The time has come for Mayo to show their true abilities

GAA: Casey's Call

Sunday Square-off: Pádraig O'Hora and David Clifford could face off again on Sunday in Croke Park. Photo: Sportsfile.

Sunday Square-off: Pádraig O'Hora and David Clifford could face off again on Sunday in Croke Park. Photo: Sportsfile.

The 3-19 to 0-13 scoreline from this year's National Football League final between Mayo and Kerry is a painful reminder of what Mayo face into on Sunday and what Kerry are capable of doing to a team if things are not near perfect when set up against them.

In the aftermath, word quickly did the rounds that Mayo trained extremely hard just two days before that final and that Mayo didn't want to show their hand to Kerry in case of a more important contest down the line.

Well that time is nigh. If that was the case and the league final was treated like an unimportant fixture, then it's somewhat infuriating, but now I hope that was what happened. All will be forgiven if there is a reversal of that result on Sunday as Mayo take on Kerry again in a mouth-watering All-Ireland quarter final in Croke Park.

Kerry have waltzed their way to the quarter finals, winning another handy Munster championship, beating Cork in the semi final by 0-23 to 0-11 and then annihilating Limerick in the final by 1-28 to 0-8. The Cork scoreline was slightly flattering, indeed the rebels were ahead by a point in the 51st minute; however, eight unanswered points in a final quarter blitz sealed the deal in that one. Kerry were at their devastating best against Limerick. Dublin are the only other team around capable of dishing out a hiding like that and that Limerick mauling was done without ace marksman David Clifford.

So there lies the first conundrum. Is that a good way for Kerry to be entering a quarter final? Totally untested, totally undercooked and not really sure where they are at because of the level of their opposition in the Munster championship. Kerry's last proper competitive match was against Armagh in the Gaelic grounds on March 20 where they slugged out a 1-13 to 0-13 point win against the home side to secure their place in the league final.

Their final division one game in the league against Tyrone doesn't count as competitive as they didn't have to win it and we all know the league final was anything but competitive for them. Mayo, on the other hand, have had to endure a tight battle against Galway in the Connacht championship, followed by two more than intensive and competitive encounters against Monaghan and Kildare, where they had to slug it out to make it to the quarter finals.

Mayo are overwhelming underdogs for this game and with good reason. Kerry are priced at 3/10 while you can get 7/2 on Mayo to make it to the semi finals. In fact, the only quarter final the bookmakers expect to be competitive this weekend is the Galway /Armagh game which precedes the Mayo and Kerry match. According to the odds makers, comfortable wins should be on the cards for Derry, Dublin and Kerry against Clare, Cork and Mayo respectively.

There is absolutely no question that Mayo will have to bring some sort of necessary chaos to this game to see if Kerry have the stomach for an intense fight. They are under significant pressure in the Kingdom to deliver an All-Ireland this year, especially after their disappointing loss to Tyrone in last year's semi final.

It's 2014 since they last lifted Sam Maguire, which is almost a generation ago - and most of these Kerry players have no experience of that feeling of winning Sam Maguire. Mayo are going to need huge games from Mattie Ruane and Paddy Durcan. I've singled those two out because they are not performing at the levels that we are used to from them. Hopefully Sunday and the Kerry jersey will ignite their flame again. It seems Ruane has been missing the presence of Jordan Flynn in that sector so it will be interesting to see if Flynn plays from the start.

Word in the kingdom is that David Clifford is touch and go to play in the game. His absence would be a significant lift but would be automatically cancelled if Ryan O'Donoghue is still sidelined for Mayo. Clifford got all the headlines from that league Final after his dual with Padraig O'Hora who was hung out to dry in the open expanses of Croke Park. If Clifford is fit, I expect plenty of cover for whoever is given the unenviable task of shackling him.

Gavin White destroyed us down the left flank in that game. I wouldn't be one bit surprised if Eoghan McLaughlin is set up for tagging him and giving him a piece of his own medicine, now there's a dual worth going to see. Mayo have the miraculous ability to bring a performance when we are not expecting it. Kerry throttled Tyrone in the league last year and we know what happened when they met in the semi final. Will mayo be able to catch them on the hop again? We live in hope more than expectation.

Best of luck also to our minors who also take on Kerry on Saturday in the All-Ireland semi final. I really like the look of this team and I feel they have a great chance of going all the way. They have top performers in every line of the pitch. Let's hope Sean Deane has them ready for an epic battle in O'Connor Park Tullamore.

 

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