The Mayo footballers will have received a huge boost from last Sunday’s narrow victory over Kerry in the National League semi-final.
To come back from four points down to Kerry with six minutes to go in Croke Park, and then go on and beat their nemesis by a late Richie Feeney point in injury time of extra-time, is a big fillip to them for the year ahead.
I am not saying they will have an outstanding All-Ireland series, or even that they will beat Cork in a week’s time in the league final. However, in light of the harrowing anguish the Kingdom dished out to Mayo in Croke Park in the past decade (2004 & 2006 especially ), it was a massive result to beat Kerry at GAA headquarters. They have not beaten Kerry there since 1996 when current team selector James Nallen scored a wonderful goal.
James Horan has worked very hard with his panel since his appointment. Mayo have a terrific work ethic and last Sunday’s narrow win will help their self-belief and psychological well-being going into the 2012 championship.That their win had much to do with Kieran Donaghy’s surreal cross field miss-pass in normal time and a stunning goal by Colm Boyle in injury time is irrelevant. It is the result that matters.
Mayo will have analysed the video of the game in their training camp in Portugal this week, knowing they are improving and that they are capable of winning their first league title since 2001 when they face Cork on Sunday week.
They defeated Conor Counihan’s men by 1-13 to 2-6 in last year’s All-Ireland quarter-final and they will be eager to try to maintain that supremacy in the final on April 29.
Their forwards are working well and, in Kevin McLoughlin, Andy Moran and Alan Dillon, they have a mobile and lively half-forward line. Inside, Conor Mortimer and Cillian O’Connor are dangerous, while Michael Conroy will be disappointed with his withdrawal yesterday.
Their defence is improving and Donal Vaughan, despite his tendency to foul, is developing into an imposing and powerful number six. Likewise, wing-back Colm Boyle, who was man of the match last Sunday, is an improving player.
Mayo is the best team in Connacht at the moment. They will hope to annex the league title to give themselves genuine momentum going into the summer.
Last Sunday was a game Kerry will know they should not have lost. They were coasting until Donaghy’s daft cross-field pass. However, fair play to the Mayo players for sticking to their task and fortune favours the brave.
The result sees Mayo installed as boiling hot favourites to win the Connacht championship.
They are 8/13, with Alan Mulholland’s team available at 11/4.
Kevin Walsh’s Sligo, who picked up a few good wins at the end of the league, are 8/1, while Roscommon are 9/1.