The mind games are well under way with some former Dublin players and mentors trying to get into the head of referee Maurice Deegan in relation to Lee Keegan. It is farcical to say the least as they portray Keegan's sparring partner Diarmuid Connolly with a halo. Keegan is a born winner who plays on the edge with an impeccable disciplinary record. The only red card he received was against Kerry two years ago in the semi-final draw which of course was rescinded, enough said. Mind your own house.
The fact that Mayo displayed a never say die attitude in the drawn game while holding one of the most lethal forward units in the history of the game to a meagre nine points while conceding not one but two own goals in the process, I am baffled the bookmakers still see Dublin as the overwhelming favourites. Dublin are priced at 2/5 while Mayo have come in from 10/3 before the drawn game to 9/4 for the replay. I had a call from a very enthusiastic Mayo fan who had €100 on Mayo to start at -5 in the drawn game to win €1,200. Despite losing his bet he was still very upbeat and pointed out to me had we not scored two own goals, he would have won.
Mayo made the Dublin defence not hit the high notes
Dublin will never be as bad again the experts reckon, Mayo missed the boat, had their chance, and fluffed it. A former Dublin player has declared Mayo should be wary as they have just “poked the bear”. The only Dublin forward who played well was substitute Paddy Andrews, the others will never be this poor again they said. What happens if Mayo's defensive unit play like they did in the drawn game, the Dublin forwards might have no choice but to be poor again. I do not imagine any of that Dublin forward line will look forward to squaring up to their direct opponents again tomorrow. I feel Jim Gavin may make two changes up front, Andrews surely has to start, meaning one of the darlings of the hill will have to warm the pine. How could anyone suggest Mayo blew their chance? Five points down at half time, three points down hitting the 70 minute mark, yet they unbelievably snatch a draw. It was a heroic comeback. Maybe it was Dublin that blew their chance, they could not hold their lead. Surely Mayo will not score two goals for them again. I received a lot of calls from journalists this week drawing comparisons as we drew with Meath in the All-Ireland final 20 years ago, and they were wondering about the mindset of players and what it was like between the drawn game and the replay. There were also quite a few wondering about the after match banquet and if it was wise for the Mayo players to have attended it as the Dublin players did not go to theirs. There was a simple answer to the banquet question. Mayo were booked into City West, they had to eat after the game, they had to sleep somewhere, of course they had to go to the banquet albeit for a little while. I'm sure some of the Dublin players were able to walk to their homes after the game, it was an easy decision for them not to attend, I replied.
The difference from 1996
There is one major difference between our All-Ireland draw in 1996 and the 2016 version. We threw away a four point lead with a few minutes to go (I have never watched it so I am going from memory ) Meath’s equaliser coming from a ball bouncing over the bar. It was sickening, gut wrenching, I still have nightmares, I will never get over it. On the other hand Mayo left the field two weeks ago in the ascendancy, chests pumped, and still full of energy, they looked like a team that wanted extra time there and then (my heart didn't ). Dublin wanted the game over, they knew they were hanging on for dear life and Mayo were ravenous in the tackle even in the 77th minute. A very noticeable feature of the game in those dying moments was that when Mayo orchestrated a full court press some of the Dublin players had nothing left, guys that would normally embrace a situation of pressure on the hallowed turf simply did not want the ball. Dublin corner back Davy Byrne had possession on the 21 yard line just under the Hogan Stand, he looked out the field for a team mate, none of them wanted it, they pointed to Byrne to go somewhere else. It was the first time I saw that happen to Dublin so late in a game. This gives me hope for tomorrow, Mayo were still light on their feet while the Dublin players were leggy in those final moments. If it comes down to fitness tomorrow, Mayo have the edge. My ask is as it was for the drawn game, just be in contention going into the final stretch, do not let Dublin build a lead and let that burning desire and 65 years of hurt drive us over the line. Tomorrow I travel in hope and a little more confidence.
Counting the chickens
It seems someone has scored a massive own goal themselves declaring Philly McMahon will be at a health and wellbeing event next Monday after the All-Ireland final replay with special guest Sam Maguire, presumptuous to say the least, maybe they should keep Cillian O'Connor on standby just in case.