Kevin Madden: Don't be fooled by Mayo or their Championship prospects
YOU may be forgiven for thinking that today's column would be a synopsis of Armagh's hard-fought victory in Mullingar or Cavan's collapse to Tipp.
Perhaps even Donegal's Paddy McBrearty-inspired win in Navan, or some coverage of Damian Barton's abrupt departure from the Oak Leaf County.
But no, today we will be discussing boozy nights out, taxi drivers, entrapment and why I believe that the current group of Mayo players won't win the All-Ireland anytime soon.
I am fairly sure most of the ‘younger' generation have been there at one point or another.
After a night out in the ‘big smoke' with no pre-arranged transport to take you home, you are left frozen and stranded. Perhaps you and your company were off to the Bot, the Odyssey, the Cathedral Quarter or even a concert at the Waterfront.
At the end of a fun-filled night out, a bit worse for wear, the temperature outside is approaching sub zero so your efforts to find a taxi intensifies.
Rather quickly your previous state of jolliness becomes one of frustration, desperation and eventually frenzy.
In an attempt to get a lift you try to wave down any vehicle with a sign on it. You knock windows, open doors and beg the taxi-men to forget about his pre-booking to take you and your mates home instead.
Some people have been known to offer the driver double fare (Ballymena and Fermanagh men excluded of course) for his troubles.
For the last number of years it has been illegal for a private taxi to pick up on the street without being pre-booked.
On my way into work on Friday morning, listening to the radio, I heard some of the most absurd allegations of entrapment towards taxi drivers, allegedly carried out by officials from the Department of Infrastructure.
From scantily-clad women masquerading on the street as drunk and vulnerable, to men pretending their wife had been rushed to the RVH to give birth to a first born, one by one, the cab drivers came on to tell their stories of how their better nature had been exploited in an attempt to catch them breaking the law.
In a strange sort of way, these distasteful ‘honeytrap' manoeuvres made me think of Mayo and how they too have been guilty of tricking people for quite some time now. Well, twenty years to be precise.
Around late August, I can be sure my good friend in Chicago, Kevin Brady, will call me to talk about his beloved Mayo, tickets, and his plans for All-Ireland final weekend.
“This is our year young Machin”, he will quip. “I'm telling ye. Sam is coming home to the weesht.”
If he's had a few shandy too many, he may even serenade me with a verse of “Take me home to Mayo." Believe me, this would be enough to make a sailor sea sick.
For him alone, I would love to see them win the All-Ireland. After taking Dublin to a replay last year, and only losing by a single point in the end, you could be forgiven for thinking that they are near to the holy grail – maybe closer than they have been since 1951.
There was something different about Mayo in last year's final(s) that really did make me feel that this time they were good enough. The belief was there. The performance was full of intent and they never looked beaten. You must bear in mind that the replay was shrouded by the horrendous decision to change goalkeepers, which backfired spectacularly.
We will never know what the outcome would have been had Stephen Rochford not lost the plot in the days before the replay.
But in my opinion they may now actually be further away again.
Take nothing away from Derry's spirited performance last weekend, or Clare this week, but all the old failings of why Mayo have flumped in the past were there to see.
Don't get me wrong. They are a very good side with some outstanding players.
They are also quite easy on the eye and to keep coming back each year the way that they do, they have a tremendous spirit and character about them that I wouldn't call into question.
But it takes more than that. It's not rocket science but to win an All-Ireland it takes finishers up top on the end of the moves. The personnel largely hasn't changed as they still look to Cillian O'Connor and a 34-year-old Andy Moran as their most consistent finishers.
Against Derry, O'Connor scored 0-12 from 22 shots, Moran 0-2 from six and Kevin McLoughlin 0-1 from five opportunities. Far from prolific.
In five years, since their defeat to Donegal in the 2012 final, they have failed to unearth a Paul Geaney, a James O'Donoghue or dare I say it a Cormac Costello. Remember him? He came off the bench for Dublin with 15 minutes to go in last year's replay. Three touches, three scores.
For Mayo to beat Kerry or Dublin they will need to create many more chances than them to get over the line.
To put overall team stats from last weekend into some type of context. Although it ended up a one-sided encounter, Kerry had 32 shots in their Munster Final victory over Cork last Sunday and managed to kick 1-21. Mayo had 43 shots against Derry in normal time and only scored 1-12.
You could argue that it was just a bad day at the office, and that in extra-time, they redeemed themselves by converting 1-9 from 12 shots.
But that only serves to strengthen the argument. They display little consistency in what is arguably the most important facet of the game.
They were more economical against Clare but for 40 minutes the Bannermen looked the superior team.
Mayo were at their pinnacle last autumn, but their biggest rivals Kerry and Dublin look to have even more scope for improvement as we approach the latter stages of this year's Championship.
They have more options in attack and with it they bring better finishing.
As you ponder over where ‘Sam' will preside come September, my advice is ‘don't be like the Belfast taxi-men and let sentiment get the better of you.' Stay away from Mayo – beware of the Honey Trap.