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The Maigh Cuilinn footballers were too strong for a hard-working Athenry outfit last Sunday at Pearse Stadium in the county intermediate football final.
The Galway minor hurlers, under the impressive guidance of Liam Mellows' club man Jeffrey Lynskey, produced a great display of pace, skill, style and substance on Sunday afternoon to see off Tipperary by 4-13 to 1-16 in the All-Ireland final.
No matter what when on in the build up to this game, the simple truth when it came down to the crunch was that Dublin were the better team and won out in the end. The pantomime theatrics of the crowd booing the perceived villain on either side of the debate gave way to a game of football in the end and Dublin were the side who landed the knock-out blows when it mattered most.
The GAA patrons in both Galway and Mayo have one thing in common this week, a frantic search for tickets for next Saturday and Sunday’s two sell-out games at Croke Park. It promises to be a hectic 24 hours of GAA action with Mayo replaying Dublin for a place in the decider against perennial favourites Kerry, and the Galway hurlers trying to bridge a 27-year gap that stretches back to Conor Hayes as team captain in 1988.
As in every game between two evenly matched sides a number of factors will be decisive in sorting out where the winning and the losing of this game will be. We will look at a few of those factors here.
GAA patrons in both Galway and Mayo have one thing in common this week: a frantic search for tickets for next Saturday and Sunday’s two sell-out games at Croke Park.
"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.
He is one of the hardest, toughest, defenders you are likely to come across on the field of play, the kind of guy who puts his head in where it hurts, without consideration for his own wellbeing in the pursuit of victory. His hard hits are legendary, with the shoulder he put in on Damien Comer in last year's Connacht championship meeting between Mayo and Galway being felt right back up to the rafters in the stand in MacHale Park. But when you meet Colm Boyle off the field, he is one of the nicest fellows you could meet. Boyle has become a regular of the Mayo senior team press events and he is always courteous with his time and willing to ask whatever questions are put to him. For a guy who thought six year ago his inter-county career might have been over, he has become one of the backbones of Mayo success over the last half a decade.
What a mouth watering clash we have in prospect for Sunday. Some of the biggest names in planet GAA competing against each other. We can now definitely say the three best teams in the country are left in the race for Sam Maguire, no one can argue against that. Kerry did all they had to do to get by Tyrone and reach another final but Sunday’s clash between Mayo and Dublin is the one we have been waiting for. The games against Dublin are incomparable especially at championship level. People all around lose the run of themselves. Croke Park is a cauldron of unimaginable noise, even deafening while wearing a headset and on radio duty. The league game in McHale Park this year between the two sides almost attracted a crowd of 16, 000, the likes of which I have never seen before for such an early season clash, which is where I am going to start. Dublin came into that game on a serious losing streak and in relegation trouble, Mayo were on the crest of a wave. All Dublin folk will tell you that game was the turning point in their season; they gave Mayo a right trimming winning by 2-18 to 0-10 that evening and went on to comfortably win the league thereafter. They have since won nine games on the spin.
My first permanent teaching post was at St Gerald’s College, Castlebar, 20 years ago this September. And having taught in the county for eight years, I appreciate the ravenous and deep rooted desire that exists there for a senior All-Ireland success. The school principal at the time was big Brother Thomas Durnin from the De La Salle Order, and he asked me to bring the Sam Maguire Cup down in 1998. The reaction of the older members of staff was revealing. They would take the canister. Look at it, and then hand it over quickly, with a certain amount of disdain, muttering something like; “I don’t want it. Or want to touch it, unless we have won it ourselves.”