But this is more or less the same scenario as when they went to headquarters to play Cork in the quarterfinals just over two weeks ago.
As has been well documented, few gave Mayo any chance of beating the Leesiders. Indeed, the general predictions were that Mayo would be lucky to come away with a 12-point defeat. They were just no hopers in the eyes of the media, especially the national media, and Mayo GAA supporters in general.
But against all the odds this Mayo team produced another breathtaking performance to beat Cork by four points. Their win was fully deserved and in the words of Cork manager Conor Counihan, “Mayo were the better team and we have few complaints.”
Now its semi-final time and because they are playing Kerry, Mayo again are being given little chance. Indeed, the national media have already decided the All-Ireland final pairing will be Kerry versus Dublin.
While the Mayo GAA supporters were a little shell-shocked at the performance of their team against Cork, the victory resurrected a belief in them that the county team wasn’t near as bad as they were made out to be and were capable of competing with the top sides in the country.
However, the thought of playing Kerry has kept their feet very much on the ground, and while they expect Mayo to put up a good show, not many feel they can beat Kerry. As a result, the buzz around the county, the excitement and the general euphoria which was the usual case in the run-up to Mayo’s All-Ireland semi-finals clashes in the past, is now very much low key.
But as we approach Sunday’s match, what is most important is the players are preparing for this encounter exactly the same as they did for the Galway, Roscommon and Cork games, focusing on themselves, their training and preparation and keeping their feet very much on the ground.
What others think or say doesn’t really concern them nor does being the rank outsiders. They are just going about their business and preparation exactly the same way as in the lead up to the Cork game.
Back to back wins nonsense
THERE was much celebration after the Mayo team’s great victory and performance against Cork and pride was restored in Mayo football. But once the celebrations died down, doubts as to how good this Mayo 15 team is, began to surface. And comments like ‘Kerry will hammer them’ and ‘Mayo can never put back to back good wins’, could be heard in many quarters.
With regard to those commenting about Mayo not able to decent good back to back wins together, one would have to ask where were they all summer.
The fact of the matter is Mayo’s produced three good displays on the trot and the performance against Cork was not much different from those against Galway and Roscommon in the championship. The same intensity, the same determination and the same battling qualities were equally evident in all three games.
So, this thing of putting back to back wins is long out-dated. What Mayo will be hoping for next Sunday is to put in four good back to back performances.
Concentrating on own performance
ONE of the many things James Horan has got his players working on is their own performance and not worrying about what their opponents will or will not do.
Todate this has worked extremely well and it was particularly evident against Cork. Despite being up against a star-studded teamof household names, Mayo played their own game and didn’t concentrate on this or that player. It worked and worked to perfection.
As the game with Kerry draws near the talk among the Mayo supporters centres really on who will mark the Gooch, Donaghy, Galvin, the O’Sullivan’s and so on. Usually by the end of the conversations on the big game every Kerry player on the team will have been mentioned and marked down as one to watch.
Yes, we know Kerry is a fine team with plenty of great players. But, as against Cork, Mayo will be going out to play their own game and treating Kerry as just another 15 players they have to face as a unit.
Speaking to a number of the Mayo players, they feel that concentrating on their own performances and getting it right has worked well this year and paid dividends. They are going about their work for the semi-final in a similar way.
Kerry will hold no fear
THE one thing the Mayo supporters travelling to Croke Park next Sunday is happy in the knowledge that, for a change, their team hold no fear of Kerry. Maybe in the past a Mayo teams playing Kerry in Croke Park might have been beaten long before they crossed the Shannon on their way to Croker. But not this team.
The feeling one gets from the players is they are afraid of no one and just eager to get a crack at their next opponents. After defeating Galway they couldn’t wait to take on Roscommon, it was the same when getting ready for Cork and now they just can’t wait to have a go at Kerry. And as in their last three games, there is a confidence in them that they will win.
But before getting too carried away we know it won’t be easy. Kerry is Kerry and the All-Ireland championship is their nirvana.
Those who think Kerry might be taking Mayo for granted are in for a big mistake. Jack O’Connor is far too shrewd not to notice they will be facing a Mayo team that is a lot better than most pundits think. He, more than anyone, will know that any team who defeats Cork must be above average.
Therefore we can expect O’Connor to have his charges on red alert for the Mayo challenge.
Teamwork is the key
YOU may ask what is the big difference in this Mayo team compared to ones of the past? The answer is pretty simple in that there are not one, two or three stars in the team but 15 stars who play as a team, work as a team and are prepared to go the extra mile if the need arises. You can have 15 stars on a team but they are little use if they can’t play as unit.
This has been the key to Mayo’s success so far this year and this key will be turned again next Sunday against Kerry. There is no reason why Mayo can’t upset the odds again.