Mayo's enduring path through the gruelling qualifiers for the third year in a row begins in earnest in the Gaelic grounds in Limerick tomorrow. We do not know a whole lot about our opponents but if other results are anything to go by Mayo could and should have quite a bit to spare against the Treaty County.
I know every game is different and parameters for every game are not comparable, but taking into account that Clare defeated Limerick by 11 points in the Munster championship and thereafter the Banner County suffered a 22 point drubbing at the hands of Kerry last weekend should give us a small indication of what we are dealing with.
The void left by Tom Parsons is going to be hard to fill but will be slightly offset by the return of Donal Vaughan and Cillian O'Connor to full fitness (both of whom got game time against Galway ) and of course Lee Keegan who got some valuable time on the paddock in a recent challenge against Roscommon that Mayo won by six points. Parsons' absence from the dressing room will surely be felt, although he did meet his team mates last Sunday while they trained to give the squad a much welcomed boost.
Limerick will be given respect but if Stephen Rochford wants to know if men are going to make a telling difference for his team later in the championship then surely the likes of Cian Hanley and James Durcan who were two surprise substitutes against Galway will get a lot more time on the pitch this Saturday, especially given the fact that Diarmuid O'Connor is also missing through suspension.
Barry Moran, Donal Vaughan, or indeed Lee Keegan could be given Parsons' number nine shirt. I suspect for mobility purposes Vaughan will be the front runner and Keegan may be held in reserve. Either way a resounding victory is the order of the day to make sure our name goes into the hat for the draw on Monday morning.
Mayo are priced at an unbackable 1/50 with the handicap set at 12 points. With players wanting to show no ill effects from the Galway loss I expect the handicap to be covered. It is time to show we can be ruthless like Dublin, Kerry, and Galway.
Galway stroll it in the sunshine
I was in Salthill to witness Sligo fall like lambs to the slaughter last Sunday against a rampant Galway who notched a massive 4-24 in the process. Sligo put in one of the most naive performances we are likely to see.
I was gobsmacked that with a Tyrone manager Sligo left acres of space for a red hot pacey forward line to fill their boots. It is almost like they did not know about the capabilities of Damien Comer, the pace of Shane Walsh, or the driving runs from deep from Eamon Brannigan or Sean Kelly were likely to be a feature.
They were exposed time after time, Galway's huge haul could have been a lot worse only for a few fine saves from Aidan Devanney and some wayward passing late on by the Tribesmen when they were cutting loose.
Comer had three different markers by the 15th minute, each and every one of them hung out to dry by a lack of defensive cover. Apart from his bullish driving runs where he is a nightmare for anyone trying to defend, he is now playing with his head up. He executed some sublime passes, most notably the pass for Sean Kelly's first half goal. I am already looking forward to see what Kevin McStay and Liam McHale have in store to thwart his influence.
Fermanagh's shock win over Monaghan has cast a big dark shadow over Monaghan's great win over Tyrone. They clearly thought they had the hard work done defeating Tyrone. It is beautifully set up for Donegal in Ulster now.
Time for umpires to be vetted for action
Last weekend's GAA action threw up some sensational performances, shock results, and more controversy that will no doubt call for Hawk Eye to be available at all hurling games. The decision by an umpire to award a goal that clearly was not for Tipperary in their crucial Munster round robin game with Waterford has caused all sorts of debate across the GAA world.
I have stated before, referees should not be allowed to bring their mates, social buddies, or brothers in law to officiate at big games unless they are vetted to be capable of doing an efficient job. I feel sorry for the umpire in question who had a rush of blood and raised the green flag without consideration.
Why the other umpire who was beside the incident did not open his mouth to say, "hold on, you got it wrong, the sliothar didn't cross the line" defies belief. It is almost like a “paddle your own canoe” scenario, “I don't want to be involved in a controversial incident.”
If so then do not be an umpire. Umpires who cannot see if a size five O’Neills football goes over the bar and need Hawk Eye for a resolution should not be near a goalpost in a big game, but hurling is a different kettle of fish. A sliothar can travel at speeds up to and over 100mph, which let's face it, can be hard to track. I have a feeling we have not heard the end of this.