Three things to watch in the GAA this weekend
Everyone will be wondering can Mayo cope without Conor, Waterford have some ghosts to exorcise and Kerry start a journey down a road that has been kind to them in the past.
Can Mayo emerge from the shadow of the Mort’s withdrawal?
Without delving too deeply into the rights and wrongs of Conor Mortimer’s withdrawal from the Mayo panel earlier this week, one can’t help but think that he could have chosen a more opportune time to do so than prior to the Connacht Final this weekend.
Earlier this morning, Conor was big enough to put out a message on Twitter urging Mayo followers to forget about the whole saga and to get behind the team on Sunday, but despite his good intentions, you can be sure that he will dominate the conversation in the majority of cars heading to the Hyde to cheer on the Red and Green.
Whatever about the fans, it will also be pretty difficult for the squad themselves to detach themselves from everything that has gone on. Will there be added pressure on the likes of Enda Varley or Jason Doherty, who Mortimer believes should be out of the team at his expense? Or will the desire to prove that the team can cope just fine without him contribute to a powerful Mayo performance?
However it plays out, you feel that it will have some bearing on Sunday’s result and that definitely plays into the hands of the opposition. Sligo will have always secretly fancied their chances of causing an upset before the events of this week and they’ll be relishing the challenge even more now.
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Déise have a huge point to prove
A 21-point defeat at the stage to the same opposition last year would seem to provide ample justification for Waterford’s rather generous odds of 4/1 for Sunday’s Munster Final, but surely the gap between one Division One team and another can’t be that big, can it?
Saying that, the Déise haven’t done an awful lot to suggest that they can topple Tipp in Páirc Uí Chaoimh. A mediocre league campaign was followed by a narrow victory over a Clare side who are still in the development phase, while against Cork, the Premier showed signs of a return to something resembling their best form.
It might be a bit lazy and predictable to say that Waterford will gain inspiration from Galway’s massacre of Kilkenny last Sunday, but a similar attitude and desire to play on their own terms could go a long way.
If signs of Tipp’s resurgence aren’t just a false dawn and they can avoid the complacency that just might have seeped into the Kilkenny camp last weekend, they should be triumphant yet again on Sunday, but we would be surprised if the margin is any more than a few points. Lar is named to start a little further away from goal this time around so a repeat of last year’s seven goal concession should be avoided at the very least.
Will Kerry benefit from a second wind?
It seems like yonks ago that people were writing off Kerry after their limp defeat to Cork in the Munster semi-final, so it will be interesting to see what sort of performance Jack O’Connor’s men can deliver against Westmeath this weekend.
Plenty have said that the qualifiers won’t suit Kerry this time around, but O’Connor has used the backdoor as a means to revitalise his sides in the past. In 2006, the deployment of Kieran Donaghy at full-forward restored life into Kerry and revolutionised Gaelic Football all at the same time, while in 2009, the re-introduction of Mike McCarthy was a huge factor in the Kingdom’s eventual success.
This time around, he has named Gooch at the edge of the square with Donaghy in the corner and with Star likely to roam to the half forward line and beyond, it could also provide more freedom for Declan O’Sullivan, who has been a little too quiet for our liking of late and could be primed for a rise to prominence once again.
Kerry might be ageing and may not be the force of old, but the last three times they went into the qualifiers they ended up in Croke Park on the third Sunday of September and you wouldn’t put it past them doing it again this season.
For odds on Kerry v Westmeath and all the other GAA games this weekend, click here.