I sat down last night in front of the TV to have another good look at our evisceration of Donegal and it sure made for satisfying viewing. Our first half performance was something else, with the All-Ireland champions simply having no answer to our dizzying speed of movement and quickness of thought. What I thought was superb was the variety in the way we came at them – almost everyone who got the ball within scoring range was capable of doing damage to them on the scoreboard – which made it so hard for them to do anything about the green and red tidal wave engulfing them. In the end they were just swept away by it.
But now it’s all over and James and the lads will already have refocused their minds ahead to August 25th and Tyrone so it makes sense that we do as well. As many have already said in the comments, there’s no point yet talking about the All-Ireland final – the Sam Maguire won’t be on its plinth when the lads take the field at Croke Park on the 25th and only if we beat Tyrone that day will we even get to play for possession of it. So let’s park any talk of a fourth All-Ireland for now.
I’ve a related plea (two in fact) to make on the comments side. The first is in relation to the “I don’t see how we can … “ type of contributions to the debate that some keep insisting on throwing into the pot. While I don’t want to see us all turn into a bunch of Pollyannas, I really do think it’s time for a bit of belief to be shown in James and the lads. They’ve shown on the pitch that they mean business and a bit more backbone from the outside looking in wouldn’t go amiss at this stage either. We’ve got a serious team – undoubtedly the best Mayo team I’ve ever seen in action – and while we can and should debate our strengths and weaknesses against the opposition (which means we should only be talking about Tyrone now) limp-wristed contributions worrying, for example, about what the Dubs might do to us really add nothing to the debate and are, in my view, best left unsaid at this stage.
A related point concerns exclusives and rumours from within the camp. A number of you (rightly, in my view) called out David Brady and John Maughan for the way they acted the big guys spouting to the media about what was happening in training sessions. It’s absolutely the case that both should know better than to be bladdering like that in public and it’s equally the case that there’s nothing to be served by people posting comments here detailing inside information, regardless of the motives for doing so. The decision, for example, to start Chris Barrett instead of Richie Feeney was well trailed here and, in hindsight, I’d have preferred if this hadn’t occurred. I know all too well that this site is only one insignificant outlet in this information-soaked world but I’d still prefer if it’s one that keeps its counsel on stuff that doesn’t really have to get into the public domain until James wants it there.
Right, onto Tyrone then. I was in Croke Park on Saturday evening as well as Sunday (and I was also there for their qualifier clash with Meath the previous weekend) and I have to say I wasn’t overly impressed with them or, indeed, with Monaghan, for whom that Ulster final success was really their All-Ireland. Tyrone do, however, have a number of lads with All-Ireland medals jangling in their pockets and a few of their younger lads will have faced off against ours in recent minor contests so they won’t exactly have an inferiority complex when they trot out at HQ to play us.
A Tyrone guy I know has been insisting to me all summer long that they’d calf as soon as they met any half-decent side and he predicted correctly that Donegal would beat them back in May. I haven’t bumped into him since the weekend and I know that when I do he’ll be bigging us, as everyone else is too, but – with the bookies only offering 2/7 on us for the semi – that’s a situation we just have to deal with.
We’re favourites for a good reason, mainly because we beat the living shite out of the champions last Sunday, and we deserve to be strongly fancied to beat Tyrone too, given the respective form lines of the two teams coming into the contest. But match odds are only part of the story and once the ball is thrown in on the 25th those 2/7 odds won’t be of any help to us in getting us over the line.
The Sean Cavanagh affair is sure to have an impact on proceedings and while Tyrone’s collective seething at being called out for their ultra-cynical approach to the game (what surprises me is that it’s only being said now – they’ve been like this ever since Mickey Harte took charge of them) is sure to lift them, I think that, on balance, Brolly’s tirade is helpful to us as – much as it pains me to give that idiot any credit for anything – it could well influence how the match is reffed. Tyrone’s ugly approach is certainly in the cross-hairs now and that can only be of benefit to us.
Narrowing the focus down to team news, there’s a piece in today’s Irish Independent confirming that, with David Clarke and Kenneth O’Malley still sidelined, Rob Hennelly is set to start between the posts for us in the semi-final. The same report states that Tom Cunniffe’s hamstring problem shouldn’t rule him out for the 25th and that Michael Conroy is “making progress” with his hamstring complaint.