Donegal v Mayo, Croke Park, 3.30, M Deegan (Laois) * Live RTE

 

AT this stage rational and impartial thinking is a commodity that’s rare on the ground in Donegal and Mayo. As we move into the weekend that we’ll take to our graves, the line between logic and hope is becoming more blurred by the hour.

The game has been all consuming this week; analysis fatigue has set in.  The relentless stream of analysis, opinion and interviews have fed the unquenchable thirst for the game but would make you nostalgic for the days when your media consumption was one of the locals on a Monday or Tuesday and the paper on the morning of the game.

The importance of Sunday to both counties not just from a football perspective has been mentioned all week. There has never been and probably never will be an All – Ireland with as much deep rooted emotion attached.

Concerning ourselves with the overall context of this final and its importance to each of the counties is the prerogative of Journalists and bloggers, while we get all emotional into our laptops. It is hard not to get swept away by the importance of this game but I expect James Horan has avoided and will avoid talk of the past good or bad. It has no relation to this Mayo team. When it comes down to it, it’s the team who avoids been wrapped up in all this emotional baggage who have the best chance of success.

Mentally both sides could argue that they have the advantage. Donegal will argue that this Mayo team carry the burden of 61 years and a history of final day disaster. Mayo, perhaps more convincingly, can say that Donegal’s present of fan hysteria and favouritism far outweighs their inglorious failures.

Either way some players will underperform. Equally some will write their name into folklore. The systems that both Horan and McGuinness have created will allow for bad games and therefore will allow both teams to get a foothold in the game. There will be no capitulations this Sunday.

If Mayo can stay with Donegal for the first half and even build a lead, its then that any psychological advantage Mayo have will come into play. No matter how focused and task driven Jim McGuinness says his players are, finding themselves in this position will not be what they expected and not something they have faced this year.

Mayo can and must dominate midfield. Contrary to belief, clean ball can still be won in the modern game and Aidan O’Shea and Barry Moran are a better mid field pairing than Gallagher and Kavanagh. O’Shea is the figurehead of this Mayo team. As a footballing county, Mayo had a tradition of tough, ‘raw boned’ men that sadly has been lost in the last decade. O’Shea and others have given Mayo back this edge that’s vital to a team’s inner belief and how the opposition now perceives them.

Again Kevin McLoughlin will be Mayo’s most important player. The speed and accuracy of everything he does along with his work rate has seen him become one of the quiet leaders of the team. His performances have been as effective and more impressive in an attacking sense than that of the much loved McHugh.

The tactical question of this championship has been how to play McHugh. Pushing up on him as Cork did in the first half can be effective but we also have to have faith in what has brought us to this point. Not making exceptions for exceptional players might be naive but we also must trust that our system will match their’s and that in the end we will have the footballers to finish the job. I don’t have the answer; I trust that James Horan does.

Our full back line have been fantastic all year, I expect the same on Sunday. I relish seeing Kevin Keane mark Murphy and Cafferkey doing battle with McFadden. We should have no fear in that area, our full back line is equal to Donegal’s forward equivalent in quality, if not in praise.

A tough afternoon awaits the Mayo full forward line. They will have less space to operate in than they have ever experienced before. As in the semi final, little is expected of the likes of Varley, Conroy and Doherty and like the semi-final it is position that can provoke a defiant, proud reaction.

They will need to win ball inside for Mayo to gain some platform near goals. If the full forward line can get onto quick ball I expect our scores to come from our support play that has been Mayo’s trademark all year.

Victory on Sunday would mean everything. Pride in our County is always something that has come easy to us as Mayo people, probably more so than most. James Horan and his players have allowed us to carry that pride with a lot more ease.

Sentimentality is not going to have any bearing on Sunday but that line between logic and hope has truly evaporated in my mind.

‘The Kings of September’ by Michael Foley recounts the 1982 All – Ireland Final between Kerry and Offaly. In the days leading up to final, Sean Lowry of whom we claim some ownership attended a funeral of a neighbour. At that funeral he spoke to a stranger by the name of Declan Carolan who articulated  better than anyone the beauty and significance of an All – Ireland. His words inspired Lowry on that day when the impossible happened.

 Remember that, when you go out on Sunday, you’re going to be playing for people that you’ll never see. People you’ll never meet. You’ll have people in Australia and New Zealand who’ll have their chest out Monday morning if Ofally beat Kerry, but you’ll never see them or have the feelings they’re feeling. You’ll never realise the lift you give them if you beat Kerry on Sunday.

That is what it’s all about. On Monday morning I believe that every Mayo person will walk chests out, with a pride that hasn’t been felt in six long decades.  For the players it is an occasion that will define their lives. They are staring immortality in the face. Go on and take it boys.

Prediction: Mayo by 2

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NEVER mind next Sunday, the real battle has been going on for the last few weeks on the airwaves. Donegal may have had a week’s head start but here in Mayo we have the lethal combination of form and experience in this area; anyone remember this absolute CLASSIC from 1996?

Follow that. Unsurprisingly enough quite a few have duly taken on that challenge to create the next GAA masterpiece. Before we start all the serious build up and predictions, let’s take a moment to acknowledge those who have done what few thought possible, make Mid West and Ocean FM essential listening.  Wherever there is All – Ireland fever, your music will live on. Let the ceremony begin.

Best Song – Mayo: The Ginger Melodeon Experience – Up Mayo

Mayo getting to All – Ireland finals makes for strange happenings. How about a trad version of a Flo Rida song with Mayo football themed lyrics? Now that’s ingenuity. Definitely the best of the Mayo representations this year, the track from the London collaboration is free to download at http://gingermelodeonexperience.moonfruit.com/, with a link for donations to The Irish Cancer Society on the same page. #MayoForSam2013,  The Chieftains featuring Snoop Dogg?

 

Best Song – Donegal: Rory & the Island – Jimmy’s Winning Matches

If you’ve somehow managed to miss Rory Gallagher’s (formerly of The Revs) catchy tune you’re in for a treat. Rory and Jimmy’s musical sojourn began on the island of Lanzarote where the original song ‘Jimmy’s Selling Watches’, was wrote in tribute to the watch selling, Molly Malone singing Senegalese native. Listen out for Jimmy’s impressive knowledge of Mayo geography; he’s nearly as good as Mike Denver.

 

Best Song to Make Grown Men Emotional: Myles Kelly – The Mayo Man

It does sound like Myles may have recorded this with his phone but it’s still the most rousing of the 2012 vintage. With lyrics like, “Jimmy might be winning matches but James is winning too” and “I am a Mayo man today is my day”, it’ll either have you fit to run through walls or leave you blubbering into your pint a two in the morning. Either way, Myles deserves a call from Up For The Match.

 

The Best of The Rest 

A selection of some of the more obscure, somehow strangely entertaining,  but none the less deserving winners.

Best Performance Video: Cyril Brennan – Bring Home Sam 2012

Best Use of a Christmas Song Melody: Martin Fitzmaurice – Doing It For Andy

Lifetime Achievement Award: Michael S Togher – The Dream Has Never Died (Because he’s a legend – Maggie’s Flannel Drawers, need  I say anymore)

If we’re basing victory on YouTube hits, Donegal may have won the musical battle thanks in the main to Rory and Jimmy. I think we’ll let them have this little win though, as long as the sound of the Saw Doctors is ringing around Croke Park come 5.oo pm Sunday.

HAVE you in the last week called your uncle in Longford for the first time in six years, or facebooked that lad who was in your class in 1st year who coincidentally enough is now a manager in Ulster Bank? If so, then you are probably experiencing a wave of ticket frenzy, common to many other Mayo-ians at the moment.

Fair or unfair, we are all well aware of the reality of the distribution of All – Ireland final tickets to the wider GAA community. A breakdown of last year’s distribution, available here, shows why some of the unlikeliest of people can get their hands on these most precious pieces of paper.

All week rumour and counter rumour about the size of Mayo’s ticket allocation spread through the county and as a result what each of the already request burdened  clubs will receive. The  e-mail containing each Donegal clubs inflated looking ticket allocation, only added further to the rumour mill.

Yesterday the Mayo county Board met with Croke Park Officials and received an allocation believed to be between 8,000 and 10,000.

Over 70% of this allocation will be going to the clubs from Wednesday onwards. As explained to delegates at the County Board meeting last Friday, the allocation of tickets to clubs will not be based on the amount of members a club has but rather their grade. The distribuition is as follows:

  • Senior – 100 tickets (50 Stand, 50 Terrace)
  • Intermediate – 80 tickets (40 Stand, 40 Terrace)
  • Junior – 60 tickets (30 Stand, 30 Terrace)

On top of this basic allocation, club delegates were made aware at the county board meeting that each club will have the option of purchasing an extra 20 ticket’s with a contribution of €1,000 and another 20 tickets if they raise a further €1,000. Clubs who have representation on the county panel will receive an extra 10 tickets per player.

The five top performing clubs in the county board development draw will also receive an additional 25 tickets. The three main urban clubs Ballina, Castlebar and Westport (where demand will be particularly acute) will receive an additional 50 tickets each, as well as any surplus of tickets made available by clubs not availing of the additional 40 tickets

If clubs contribute €2,000 for the additional tickets, a Senior club without a county panellist will receive a minimum of 140 tickets, Intermediate clubs 120, while a standard Junior club will receive 100.

Chairde Maigh Eo members will of course be entitled to buy one ticket each but will be given the option to purchase a second if they pay in advance for next year’s season ticket.

In what is believed to be a first in Mayo, any player who has worn the green and red in championship football will be guaranteed a ticket. This fitting gesture will incorporate approximately 350 – 400 players who have played for Mayo as far back as 1945.

Mayo PRO, Aiden McLoughlin is confident that the County Board will be able to provide the clubs and supporters with enough tickets to satisfy demand;

“Through all their allocations clubs will get more tickets than ever before. I think the people that need to get a ticket and that need to be accommodated are going to get them through all the different ways.”

Club secretaries and chairman now have the unenviable task of playing God for the next week and a half, while the loyal and not so loyal disciples wait in GAA purgatory.

Could be time to start ringing the American cousins.

Dublin v Mayo, Croke Park, 3.30, J McQuillan (Cavan) * Live RTE

 

#NOHYPE made an appearance in the world of Twitter this week to calm any notions Mayo fans may have had of ordering their 12-MO-SAM number plates, or taking green and red paint to the road markings.

Mayo are League finalists; All – Ireland semi – finalists for the second year in succession and are facing a Dublin team who have shown uncertain form in this year’s championship. In a county who’s supporters have an understandable history of delving from crisis to optimism with the changing of the wind, you could expect a certain level of hype to be bubbling above the surface. Not the case.

In the GAA world hype is something to be avoided like the plague and in Mayo we’ve learned that hard way. Keith Duggan christened Mayo football ‘The House of Pain’, after last week’s epic encounter, Donegal will be living in its hype equivalent. The mantle will briefly pass to Dublin on Sunday but in the past Mayo carried their fans suffocating expectation with difficulty.

In 99’ they faced Cork with the county desperately willing them to one last shot at redemption. In 2004 and 2006, Mayo hit Croke Park in late August having blitzed through Connaught, with a team too reliant on too few to perform. After a tangible change in approach last year, this Mayo team are travelling to the capital in the right frame of mind and with a team ethic to back it up. Mayo people are calmer now about the prospects of their team. The flags are out, the buzz is tangible, but the expectation is contained.

There is faith in what James Horan is doing with this team. The reaction within Mayo to Andy Moran’s injury was telling. If Ciaran McDonald had suffered the same injury at the quarter-final stage against Laois in 2006, the team would have been written off. Despite the loss of our talisman this time around there is enough belief in the team and system as a whole that we can prosper regardless.

For Mayo to do, it will come as a result of  dominance in the middle third. Moran and O’Shea have the potential to be the best mid – field in the country. I expect them to dominate Bastik and Fennell and set the platform for the Mayo victory.

For whatever weakness Mayo have in their full forward line, the support play that has become their hallmark, can more than compensate. Lee Keegan, Donal Vaughan, Colm Boyle and Keith Higgins are crucial; for Mayo to win these players will need to feature prominently in attack and on the scoreboard.

With dominance at midfield, gaining a platform in the full forward line is crucial to allow these runs from deep to come good. This is where the likes of Varley, Doherty and Conroy come into play. Not much is expected of them but their movement will need to be exceptional to compensate for Moran’s loss. This could be their day to make an impact in the absence of their captain.

Twelve months ago Donal Vaughan rose to the occasion against Kerry in a mighty way and forced defending duties upon Declan O’Sullivan. Despite McCauley being named at centre forward Alan Brogan will more than likely be his direct opponent.  If Vaughan can cut down on his tendency for over fouling and dominate that area he can cut off Dublin’s main supply into their full forward line. It’s likely that Kevin Keane will pick up the other Brogan. Keane is equipped to negate the influence of Brogan; no man in the Mayo defence will relish the challenge more.

Mayo have rarely approached a big game in Croke Park in a better place psychologically. Dublin have their All – Ireland, if the game comes down to the last 10 minutes you would hope Mayo’s desire will be greater. This team is as prepared as they possibly can be, the belief is there. I think it will be enough.

Verdict: Mayo by 2

____________________________________________________________

And Finally..

THANKFULLY hearing Ciarán McDonald speak for the first time wasn’t as disappointing as the moment I first  heard David Beckham’s squeaky tones on Match of the Day. Ciarán Mc has a voice that matches the man; as reassuringly Mayo and composed as what we see on the pitch.

If you haven’t listened to Off the Ball’s interview with McDonald, please do. If ever there was an interview to thaw the cynical hearts of many a jaded Mayo fan, this is it.

It’s hard not to be over sentimental when you talk about one of the only modern Mayo player who can be talked about in the same context as Courell, Flanagan, Langan and Corcoran, but McDonald spoke with passion and authority. His views on Donegal were interesting and what you would expect from a  man, who like Donegal, plays the game in his own way.

Here it is:

http://soundcloud.com/off-the-ball/ciaran-mcdonald-of-mayo-on-off

All-Ireland MFC Semi-Final: Meath 2-10 Mayo 1-11 

 

WITH five minutes of the second half gone, Michael Plunkett made a lung bursting run from corner back deep into the Meath half. As he drew the defence, Ballinrobe’s James Quinn moved inside the cover, took the pass from Plunkett and  blasted the ball over the bar.

The goal was on but at that stage a point seemed like a satisfactory result. It moved Mayo seven points clear and was an defiant response to losing two of their most influential forwards, Eoghan Lavin and Sean Regan, through a sickening clash of heads moments earlier.

In a game where Mayo rode their luck in the opening minutes to an alarming degree, that point and the loss of Lavin and Regan signalled the reversal of that good fortune. Inexplicably, Mayo failed to score for the next 28 minutes, by which stage Meath had plundered 2-4 and deservedly moved into a decisive lead.

The game was only a couple of seconds old when a long ball into the Mayo half was narrowly flicked wide of the post by James McEntee. This set the trend for the next ten minutes with first O’Sullivan and then full forward Stephen Coogan, foiled by the crossbar and goalkeeper Michael O’Malley.

It was an extraordinary ten minutes that should have seen Meath already home and dry but instead ended up with Mayo leading by three points thanks to some economical forward play, the pick of the points coming from the impressive Sean Regan.

It took Meath until the 17th minute to get on the board, but true to their opening form this was quickly followed by a bad wide from the otherwise brilliant Cillian O’Sullivan. Meath’s ineptitude in front of goal seemed to encourage Mayo and they began to establish themselves in the game.  After Eoghan Lavin did well at centre field, a move involving Adam Gallagher and James Quinn ended with Diarmuid O’Connor squeezing the ball over the line.

Patrick Durcan was pushing forward all day and he got his reward with a point to push Mayo ahead by seven points for the first time. Gallagher was Mayo’s driving force and inspiration, while the full back line, in particular Gerathy and Moran were showing a propensity and worryingly, a need for coming up with last-ditch tackles.

Meath had closed the gap to four at the break but by five minutes of the second half it was out to seven again thanks to two points from Gallagher. That was to be as good as it got for Mayo as Meath gradually began to peg them back, with Cillian O’Sullivan causing huge problems for the Mayo defence and Ward unerring from place balls.

On a perfect day for football, a deftness of touch evaded both sides. In the end it was Mayo who were the sloppier, in particular their lack of precision in working the ball out of defence, which proved fatal in the end. It was a turnover that allowed Cillian O’Sullivan to reduce the gap to three points with six minutes remaining, before the crucial score of the game moments later.

As the recovered Sean Regan went to collect a looping pass near the sideline, he was blatantly pushed out of play by Patrick Kelly. However, no whistle came and despite Mayo regaining possesion, another lose pass out of defence was severely punished by O’Sullivan who broke through, his low shot ricocheting of the diving Adam Gallagher’s legs. The foot/leg block lacked intent or malice but the penalty was awarded. Fiachra Ward’s spot kick was Mendieta–esque in its tame trajectory, but it deceived O’Malley and glanced of him into the corner to draw Meath level.

In the end when Meath’s winner came there was a sense of the inevitable about it. As the game moved into injury time, Pauric Harran, who was influential all day, drove through the middle and after a scramble, the ball fell into the path of substitute Paddy Kennelly who smashed it home. Stephen Coen pulled one back at the death; it was Mayo’s first score in 28 minutes. If ever a statistic told the story of a game.

 

Man of the Match: Cillian O’Sullivan – The man from Moynalvey was a constant thorn in the Mayo side and spearheaded Meath’s comeback. Scored two points but was involved in many more.

Meath Scorers: Fiachra Ward (1-3), Patrick Kennelly (1-0), Jason Daly (0-2), Cillian O’Sullivan (0-2), Pauric Harnan (0-1), James McEntee (0-1), Ruairi O Coileain (0-1)

Mayo Scorers: Diarmuid O’Connor (1-0), Adam Gallagher (0-3), Stephen Coen (0-2), Eoghan Lavin (0-2), Sean Regan (0-1), Shane Hennelly (0-1), Patrick Durcan (0-1), James Quinn (0-1)

MEATH: Robert Burlingham (Simonstown Gaels); Declan Smyth (Dunsany), Brian Power (Ratoath), Shane Gallagher (Simonstown Gaels); Conor Carton (Donaghmore/Ashbourne), Shane McEntee (St Peter’s Dunboyne/Kilbride), Seamus Lavin (St Peter’s Dunboyne/Kilbride); Pauric Harnan (Jenkinstown Gaels), Adam Flanagan (Clonard); Cillian O’Sullivan (Jenkinstown Gaels), Jason Daly (St Peter’s Dunboyne/Kilbride), James McEntee (St Vincent’s/Curraha); Barry Dardis (Summerhill), Stephen Coogan (Dunderry), Fiachra Ward (Wolfe Tones).

MAYO: Conor O’Malley (Westport); Joe Geraghty (Ballintubber), Sean Moran (Kiltimagh), Michael Plunkett (Ballintubber); Patrick Durcan (Castlebar Mitchels), Cian Burke (Ardnaree Sarsfields), Kevin Lynch (Mayo Gaels); Brian Mullen (Westport), Adam Gallagher (Mayo Gaels); Eoghan Lavin (Kiltimagh), Stephen Coen (Hollymount/Carramore), Diarmuid O’Connor (Ballintubber); James Quinn (Ballinrobe), Sean Regan (Ballina Stephenites), Shane Hennelly (Shrule/Glencorrib).

REFEREE: Fergal Barry

YOU know you’ve gone mad when sitting at home in front of the TV on a Wednesday night, you find yourself becoming slightly upset at the quality of a Chinese gymnasts double pike somersault. A week ago a double pike somersault was something you would have associated with angling, which as far as I know is one of the few sports along with Darts and Ludo that are not in the Olympics.

This is what the Olympics do to the sports obsessed. There is a sense of obligation, sometimes based on national pride, to become educated in such things as the technicalities of the breaststroke and the many components of the modern pentathlon (Swimming, Running, Shooting, Fencing and Showjumping; not that you asked). Without Analise Murphy, I would never have known about the scoring system of the Sailing Laser Radial Class and when Longford’s Derek Burnett takes part in the trap shooting competition, for the first time in my life, Clay Pigeon Shooting will mean a great deal to me.

If you have been suffering from severe over exposure to the Olympic coverage, I say thank God for the reassuring constant of the GAA. Its unlikely football and hurling will ever be an Olympic sport; we wouldn’t be pushy about making other lads play just to win a few medals for ourselves.   Anyway, the GAA gives us a chance to spend a few magical hours by ourselves where we can shift the spotlight from London back to home.

This year we have four of the most competitive and intriguing football quarter finals since the quarter finals were introduced and if you have been exposed to unhealthy amounts of minority sports this week this could be your brief ticket back to normality.

Saturday will see RTE wrestle Michael Lyster out of the Olympic studios and back into the Sunday Game crèche to roll his eyes at Joe and Pat. I’d say he’d much rather stick to the Canoeing where fun spontaneous things happen; like one of your analysts answering their phone live on air to speak to the Irish Olympic Coach.

 

Maybe we should get James Horan or James McCartan to prank Joe Brolly on Saturday, might delay another repeat of last Sunday’s debacle and himself and Pat’s inevitable dismissal of the merits of Mayo’s match with Down.

Come the final whistle you’ll just have time to switch briefly back to London to see Robert Hefferan on the final stretch of his 20km walk and hopefully on his way to a medal, before Dublin will attempt to walk (eh eh) all over Laois in the second quarter-final at seven.

It’s TV3’s turn on Sunday, showing both games. Hopefully alongside Matt Cooper we’ll have the two midfield generals, Daragh O’ Sé and David ‘Terminator’ Brady, who despite wearing novelty oversized headphones, still manage to look tough and offer some excellent analysis to boot.

Please note if you have been exposed to the potentially mentally damaging swimming analysis from the riveting Earl McCarthy on RTE, and intense crazy, starey swimmer pundit/Olympic legend, Ian Thorpe on the BBC, I would strongly recommend a full dosage of the four quarter finals. Enjoy.

Mayo V Mayo, Croke Park, Saturday 5.00 pm, M Deegan (Laois);  Dublin v Laois, Croke Park, Saturday 7.00 pm, C Reilly (Meath) * Both live on RTE

Cork v Kildare, Croke Park, Sunday 2.00 pm, J McQuillan (Cavan);  Donegal v Kerry, Croke Park, Sunday 4.00 pm, M Duffy (Sligo) *Both live on TV3

Mayo’s Marquee Men

Posted: July 27, 2012 in GAA
Tags: ,

YOU may have heard the term ‘Marquee Forward’ a few times during the course of this year’s championship, if not you will do before the summer is out. After a lot of searches that mostly ended with results such as “Open sided large tent,” I found its academic definition:

*Marquee Player/Forward(A top-tier athlete and major selling point of a team or league)

In the somewhat amateur environment of the GAA, a Marquee Forward is less to do with selling points and more a prerequisite for All – Ireland Glory.

Ever since the misleadingly gentle sounding ‘Blanket Defence’ came into our lives ten years ago, the search began for the solution. The ‘Target Man’ was the remedy back in 2006 with Kieran Donaghy making it the must have item for every managers full forward line. Having brought it back into fashion it was a case of you can’t get too much of a good thing, so they threw Tommy Walsh into the mix too.

It took Mayo a while to catch on to this one, our version of the twin towers emerged three years later. The august bank holiday should see them reunited again but this time in a more traditional location on the half way line.

The big man on the inside line can and is still a potent weapon in the game, Tomas O’Connor of Kildare an example of the not so potent. But in the last number years it’s been all about the rarest, most mystical creature of them all, the aforementioned nouveau GAA-ism, the ‘Marquee Forward’.

There has always been an onus on high profile forwards to perform. However, with defences dominating over the last decade, All Ireland contenders are now required to have at least two outstanding forwards who can unlock Donegal style, vice-like defences.

The Brogan’s, Gooch and O’Sullivan2, O’Connor and Goulding, Murphy and McFadden… and em Bolton and O’Flatherty? When Mayo are mentioned as All – Ireland contenders it’s the supposed lack of these players, (the last inclusion was a joke in case you were wondering – half backs don’t count) which is cited as our major stumbling block in reserving our place at the top table.

Comparisons between this year’s team and Horan’s team of the 90’s would not be too far wide of the mark. An assured and attacking defence, a formidable midfield with impressive strength in depth, and a hard working half forward line with some scoring ability. Unfortunately like the 90’s, doubts remain about the makeup of the inside line.

The performances in the League and Connacht Final only added strength to that argument. There has been a loss of form and a lack of cohesion among the forwards, but those with short memories must remember two things;

  1. Andy Moran –      2011 GAA GPA All – Star Team, Full Forward
  2. Cillian O’      Connor – 2011 GAA GPA All – Star Young Footballer of the Year (Corner      Forward)

Last year Mayo had the best full forward and the best young player in the country, two stars operating in their inside line. It may be a slightly basic way of looking at it but Donegal can’t boast those credentials. It’s likely that O’Connor will move back into the corner for the quarter final. It could be a sweet release for him. He looked burdened by the centre forward role and he’s too good to allow the game to pass him by.

Injuries and lack of options may prevent Moran joining him in the full forward line; eventually Mayo will need their two biggest threats nearest goal. The loss of Pat Harte and the doubts over Seamus O’Shea’s fitness leaves Mayo lacking a physical presence in the half forward line. Rumour has it that this will result in Andy Moran moving to centre forward and Alan Freeman returning to the edge of the square, probably at the expense of Varley.

Moran is suffering slightly for his talent and versatility. He would probably prefer to remain at Full Forward but the need is greater at 11 at this stage. Superheroes are all the rage at the moment and if (please insert preferred Mayo town now) is ever threatened by an evil entity, Andy would be the man you’d look for. His performances and the encouragement he gives younger members of the squad seems to have created a real togetherness among this group of players.

Alan Dillon and Kevin McLoughlin will resume on the wings. Dillon was one of the composed when indecision was endemic against Sligo, while McLoughlin is one of the most underrated footballers in the country. His skill level and work rate is sometimes overlooked in a game where brawn is the new brain.

Mayogaablog.com raised the issue regarding the forward replacements looking fairly threadbare at the moment. Padraic, another of the Ballintubber O’Connor’s, was required to make up the numbers in an extremely competitive A v B game recently but fresh call ups seem unlikely.

This means Conroy and either Varley or Doherty will be the only cover for the full forward line. Michéal Forde is the only recognised half forward replacement fit at the moment, with Horan using him as a wing forward in training. Despite being a big fan, it’s doubtful if Horan will give the 19 year old much game time having never played a competitive game for the seniors.

Aidan O’ Shea will return in some capacity, but if Horan decides to stick with the Connaught Final midfield, another option rears its head. O’Shea is no stranger to playing centre forward in Croke Park. If Mayo progress beyond the quarters, players returning from injury will bring further options back into play.

These are the dilemma’s Horan has. He was always a forward who performed on the big day. A slight reshuffle of his pack may and an upturn in form is all that’s needed for his players to carry on this most precious of traits.