A TALE OF TWO COUNTIES Tyrone native Dermot Mullin is pictured with his wife Diane Smyth from Kilmeena beside the ‘Mayo Mural’ at the gable of the community hall in Kilmeena. Pic: Conor McKeown
FOR all the people saying this is the best chance Mayo have had of winning an All-Ireland this past decade, you can be damn sure they’re saying the same in Tyrone.
From the certainty of the last six seasons as Dublin won title after title, this year we’ve a most unexpected final pairing and a huge opportunity for both.
For every national pundit tipping Mayo, you will find one tipping Tyrone. For everyone saying Mayo’s win over Dublin was transformative, the same can be said of Tyrone’s win over Kerry.
Recall that it is 2008 since Tyrone beat any of Dublin, Kerry and Mayo in a knock-out championship game. That year they beat all three – Mayo in the final qualifier round, a hotly fancied Dublin in the Quarter Finals and Kerry in the final for the third of their three All-Ireland titles.
The Kerry win got that particular monkey off their backs. They were in the 2018 final admittedly, but via beating Ulster rivals Monaghan in the semi-final.
One single result can have a transformative effect on a team.
For Mayo, the win over defending All-Ireland champions Cork in the 2011 All-Ireland quarter-final propelled them to an incredible run across the next decade.
Will the Kerry win have similar potential for Tyrone?
What we do know is little has separated the teams in recent years.
In championship, Mayo have the better record, winning four out of five clashes. The first ever championship clash was Mayo’s 1989 All-Ireland semi-final win. Now there’s a game that had a transformative effect in the years that followed.
Since then Mayo enjoyed a surprise win in the 2004 All-Ireland quarter-final. Tyrone pipped Mayo by a point in the 2008 Qualifiers while Mayo have enjoyed two subsequent knock-out wins, in the 2013 semi-final (1-16 to 0-13) and 2016 quarter-final (0-13 to 0-12).
Tyrone edge the duel in league fixtures with 12 wins to Mayo’s 11. There have been six draws. Another one cannot be ruled out this Saturday.
Recently, both teams have been better on the road. The last five league fixtures have been won by the away team.
That will matter very little on Saturday on Jones’s Road.
As Kieran Shannon noted in The Examiner, neither team fear the other.
“Just as Tyrone have little respect for Mayo — as evident in how sparing Seán Cavanagh has been in his praise for them through the years, despite losing numerous big games to them — Mayo have little fear of Tyrone.”
It is very hard to know what the future will bring for either side, in victory or defeat.
Are we moving into a more competitive era after Dublin’s dominance? Or was this year a hiatus from their monopoly of Sam Maguire?
Are Kerry going to flatter to deceive or deliver on their potential?
That might all be the subject for another day but both sides will be acutely aware — even if they do not vocalise it — of the opportunity that Saturday presents.