Ahead of Sunday’s All-Ireland Senior Football Championship final at Croke Park, it’s been hard for some to predict a winner between reigning champions Dublin and regular also-rans Mayo.
Those who wear green and red have approached the final showpiece with their usual optimism despite facing into a tough task in trying to unseat Jim Gavin’s Leinster champions…
Look at this car.
— Michael Maye (@mayo_mick) September 9, 2016
And who said Mayo don’t get carried away with themselves?
You’d think the men from the west were favourites coming into Sunday’s final with this sort of carry on. Mayo are clearly the underdogs but somebody didn’t tell the owner of this vehicle who had the (lack of) foresight to put 2016 on it just so it can never be used ever again should the Green and Red fail to bring home the Sam Maguire.
And thank God they did put the year on it as if they didn’t, we’d have to look at it again and again as Mayo inevitably get to at least the last four almost every year.
However, saying that, this year feels a but different for the Connacht side, who took the scenic route to Croke Park, having overcome the minefield that is the qualifiers. Maybe they sensed that they were better than previous years – or, a more likely scenario, they felt other teams around them were weaker.
This has been true for the most part: Kerry and Tyrone, in particular, didn’t set the world alight after they got out of their respective provinces. While Tyrone were impressive in Ulster, one must wonder is the quality of the northern province as good as everyone thinks it is – after all it only boosts one of the top four teams in the country.
The problem for Mayo is that one team in the country has not taken a step back. One team has been so dominant that they could afford to give Kerry two goals early on and still beat them. One team that made Westmeath look like they didn’t belong in the same Championship as them – the same Westmeath that pushed Mayo all the way.
It may seem presumptuous to say Dublin will win because they beat Westmeath easier than Mayo did. However, common opponents are the only real comparison we have between the teams before throw in. This analysis opportunity was lacking in the build-up to the hurling final and had people looked at Kilkenny and Tipperary’s performances against a common opponent – Waterford – then maybe they would have foreseen the Premier county’s nine-point win. The Dublin juggernaut doesn’t look like slowing down any time soon either.
That said, in a year when Kilkenny were well and were truly outclassed in an All-Ireland final, maybe there is hope for the Westerners. So they can, and they will, invade the capital in their thousands over the weekend. They will make noise and tell all who are willing to listen that ‘this will be our year’!
This Dublin side are so strong that hype, or no hype, they should have enough to overcome Mayo. You would have to fear that the men from west will come up short, but only just. For Mayo fans over the last decade (and much longer), it is the hope that they cling onto for dear life. It is that same hope that kills them.
Joel Slattery, Pundit Arena