The dream remains very much alive for Mayo’s senior footballers as they get set to embark on another mountainous mission against defending champions Dublin this weekend.
Passage through the Super 8s looked unlikely this time two months ago after exiting the Connacht championship to Roscommon, but wins over Down, Armagh, Galway, Meath and Donegal have brought them back to the last four for the eighth time in nine seasons.
Last Saturday’s four-point win over Donegal marked the Ulster champions’ first loss of the summer and, while it was a tough way for the Tir Chonaill men to exit, they went down to the better team on the day in Castlebar.
Now James Horan and his backroom team must plot a way to conquer this capital juggernaut which hasn’t fallen once in the championship since 2014.
The excitement is huge ahead of this one and the vital positive for Mayo fans these past few weeks has been the fact that they’re team has been getting bodies back, while eking out the wins that have brought them 70 minutes away from another All-Ireland final.
The downside? They’re coming up against what is arguably the greatest team to ever play the game, ranked as 9/2 outsiders in a venue where the holders have proved unbeatable in the summer since being undone by Jim McGuinness’s Donegal half a decade ago.
Mayo's Lee Keegan hammers in a goal against Dublin in the 2017 All-Ireland SFC final
But Horan and his players have been in this very same spot before, emerging victorious after holding off the Dubs’ comeback in 2012. The following year they lost the final to the same opposition by a point, with 2016 (after a replay) and 2017 producing the same narrow margins of defeat on the same stage under Stephen Rochford.
Heart-breakers all of them but Saturday presents an opportunity to wash some of the pain away.
All of that considered, it’s still safe to say that Dublin’s stiffest tests in the championship have come against Mayo since the birth of the Jim Gavin era, but something extra special will be required from the National League champions at headquarters if they’re to shred the script this time.
In short, as bumpy a road as its been for them, it’s still hard to write-off this Mayo team but even harder to envision this Dublin team falling to them.Tweet