Mayo's unbeaten run in the 2019 national league will be put to the ultimate test on Saturday evening as we head to HQ to take on All-Ireland champions, Dublin.
I have been trying to analyse as to whether or not it's a good time to get the Dubs and I'm still no wiser. Are they vulnerable after losing two out of three games, are they still trying to remove the cobwebs from a hectic 2018 to prepare for an assault at the drive for five? Are they using the league as a means to an end and just want to maintain their division one status? Or are they reeling after losing two of their first three league games and will they be hell bent on reigniting their league prospects while also laying down a marker to one of their bitter rivals?
Your guess is as good as mine. One thing is for sure, if Mayo defeat the Dubs at the weekend it means Jim Gavin’s team cannot win the 2019 national league title. Dublin have not lost two games in a row since Gavin took over way back in 2013, a full 93 games ago. He has had 15 competitive games since against Mayo, against three different Mayo management teams and although we have taken them to the wire in several championship games, it makes for grim reading. Played 13, won-0, drawn- 3 and lost 10.
The most points Dublin could accumulate if they got turned over by Mayo on Saturday would be eight and with a Mayo win, Kerry and Mayo would have a better head to head against the Dubs, leaving a shot at the league beyond Dublin's reach. We have to presume Kerry will get at least one win from their remaining four games. That for me is the reason why the game is of significant importance.
It will give the chasing pack a glimmer of hope along with letting us know where we are really at. That's what we want, right? To see if Mayo are capable of going toe-to-toe with the best. With the greatest respect to Roscommon (who have shown well in this year's league ) Tyrone and Cavan, the acid tests are yet to come. Away trips to Croke Park and Tralee to face Kerry will really let us know how things have progressed and if we can get excited about 2019.
James Horan's team selection will also give us a clear indication of how he rates the new guys he has given débuts to in the first three rounds. If you’re picked to start against the Dubs in a league tie in Croker, the manager obviously has you in his plans for the future. I expect we won't see any new faces making their league bows this weekend.
From the new contingent, the two players we have yet to see in a competitive environment are Cathal Horan and Ryan O'Donoghue (who is still out injured ). Horan did play centre back in a challenge against Sligo last weekend but the Croke Park cauldron could just be a bit much for a débutante. Chasing Con O'Callaghan or Paul Mannion in Croker wouldn't make for the easiest of starts to your inter county career.
It's 2012 since Mayo last got the better of the Dubs be it in league or championship, when James Horan was last in charge. Ironically we beat them in the league and championship that year. Mayo, Kerry and Leitrim are now the only teams with a 100 per cent record after the first three rounds. Wouldn't it be great if that continued, at least from a Mayo perspective anyway. Mayo 3/1, Dublin 1/3, Draw 8/1.
Club semi-finals show the best of the game
Corofin have qualified for the All-Ireland club final for the second year in a row after a pulsating semi final win over Ulster champions Gweedore in idyllic Pairc Sean mac Diarmuida in Carrick-on-Shannon. Corofin, the reigning champions, will take on 2017 champions Dr Crokes of Kerry in the St Patrick’s day decider after the Kerry kingpins overcame surprise package and Leinster champions, Mullinalaghta of Longford in the other semi final.
I was in Carrick to witness an enthralling encounter with a host of well known inter county players in action on both sides. Despite the romance of Gweedore's passage to the semi final, they had to deal with that dreadful car accident that took the lives of four young men from their region, including one of their teams mates- Micheal Roarty.
Corofin however had too much for them on the day and were full value for their win. I'm not sure of the exact population of Gweedore but in the crowd of just under six thousand, at least three quarters of them were shouting for the Donegal champions, which gave them a huge lift and must have been somewhat intimidating for Corofin.
Kevin Cassidy rolled back the years and tormented Corofin full back Kieran Fitzgerald, scoring 1-2 in the process. But up front Corofin had their own diamond in All-Star Ian Burke. He was simply unplayable for the majority of the game. He didn't score much but his link play and assisting in scores was out of this world. The final between Corofin and Dr Crokes is certainly one to look forward to.