The Connacht Council decision to bring our provincial football showpiece to the hallowed turf of Croke Park has been met with very different views and opinions.
I initially thought what a great idea, people are crying out to go to a game. If the game was on in Castlebar only 3,500 or so could attend, but moving it to Jones road allows 18,500 to attend, surely a no-brainer?
This opinion can be countered by the traditional and concerned supporter. Connacht finals should be played in Connacht and with the rapid rise in Covid-19 cases, is it really wise asking upwards of 15,000 people to travel across the country for a football match? It's not too long ago that we weren't allowed to leave the jurisdiction of our townlands. I'm sure the large Mayo fan-base in Dublin is delighted with the decision and will account for a larger proportion of the attendance on Sunday.
From a footballing viewpoint, it's an absolute no-brainer to play the game there, for both teams, but especially Mayo. Mac Hale Park hasn't exactly been a fortress down the years. In fact, against Galway, it has been the opposite.
Mayo haven't beaten Galway in their last five contests in Mac Hale Park, so why wouldn't they be delighted to move. Croke Park has been a home away from home for Mayo the last 10 years, with only Dublin playing more games there than the green and red.
Surely that has to count for something, those experiences alone. Galway’s last game there was a semi final against Dublin in 2018. I'm not sure if the decision to move the game to Croker was discussed with both county boards or management teams but I'm sure James Horan and Padraig Joyce will be delighted to get a run-out before a potential semi final against the seven-in-a-row chasing Dubs.
Bragging rights are important
Least we forget of course what’s at stake, bragging rights for 12 months and a Connacht championship that cannot be sniffed at. Six years ago, the likes of Aidan O'Shea and Lee Keegan may not have been bothered about the Nestor Cup, but let me assure you, now they are, especially because of the knock-out championship that they are now playing in. The head-to-head against our traditional rivals stands at 47 to 46 in favour of Mayo. A win for Galway and matters are evened up so it's important to stay ahead from that perspective.
Both line-ups will be interesting, Padraig Joyce declared early that his captain and talisman Shane Walsh would be fit despite limping off late on against Roscommon in the semi final.
I like that about Joyce, honest and open instead of having half the country second guessing all week about the welfare of Walsh. Some avid Galway folk however think Joyce's early declaration about Walsh is a smokescreen and clearly indicates that he is carrying an injury and may not play; time will tell.
Given the situation in the Mayo camp, we will have no idea what team will be fit to play. Presuming the covid-hit members of the panel and close contacts have being self isolating, I can't imagine training would have gone the way James Horan would have wanted.
Something to note, the Sligo u20 team who lost last week to Roscommon in the u20 Connacht semi final, had a similar outbreak of Covid in their camp. The players who contracted the virus were all deemed fit to play but interestingly, they all had to be taken off during the game as they ran out of steam because of the effects of the virus. They had the heart but they didn't have the lungs.
Croker is no place to be unless you are fully fit
Croke Park is not exactly the place to be if you are not fully fit and if your lungs aren't functioning at full capacity. There are no hiding places up there. This game is a nailed-on fifty-fifty tussle, although the odds makers see Mayo as slight favourites. Don't be one bit surprised to see this one going to extra time so the 15/2 odds on offer are appealing. I genuinely couldn't cope if it was decided on penalties.
Dublin were given a rare scare in the Leinster championship by their old rivals, Meath. At half time it looked like the Dubs were going to issue another 20+ point mauling in the Leinster championship but to their credit, Meath rallied in the second half and brought themselves to within three before Dublin scored three late points to win by six.
I'm not sure this will ever happen again but hopefully it's a sign of the end of the Dublin dominance - Dessie Farrell's charges had only scored two points for the first 35 minutes of the second half before scoring three in injury time, Meath had them genuinely rattled. They just don't seem to be the team they once were.