What a month for outsiders. Forget about Chelsea and Bayern making the Champions League final, April is all about Mayo.
16/1 to win the league before their last round trip to Tralee, and available at 7’s prior to their semi-final against the same opposition, Mayo are like second hand Toyotas: they’re not fashionable or particularly nice to look at, but they get the job done.
Mayo’s progress under former All-Star half-forward James Horan has been remarkable. 2010 saw them dumped out of the Connacht Championship by Sligo before Longford sent them packing from the Qualifiers.
Horan backed up a solid league campaign last year with a Connacht title and a superb Quarter-final win over Cork, before Kerry outgunned them in the semis. When ‘speed up; came to ‘put your foot to the floor’ Mayo hammered the Dubs and gallantly held on for a draw with 14 men in Austin Stack Park.
The distraction of embarking on a training trip to Portugal (Gaelic must be big out there too…the Porto Parnells and the Faro Faughs are strong I’d say) that evening didn’t affect the Mayo crew. Their appetite for work is akin to Jodie Marsh’s for publicity…insatiable. At least Dillon, Moran and Vaughan bring some class to the table.
For Jodie substitute the ‘l’ for an ‘r’. This column tipped up Kerry to win out (original…that’s the key), and, but for Donaghy combining an on-pitch identity crisis with breaking the 1st commandment of GAA instruction (Thou shalt not kick across thine own goals), the Kingdom would have won quite cosily. Mayo’s resilience and belief won out in extra-time though. The introduction of Pat Harte added pace, fielding ability and a penalty Messi and Ronaldo could only wish for.
Cork’s win over Down in the other semi was facile in reality. Down were weakened with the loss of Dan Gordon, Danny Hughes and Aidan Carr, but Cork’s all-running game was back in more evidence than the intermittent burst they’ve displayed in the last two years.
Paul Kerrigan, in particular, looks to have regained his mojo. His pace is scary…even for a neutral watching on. You could imagine him going ‘meep meep’ as he flies by opposition defenders.
While the Aidan Walsh experiment has yielded some positive reviews, the jury is still out. Perhaps it’s more of a case of Counihan facilitating the placing of Pearse O’Neill and Alan O’Connor at midfield. The way that duo are playing, CC can hardly be taken to task too much for that. Walsh is unlikely to get it all his own way against Ger Cafferkey, who was excellent on Donaghy in the semi. It’ll be interesting to see how the new slimline Aidan O Se fares against Cork’s midfield too.
A major positive for Cork too is the return of Daniel Goulding to the fold. He missed the loss to Mayo last year with a knee injury, but scored a point on his return as a sub against Down, He’s hardly going to be the difference next weekend, but it’s a m,ajor boost to the Rebel’s summer campaign.Colm O’Neill, another absentee last year, is also in great form. He hit 1-6 against Down and looks like he can score whenever he gets the notion.
The handicap of two points is probably based on Cork’s one point win in the league. The 11/10 about Cork -2
will attract lots of support, and if the rebels fire that might look generous.
Last year, Mayo outfought the rebels who only scored 0-2 in the second half. Mayo are likely to bring that high octane ferocity to Croker again on Sunday. Cork at full tilt have such scoring power that two ten minute blitzes could be enough for them, but at the prices I’d prefer to stick with Mayo. They were five ahead of Cork heading into the close of their encounter in Castlebar this year, before Paul Kerrigan pulled his jocks outside his leggings and donned a cape.
Don’t go too heavy on the Mayo, but at 2/1 at Boylesport
they’re worth a taste. Horan will have learnt from the Champions League…Cristiano Mortimer won’t be allowed take any high pressure penalties.