And we are off again. It has been a long and winding road this year for Mayo on the field and when we thought we had reached the final destination two weeks ago, the car was pointed for home, neither full of joy nor regret, but full of more questions and possible answers. The steering wheel will be turned out on to the road and thousands of cars pointed east to the capital once more, thousands of Mayo fans will make the trek from Blacksod to the bridge in Shrule, full of hope, expectation, and delight tomorrow morning. For this Mayo team have another shot at glory, not redemption. It may be 65 long years since Sam Maguire came here festooned in green and red ribbons, but over the years in between hundreds of Mayo men have donned the green and red and given us some glorious days. Days that other counties could only dream of being involved in, we have been there, we have stood among the greats of the game and we have never done anything but seen our warriors give their all for their families, clubs, towns, schools, communities, themselves, and for us, those cheering them on from the sidelines.
There have been thousands of words in print, online, spoken on radio and television dedicated to where the winning and losing of this game will be over the past number of weeks. But come 5pm, those words will mean little or nothing as it all comes down to two squads of players and their management teams, pitting their wits against each other in another battle for the ages. This group of Mayo players have left no stone unturned in looking to achieve their ultimate goal, they have taken hard decisions, unpopular ones with some at times, but they have put in the hard yards, looked after their bodies right, given up things you and I take for granted, like a night out, a few pints, or even just staying up late at night, as they give themsleves the best opportunity to be the best in their chosen field of combat. We have all suffered through the heartache over the years, but it is the men who have put their lives on hold in their twenties and early thirties who have suffered most and they are the ones who will either head home victorious or in defeat, with no shame and hopefully no regrets as they have done all they can to reach the summit of this particular mountain they are trying to climb.
There has been a bit of a sideshow going on all this week in the press, with prominent Dublin figures pointing fingers at Lee Keegan and his style of play in trying to keep Diarmuid Connolly quiet. The Mayo supporters were not slow to see this and react in the best possible way as the #ThingsLeeDid hashtag took over Twitter on Wednesday, poking fun at what they read and heard coming from the capital. We joined in with this response on our cover page this week, if humour is not the best response to this, then nothing else is. But when it comes down to it, the dual between Keegan and Connolly should be enjoyed for what it is. Two men at the top of their game doing everything they can to get the upper hand and deliver the desired result for their county. Both men are fierce competitors and they have more than a healthy respect for each other and each other's particular abilities. They will go at it again on Saturday, it will be the one-on-one contest that everyone will be trying to keep their eye on as the game whizzes up and down the field. Neither man will give an inch to each other, but it is just one of many personal duals going on. I hope the goalkeepers forgive me for leaving them out, while their own personal battles are fought with similar ferocity, just a good 100 metres away from each other. The battle between Tom Parsons and Seamus O'Shea in the middle of the field against Brian Fenton and Michael Darragh Macauley, or whoever Jim Gavin decides to place there, is as important. The display of Brendan Harrison in his first full year as a championship starter in keeping Bernard Brogan under wraps two weeks ago, was as important a victory to win as Keegan over Connolly. Aidan O'Shea's latest tussle with Philly McMahon and Cian O'Sullivan will be key, if O'Shea can get on top there when he floats in on the edge of the square, then Mayo are moving well. Diarmuid O'Connor and John Small going toe to toe up and down the flanks will be another one to keep your eyes on. On every square inch of grass in Croke Park tomorrow evening, little personal battles will win and lose this game. Each one as important as the rest. And when it is all said and done let's hope something we can add to #ThingsLeeDid is All Ireland winner. Maigh Eo Abu.