There is so much going on in the sporting world it's hard to keep up. The football championship is in full swing, the Euros are around the corner, the passing of Muhammad Ali has grabbed all the front and back pages and then there is the not so small matter of the Mayo hurling team's fantastic win in the Nicky Rackard Cup last Saturday evening in Croke Park. Things look very rosy in the Mayo GAA world and we are still only in the second week in June and yet we have two national titles in the bag.
They say things come in threes, but let's not get carried away. It was a memorable sight to see the Mayo hurlers climb the steps of the Hogan stand after their win last Saturday evening against Armagh. I have no doubt it crossed Keith Higgins' mind if he'd be climbing the same steps on the third Sunday in September with the footballers. There is still no training like competitive matches no matter what the code. Kenny Feeney was in scintillating form for Mayo, notching 1-9 for his troubles and deservedly getting the man of the match award.
The Dubs on tour
As mentioned last week I was in Nowlan Park for the Dubs' first game outside Croke Park in 10 years to see them take on Laois. The game was over as a contest after 15 seconds when Dean Rock found the net after an unfortunate slip by Laois full back Mark Timmons, who otherwise had a superb game for the losers, keeping the much feared Bernard Brogan scoreless. Such was Timmons' dominance Brogan was substituted after 55 minutes by Jim Gavin.
The problem for teams facing Dublin is that they don't rely on a single forward as their chief score getter; Dean Rock, Diarmuid Connolly (despite missing a penalty ), and Ciaran Kilkenny were on top of their game scoring a massive 2-18 between them. Rock is surely a shoo-in for championship top scorer after firing a very impressive 1-10, as long as he stays injury free. Kevin McMenamon and Paul Mannion were two more who didn't set the world on fire, but when you add Paul Flynn, Paddy Andrews, Cian Costello and Eoghan O'Gara to the mix it's a pretty daunting prospect for any team facing them. There is a little sense of hope for the chasing pack, however, as the long ball into Laois full forward Donie Kingston caused havoc in the Dublin full back line which yielded two goals and a few points for the O'Moore county. They say Rory O'Carroll won't be missed but I'm not so sure after this viewing. He was always the defender who picked up the big inside forward, be it Kingston, Michael Murphy, Ciaran Donaghy or Aidan O'Shea. The Dublin fullback line looked very vulnerable under the high ball. I had a good chat with Jim McGuinness before the game and he certainly hasn't changed his mind regarding Mayo. He feels we are the only team capable of beating Dublin and reiterated that Mayo should play two big inside forwards a la Aidan O'Shea and Barry Moran and have Cillian O'Connor hovering for the scraps and the lay offs to pick off the scores. Coincidentally he mentioned the vulnerability of the Dublin full back line under the high ball and this was before we saw the trouble Kingston caused. Jim might have a point.
Last Thursday I had a very enjoyable evening in the Town Hall Theatre in Galway doing a live show for 2fm's Game On. It was part of a three.ie pre Euro 16 talk show in front of a live audience. I was in pretty good company to say the least with former soccer internationals Ray Houghton and Mark Kinsella, top jockey Barry Geraghty, former Irish rugby coach Eddie O'Sullivan, golfer Gary Murphy, Clare's All Ireland winning captain Anthony Daly and, last but by no means least, Connacht's inspiring winning captain John Muldoon with the Guinness Pro 12 trophy in tow. Muldoon was the star of the show but he looked totally different as his iconic beard was gone. I certainly wouldn't like to meet him in a ruck.