top of page
  • Writer's pictureThe Season Ticket

GAA | All eyes turn to Castlebar

We have reached the final round of the Super 8s.

Dublin and Tyrone are guaranteed to advance in Group 2, with last year's All-Ireland finalists set to battle it out for first place in Omagh on Sunday.

Pride is all that's at stake at Pairc Uí Rinn in the the group's other fixture, with Cork and Roscommon both suffering two defeats in their opening two matches.

The definition of a dead rubber.

Group 1, however, is where the real intrigue lies.

Donegal, Mayo and Kerry are vying for the top two places, with Meath the only county in the group that can't progress to the last four.

Kerry top the group on goal difference ahead of Donegal, with both counties sitting on three points following their gripping draw in Croke Park last time out.

Mayo are third in two points after their win over Meath in Dublin.

Each county has its faith in its own hands.

On Saturday evening, Kerry travel to Navan to face the Royals, while Mayo host Donegal in Castlebar.A win for Kerry guarantees them a place in the top two regardless of the outcome at MacHale Park.

Meath have enjoyed good success this year; winning promotion to Division One, reaching a Leinster final, and qualifying for the Super 8s. They remained competitive against Donegal and Mayo were 55 minutes, but were eventually blown away by both counties.

Though it won't be easy, Kerry will therefore fancy their chances of bouncing back from the draw with Donegal with a crucial win at Pairc Tailteann.

Donegal will join the Kingdom in the semi-finals if they avoid defeat in Mayo.

Mayo know that a win will see them join either Donegal or Kerry - scoring difference may come into play - in the next round.

As always with Mayo, we are guaranteed drama and entertainment in equal measure, as the Connacht county are bankable box-office entertainment.

An additional 2,000 tickets have been made available for the fixture, taking MacHale Park's capacity to over 27,000 for Saturday's showdown.

They have formed a bitter rivalry with Donegal over the past seven years, and the must-win clash in Castlebar - which is effectively a home quarter-final - is likely to be a spicy affair.

Saturday is coming, we need you to back the team like never before. We need passion, colour & noise to support the team all the way & make sure you bring a flag. #mayogaa #greenandred — Mayo GAA (@MayoGAA) August 1, 2019

There has been little love between the counties since Donegal tore Mayo apart in the 2012 All-Ireland final.

Mayo sent the champions crashing out of the 2013 Championship with a comprehensive victory in the quarter-finals, with managers James Horan and Jim McGuinness doing little to hide the obvious dislike between them.

Donegal suffered another defeat to Mayo at the same stage of the All-Ireland in 2015, and their relationship has festered further since then.

A controversial late equalizing point from Kevin McLoughlin - the Mayo forward appeared to take far too many steps as he earned the county a 0-13 to 0-13 draw - condemned Donegal to relegation last March.

It was another do-or-die encounter, with the losers facing certain relegation, while Mayo needed only a draw to survive in Ballybofey.

In typical Mayo fashion, they came from three points down to come away with a draw in the dying seconds.

This year, the counties have arrived to this mouth-watering contest in altogether contrasting circumstances.

Mayo enjoyed a superb league campaign, clinching the Division One title with a victory over Kerry in the final at Croke Park.

Donegal beat Meath in the Division Two decider to put the icing on top of an instant return to Division One following the disappointment of the aforementioned relegation at the hands of Mayo.

However, Mayo have struggled in the Championship.

James Horan's men suffered a shock defeat to Roscommon at home in the Connacht semi-final, and produced mixed form in the qualifiers.

They impressively beat Down by five points (1-16 to 1-11) away in their first qualifier, before squeezing past Armagh (2-13 to 1-15) in Castlebar in the next round.

Mayo then ended their recent hoodoo against Galway with a 2-13 to 1-13 win over their Connacht rivals in the final qualifying round to reach the Super 8s.

A demolition at the hands of Kerry in Killarney quickly dampened expectations, and Mayo were far from convincing in their win over Meath last time out.

Admittedly, they have had little luck where injuries are concerned.

It has been relatively smooth sailing for Donegal in comparison.

Declan Bonner's men are unbeaten in this year's Championship, with the hard-fought draw against Kerry the sole blip on their impressive record.

Donegal carried real momentum into the Championship following their league triumph, and retained their Ulster title with relative ease.

They beat Tyrone by four points in the semi-final, and Cavan by six in the final.

Meath provided a stern test in Ballybofey, but Donegal went up a gear in the final quarter when the game was in the melting pot, overpowering Andy McEntee's men in impressive fashion.

They have been touted as Dublin's biggest threat in many quarters, and it would be a shock to see them exit the Championship before the semi-final stage.

The presence of former Mayo manager Stephen Rochford in the Donegal backroom team only adds to the suspense and intrigue.

Few men have a better knowledge of this Mayo panel, and the benefit of his insights could give Donegal the edge in what could be a tight affair.

However, Mayo have qualified for an All-Ireland semi-final in eight of the last nine seasons, and their recent home record against Donegal is very impressive.

They have only lost once at home to the Ulster county since 2012, which is interesting because their overall home record has been average at best.

Since 2011, Mayo have won just 24 of their 46 games at MacHale Park.

That said, they typically rise to the occasion when their backs are against the wall. Like Donegal, Mayo got over the line when the game against Meath entered the melting pot.

Horan's side are also expected to benefit from the two week layoff and the return of key players including Keith Higgins and Paddy Durcan. Captain Diarmuid O'Connor is also nearing a return, though Saturday's match may come too soon for the forward.

Donegal make the journey to Castlebar with several injury concerns.

Eoghan Bán Gallagher's season is over after he broke his ankle, and influential forward Patrick McBrearty is a doubt for the game.

There are plenty of fascinating battles to keep an eye on.

Who will Mayo assign to mark the roving Ryan McHugh? Will Lee Keegan pick up Michael Murphy?

Kick-outs could also be a major factor.

Mayo have struggled with their own kick-outs, and it remains to be seen whether Horan opts for David Clarke or Rob Hennelly between the posts.

Kerry punished Mayo's wayward kick-outs ruthlessly in Killarney, and Donegal's tactical pressing caused Meath - who also struggle from kick-outs - all kinds of problems in Ballybofey.

There are so many factors which make this match one of the most hotly-anticipated games of the summer.

Are either of these counties good enough to stop Dublin's drive-for-five?

We'll have a better idea by 8pm on Saturday evening.

0 views0 comments
bottom of page