Mayo take another step on road less travelled

GAA: All Ireland Senior Football Championship

On the road again: Brendan Harrison and James Carr with Mayo fans after last weekends win over Donegal. Photo: Sportsfile

On the road again: Brendan Harrison and James Carr with Mayo fans after last weekends win over Donegal. Photo: Sportsfile

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less travelled by, And that has made all the difference" is how Robert Frost's poem The Road Not Taken concludes - and tomorrow Mayo will take another step on that road less travelled and they hope it will make all the difference in finally getting over Dublin for the first time in the championship since 2012.

This will be stop number nine on that road for Mayo this year that has seen them take in three different jurisdictions, three different currencies and the highways and byways of the country - to bring them back to where they wanted to be at the start of the championship in the All Ireland semi-final and just 70 minutes away from another crack at that elusive All Ireland title.

Along the way Mayo have scored 7-114 and conceded 7-101 and have used 32 players in the championship to date and that number could increase even more come tomorrow if Tom Parsons completes his recovery from his serious knee injury and gets game time.

The ever-presents in the those eight games to date are Aidan O'Shea, Brendan Harrision, Darren Coen and Jason Doherty who started all eight - with Lee Keegan and Kevin McLoughlin all playing at least some part in all eight - but Mayo will be facing into the rest of the year without one of those ever-presents, with Jason Doherty ruled out for the rest of the season after last weekend.

Going through the provincial championship and booking your place in the Super Eights the 'easy way' is the perceived best way to do your business, but Mayo don't follow the script, it just doesn't seem to be in their nature.

They blew through Connacht from 2011 to 2015, winning five Nestor Cups in a row and since then they haven't even been back to the final in the province - while Galway and Roscommon have met in the last four big days out in Connacht. However in those four years, Mayo have made it two All Ireland finals and are back in the semi-final this year, while the best the two other big dogs in this neck of the woods could manage was Galway's semi-final appearance last Summer.

While it's been a long road for those involved in the team - for the hearty band that follow them around the country it's been some trek - from the fun and frolics in New York in May, to the crashing taste of defeat at home to Roscommon - followed by a sun-splashed trip to Newry at the end of June, then welcoming Armagh to Castlebar. The next stop on the journey was back to the old house of pain from 2014 - the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick - where another itch was scratched in disposing of Galway for the first time, in what felt like decades, to book their spot in the Super Eights.

Killarney welcomed Mayo supporters with open arms in the middle of July and Mayo were equally as welcoming to the Kerry team who beat them out the gate and sent Mayo home with another point to prove. Meath were dispatched in Croker - setting up last weekend's winner-takes-all showdown with Donegal, the rain spilled as only it could for a Wild Atlantic Way derby, it was wild and it was thrilling and most importantly, at the end of the day, Mayo ended up winning.

That leaves us now ready for the long road back east tomorrow - tickets at a premium and the hype has been building all week and the faithful hoping that there is at least one, if not two more big performances left in the tank from those who have given them such entertainment all year and throughout the years that have gone before.

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