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The real Mayo need to stand up

Sean Rice

Seán Rice

MAYO and Dublin is an emerging rivalry that almost matches that of Mayo and Galway but on a higher plane . . . and almost as rancorous. Nothing in memory compares with the madcap intensity of their All-Ireland combats, the aggression and their respective destinies.
A similarly riveting contest is unlikely when Mayo host the All-Ireland champions for their league clash at MacHale Park on Saturday evening. Dublin have won all of their recent league ties over Mayo handsomely, and the general expectation is that the outcome will be no different this time round.
If those who don the Mayo jersey for Stephen Rochford take the field on Saturday in a similar frame of mind, Mayo would be as well to concede the points now and tell Dublin not to travel.
A foregone conclusion! No bloody way. To blazes with the naysayers.
This is a game to be won. In Croke Park Mayo see the Dubs as equals, nothing better. Why should it be any different in MacHale Park?
It is still a fifteen-a-side contest. And while in the absence of many regulars Mayo’s reserves of talent are not what they might be, not as abundant or as mature as their opponents, those carrying the flag will not want to fail.
Having secured an early foothold over Monaghan, Mayo lost the mind battle with Kerry and Galway. In each case they drew too much comfort from their win in Clones, and had too little expectation of what Kerry and Galway might have had to offer.
Thing is they are not yet as well prepared as Kerry, who are blooding new talent and Galway, who have been fielding a full team more or less. And now they find they have to step up their fitness levels and try to win a couple of tough battles to stave off relegation.
It’s not going to be easy.
And it is on the shoulders of those standing in for the regulars that much of Mayo’s league hopes lie. A bit of swagger is what they need right now, assertiveness in taking on opponents, a bit more passion, more fury.
You get the impression from their two defeats that some doubt themselves, afraid to do the wrong thing, afraid to kick long range in case they miss, preferring to off-load rather than take on an opponent. That’s how it used to be. Let’s not go back to those days.
No, the big names of their more decorated opponents should not be allowed discourage this struggling Mayo on Sunday. We acknowledge they are behind in their preparation, but it must not be used as an excuse for lack of effort.
So far, few of the understudies have raised their game sufficiently to threaten the places of the regulars. Eoin O’Donoghue is a possible successor to Keith Higgins. Stephen Coen is making a bold attempt to win permanency. Adam Gallagher ought to be given a greater role in the forward line. And if Jason Gibbons played as he does for Ballintubber he would grab a midfield spot. He has the strength and the skill to brush opponents aside, to become more aggressive more assertive, to impose himself on games.
Mayo alone have come closest to stalling the march of the Dubs. If proper sanctions were in place the digger might have stalled on any one of the last two occasions, cynicism might have been exposed and the champions might not now be champions.
Cynicism is becoming the new buzzword. No successful team can afford to be without it, some say. Like bad grammar, ignore it long enough and its usage becomes acceptable. Referees have ignored the contempt shown by some teams for accepted standards and no action is being considered to stamp it out.
And it can be stamped out. A collective decision by referees, linesmen and umpires to root out tactical fouling could go a long way. The sin bin, or licence to referees to punish late tactical fouling with close-in frees irrespective of where the foul is committed might be considered.
But the transgression has to be identified. And only the bravest of referees will take action especially in Croke Park when the Dubs are playing. One way or the other offenders have got to be flushed out.
Dublin will bring their strongest team to MacHale Park. Despite their all-conquering feats deep down they hold an inherent fear of Mayo, a feeling that if anyone is to catch them out it is Mayo.
They’ll take no chance.
Not that Mayo has ever been a threat in the league. Their league jousts have not mirrored the closeness of their championship encounters. Mayo don’t have the numbers to compete on equal footing in the winter. They have been content to hold on in the top division, although that’s becoming much more difficult in recent years.
The Dubs’ wealth of reserve talent indicates they will have the edge in fitness and speed on Saturday. Ample game time is provided to the likes of Ciaran Reddin, Davy Byrne, Colm Basquel and Brian Howard another rising star, who eschewed Sigerson experience for the brighter lights of Dublin fame.
How Mayo line out depends on who are available to Stephen Rochford.
The last minute withdrawal of Andy Moran and Brendan Harrison against Galway worsened an already weakened side. But from those who stood in there is more to be got than was produced in Pearse Stadium. Maybe Dublin will extract from them the real Mayo.

Kernan brings jersey back for Mayo fan
WHEN Maeve Walsh asked Joe Kernan to bring back to her from Australia an Ireland International Rules jersey she did not realise the Armagh man had taken her seriously.
Maeve, a Mayo native based in Dundalk, met the Ireland manager before he and the team travelled down under for the annual cross-rules series, which Australia won last October.
True to his word the manager did not forget. And you can imagine the surprise Maeve received when Joe on his return presented the Castlebar woman with a jersey worn by one of the Irish team during the games.
In addition to the presentation the manager also generously handed Maeve fifty euro to have the jersey framed, and it now hangs proudly from a wall in her home in Dundalk.
A keen Mayo supporter, Maeve is daughter of Jude and Assumpta Walsh, Castlebar, and cousin of Castlebar Mitchels midfielder, Aidan Walsh.

Sympathies
CASTLEBAR Mitchels have tendered sympathy to the Conlon family, Castlebar, on the death of Jennie Conlon in Glencullen, Dublin.
She was mother of club referee Pat Conlon and grandmother of senior player David Conlon. Her funeral took place on Friday after Mass in St Patrick’s Church, Glencullen.

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