On Saturday a lot of questions will be answered as Derry come to Elvery's MacHale Park for a do or die qualifier game against Mayo. Again we find ourselves having to take the scenic route in pursuit of glory; again our county seems divided with opinion about the prospects of our team.
It's a simple scenario, if Mayo haven't brushed aside the disappointment of the loss against Galway and are in a fragile state of mind, Derry will most definitely test them. Damien Barton’s team haven't exactly been setting the GAA world on fire either and they have had their own issues. After a first round tanking from Tyrone, their captain Enda Lynn played a club game he wasn't supposed to five days before their qualifier game against Waterford picking up a slight injury in the process and as a result not starting on the team for that game. Derry eventually getting through on a scoreline of 1-17 to 0-13. I always presumed a captain was to lead by example. Lynn should not have put his fitness in jeopardy or his manager in a predicament considering Derry football is already taking a bashing.
Word of unrest and players failing to make themselves available for the Oak Leaf county is constant news. Whenever you open a paper of late or look at a social media GAA website there always seems to be news on Mayo, be it positive or negative. It has become somewhat of a past time now for some pundits or journalists to get in the news or to make headlines. Let's have a cut at a Mayo player or something the team or manager has done. The latest instalment making the news is that the players decided to meet the evening of their club championship matches without their manager's knowledge. So what if they did, but by all accounts Stephen Rochford was well aware of the meeting. What was wrong with a few senior players making sure players were maintaining their focus and preparation for their game against Derry, was under way immediately after their club games. Most counties would be proud if players took initiative like that for the betterment of their team.
Looking for all to be fighting fit
There are question marks over the fitness of key Mayo players for Saturday. Lee Keegan who took a knee in his tail bone in club action will be fine and rearing to go, we hope. There is a slight conundrum regarding Aidan O'Shea who has been carrying a groin issue for the last number of weeks. Do you take a chance and leave him out for the game against Derry to properly recover with the hope he will be needed for a bigger game or is he needed with immediate effect? A fully fit Aidan O'Shea is crucial to the cause. Although he played a full game for Breaffy in the club championship I would side on the air of caution and use him only if required. Mayo are priced at 1/6 to win the game with the handicap spread set at -6. I expect we will cover that with or without O'Shea and be in the drum for the next draw. A big improvement up front will be required.
St Attracta's NS Charlestown had the privilege of having footballer of the year Lee Keegan to unveil their green flag last Friday. Lee was hugely popular at the school and the children had a fantastic day meeting their hero, as indeed some of the teachers did. His positive attitude towards embracing the qualifiers would give the biggest doubters a lift. He’s a proper ambassador for the GAA
Down and Dublin impress
There were two huge results in the football championship last weekend. Down tore up the script defeating raging hot favourites Monaghan in the Ulster semi final. I have no doubt Monaghan took their eye off the ball and were already looking towards the Ulster final but you cannot take away from Down's performance as they cast reputation aside to put in a blinding display to cause the upset of the championship thus far. Their win will really give a lift to the underdogs. They were priced at 4/1 to win before a ball was thrown in. I was on duty for Radio One in Croke park on Sunday to witness one of the greatest massacres of all time on a football field as the Dubs annihilated a very off the pace Westmeath. Some felt Westmeath would put it up to Dublin, I on the other hand did not. The margin of victory was more than double what I expected it to be though as the Dubs tore strips out of Tom Cribbin's team scoring an unbelievable 4-29 to win the game by all of 31 points. Jim Gavin's media prowess was at its brilliant best after the game with his broadcast media ban and chat about Diarmuid Connolly to deflect from his team's awesome performance. His media manager deserves a pat on the back.