ENDA Varley was part of the last Mayo side to beat Dublin in the championship in 2012 and is based in the capital, now playing for St. Vincent's, where he picked up a county and Leinster title in 2016. More than most, he knows what it feels like to be a Mayo man deep in enemy territory, writes Kevin Moran.
Any overconfidence or arrogance on the part of Dublin fans going into the final hasn't been relayed to him, however.
“They're used to it now, no more than like Mayo. Dublin haven't done three in a row since the '20s or '30s so that's kind of being said around. After the Tyrone result they're very confident but they do respect Mayo. That's the one thing you do get from them. They think Mayo will be the only team that will put it up to them. And they're definitely wary of them. I don't think they expected to win as easy as they did against Tyrone but I know they were very well prepared going into that game.
“I think Jim Gavin acknowledged last year that Mayo probably should have beaten them. They came back later this year in the league, they changed their training regime a bit. No more than Mayo, they're coming into peak form at the right time.”
The Garrymore native has seen first hand the difference between club football in his native county and the one where he now lives. And a number of fellow players in the capital struggled to comprehend Varley's travel whilst with the county set-up.
“You're talking massive numbers and massive resources, with guys coming in from the country. The standard is definitely higher. That's not putting Mayo down, it's just sheer numbers. In Mayo, to try to get a squad of 20 to 25 committed players is tough whereas in Dublin you've 30 committed players and you're training Tuesday, Thursday and then at the weekend. No one is gone away for work or anything like that. That's a major benefit and advantage Dublin clubs have over other counties.
“Some lads couldn't get over it (the travelling), to be honest. They'd be complaining that they had to drive half an hour out the road to Rush or north Dublin! It's just a different mindset that they would have and growing up - they had everything on their doorstep. That's just the way it is.”
An aspect of Dublin's play that is much heralded under Jim Gavin is their seeming cohesion on the pitch that has been moulded from a non-stop run of games together. Varley's schedule shows that this goes all the way down to the club scene, and he's kept more than busy throughout the season.
“In the last nine days we've had four games – one league and three challenge games - and we're four weeks out from championship. They play a lot of games up here. They prefer to play more games than train up here. Last year I must have played the guts of 40 to 50 games between challenge games and championship. It's about getting match fitness up, that's the way they look at it. If Mayo clubs could do that then they would, but it just comes down to logistics.”
Varley believes the experience that Mayo have accrued through the years will stand to them in the final and they have a single-minded determination to finally walk up the steps of the Hogan Stand next Sunday.
“Like everything in life, you can't beat experience and the experience that those boys have got. They're an intelligent bunch and they're always striving to get better and increase their knowledge. That's five years ago now but they've definitely improved their smarts on the field. Their game management has definitely improved because of their experience.
“The players that are there, from playing with them and knowing them personally, they've a determination in their mindset and they have tunnel vision when it comes to this and they can't see anything else. Coming back every year, their mindset is that they just want to get over the line.
“I know they've gotten a lot of criticism and the national media has got on their back this year but people can't fault their resilience and their mentality – it's the best in the country in my opinion.”
As for a prediction on a final result, like most in the country Varley feels he would only be guessing as to the destination of the Sam Maguire. He does feel Mayo match up well to their opponents, however.
“Athletically, Mayo match up to Dublin the best in the country. You look at our half-backs, midfielders, half-forwards and Mayo have serious athletes. Again, I think it'll come down to the last 10 minutes. I think it'll be pretty much a one-point game coming into the last 10 minutes and then the impact of the bench will be very important.
“On the game management side of things, Mayo would've learnt from the Galway game this year, and the game management in the last 10 minutes has to be really high.
“I just think it's going to be so close at the end and I just hope it's Mayo that are a point or two ahead.”
As do we Enda.