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24 August 2006 Edition

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The Matt Treacy Column

Ominous signs for Mayo and Dublin

There is not much recent Championship history between Dublin and Mayo. The last time they met was at this stage in 1985 when Dublin won after a replay. All I can remember clearly is that Padraig Brogan scored a brilliant goal and that there was lots of controversy when Mayo defender John Finn had his jaw broken by one of the Dublin forwards. It was one of those occasions when Micheál Ó Hehir would announce in bewildered tones: "I can't for the life of me understand what all the booing is about." Which meant that someone was after being "done" off the ball.

Previous to 1985, Dublin and Mayo had met on another four occasions: in the 1921 final, and in the semi-finals of 1904, 1923 and 1955. Dublin have won all six apart from the drawn first match in 1985. Curiously, Dublin have met Kerry in all of the four finals they have contested after beating Mayo in a semi-final, but ominously have only won one of those: in 1923. The lesson clearly is, if Dublin do win on Sunday, that they send a nice letter to the Kerry County Board saying that due to previous commitments they will not be fulfilling the fixture on 17 September. And wishing them the best of luck for the future.

Times were bad in 1985 and I was forced to resort for a time to selling calendars and various bric-a-brac for a shady charity which as it happened was partly run by a Mayo man. One of his heroes was Willie Joe Padden, the man who never felt adequately togged out unless he sported a bloodied bandage about his head or had one of his ears hanging off. His other hero was Mike Baldwin from Coronation Street. Presumably on the basis that they were both self-made men.

Anyway he and me got on famously for the whole Summer as we discussed our respective counties' progress through Leinster and Connacht. Conversations would often end with his declaring: "You know, that Willie Joe is some footballer." He was an emotional chap.

What this has to do with football is that our friendship did not survive the replay. Nor did my employment on behalf of the Charity. A few days after the match we were driving somewhere when he mentioned John Finn. "That was a horror what that bastard did to that poor man." It was the first words he had spoken since I got into the car. I said something to the effect that sure it didn't happen for no reason. And that was the end of it. Or so I thought until I went in to collect my share of the fraudulently acquired funds on Friday and was told I wasn't reaching my "sales target". I have never looked back.

A song from around that time contained the words "Will Galway beat Mayo? Not if Mayo have Willie Joe. Then Galway won't beat Mayo." Well Mayo might not have Billy Joe the son either if his taking off last week is any indication. The Mayo forwards are their weak point. While their backs only conceded five points from play to Laois, their original attack including Billy Joe Padden only posted one more than that. The crucial battles therefore, assuming an even break of the ball at midfield, will be between the respective half backs and half forwards. I make the previous assumption because if McGarrity and Harte cannot at least break even in their battle with Ryan and Whelan, Mayo haven't a chance.

Another ominous sign for Mayo is that they appeared last Sunday to lack the type of physical intensity that Dublin have distilled over the past year. There were Mayo forwards who did not chase back and there were Mayo players who looked dead on their feet in the last 10 minutes. In fairness to them they stuck with it and prevailed although it is interesting that one of the criticisms made of Mickey Moran in Derry was that he had not sought to emulate the fitness levels attained by Derry's Ulster rivals. The Mayo credo is "pure football". The model is apparently Brazil. Dublin, perhaps, would prefer being compared to Germany.

As I write, those tricky men the Turf Accountants have chalked up their boards. Dublin are 2/5 favourites. The qualifiers give a pretty sound basis for comparing the teams and on that you would say that Mayo are maybe two or three points the better team than Westmeath given the respective counties's wins over Galway, and Mayo have now beaten Laois by three points. Dublin beat Laois by 14 points and Westmeath by 10. If football matches were scientifically predictable we would be forecasting a Dublin victory of between eight and 11 points. But we know better!

Finally, congratulations to the Dublin Junior camogie team who defeated Derry in the All Ireland final at Tullamore last Saturday. This was their second title in a row and ensures Dublin's return to Senior ranks in 2007 where hopefully their good run will continue.

An Phoblacht Magazine


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