After Kerry hammering the lard out of Dublin last Monday it is difficult to predict the victors now with any huge degree of confidence.
Apart from a select few, like Mick O’Dwyer, Kevin McStay, Ross Munnelly, and Kevin Walsh, most pundits I heard or read (Ray Silke included ) gave their vote for a narrow Dublin victory.
Admittedly Tony Davis from the Sunday Game crew was a tad more high-spirited and exuberant in his view that Dublin would win easily, but we’ll put that down to him being from Cork and having some residual dislike for the green and gold.
Well how wrong were we?
Let’s be fair here, nobody would have fancied Kerry to beat them by 17 points and for Dublin to completely collapse, again.
However, no matter how many Leinster titles Dublin collect in the future, it will be impossible to trust them until they actually win an All-Ireland and that doesn’t look likely to happen anytime soon.
They have choked now for the past five or six seasons having come out of Leinster and they will need a new crew of fresh talent to get over their heavy defeat from Tyrone last year and last Monday’s thrashing.
Their manager Pat Gilroy also gave one of the strangest quotes of the year after the game when he said his team were “like startled earwigs”.
Of course some wit at the back of the class on An Fear Rua.com was quick to point out during the week that what Dublin need for success next year is to get an entomologist* to join their backroom team.
Who is next up for Kerry’s whipping machine?
Of course no sooner had Kerry marched on and the question arose: “Which team is next for the green thrasher?” Mayo or Meath?
No doubt Meath manager Eamonn O’Brien and John O’Mahony will have looked at Kerry’s display and thought it will be a small step up in class in the semi-final.
They have a fence to jump this weekend first before they have to worry about the Kingdom. While Mayo will start as definite favourites, they will know from bittersweet experience that Meath are a resilient outfit who don’t roll over too easily. They are on the back of four straight wins over Waterford, Westmeath, Roscommon, and Limerick. And nothing gels a team more than winning matches and playing regularly.
Mayo have not played for three weeks and it may take them 20 minutes or so to get back up to championship pace.
If it does, they must be on red alert at the back as Meath have some good scoring forwards like Cian Ward, David Bray, Joe Sheridan, and Brian Farrell. Admittedly the probable loss of team captain Stephen Bray is a potentially massive blow as he was in red hot form and hit 0-4 from play last weekend before his red card against Limerick. Meath are appealing his sending-off this week and will go as far as possible to try to have him available.
The midfield battle will be vital as Nigel Crawford and Brian Meade are good players and their clash with Ronan McGarrity and David Heaney is one to savour.
There should be plenty of breaking ball and Mayo should have the aces to pick up those crumbs with Trevor Mortimer, Alan Dillon, Peadar Gardiner, and Andy Moran all in great form and with plenty of pace to snatch up ball and make inroads on the Meath defence.
Mayo’s full-forward Barry Moran is likely to be out with a broken bone in his hand although John O’Mahony has not ruled him out as of yet, and it will be interesting to see if Conor Mortimer is brought straight in at corner forward or will he be held in reserve?
The word in Mayo is that Mortimer will be brought back in with Aodan O’Shea taking over at full-forward if Moran is ruled out.
Whoever is in at left corner forward for Mayo will have to keep a tight rein on Meath’s corner back Chris O’Connor who shot two fine points against Limerick and revels in a roving role. Based on what he has been producing when he comes out the field, it would be would be best to keep him on the back foot for the full 70 minutes.
Meath have a lot of momentum built up after coming so strongly through the qualifiers, but Mayo have showed some terrific form in their game against Roscommon and in the first 60 minutes in the Connacht final.
I like the look and positive work-ethic of their half-forward line of Harte, Mortimer, and Dillon, and their half-back line of Moran, Howley, and Gardiner.
If Mayo can get up to the tempo of championship football quickly and reproduce the intensity, focus, and work-rate that knocked Galway and Roscommon out in Connacht, I would expect them to advance narrowly for yet another joust with their arch enemy from 2004 and 2006.
*(Entomology is the study of insects - I wasn’t sure either ).