Tony McEntee's heart is with Mayo in All-Ireland final showdown against Tyrone
TONY McEntee makes no bones about it, he’d love to see Mayo win the Sam Maguire on Saturday and, given how he spent three seasons in the red and green camp, that’s hardly a surprise.
The Crossmaglen and Armagh All-Ireland winner was part of Stephen Rochford’s management team from the 2016 season and he helped propel the westerners to the very brink of Gaelic Football’s summit only to lose the 2016 and 2017 finals to Dublin by a single point.
On Saturday he hopes Mayo take that final, elusive step by beating Tyrone.
“Absolutely, I would love to see Mayo win,” he says.
“I have fond memories of my time out there and I’m still in contact with some of the players. The older players like Paddy Durcan, Lee Keegan and Aidan O’Shea have put a lot into their county and if they can win on Sunday, great. If they don’t, they just weren’t good enough on the day.”
Bogey team Dublin are out of the equation this year – Mayo saw to that with their brilliant comeback in a remarkable semi-final four weeks’ ago now and Tyrone took care of favourites Kerry in the second semi.
So is the door finally open for Mayo?
“We’ve got two teams that at the start of the year wouldn’t have been expected to be in the final,” says McEntee.
“Do Mayo have a chance? Of course they have a chance and I think they have a good chance.
“They are playing with loads of energy, loads of enthusiasm and they’ve beaten Dublin so they’re bound to be buoyant and confident and in their minds they’ll feel they have one of the best chances in recent years.”
An All-Ireland winner at club and county level, McEntee’s services will always be in demand on the sideline and this season he took the bainisteoir bib at county level for the first time when he succeeded Paul Taylor as Sligo manager in February.
His Yeats county side went out of the Championship on opening day when they were mauled 3-23 to 0-12 by a rampant Mayo outfit at Markievicz Park.
“Beating Sligo that day was hardly a marker of where Mayo are but what you did see in those early stages was the strength-in-depth of the panel,” said McEntee.
“Cillian O’Connor (Achilles tendon injury) was already gone at that point and he’d be a miss to any team so Mayo have played all year without him. The games against Sligo, Leitrim and Galway were obviously crucial to building their confidence without their talisman.
“Early in the year against Sligo what you got to see was how mobile and how much pace they had. Aidan O’Shea (2-2) was phenomenal in that game, he was so strong and powerful and we were unable to handle him.
“His presence early allowed the younger players to settle and gave them a bit of confidence because as the year went on, particularly against Dublin when Aidan didn’t play so well, the younger players like Tommy Conroy and Ryan O’Donoghue did really well.”