Beating Dublin on Saturday is more important for Mayo in breaking their duck against the All-Ireland champions as opposed to ending their two-year unbeaten run, says former Mayo forward Mickey Conroy.
Last year’s runners-up have drawn with Dublin three times in 10 games but lost the other seven and haven’t come out the right side of the result since the 2012 All-Ireland semi-final. Jim Gavin has not yet lost a league or championship game to Mayo.
Undefeated since the Division 1 draw against Tyrone in March 2015, Dublin’s run of 32 unbeaten games is now just two behind the all-time record held by Kerry between 1928 and ’33.
If Mayo don’t scalp them first, Kerry will have a chance to stop them emulating their predecessors in Killarney on March 18, but for Conroy the motivation for Mayo in Croke Park will be all about themselves.
“Their own record is the biggest one for them. Obviously, 2012 is a long time ago. Two of the defeats have been All-Ireland defeats.
"Obviously, they’re going out to win the game and from a sports psychologist’s view it would be a great one to win. If Dublin win they can say, ‘We’ve been beating these guys since 2012 on’.
“To be the team that ends their 32-game run would be something but it’s putting an end to the last five years that will motivate them. You’re not going to get revenge for last year in the league but this still would be a nice one to win.
“Is it the be-all and end-all for Mayo? I don’t think so. I don’t think it’s a case of ‘if they lose, they’re in trouble again’. Both sides will be missing big players. There are four or five missing from both teams and it will be a great game for the likes of Fergal Boland, Conor Loftus, and Donie Newcombe.
"By the end of the league, what Mayo want to be able to say is they have found four or five guys that can help in the summer.”
Brendan Harrison is the 2016 example to all that possession of a jersey is nine-tenths of the law. Conroy said: “It’s the fourth game. You win this and you’ve a chance of a league final. You lose it and there might be only three games left before championship.
“If you’re not playing the first three or four rounds of the league you start to wonder where these windows are to show what you’ve got.
"You might have challenge games but playing well against Tyrone without their full team in Athlone doesn’t count because nobody cares. You go to the guys who have done well in the league when things have been competitive.”
Conroy agrees Mayo are moving well after their opening round slip-up against Monaghan but isn’t getting too ahead of himself.
“You see the likes of Lee Keegan, Brendan Harrison, and Conor Loftus coming on against Roscommon and Loftus scoring two points and it bodes well, but how good are Roscommon? I don’t know. I don’t think they can close the gap on Mayo — that’s just my opinion on it.”
Keegan returns to Croke Park for the second time in the space of 13 days and Conroy believes Mayo will feed on that intermediate club success enjoyed by Westport. “Definitely, Mayo got a good kick out of Westport getting over the line.
"Psychologically, Lee and Kevin Keane going up the steps was huge and Lee is the best footballer in Ireland on last year’s performances. You see him going up the steps and you can picture him doing it in a Mayo shirt.”
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