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Soothsayers of doom are silenced... for now

PáiDí, Páidí, Páidí ... what in heaven's name were you thinking of when you penned that offending article for the Sunday Independent on December 27 last?

"Going into 2010, if I had a choice of teams to manage, I would fancy my chances with Mayo and Dublin.

"These are two more underachieving counties, and if I were in charge of either of them, I would nearly guarantee an All-Ireland," the famous Kerryman (no surname required) modestly opined.

Oh Páidí, what have you done? Did all the turkey and ham and Yuletide spirit of sharing with those less fortunate in the GAA world cause you to momentarily abandon that innate Kerry cuteness?

Or was it the need to cause some mischief, to lift the endless ennui of the closed season and/or the quiet life in Ventry? Or do you harbour a burning (and not-so-secret) desire to get down and dirty at the inter-county coalface once more?


Whatever the reason, the move has backfired spectacularly. Dublin and Mayo are top of the league! Against all odds! And, even if one of them should lose their 100pc record this Sunday, there is a perfectly valid excuse: these unlikely high flyers meet at McHale Park, Castlebar.

How has it come to pass? Weren't Mayo being tipped as potential relegation candidates this spring? And didn't we hear something equally pessimistic about the Division One prospects for a Dublin team set to embark on the greatest squad overhaul since ... well, probably since that distant post-Emergency era when the policy of picking 'culchie' invaders in Sky Blue was finally abandoned in favour of born-and-bred Dubs.

The soothsayers of doom have been silenced ... for now. Mayo have steamrolled their nearest-and-dearest enemy before scampering away from Fortress Omagh with another precious two points.

If you think that's perverse, consider this: Dublin have won in Kerry for the first time since 1982 and followed this up not in the usual flatter-to-deceive manner, but rather by coming from behind to chisel out another morale-boosting victory over Derry.

Meanwhile, just as Dublin and Mayo soar into the stratosphere, the Division One table is being propped up by (Monaghan apart) none other than Kerry and Tyrone. Yes, the same two giants who have shared the last seven All-Ireland senior titles and who can now boast the combined tally of nulle points after two rounds of the league.

Now, it may be true that Kerry and Tyrone have been hindered by any number of high-profile absentees -- but Dublin can proffer the same excuse and, to a lesser extent, so can Mayo.

They have carried on regardless. They haven't been filling countless column inches with repeated denunciations of trial-by-TV and the GAA's disciplinary system; with talk of banning cameras from Omagh; with complaints about rival players doing the "dead-man act" to get an opponent sent off.

Mind you, this is not to imply that John O'Mahony has suddenly stopped moaning about all and sundry. He too, like his decorated Tyrone counterpart, has complained about the new video crackdown -- after one of his own was caught out. And when a certain Mickey Harte had the temerity to suggest that Peadar Gardiner (and not Joe McMahon) should have been dealt with by the disciplinary authorities, Johnno pithily replied: "People in glass houses don't throw stones."

The Mayo manager's most cutting riposte, though, was reserved for Páidí back in January. "Unfortunately, unlike Páidí ó Sé, I can't predict or guarantee Mayo an All-Ireland," Johnno declared. "I'd like to think that if I managed Kerry for eight years I'd have won more than the two All-Irelands he did with them, especially considering they subsequently won four when he left."

The ardent Fianna Fáiler that is Páidí duly responded to the response by saying he thought O'Mahony, as a Fine Gael TD, would have acquired a thicker skin and become a more hardened street fighter. "He has my respect as a football manager," the ex-Kerry supremo added, "but I still believe that I have my own abilities to bring to the table -- things that Mayo desperately need at the moment."

Right now, judging from February's results, maybe not ... but come the height of summer, who knows?


What Curve Ball knows for a fact is that Dublin and Mayo WILL reach this year's All-Ireland final. It is already written in the stars. Our own personal astrologist, Mystic Peig, has confirmed this improbable occurrence, although she can't quite decipher which particular famine (59 years as opposed to 15) is about to end.

Psychic phenomena aside, even the draw guarantees that their paths, as provincial champions, shall not cross until September. And then, as the final countdown reaches fever pitch, our two county boards will find themselves in a right old conundrum.

Do they stick with their man and pray that it all works out on the day? Or do they opt for the radical but tempting alternative? The one that goes something like: "Thanks so very much for getting us here, Pat/John, but we've decided to look elsewhere to make that one last push over the line. Here are two free tickets to the final -- now excuse us but we've a call to make. Hello, Directory Enquires? We're looking for the number of a public house in Ventry ... "