Although it is only round three of the National league on Sunday when Mayo take on Kerry, it literally is a league defining match (There will be more on rounds of a different kind later on ). The winners of the game have a chance of making the semi-finals; the losers are staring relegation in the face. Mayo have had some good results against Kerry in the league in the last number of years and no question they will not fear them particularly with Colm ‘Gooch’ Cooper sidelined for the year . It is sad for us as footballing fans that we will not see the eight-time All-Star in action this year however I am sure there are many a manager and defender quietly delighted they will not have to endure the full wrath of his skills in the summer of 2014. Cooper’s last championship game, last year’s All-Ireland semifinal against the Dubs, was arguably one of his best in a Kerry jersey. I was secretly hoping Kerry would win that game as I felt Mayo would have had a better chance against them in the final. Kerry are under transition at the moment and very regularly line out with players we have not really heard of just yet, so now is a good time to play them.
I am sure the last few weeks have been spent by James Horan trying to shore up our somewhat porous defence. Mayo have conceded 4-27 from open play in the first two games, a big improvement in that sector will be needed. It will be interesting to see if Keith Higgins is tried again in the half-forward line or redeployed to his customary corner back spot which has certainly caused some concern in the last two games. The same experiment was tried with Kenneth Mortimer in the 1999 campaign when he lined out as a centre forward, he did have one or two good games there but he was one of the best corner backs in the country as Keith Higgins is now, so maybe Higgins would be better off going back to his preferred position, he has much more influence on a game when he is running the length of the field. Mayo need to get something from this game and I feel they will, forget about semi-finals, it is all about survival.
One over the Ulster men
Heartiest congratulations to all involved in the Connacht set up claiming the province’s first Railway Cup since 1969, especially the Mayo contingent. Some fantastic players have come and gone and failed miserably to win a Railway Cup medal, it was nice to see a Mayo man, Aiden O’Shea, lift the cup on behalf of the team, and Mickey Conroy did himself no harm trying to regain a starting berth for Mayo when scoring a very impressive goal at a crucial stage of the game. Keith Higgins has also entered the record books as the only Connacht player to win the Railway Cup in both codes as he was part of the hurling team 10 years ago, a feat unlikely to be achieved again. Ulster do not take this competition lightly and their team was made up of A list GAA stars which makes Connacht’s performance even more impressive considering many of the Connacht team are not well known at a national level. To completely trounce their Ulster counterparts is no mean feat; my only gripe is the pathetic attendance of 600 who witnessed it. In some national press the MacRory Cup schools’ quarter final in Ulster got as many column inches as the Railway Cup final, seems a little bizarre to say the least.
The rumble in the complex tomorrow night
If I do happen to sound a little groggy on the radio on Sunday it is probably because I am after shipping a hiding from Sean Davey (former Sligo footballer ) as I am taking part in The Battle for Bellaghy, a white collar boxing event between Charlestown Sarsfields GAA and Curry GAA, which is on in the CBD complex in Charlestown on Saturday night. I do not think I have been as nervous about anything before, especially after the weigh in, as my opponent has a far superior physical presence than myself and a stone plus in weight advantage. The things you do for the GAA. Anyone wanting to witness me going toe to toe with Davey, it starts at 8.30pm in Charlestown and a great night of fisticuffs and craic is guaranteed. Anyone with any boxing tips get in touch ASAP.