Tyrone will be better, Mayo won't be as good
Allianz Football League Division One: Mayo v Tyrone (tomorrow, 2pm, Castlebar, live on TG4 app, deferred coverage at 5.30pm on TG4)
IF the Allianz Leagues ever conformed to a sense of logic, you could only conclude that Mayo will continue their 23-year unbroken run in Division One and Tyrone would drop to Division Two tomorrow.
With the Red Hands’ flat display in Ballybofey and James Horan’s side being anything but in pummelling Galway, chapter six of the formbook offers little evidence of hope for Tyrone.
But it tends not to operate like that.
You only need to go back to the last weekend of February and the first of March.
Tyrone were beaten by 19 points in Galway on the same day Mayo lost by nine to Monaghan, a result that sparked a near civil-war in the county. It’s hard to believe that was this year.
Six days later, Tyrone beat Dublin and Mayo ran Kerry to a point.
It was the second time in this campaign Mickey Harte’s team had conjured a victory so out of sync with their previous outing. They’d been woeful against Monaghan and then turned around to outplay and beat Kerry in Edendork a week later.
Among this eight-team elite, there are good days and there are bad. Context and deeper meaning are often searched for in one-off results, but seldom derived.
The stakes tomorrow mean this will, in all probability, go to the wire.
Even the assumption that Monaghan will beat Meath is a dangerous one.
A last-day shootout is nothing new but it’s not as common as the mind would trick you into believing.
It’s five years since a late Darren McCurry equaliser against Kerry wasn’t enough to save Tyrone as they fell another white flag short of leapfrogging the Kingdom.
Two years ago it was Kevin McLoughlin that rescued his county’s top tier status in Ballybofey. This is the greatest recent threat that’s been posed to what is now a 23-year unbroken run.
Their performance against Galway last Sunday sparked new fascination with a team that seldom leaves the public imagination.
Who’s this Mark Moran fella, with his flowing locks, Ciaran McDonaldesque left foot and millions of Tik Tok views?
And Oisin Mullin, coming steaming out of defence?
David McBride and Eoghan McLaughlin slot in, Bryan Walsh, Ryan O’Donoghue and Jordan Flynn all get game time.
For close followers of the second Horan reign, though, it is no surprise. He has been slowly, diligently trying to add depth to a squad that suffered for its frightening lack as it pursued the holiest of grails.
Given that they have Leitrim next weekend in their Connacht opener, while Tyrone are back in MacCumhaill Park for a kill-or-be-killed encounter, it is the hosts who can best afford to treat this as something closer to championship.
Beyond perhaps the dynamic of their midfield, possibly reintroducing his nephew Peter and giving Conor McKenna a more permanent station at full-forward, it’s hard to see that Mickey Harte will go too heavy with the axe.
Tyrone will be better than last week. Mayo won’t be as good.
A draw could be as good as a shout as it would be a result for Tyrone.