As we expected Cork are our opponents for Sunday’s All-Ireland Quarter final which promises to be a great day out for Mayo Fans albeit a long day. The minors take centre stage at 12 noon followed by the seniors at 4pm. I have heard rumblings as to why the Mayo senior game couldn’t be on at 2pm, so Mayo fans wouldn’t have to spend the best part of six hours in Croke Parke. It would have been the correct course of action, imagine someone from Belmullet going to support the minors, leaving at 7am on Sunday morning and probably not getting home until the early hours. I don’t envy them, however beggars can’t be choosers and we should be delighted the minors are getting at least one game at headquarters. Last year the minor quarter final against Westmeath was played on bank holiday Monday in Tullamore, most Mayo fans won’t be present for the start of the minor game anyway as happened in Castlebar for the Connacht Final. I personally can’t wait and will watch every second of every game.
Rebels put an end to my Mayo days
Any time I think of playing Cork I get a shiver up my spine, possibly because my last game as a Mayo footballer was against them in the All-Ireland semi-final in 1999, which we lost. Or maybe it’s because I was in the Hogan Stand for that ill-fated contest in 1993 which the rebels won by 20 points or something ridiculous like that. I have to have a reality check this time around as the tides have turned and Cork are not the force they used to be, although they won an All-Ireland five short years ago and Mayo are simply Mayo; they never go away and will be competitive against any team they take to the field against. It’s 12 years since Cork put one over Mayo in the Championship so it’s no surprise Mayo are the 8/15 favourites in the bookmakers. If you look at Cork’s last four big games then maybe 8/15 is generous. In the league semi-final Cork were dismantling Dublin, inspiring Billy Fitzpatrick to announce to me in the press box: “You are watching the All-Ireland Champions”. I guess now he can say he was on about Dublin, Cork were nine points up at several stages and lost by seven. In the first round in Munster they were very lucky and should have lost against Tipperary. The Munster final against Kerry will go down as one, if not the worst, performance by a Cork team ever, Kerry beat them out the gate in the last game in Park Ui Chaoimh in front of their own fans, and against Sligo they were less than impressive although in Paul Kerrigan and Colm O’Neill they had two ace marksmen who scored 11 points between them from open play. They have a full forward line most would only dream about but the demoralising defeat to Dublin in that league final seems to have set them back and they look like a team that just want to get their season over. Brian Hurley’s form has considerably dipped and his manager has tried to get the best out of him by playing him at centre forward where he was very ineffective, its anybody’s guess where he plays on Sunday.
Mayo focused on their own game
Mayo, on the other hand, will not be too focused on their opponents and will be more worried about getting the best out of themselves but let us not hide the fact that Eoin Cadogan and Michael Shields are there to be skinned. James Horan will be getting Cadogan’s and Aidan Walsh’s direct opponents to run the legs off them to see if they can tire out the dual stars pretty quickly. The Mayo backs will pick themselves, it will be fun watching Lee Keegan and Kerrigan chase each other up and down Croke Park. Midfield could be any two of four, however I expect Aidan O’Shea to stay at centre forward and the rest of the forward line will surely contain McLoughlin, Doherty, Cillian O’Connor, and who knows if Andy Moran and Alan Dillon will start or be held in reserve. Whatever forward line is picked they will have to contend with a packed Cork defence where Mark Collins and Colm O’Driscoll will leave their offensive positions to thwart Mayo’s attack but I feel Mayo are too long on the road and will eventually break them down and win this game, I’m not sure by how much though.
To top the group or not
Just a note on the club championship quarter final draw, as I previously mentioned it was vital to top your group to avoid any of the big hitters, but not so this time. Ballaghaderreen, after winning their three matches, got the lovely task of trying to overcome Ballintubber where Charlestown, who finished second in the group after only winning one game, got drawn against Garrymore. I’m not suggesting for one second that Charlestown will beat Garrymore but I feel they will have a better chance than beating Ballintubber.