David Brady: Mayo's time has come
THERE are two species of GAA players... An elite group who have won an All-Ireland medal and the rest of us!
To those who have secured that cherished Celtic Cross I salute, admire and envy you. All my life I wanted to be like you.
I guess the rest of us can draw some comfort from the knowledge that we are in the majority. While there is some truth in the saying that it’s better to have loved and lost than never loved at all, ultimately All-Ireland finals are about winning.
Right now, nobody seems to be able to stop Dublin. So what are the rest of the counties supposed to do? Do we just give up?
Maybe there should be a secondary competition for All Ireland losers. We could call it the Sympathy Cup.
I’m sure Mayo would be in with a good shout of winning it, though we would probably mess that up as well.
But maybe, just maybe, Mayo might not be eligible to compete in it next year.
Here’s what could happen in today’s final.
Goalkeeper David Clarke stands at 6ft3in, he has had a fantastic year and is capable of keeping Dublin goalless today.
Keith Higgins could keep Bernard Brogan scoreless and get forward and hit the target himself. Indeed, if Higgins performs well today he will surely collect his fourth All Star at the end of the year.
Lee Keegan has done well before against Diarmuid Connolly and he could restrict him to a single score, even though the latter is a contender for Player of the Year as, indeed, is Kevin McManamon. I dream of Colm Boyle and Keegan keeping tabs on that pair.
Surely Paddy Durcan can handle Paul Flynn, who has been replaced in his last two matches with a fair chunk of the game left to play.
Donie Vaughan is Mayo’s fittest player and he has the stamina to track Ciarán Kilkenny.
Midfield will be a ding-dong battle. Mayo’s place in my Sympathy Cup competition could be in serious jeopardy, because Stephen Rochford has picked Tom Parsons and
Seamus O’Shea in this sector. Parsons has the athleticism to track Brian Fenton, while O’Shea and Michael Darragh Macauley could cancel each other out.
Remember, MDM has been on the road for the last 18 months due to his club commitments with Ballyboden, and will run out of steam in the last 20 minutes.
Actually the more I think about it the more I’m starting to believe that the unthinkable is possible – Mayo might not be bloody eligible to play in the Sympathy Cup.
Much will depend on Cillian O’Connor producing the goods in an All-Ireland final. He has done it in the past against both Jonny Cooper and Philly McMahon and has the class and the temperament for the big occasion.
Today could be when Dublin really miss their All Star defenders Rory O’Carroll and Jack McCaffrey. Their absence reduces the defensive options available to Jim Gavin.
Diarmuid O’Connor is a gifted footballer who is maturing into a class performer. He has the ability to exploit John Small’s lack of experience at the highest level.
I reckon most observers have become transfixed about Dublin turning up and collecting the trophy. They are overlooking the fact that Mayo will field a team of very experienced footballers who have always competed well against Dublin in big championship games.
The only team of note that Dublin have beaten in the championship is Kerry. And don’t forget that had the referee not missed one of the most blatant fouls in the game, the contest would almost certainly have ended level.
So maybe Dublin will not live up to their label as the greatest team of all time.
Mayo could actually go out, play to their potential and win this – provided they win the key match-ups: Keegan v Connolly, Boyle v McManamon; Vaughan v Kilkenny; Higgins v Brogan; O’Connor v Cooper, O’Shea v McMahon and Andy Moran v David Byrne.
I reckon Mayo will be crowned All-Ireland champions and Dublin will be crowned as nearly greatest team of all time.
Happy All-Ireland Sunday GAA fans!