Mayo will need to do something monumental to beat Dublin on Saturday but former forward John Casey says it would be in keeping with their “bat-shit crazy” season.
Casey knows as much as anybody else what the All-Ireland champions will bring to Croke Park but he feels his county is capable of doing anything right now after defeating a previously unbeaten Donegal team to make the semi-finals.
“They’ve come through a season that has been bat-shit crazy for the amount of highs and lows — losing to Dublin and Galway in the league, to end up winning the league to then lose to Roscommon to the plateau of just beating Down and Armagh, to the high of beating Galway, to having the shite hammered out of them in Killarney, to the plateau again of getting over Meath, to the high of beating Donegal.
"It’s a fucking crazy season. You don’t know what’s going to happen. Dublin are obviously the hottest of favourites and we will need something crazy to happen on Saturday evening, but there is certainly something there. Mayo bring a lot to the table, a wealth of experience and outside of Dublin they have played the most of any team in Croke Park so there shouldn’t be any stagefright.
“To come through the season with the injuries we’ve had and then to have good word about them only for Keith Higgins and Paddy Durcan to cry off after the return of Cillian O’Connor. To see Tom Parsons togged out on Saturday and Mattie Ruane back and we’re hearing Diarmuid O’Connor will be ready for the Dubs only for Jason Doherty, who had a phenomenal game against Donegal, to be seriously injured, it’s been mad.
Among the doom and gloom of injuries, there are positives but would we ever be given a break and allowed to pick from a full panel?
Casey is encouraged not only by Mayo’s familiarity with Croke Park but their strong record of putting it up to Dublin this decade, although Jim Gavin has yet to suffer a defeat in league or championship to them.
“There would be a fair level of intense rivalry between them. I don’t know whether it’s the Dubs not liking Mayo putting them to the pin of their collar every time or what it is.
"Even though you’ll have all the Dublin fellas with the medals in their back pockets, there wouldn’t be an inferiority complex among the Mayo players. Match-up wise, Mayo will say, ‘Yeah, we can cope with this’.
“Our worry is our fellas are two years older since they last faced off in championship and Dublin have more young players coming through. In the open expanses of Croke Park, that could be a difficulty for Mayo but, Jesus, if you’re looking for the definition of resilience, you’ll find a photo of Mayo under the word in the dictionary.
“I can’t remember an atmosphere like that in MacHale Park on Saturday.
“It was a carnival and the players felt it and they rose to it. Mayo were written off and you write them off at your peril. You wake up on the Sunday morning then and you’re saying to yourself, ‘This is what it’s all about’.”
Casey speaks enthusiastically about fellow Charlestown man Tom Parsons who made the match-day panel for the first time last weekend since his horrific leg injury against Galway in May 2018.
“A lot of people think there might’ve been a sentimentality factor — far from it. Tom is raring to go, fit to go, tearing it up in A versus B games. It’s a very healthy sight.”