There had not been one shock so far in the first round of the All-Ireland football championship, a few landslide victories that we did not see coming, but no underdog eliminating any overwhelming favourite from their provincial championship. That all changed last Saturday evening in Markevicz Park in Sligo where the home side completely outplayed and outfought a Roscommon side that seemed to believe all their own hype.
I would imagine it was mentioned in the pre-match team talk. I listened to Roscommon manager John Evans on 2fm’s Game On the Monday after they defeated Down in the division two league final declaring his team will be competing against Dublin and Kerry in the near future in All-Ireland finals. Not a mention of Mayo or any team in their province, Sligo were not even on his radar, he wanted to catch a whale, he should have started with a mackerel. I cringed listening to Evans declaring how brilliant his team were, some will call his ideals open and honest, it was more like stupid to me. You are setting yourself up for one giant humiliation and that is certainly what occurred in Sligo.
Mayo will not underestimate Sligo
The Roscommon team bus does not help matters either, it has taken on its own celebrity status and it is distracting from the important issue, winning championships. I imagine some premier league football teams in England have not such lavish modes of transport. They received a serious reality check and full credit to Sligo who thoroughly deserved their win and probably should have been more comfortable. Mayo would have had no motivational issues coming up against Roscommon in the final because of all the hype surrounding their team; Sligo will mean a different approach, any level of complacency will need to be eradicated right now. Mayo are around too long to take that approach. I am sure Roscommon have done them a favour and given them their warning not to take the Yeats county lightly. Full credit to Sligo they deserve respect; if you disrespect them like Roscommon did they will turn you over. Cian Brehany looks lively at midfield, he has good pedigree, Tommy Brehany’s son and Eamon O'Hara’s nephew, he looks the cut of O'Hara on the field, I wonder has uncle Eamon been offering advice. Living in Charlestown it makes it a more interesting Connacht final for us anyway.
Monaghan just did enough against Fermanagh to set up a potential mouth watering clash with Donegal. They will certainly need to play a lot better in the final. On early season form Donegal seem to be the most impressive team as they are hammering teams that some pundits felt they could possibly lose against. Playing in Ulster you really have to be on top of your game from early May. It is a difficult ask to maintain that level of performance for four months. Laois are in disarray after coughing up a nine point lead to lose against lowly Antrim in Portlaoise, as expected their manager Tomas O'Flaherty has paid the price after such a loss.
Ballinrobe shake things up
The second round of the Mayo club championship caused very few upsets apart from Ballinrobe’s one point away win against Crossmolina which leaves Ballinrobe with a great chance to join Ballintubber from group three. My own club Charlestown had a very comfortable and surprising away win to Shrule-Glencorrib setting up a chance to make the quarter-finals. Kiltane, despite having two wins under their belts in group four, may still not make the playoffs if Charlestown defeat them on Sunday and Garrymore win at home to Shrule-Glencorrib.
A few big hitters have made it safely through to the last eight, Aidan O'Shea continuing his fine intercounty form for Breaffy, scoring a first half hat trick to secure a facile win over last year's intermediate champions Ballyhaunis. Knockmore and Breaffy will compete on Sunday to see who secures top spot in the final game in their group. Ballintubber had an impressive away win in Aughamore despite missing Cillian and Diarmuid O'Connor and also Alan Dillon; there is no team in Mayo that could cope with losing players of that calibre, apart from Ballintubber. The 2013 champions Castlebar sealed their place in the last eight with a six point win against Ballina. The are lots of permutations for the final group games on Sunday but I see the final eight teams qualifying for the quarters as follows, Ballintubber, Breaffy, Castlebar, Knockmore, Ballinrobe, Garrymore, Ballaghadeereen (as long as Andy Moran and Barry Regan are fit for Ballagh and Charlestown.