Two weeks feels like an age away in this moment in time but as Saturday dawns closer and the promise of glory it brings, you would forgive any Mayo supporter for reflecting on the battlegrounds of Sunday week gone by. For seventy minutes (not ten, not twenty) there was no question but that Mayo set the cards out and forced Dublin to play the game on the their terms.
A Braveheart-like performance ensured that Mayo were not just there to make up the numbers for this highly esteemed Dublin squad. In truth, the team that should have taken the ultimate prize of Sam Maguire on that day were Mayo and were it not for two unfortunate and quite bizarre own goals, this could have very well have materialised.
The important thing now, however, is to move on and to look at the next chapter. All-Ireland finals in both football and hurling have a history of writing their own scripts independently of any pre-match form or general opinion. This year’s drawn football decider proved no different.
Dublin and Mayo will have to do it all over again; words which will obviously have been shouted into the ears of team players and management from both sides. Mayo proved in this year’s final that they have the stomach to win an All-Ireland and showed great character to level the game right at the death. Dublin showed that, although a brilliant team, they are not unbeatable and can be caught cold by any team on the right day of time. Mayo were very nearly that banana skin for Dublin, something that manager Jim Gavin, will be all too aware about in the lead-up to the replay.
In truth, it would not be unwise to suggest that the next game will also be deadlocked at the final whistle. Both teams have unquestionably proven to be the top two competitive teams in Ireland and have set the standards for the rest of the country.
Regardless of form, population or perceived advantages, a grain of rice separates the two teams in the heat (or dark cold rain) of play. Should Dublin go on to win the replay on Saturday they will go down as one of the greatest teams in GAA history, in what many already view to be a golden age for Dublin football. If Mayo, however, go on and win the All-Ireland it will undoubtedly be considered as one of the greatest sporting moments in not just GAA but in the history of sport.
But for this is to happen on Saturday, Mayo will have to display another top-drawer performance in the replay, one which they are certainly capable of. Likewise, if Dublin win then they will have to fight for it. Croke Park is set for another thrilling encounter, one that is guaranteed to be nail-biting and pulsating to the bitter end.
The key buzzword for Saturday evening will be ‘recovery’. Whoever recovers better from the last game will have a big say in where Sam will go for the next year. Although not the only factor, it certainly will go a long way towards deciding the overall outcome of this saga.
It is fair to say that over the course of this year’s build-up to the final, many purists and, to an extent, Dublin GAA personnel, assumed that all their team had to do was show up on the day and collect Sam Maguire. This clearly was not the case.
On the other end of the spectrum, a section of Mayo fans believed that this current Green and Red squad deserve to win an All-Ireland because of 65 years of unfortunate luck. This was also not the case. Luckily for Mayo, this current group of players realise that success is not based out of legacy and they will die in their boots for one shot of glory.
This is not a battle. This is a war. Patrons around Drumcondra and Dublin North, prepare your positions. The Green and Red march will proceed again on the 1st of October. This time there will be no mercy.