10:27, 27 Apr 2012
Mayo will attempt to break a Croke Park hoodoo that stretches back to 1970 when they take on Cork in the Division 1 decider this Sunday.....
Cork vs Mayo
Cork are bidding to win a third Division 1 league title in a row against the side they defeated in the 2010 decider. In fact, they have been the league’s most consistent side in the last four seasons since they swept Monaghan aside in the Division 2 final in 2009.
The Rebels are short-odds favourites for the win but Mayo arrive in Croke Park following an impressive 12-point win over Dublin and a draw in Tralee before they showed their endurance when the latter opposition was vanquished in the semi final. Mayo haven’t won the league title since 2001 when they defeated Galway but are primed to keep up their fine recent run.
Apart from the 2010 meeting this one has a little bit of recent history to add spice to it. Last August James Horan’s side dumped the then reigning All Ireland champions out in the quarter final. Cork, though, were weakened by the absences of Daniel Goulding, Colm O’Neill, Ciarán Sheehan and the contest was soured further when John Miskella was sent off late on.
In Cork, there have been murmurings that the attack is too pedantic and too one-dimensional. Yet, in the semi final they opened up on a Down side they scored 4-11 against earlier on in the year.
Much has been made of Mayo’s Croke Park hoodoo and even though they haven’t beaten non-Connacht opposition in a major final at Croke Park since Down in 1970 we believe they will begin their Connacht campaign as league champions.
Tyrone vs Kildare
Both managers have been on the defensive this week. Kieran McGeeney claimed his players raised the funding needed for a 10-day training camp in Portugal while Mickey Harte took on the more formidable challenge of defending the sport itself.
There are plenty of examples to challenge the latter argument but he did have a point when he said that not many other sports talk themselves down instead of promoting their games. It is not as if there are no awful games in the English Premier league but one would never guess it from the way Sky package their programmes.
This game looks the pick of the weekend’s fixtures and should ensure there is a healthy attendance at headquarters following the embarrassingly low number that turned up for the Division 1 semi finals.
Tyrone were untouchable throughout the league campaign and Harte has admitted the squad have been put through a much more demanding training regime than had been favoured in recent, relatively fallow years. In the league clash between the pair, Kildare lost by five points – the closest anyone but Galway got to Tyrone.
The bookies have the Red Hands slight favourites to claim the title and after their win over Monaghan and Kildare’s draw in Galway in their final league games, form supports those odds.
Longford vs Wexford
Wexford went with a slightly weakened hand at Pearse Park when qualification for the final had already been assured and that is one of the reasons they are favourites to reverse that result on Saturday.
Their big-game experience in Croke Park is doubtless another factor. In last year’s Leinster final they ran Dublin far closer than anyone expected before Limerick knocked them out of the All Ireland series when most expected Jason Ryan’s side to progress.
For Longford, Sean McCormack comes back into the side after missing the last two games. He averaged seven points a game in the league as Glenn Ryan’s charges made it seven unbeaten and, surprisingly, Tipperary were the only team they failed to defeat.
Ryan has been making steady progress as Longford boss since an iffy start when they finished third last in Division 4 in 2010. A year later McCormack starred in the Division 4 final during a 2-11 to 1-08 win over Roscommon.
Both sides could meet early in the Leinster championship if Longford overcome Laois in the preliminary round and we expect Wexford to have the psychological advantage if that clash happens.
Fermanagh vs Wicklow
The 14-119 Fermanagh scored in eight Division 4 games is skewed by the 9-23 they put past Kilkenny, but only Tyrone in Division 2 bettered the 1-67 they conceded. This time last year they were in a mess. A report released last October stated: “A small but very determined group of people set themselves totally against the appointment of the manager (John O’Neill) to do all they could to thwart the progress of the county’s GAA fortunes in 2011.”
O’Neill didn’t escape criticism, though, as the report indicted everyone but those who remained on the panel after 11 players released a statement criticising the Fermanagh board.
After the tumultuous uprising their championship ended in predictable humiliation. Beaten by Derry in Ulster, they then travelled to London where the home side recorded their first championship win in 34 years.
Peter Canavan promised hard work and graft when he was appointed and so far his approach is paying off. Only Limerick denied them eight wins from eight and they defeated Saturday’s opponents by two points back in early March.
Follow us on Facebook and Twitter @eircomSportsHub
Follow John Kelly on Twitter @JKelly1882