The weather is up and everyone seems to be in a good mood but there is nothing better to whet the appetite than the Connacht final. The first time appearance of London in this year’s decider makes it intriguing and novel to say the least. We have watched Mayo outgun and blitz anything that has come their way this summer and the final on Sunday will be no different. The biggest worry for managers and players this Sunday will be the sweltering heat and making sure players don’t get dehydrated as come 2pm on Sunday in Castlebar, temperatures could hit the 30 degree mark. I’m sure the way players look after themselves in this day and age we don’t have to worry as they will be keeping themselves well hydrated all week.
The most fascinating factor from my point of view is to see what Mayo team lines out. Its “squeaky bum” time for the players as everyone wants to be in the starting 15. I am writing this well in advance of any team been named. The 15 guys who started against Roscommon will feel very hard done by if any of them lose their place (injury aside ) and possession is nine tenths of the law, if you play well you keep your jersey. I expect most of the starting players will feel under pressure to perform as the next game is in Croke Park and everybody wants game time in Croker. Here’s the problem for James Horan and his management team, you have guys like Mickey Conroy, Andy Moran, Barry Moran, Chris Barrett and Cillian o Connor (if fit ) to name but five who would make most teams in the country waiting in the traps, rearing to go but you can’t very well drop the likes of Seamus O’Shea, Alan Freeman or Richie Feeney after their performances against Roscommon and Galway. Getting this balance right is what’s key, overlooking Sunday’s Connacht final, we want our strongest team in Croke Park for the quarter-final final. I would love to be a fly on the wall in the room where the team is being picked. Its a great problem for James Horan having 22 well able bodies pushing for 15 places — it also removes any level of complacency that the players might have.
I read somewhere that London captain Seamus Hannon said it was their superior physicality that helped them get the better of Sligo and Leitrim and he hoped it would be the same against Mayo. He obviously never met Aidan O’Shea. A person very close to the Mayo set up informed me that he never seen a team in such sublime physical shape and when I enquired was it Donie Buckley’s influence? I was told it was three years of intense training . This current Mayo squad eat, drink, and breath football and they’re all primed like race horses. The collective training they do is only a part of what goes on, they do their gym work, extra running and ball skills all on their own. London will try to be direct against Mayo but the intensity Mayo will bring to the table will be something they have never experienced before. I expect Mayo to get a lot of scores from turning over the ball in the London defence. No disrespect intended to the four Mayo players involved in the London squad, it’s a huge day for themselves and their families but they wouldn’t get a look in with this Mayo team. I know no two football matches are the same but when trying to analyse the winning margin for Mayo, look at this. Armagh trounced Leitrim scoring 8-13 last weekend, Mayo easily defeated Armagh in the National League last year. Mayo beat Leitrim by 22 points last year in the championship and London scraped home against Leitrim. For any Mayo forward it’s fill your boots time. Mayo have won their two championship matches this year by a combined 29 points, (17 against Galway and 12 against Roscommon ) they could end up winning the Connaught Championship by a cumulative total of 50 points, don’t bet against it.
Mayo are priced at 1/500 to scare off any potential big backers and there is not much value using the handicap betting- Mayo starting at -17 points. The best value seems to be to pick a first goal scorer or how about this, the first score of the game from a Mayo point from a free at 13/5 or even London to score first from a free at 9/1. My main tips for this weekend — bring sunscreen and enjoy this novel occasion and watching Mayo winning three in a row. Our minors take to the pitch at noon so supporters should get in early to help get them over the line and win a badly needed minor title.
If you’d like to get in touch with John, you can email him here at [email protected]