Martin Breheny: 'Form book makes a stronger case for Donegal but home comforts to provide winning impetus for Mayo'
All-Ireland SFC Super 8s, Mayo v Donegal, Castlebar, today 6.0
Seventeen months ago, Mayo went to Ballybofey for a shoot-out with Donegal, which would decide who stayed in Division 1 and who were relegated.
Donegal needed a win to survive while a draw would suffice for Mayo. And they got it, thanks to a 74th-minute point by Kevin McLoughlin.
Dropping into Division 2 didn't do Donegal any harm, but the memory of the resilience Mayo imposed that day will be fresh in the minds of both sets of players as they head for Elverys MacHale Park this evening.
Donegal have the more impressive credentials, powering through Ulster for a second successive year, before beating Meath by nine points and drawing with Kerry.
Mayo were equally easy winners over Meath but, other than that, cannot point to anything as substantial. Granted, they impressed against Galway, but were allowed to do so by opposition who stood off them far too much in the first half.
Kerry adopted a different approach against Mayo in the Super 8s and were rewarded for their progressive style in a game where their 10-point win accurately reflected the overall trend.
Donegal will try to do likewise, but it won't be as easy this time. After a hectic campaign in which they played four games in 22 days, Mayo looked leg-weary against Kerry and while they beat Meath a week later, it took them a long time to reach full power.
The two-week break since then will have recharged the batteries for what is certain to be a gruelling contest.
Donegal have run in some very big scores and will fancy themselves to continue that trend against a defence which has struggled at times.
The form book makes a stronger case for Donegal, but it's not always reliable. Taking their All-Ireland case back to Croke Park for the closing stages of the championship has been an obsession for Mayo since missing out last year.
It looked beyond them after losing to Roscommon, but four wins from five games since then has re-energised them. And with the sequence of games handing them home advantage for this make-or-break tie, it's a chance to make a big statement. If they start well, they are capable of booking a semi-final date with Dublin or Tyrone.