. I miss those times.

Although I’m sipping beer here at home now – and very nice it is too – it’s in small enough volumes so my head should be clear tomorrow evening. That’s no bad thing to have in the heat of battle, including for those merely observing the combat.

I’m trying – and largely failing – to put a fix on how I feel heading into this one. There’s an element of fatalism, of course – we’ve all seen this same bloody movie so many times before and we know how it ends. It’s a crap ending, one badly in need of rewriting, but is this going to happen tomorrow evening?

Perusing the stats doesn’t help either. No win of any kind against them since 2012, nothing but defeats since 2016 and a gulf between us since that all-time classic decider of 2017.

But taking All-Ireland semi-final matches in the round, we’ve a decent record since 2011. Nine semi-finals in all, with five wins, four losses and two draws. While we’ve lost to both Kerry and Dublin (twice each) at the semi-final stage, we’ve beaten both of them there as well.

There’s certainly less pressure on us tomorrow. While I bristle at the notion of our being in bonus territory it is true that our main targets this year – gaining promotion back to Division One and winning Connacht (the latter without Cillian) – have both been achieved.

That does mean that tomorrow’s match has an element of a free shot for us, at a time when the six-in-a-row champions looks a bit more vulnerable than they have for a long time. Tell that to James and the lads, though, and I think you know the retort you’d get.

In any event, this is all just nonsense talk. Night before stuff. Pub talk without the pub. I think I’ll have another beer.

Back tomorrow with some final game day thoughts.

29 thoughts on “The calm before

  1. There is definitely a different feel as this game approaches for me, unlike other Mayo v Dublin big games.
    We need to see something different tomorrow, same old talk and worry about getting the matchups right, I firmly believe this has been the problem for years now, play to your strengths, each defender should know what needs to be done.
    No taking a handy mark close in when a run at goal is on.
    I’m hoping one or two fiery players will set the tone from the off.
    Let the creative guys create.

  2. I was just thinking earlier about those great nights in Bowe’s WJ – they feel like a lifetime ago now and many a ticket trade was done there too. But -assuming a safe trip in the morning – I’ll certainly be arriving to Croke Park tomorrow in a healthier state than I have in previous years! Very grateful to be going and I’ll be travelling – as Kevin McStay put it – “not without hope”.

    Listening to Seamie O’Shea’s interview during the week, I could empathise with his impatience in the run-up to games – it’s been a long week!

    Totally fine with the lack of a team anouncement- it wasn’t going to shed much light on things anyway.

    Safe travels to all hitting the road ar maidin. Up Mayo.

  3. It’s feel like the night before a final . I have a similar level of insomnia to go with it. I’m hoping against all rationale hope that we have the full deck to play with. Something special might happen …….who knows it might anyways
    Mayo by 2 !

  4. I wish they would name the team and put us out of our misery. Mullen is out but is O’hara out too? That’s a big ask but maybe tomorrow is the day we don’t give away cheap goals and take them down. Go early and support the ladies, they up against it too!

  5. For me the starting point is protecting our goal.
    Concede 2+ goals and you effectively shut the door on winning the game as they will most likely tack 15/16 points onto the goals. Then you get into a scenario where they can play keep ball and run your team ragged under no pressure.

    The opposite is also true if they don’t get goals then suddenly there’s more pressure on the points shooting and things can potentially unravel a bit.

    We can be certain what’s goin happen early on.
    They are going to try to put a couple of goals on us and we have to be ready for it and any time OCallaghan gets the ball in his hands goal is on his mind and he is likely to catch the ball and take multiple steps without a hop or a solo like a rugby winger.

    There’s a case i believe to me made for risking starting James Carr he’s the one player who could get goals against any opposition when he’s on song.
    Would start him and keep Tommy on the bench as an early impact sub and to take some pressure off his shoulders

  6. Centerfield – you’re basically suggesting to do what Kildare did. They didn’t let in any goals but conceded 20 points and weren’t within a mile of Dublin in the end. Kildare couldn’t get close to the Dublin goal all game because everyone bar Hyland and Flynn were camped in their own half.

  7. All this talk about keeping with them until the 2nd half water break gives me deja vu. if we’re to shake things up we need to do what they’ve done to us time and time again. Steamroll them early on, we won’t beat them without rattling their net at least twice.

    That’s why I’m tempted to roll with Tommy C from the start, but I do see the benefit in having him as an ace up your sleeve for the 4th quarter if the game goes that way.

  8. Ya somewhat like what Kildare did with better players wideball and far more running power in the middle 8 with Mayo

  9. Should Aidan end up in around the square surely there is no point in trying to catch the ball as it will definitely become a free out. Better to flick it on and have the two corner forwards within a few metres to pick up the breaking ball. I think Mayo will give Dublin plenty of headaches tomorrow with our possession game.

  10. Less than 12hrs to throw in. 9 minutes plus stoppage to 1/2 time. Mayo comfortable, Dublin (the fierce some beast) yet to score… It’s going to be a long day.

    Where else would we rather be, another day gracing Croker for a semi final.

    Keep turning up, game is there to be won.

    Pressure is on Dublin, not Mayo.

    It won’t be pretty, it will be ferocious.

    A win is a win.

  11. Who’d be Robbie or comerford today. Both expecting a high press on their kickouts and neither have had to deal with that all year. Ferocious pressure on both. This is where the game will be won or lost in my opinion.
    You can talk about match ups all you like but nothing in the modern game gives a team more oxygen than pressurising a kick out, winning it and getting a score from that hard work. It then amplifies the pressure on the next kick. All in front of two sets of raucous supporters hoping that you fold under the pressure.
    Who’d be Robbie or Evan today, certainly not me.

  12. Nerves are absolutely buzzing. As you said Willie Joe we have been here before. Big match day full of hope that just maybe, just maybe they will close Dublin down. But what annoys me is if Dublin win they will be mighty but if Mayo win it will be Ah shur Dublin were not that good this year. Mayo are better than just waiting for a Dublin decline. They should get the credit for it if it happens. Lots of if’s I know. But we always Dream.
    Looking forward to being there and ultimately supporting the lads no matter what. But it will be nicer to hear the Green and Red not an old Dublin song blasting out at full time.

  13. Agree with Centefield, unless we shore up the defense we are going to concede goals and that will be that. Sadly no evidence we have addressed this problem. When Galway ran at us they vcut through our defense which was wide open. Would absolutelyove to be proven wrong today and hope eating my words by 7.30pm. Also on kickouts, Robbie got his kicks away last day but some of them were heart stoppingly close. Will be huge pressure on both keepers to get kick outs right today so this will be crucial.

  14. Given that it’s the only men’s semi final this weekend there has been so much focus on it. Feels more like a build up to a final. I’ve read a lot about the rivalry over past 10 years but this is a new Mayo team so it’s a fresh start. Alot of the younger lads got a taste last year where nobody really expected us to win. This year it will be closer and more pressure on those lads. I’m thinking it will be a draw and Mayo’s youth and energy to take us over the line in extra time. Going 1-17 to 2-14 and in extra time it to finish 2-19 to 2-17

  15. Best of luck to both mayo teams today . I’m sure they’ll give it their best shot. I’d agree with centre field, throw james carr in . If we are to win we will need something or someone different. You have to admire the wans who will batter ya down cause you suggest carr to start saying hes done very little in the chances hes got then the very same people will throw conor o shea in as a suggestion to start, really , so carr has done nothing in his little game time but conor has?

    Goal or goals will be needed , Carr is the boy .

  16. I think that press and blitz in 2019 will have benefitted Robbie in preparation for today. Any keeper who experienced that must have learned from it.
    Mayo have practice with figuring out kickout strategies of their own over the last 5 years too – bunching in the middle and kicking to the sides for someone to run onto, clustering together and keeper kicking into the cluster (overload kickout). It’s not easily done though.
    I really love Robbie’s accuracy with a ball – he can put it straight to a man on his kickout, if no press. That’s not making comparisons, it’s simply noticing that he can do this. (I seem to remember we used Robbie really well v Donegal in Castlebar in 2019 where he found Jason Doc several times with his kickout).
    To all travelling from Mayo and elsewhere at the moment – have a good safe trip. Looking forward to seeing the colour in Croker later.

  17. I agree with Sean Burke I’d start Carr and let him loose he’s a proven goal getter and can take points from out the field

  18. Best of luck to both mayo teams today .

    If it wasn’t for the 1800 work traveling around Ireland this week I would be up there shouting my head off for the green and red .

    My expectations are as it were for the final in December . My only hope is that we force Dublin to have to move up the top gears to win . I think we will see this and for that I’d be comfortable with our performance .
    The loss of two Tallis men like Cillian and Osin is akin to Dublin loosing Fenton and Kilkenny . If we were a full panel and Dublin missing those two then I’d favour us. Margins are small .

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