This weekend is all about one thing, and considering that we are just recovering (believe me that’s true) from last week's fun, it is one hell of a weekend to get back into the swing of things. That one thing of course is the championship, the mother of all battles, and so on and so on. The clash of Sligo and Mayo in the Connacht Semi-final on Sunday next. The experts here (and there are many) are calling it close. They are right. Over the past couple of years there has never been much between these teams when they play and next Sunday will be no exception. This week the column concentrates solely on the game that may make or break Mayo’s year and I will explain (or at least try) the importance.
For the benefit of our overseas readers this is the game that has Mayo fans excited since last year’s defeat. A crack at Sligo used to be a small thing, something to be overcome with the minimum of fuss. That has changed since Peter Forde took over. He has instilled a sense of belief and pride in Sligo that has changed them into a team that shook the Gaelic world over the past two years. But they still haven’t won a Connacht title. The people in Sligo are calling it make or break. They are at home in Markivecz Park in front of a fanatical crowd and they know if they beat Mayo they have Galway and a chance to right a few wrongs. It is an old cliché but this could be their chance.
Then again, it is the same for Mayo. John Maughan took over in a blaze of publicity last year (I should know, I interviewed him that famous morning), and given recent results he knew he had to do certain things. This he has done. The league was spent going over new players and ideas, bringing youth into the side and changing old routines. That has been done. The question remains, is it enough? Galway awaits the winners and to be fair they haven’t really been tested. Roscommon were disappointing and Leitrim are going through hell right now. So no one really knows how actually good they are. Mayo want silverware, they want titles and it has been a very long time (1952 I think) since they won the All Ireland crown so sadly patience is wearing thin. Are they good enough, I think so but all will be revealed on Sunday.
Which brings me to what happens to the winners and losers of Sunday. The winners face Galway in the Connacht final. The losers go into the second round of qualifiers against a side that may or may not have benefited from their extra games. It is too close to call for the losers. One more defeat and its bye bye. For the winners, if they lose the provincial final, then they have another qualifier and maybe a better chance. So, if you are around on Sunday, then show your support. Believe me they will need it.For those who cannot make the game, it is live on MWRfm, RTE Radio 1 and live on the TV. For those outside the country, both MWR and RTE have live Internet links on www.mnwr.ie and www.rte.ie so you will be able to hear it. Throw in time is 2.30pm.