I always find it exciting when waiting to see what teams are paired against each other from the qualifier draw. I watched it live last weekend and once it was decided it would be Longford a good lively discussion took place about Mayo’s chances of progress. Most felt Mayo would be capable of beating Longford, a team that had a very mediocre season to date. When it was clarified later that evening that Longford had been awarded the home advantage for the match on Saturday June 26 (information that was not to hand when the discussion took place earlier ), the task looked that little bit more difficult. I suggested in this column last week that it might be better for all if Mayo were drawn against a top tier side. Armagh, Derry, Kildare, or Donegal immediately spring to mind. Had we been drawn against any one of these teams and managed a victory, I feel the team could redeem itself and could certainly give us some hope for a reasonably good run through the qualifiers. However a match against Longford in Pearse Park just doesn’t set the pulse racing for me and I hope this particular clash gets the team a little more excited than I feel about it right now. I watched Longford play Louth in the Leinster Championship two weeks ago. It was a game they could so easily have won and they played without their star man, Brian Kavanagh. Their other star forward, Paul Barden, did play that evening, but was not 100 per cent fit. Both apparently are back training and will start against Mayo. Also in recent years I have attended the compact Longford venue and witnessed the home side frighten the lives out of very formidable opposition. I recall in 2006 a Dublin team looking mightily relieved to leave the midlands after scraping a two point victory over the home side. Longford sent Derry packing the year before in a qualifier game. Most of you will recall Kerry really struggling to beat them last year. So when their manager Glen Ryan suggested last week that he didn’t care who his side were drawn against as long as they had a home draw, you can fully understand where he was coming from.
Mayo have to go for the jugular
Notwithstanding those facts, I do feel Mayo will win this match. Players and management will be very anxious to prove to themselves and to their supporters that they are better than we witnessed in Sligo. However their performance won’t necessarily improve because of a couple of rousing speeches from the manager. Their fitness levels won’t change either in the couple of weeks since they played. What can be changed though is an improvement in team spirit and an individual responsibility to perform with pride, determination, and intensity. The back door system has presented the team with a mighty opportunity to gain the respect of the county. If Mayo are to win it there has to be more aggression, penetration, and a willingness to go for the jugular. There is nothing pragmatic about having a Rolls Royce engine and driving it like a Ford Fiesta. There is sadness in witnessing a team of greater potential chugging along in third gear. So my message for next weekend is for the players to stop standing in the long shadow cast by other teams’ brilliance and to step up to the plate and deliver something that will make us all proud.
A disgusting act
Word filtered through to the dressing room in Crossmolina last weekend that Kerry and Cork were about to play extra time in their replayed Munster Championship semi final. I rushed back to town to catch some of the action. It was enthralling stuff. Both teams have provided us with a couple of brilliant matches in recent years. They deserve great credit for that. What a pity it was then to see Paul Galvin shove his index finger into the mouth of Cork’s Eoin Cadigan and forcibly pull trying to inflict as much damage as possible. It was such an ugly sight to witness and I was disgusted watching it again later that night on the Sunday Game. Galvin is such a brilliant player otherwise that it is a shame to see him sully our game in such a fashion. Was an eight week ban sufficient punishment?