No need to panic just yet — we have been here before

GAA: Comment

We have been here before: Mayo will enter the qualifier draw on Monday morning as they look to plot their way to the Super 8s. Photo: Sportsfile.

We have been here before: Mayo will enter the qualifier draw on Monday morning as they look to plot their way to the Super 8s. Photo: Sportsfile.

It seems like it's déjà vu all over again. Have people not learned?

After similar scenarios in 2016 and 2017 Mayo have been written off by virtually everybody again. What a difference a week makes. Before Mayo's game against Galway, they were nailed on favourites for the Connacht championship and third favourites for the All-Ireland behind Kerry and of course Dublin.

Fast forward a narrow defeat to a Galway team that are now considered the only team capable of beating Dublin and we are a write off. I am always the optimist when it comes to Mayo football so when you factor in that Mayo shot some terrible wides against Galway (from open play and frees ), played for 45 minutes with 14 men, lost influential midfielder Tom Parsons during the game, and conceded the winning goal four minutes into injury time, albeit a stunning team goal, we are as well off to lose the first round qualifier and regroup for next season.

Oh, and I forgot, we were missing the best footballer in the country — Lee Keegan. I just do not get it. Many pundits have had to eat humble pie before, I hope they have to do it again. When you consider Brendan Harrison, Donal Vaughan, and Cillian O'Connor got valuable game time against Galway and Chris Barrett who played a full game are all returning from long term injuries things do not look so bad, they will be perfectly primed for action on June 9.

They will be fresh for an attack on the qualifiers. I am also hearing Lee Keegan is raring to go and has to be restrained at training such is his enthusiasm. No question though, Tom Parsons will be hard to replace. Parsons has undergone the first stage in his long road to recovery after having surgery last Saturday morning in the sports clinic in Santry. Things have gone well so far but the complexity of his injury and the amount of work that has to done means further surgery is needed to put him on the right road. He is however in great form, his spirits are good, and his positivity remains unquestionable.

The enduring qualifier route which if successful will see Mayo playing seven games in nine weeks and the knock backs of previous years are being cited by the experts as the reasons Mayo will drop out early from the 2018 championship. For the record, Mayo can be drawn against any team that has lost in a provincial quarter final or preliminary round from any of the four provinces. New York are exempt from the qualifiers - we will have to wait until next year for that trip.

If Mayo get drawn against a division three or four team, they automatically concede home advantage. If they get drawn against a division one or two team, the first team out of the hat are at home. Potential banana skins are Cavan, Tyrone, and Armagh.

Everyone will be hoping for a kind draw in round one, a draw against Tyrone in Omagh would be the proper nightmare scenario, when you take into account how dominant Mickey Harte's team were in the league game in Castlebar. I would not fancy it.

Big results in Ulster last weekend

Ironically Monaghan were one of the poorest teams we faced in this year's league — although they did go on a great run after our league opener and they were superb last Sunday. Whatever teams lose quarter finals in Ulster and Leinster this weekend will join Mayo in the draw which takes place on Monday morning. There will be 16 teams in the draw so Mayo have a 15/1 chance to draw Tyrone.

Football is certainly a funny old game and I suppose if every game was to go the way we expected it to, why would we even bother going. Fermanagh and Monaghan caused two hefty upsets in Ulster resigning Armagh and Tyrone to the qualifiers.

The Fermanagh and Armagh game is a repeat of this year's division three final which the Orchard county won fairly comfortably, albeit only by two points in the end. You can be assured that league final result is completely irrelevant now after Fermanagh's impressive showing. They were way the better team completely overwhelming Armagh to end up comfortable 0-12 to 0-07 winners. Questions will certainly be asked of Kieran McGeaney, scoring seven points in a championship game you were supposed to win is quite the worry.

I thought Monaghan were splendid against Tyrone. They showed real passion and desire and despite not getting off to the best starts they stuck to the game plan and wore Tyrone down. Conor McManus scored an early contender for point of the season while the importance of Rory Beegan cannot be underestimated. His place kicking was exceptional. He is some weapon to have for his team. It is not safe to foul a Monaghan player up to 70 metres from the goal. We will wait with bated breath for the draw on Monday morning. A trip to Tullamore to play Offaly would suit me.

Preparations continue behind the fence

Mayo played Sligo in a friendly game on Tuesday evening in Markievicz Park going down by three points on a scoreline of 1-19 to 1-16 - I have been reliably informed. The scoreline somewhat flattering as Mayo scored 1-3 in the last few minutes. The game was refereed by David Gough and not open to the public. By all accounts it was easier to get into Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding reception. From reports by my spy Colm Boyle and the injured Tom Parsons were the only two missing.


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