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Well, have the heart rates returned to normal yet? With just over 24 hours to go until Mayo and Dublin square up again in Ireland's colosseum, anticipation is at boiling point as the gladiators in green and red prepare to do battle once more with the Jacks from the city. While Mayo have named their first 15 on paper already ahead of the skirmish on Jones Road, if we have learned anything this year from Noel Connelly and Pat Holmes' tenure in charge of it is to expect the unexpected. While Barry Moran's inclusion in the quarter-final was a bolt from the blue, the decision to drop David Drake into the cauldron for his first championship start was a bolt from far beyond the reaches of our solar system.
When word filtered through, shortly before throw in ahead of Mayo's All Ireland quarter-final win over Donegal, that Barry Moran was starting instead of Andy Moran, it caught almost everyone off guard. Where would the big Castlebar man play? In a twin towers approach with Aidan O'Shea on the edge of the square? In the middle of the field with either Tom Parsons or Seamus O'Shea pushing forward? They were two of the most likely options, but as a defensive sweeper, nobody saw that one coming.
"What we do need to concentrate on is being at our very best in June, July, August, and September, and whatever we have to do to be in the best shape we can be, that's what we have to concentrate on," said Noel Connelly on a wet and cold evening last November when he and Pat Holmes sat down to meet the local press for the first time after their appointment as the new Mayo senior management ticket. This coming Sunday is last Sunday in August, and things have gone exactly to that plan so far. If they are to keep going until September then the next step is to get over Dublin on Sunday.