There has been a lot of talk about the scheduling of championship matches in Mayo for this weekend. I have experienced both ends of the stick with club and county and it's not very nice for club players to be left in limbo as regards preparing for big games only for them to be called off at the 11th hour, but for me nothing should get in the way of Mayo's pursuit of the holy grail.
If the games went ahead it means Mayo lose up to 10 days in their preparation for the All-Ireland final, and basically forfeit the extra week they had to prepare over Dublin and Kerry. We need to be in this together, and for what it's worth I don't care what they do in Kilkenny.
Not Tipp top yet
It was far from convincing, it certainly won't have Dublin or Kerry quaking in their boots, but after two heartbreaking semifinal replay losses in the last two years the bottom line is that we are there, we are back in the All-Ireland final, and for that the Mayo senior football team deserve huge credit.
We could not have envisaged this 10 weeks ago after the disappointment of losing our grip on the Nestor Cup against Galway. Maybe it's all part of the master plan, who knows. No matter what happened last week in Croke Park, Mayo were damned if they did and damned if they didn't. The performance was worrying and certainly will not be good enough against the heavyweights of the game in the final, but last Sunday against the surprise package of this year's championship, Tipperary, it was all about the result.
Mayo started very poorly as the men from the premier county cast reputations aside and tore into their opponents like their life depended on it. The first major talking point of the game occurred after eight minutes when Tipp centre back Robbie Kiely was black carded by referee David Coldrick for pulling down Jason Doherty on his way to goal. I'm a little bemused by the attention this incident has received. It was a stone wall black card and Kiely can have no complaints despite how upset he looked leaving the field. The black card was introduced to prevent such cynical play; had it been a few years back he would only have received a yellow and he would have been praised for taking one for the teams.
First goal was the key moment
It took a loose pass from Tipp corner back Colm O'Shaughnessy, which was brilliantly intercepted by Keith Higgins, to kickstart the Mayo revival as they were 0-6 to 0-3 down after 25 minutes. Higgins' give and go with Aidan O'Shea before he penetrated deep into Tipp territory was what Keith Higgins is all about. He pulled the Tipp defence to shreds before he put the ball on a plate for Jason Doherty to find the net, Mayo badly needed that goal. Thereafter, for the rest of the half, the Mayo team ran riot and the notched seven points in a row which left them in a commanding position at the interval. Some of the play during that spell was as good as we have seen on the hallowed turf from any Mayo team ever. Andy Moran rolled back the years, terrorising the Tipp defence, scoring four fine points for his team, two with his left and two with his right. The game would probably have been put to bed had Kevin Mcloughlin found the net when he was put through on goal, but his shot went high and over the bar. We didn't want the first half to end, Mayo had outscored Tipperary by 1-07 to 0-1 for the last 15 minutes of the first half.
Second half fall off won't do next time
Mayo went back into their shells after the restart and allowed Tipperary to get a head of steam, this was a real worry. The wave of green and red jerseys pouring forward that had been so effective in the first half had all of a sudden ceased, and Tipp took advantage reducing the deficit to two points at one stage as Mayo kicked some poor wides.
It took a very fortuitous pass/miss hit shot from Evan Regan to Conor O'Shea who finished brilliantly to settle the nerves. Regan slipping as he shot for a point, the resulting ball slid through the Tipperary full back line to O'Shea, who elected to show his soccer prowess as he turned the ball into the Tipp net. Any seasoned soccer star would have been proud of it.
The second big referee talking point was the red card issued to Tipp half back Bill Maher for what appeared a shoulder into the back of Kevin Mcloughlin. Subsequent video evidence has shown that Maher struck McLoughlin with a closed fist to the gut and deservedly got a straight red card. It took me all of five minutes to realise he had in fact been sent off.
Mayo will certainly not win Sam McGuire with a performance like that, but the most important thing is we are there, so over to you Dublin and Kerry — both of you would love to be in our position right now.