Mayo will be not gloomy gung-ho -- Gilroy
DUBLIN'S form is more convincing. Mayo's need is greater. All of which places a degree of uncertainty over the outcome of tonight's Allianz League refixture between All-Ireland champions and best-of-the-west in Castlebar.
To suggest Mayo might want it more is not meant as a blithe dismissal of Dublin's desire. Yes, in an ideal world, of course they would love to secure a Division One semi-final berth with one game to spare.
But if they don't? Well, it won't be the end of Pat Gilroy's world ... whereas his Mayo counterpart is under pressure to arrest a worrying spring slide that would veer towards the alarming were the Connacht champions to lose against Dublin and Kerry over the next week.
They have just lost three games on the bounce, the last two in dispiriting circumstances against 14 men, and James Horan remarked after last Sunday's late, late defeat to Cork: "It might be hard to pick up the Mayo people. It is surprising how quick we go from a high to a low, and players aren't living in a cocoon. What we need to do is to make sure we improve playing football. I'm not quite sure where all the doom and gloom is coming from."
Gilroy, for his part, expects to see more 'boom' than gloom from the green-and-red.
"They still have a chance of setting their own destiny," he pointed out.
"I saw the game against Cork and, really, Conor Counihan even said it that Cork were very lucky to win that game. Mayo made all the running in that match and should have won the game.
"It was a pretty good performance from them, so they are coming on the back of a good performance -- okay, a bad result but those things can happen in the league and you can get over them fairly easily.
"So I think their form is not actually too bad," Gilroy maintained. "The fact that they can save themselves (tonight) and they can even get into the play-offs as well ... I wouldn't expect them to be deflated at all, I'd say they'd be all gung-ho."
As for Dublin, they certainly finished in gung-ho fashion against Donegal last weekend, epitomised by Bryan Cullen's brilliant goal before Diarmuid Connolly iced the injury-time cake. They also scored 2-16, coming on top of their previous 'home' tally of 4-17 against a wilting Armagh.
So far, so positive. Yet it would be stretching things to say the All-Ireland champions are positively flying right now. They had a distinctly ropey period in the 20 minutes after half-time against Donegal and it was only with the knee injury shipped by Michael Murphy that the visitors lost critical momentum. Moreover, while they ticked the right boxes for effort, intensity and democratic spread of scorers (12 in all), that Donegal victory came just a week after a relatively pallid performance in Down. Any away-day repeat is likely to be punished.
The other potential worry for Dublin concerns their capacity to replicate that prolific Croker form on the road. For tonight's clash, Bernard Brogan and Eoghan O'Gara are joined in the casualty ward by Alan Brogan.
They have survived without one or more of this trio for the entire league, but their combined absence places an even greater onus on Connolly. Seven weeks ago, before fog scuppered this original fixture, the Vincent's man was on fire in the first half, torching two different Mayo markers. Connolly is eminently capable of repeating the dose but, on the flip side, one presumes Horan will have devised some defensive strategy to stifle his influence.
If Connolly is held, Tomás Quinn and Kevin McManamon will have to carry the scoring load because a half-forward division devoid of Alan Brogan and Paul Flynn looks less prolific than the Sky Blue norm.
These caveats out of the way, you still suspect that this game is the visitors' to lose. Aidan O'Shea may be available again after an ill-timed suspension, but the Mayo midfield still lacks the mobility and drive that Michael Darragh Macauley usually brings to the Dublin table. And, while Mayo faded badly (and fatally) in the home straight of the Cork game, Dublin tend to finish more of their matches on full throttle.
If that happens here, the play-offs beckon...
pTHERE is free admission to tonight's refixture, with tickets being distributed outside the ground. However, patrons can make a donation of €5 to a local charities fund that will benefit the Order of Malta, Mayo-Roscommon Hospice, Western Care and the Western Alzheimers Foundation.
ODDS: Mayo 7/4, Draw 8/1, Dublin 8/13