Photo: The 42 (Inpho)
I’ve been a small bit out of the loop in recent days so it’s time for a general catch-up following last weekend and with an eye towards the coming one. In which, by the way, I’ll be slightly off the pace again, but I’ll explain that shortly.
Right, starting with last weekend and with the county’s hurlers, whose comeback win over Derry in Round 3 of this year’s NHL Division 2B leaves them joint top of the table along with Down, both of them with three wins from three.
Top scorer for the lads the last day was, of course, Keith Higgins, whose presence with the hurlers and absence from the county’s football team is being felt in roughly equal measure. Park that for now – more a few paragraphs later, though, on our dwindling rearguard options for this coming weekend.
Next up for the hurlers is a home match against Wicklow this coming Sunday at MacHale Park (throw-in 2pm). A win in this one and they’re into the Division 2B final, almost certainly against Down. Win that and they’re in Division 2A next year, where Pat Gilroy’s Dublin could be too unless they get their stakes on. So maybe Mayo v Dublin in hurling … we’ll get to Mayo v Dublin in football shortly.
The second bit of business from last weekend is Stephen Coen’s completion of what appears to be a unique treble. As the above photo illustrates, Stephen is now an All-Ireland winning captain at both Minor and U21 level with the county and, with UCD, captain of the Sigerson Cup winning team as well. And a player from Mayo to boot (we can make such jokes amongst ourselves). Style on you, Stephen.
It struck me, though, when reading the comments on the site on Saturday, how a few used the opportunity to point to Stephen’s supposed shortcomings as a player. Strange timing to have done this, I reckon, but as the saying goes, there’s now’t as queer as folk.
The final piece to point you to from the weekend just gone relates to Cora Staunton’s adventures Down Under. Undeterred by an elbow to the nose in a match against Collingwood, a bandaged Cora returned to the fray to help Great Western Sydney Giants to victory in their opening AFL match. Fair play to her.
Okay, onto this coming weekend. I guess I’ll start with the selfish personal bit, which is that I’m not heading west for this one due to other commitments up here.
It’ll be the first meeting between the counties I’ll have missed since well before the blog’s inception, the first in fact since the 2004 League encounter at MacHale Park. We beat them by 1-10 to 0-3 in February that year, with Andy Moran featuring off the bench for us in that one.
Wins against the Dubs are, sadly, few and far between for us nowadays. We’ve never beaten them under Jim Gavin – during which time we’ve had three different management teams – with our last success being the 2012 All-Ireland semi-final, which really does feel like rather a long time ago (because it was).
I was thinking about doing a downbeat piece on this post-2012 record against them – one that reads P12 W0 D3 L9 – but then I saw that Anthony Hennigan in this week’s Western People (paper and digital variants) beat me to it. Maybe it’s just as well, as I’d end up even grumpier than I currently am after wading through all that.
One thing that jumped out from Anthony’s piece was the aggregate scores recorded by both counties over the twelve matches. This points unambiguously towards the main reason we’ve come out the wrong side of the bulk of those encounters.
Dublin’s total reads 21-167 while for us it’s 7-161. That’s as clear an example as you could possibly want of the old adage about goals winning games.
Only once in those twelve matches – the League meeting at Castlebar two years ago that Dublin won by 0-9 to 0-7 – did they fail to hit the net. By contrast, we were unable to raise a green flag in half of those games.
With several players out for Saturday night, we’re obviously going to be up against it yet again against Dublin in this one. Little wonder, then, that many – myself included – reckon that the best approach for Saturday could well be the same defensive-minded one we rolled out in that game two years ago. It was a style that didn’t ultimately ensure we avoided defeat but did mean we didn’t take a hammering either.
Which brings us to who is and who isn’t available for us this weekend. The Mayo News (paper and digital editions) reports today that Paddy Durcan, one of the few star performers we’ve had so far this year who hobbled off late on against Galway, and Brendan Harrison, who failed to line out in Salthill due to injury, are both doubtful to feature against Dublin.
With Cillian O’Connor suspended, this means the team we name will, at best, contain just seven of the side that started last year’s All-Ireland final against the same opposition. David Clarke, Colm Boyle, Kevin McLoughlin, Aidan O’Shea and Jason Doherty are all pretty much certain to line out, while Tom Parsons will probably make his first start of the year and Andy Moran, following his recent bereavement, most likely will be back too.
On the flip side, however, four players who came off the bench on All-Ireland final day – Ger Cafferkey, Stephen Coen, Diarmuid O’Connor and Conor Loftus – should all be available. I’d say at least two of that quartet will be named to start on Saturday night.
There’s oodles more in the Mayo News today, by the way, including an in-depth piece by Mike Finnerty on the status and likely return dates for the long-term injury absentees from the panel and an interview by Mike with Donal Vaughan to launch the VaughanShoes.ie sponsorship this year of the Mayo News football podcast. Audio versions of both of these items will feature in a special bonus episode of the podcast, which will be hitting the airwaves at some point tomorrow.
Okay, I think that’s everything up to date once more.