Two days on from our All-Ireland quarter-final win and the warm glow of victory is taking its own sweet time to dissipate. I was about to say that we could get used to it but we already are – this was our sixth successive All-Ireland quarter-final success, which means that once again we have championship football in the second half of August to look forward to.
In that regard, it’s probably worth noting that Saturday’s win wasn’t one that broke any new ground for us. Yes, it was a very welcome win over a provincial champion – our second in six years and our first since beating Dublin in 2012 – but all we secured from it was a place in the last four, the stage at which we’ve exited the championship in each of the last two seasons. It’s great, for sure, to be back at this point again but it doesn’t represent any kind of new territory in the championship for us.
Nor will it be if we live up to our 1/5 favourites tag and end Tipp’s fairytale run on Sunday week. Win that one and we’ll be back in the final for the third time in five years, with another shot at the big one. Even the biggest day of all isn’t unfamiliar terrain for us at this stage, although winning it out remains a tantalisingly elusive target.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Just as we haven’t yet earned the right to be coming out with any frothy #MayoforSam nonsense – that’s not on the agenda until we actually get to play for Sam – we’ve no call to be thinking about the final at all at this juncture. The only item on the agenda for now is our All-Ireland semi-final against Tipperary on 21st August and the only thing we should be thinking about now is how best to surmount this hurdle.
David Brady’s observation on the Mayo News podcast about this year being similar for us to 2004 – when we also beat Tyrone in the quarters before then meeting surprise packets Fermanagh in the semi-final – was a cautionary one and as such should be heeded. He admitted that they’d allowed their minds to wander onto the final before coming up against the Erne County, with near-disastrous consequences.
We definitely need to treat the challenge that the Premier County will present with the utmost seriousness. Another example from recent history – perhaps one more relevant that David Brady’s one – of a top-flight county facing a bolter in the penultimate round could serve as a template for us in this respect.
Back in 2008, Wexford shocked the GAA world when, fresh from a 23-point drubbing by Dublin in the Leinster final, they righted themselves by beating Down in the qualifiers and they followed this up by knocking out Ulster champions Armagh in the All-Ireland quarter-final. They went on to meet Tyrone in the semi, the Red Hands having also negotiated the qualifiers (beating us in the process) before dumping out the Dubs in the quarters.
Tyrone played well within themselves in cantering to a comfortable six-point win over the Model County in that novel semi-final meeting eight years ago. A win similar to that one would be fine for us on Sunday week.
Last Saturday’s win was a massive step forward, an emphatic answer to all those who’d been busily dissing us all year, but our next one needs only to be a sure-footed stepping stone to the final. Semi-finals are for winning, or so the saying goes, and so our sole focus now needs to be on how best to achieve this, as efficiently and effectively as possible.