Today’s the day. We’re back on the big stage, with a huge challenge facing us this afternoon at Croke Park but one that also presents us with a great opportunity in this year’s Championship.
Five-in-a-row chasing Dublin are, rightly, strong favourites to beat us today. Why would it be otherwise? We haven’t taken them down in the Championship since we did so at the same stage back in 2012. We’ve never got the measure of them, no matter how hard we’ve tried, in the Gavin era.
Today gives us one more chance, as we lock horns with them in the race for Sam for the first time since we came up agonisingly short against them in the 2017 final. They’ve added another All-Ireland title to their roll of honour since then while we were pronounced by some to be finished as real challengers.
Well, we’re not finished. We may have lost twice already this summer, surviving several near-death experiences on the way and suffering a bad hosing down in Killarney, but we’re still standing.
We’re also coming to Croke Park with considerable momentum behind us. We weren’t fancied to beat Donegal last weekend but we brought grit, determination and ferocious hard work into that one and we got our reward.
We’ll need that and more today. Like last Saturday the weather today is set to be on the wet and windy side and, like then, we’ll need to brew up our own storm at Croke Park.
With Dublin striding ever closer to footballing immortality, our first job today is to make sure we stay in this game. Dublin’s average winning margin in this year’s Championship is just under 15 points and we’ve all seen how efficiently they can put teams to the sword. We’ve seen too how we can lose our way in games so we simply cannot afford an opening like the horror one we endured at Fitzgerald Stadium last month.
Assuming we succeed in this initial task, then we have to sow doubts in the minds of Dublin’s and their supporters. This is an all-hands-to-the-pump exercise for all Mayo people at Croke Park – we’ve all a part to play here, regardless of whether it’s on the pitch or ringed around it.
We all know what it’s like to be in the hunt against Dublin coming down the closing stretch. But we know too all about the disappointment of letting them slip past us by the narrowest of margins at the finishing line. We need to use that – as well as the alarm bells that will, by then, be ringing loudly about the five-in-a-row slipping away – as motivation to finish the job.
As has been the case so often this summer, I haven’t a clue how we’ll get on today. I think we can be fairly confident, though, that lads will give their all and more in pursuit of victory. As those of us roaring them on will need to do the same too.
Best of luck to James and the lads today, as well as to the Minors and the ladies, all of whom face huge Championship tests this afternoon as well. We’ve work to do. Let’s go do it. Up Mayo.