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Maughan confident Mayo are on right path

When Kerry take on Mayo in Croke Park, it's time to reach for the top shelf of cliches.

'Kerry save their best for Croke Park', or, 'the Kingdom have one eye on September' are well hackneyed phrases. To say Mayo are capable of beating anyone on their day or, equally, of turning into shivering wrecks at HQ, particularly when the Kingdom boys are around, is also a safe option.

And though Mayo have produced back-to-back eye-catching performances against Dublin and Kerry, John Maughan isn't buying into any of the old reliable catchphrases ahead of tomorrow's Allianz NFL Division 1 semi-final.

"It's been a strange league in terms of some of the results we've had," Maughan commented. "If you left Ballyshannon as I did after they lost to Donegal even though they had an extra man, you wouldn't have held out much hope.

"It was the same when they lost a lead against Cork. But then that result against Dublin was amazing and probably as good as I have seen from a Mayo team. You'd have to say that Dublin came to Mayo fully cocked that night, probably with the memory of the first half of the abandoned game, which they dominated, fresh in their minds and maybe they took Mayo for granted.

"Maybe 80pc of that result was Dublin being a little out of focus. They were a lot better against Cork last week but as good as a result as that was for Mayo, there are question marks there for Dublin in terms of whether the hunger and desire is there for them at the minute.

"I think Pat Gilroy has spoken openly about that and that was certainly an issue against Mayo."

Consistency is an issue that continues to haunt James Horan's side and, according the Maughan, only a decent level of performance in the championship will silence the doubters.

"We have always been capable of beating anyone and we've shown that over the years, like Dublin in 2006 and Cork last year. But putting back-to-back performances together when it really matters has been a problem.

"I'm not quite sure why that is. Maybe we have been lacking a little bit of depth of quality in our squad but whatever it is, I certainly don't buy into this hoodoo in Croke Park or that our lads are frail psychologically in some way.

"People are quick to point to Ruislip last year and how we were nearly beaten. It would have been a total disaster, but they found a way to get through and that was the important thing.

"I remember we were there in 1996 and I had a few beads of sweat forming going into the last 10 or 15 minutes and we ended up being the kick of a ball away from winning the All-Ireland that year, so I wasn't as surprised as most people at that result. It can be a very tricky place to go to."

And where better to start than recording a rare win over Kerry in Croke Park, just a week after battling to a draw in Tralee when down to 14 men.

"It was an encouraging result for Mayo, but you have to be realistic.

"How interested were Kerry considering they had already qualified for the semi-finals before that game? They tried out a few new faces too and only really reached for the big guns when they were in a little bit of trouble.

"And they say Kerry are a different animal in Croke Park, but they have one or two question marks hanging over them too. Some of their established players haven't quite reached top form yet so there are the inevitable questions about whether they still have the legs. Maybe that's where Mayo's best chance lies this weekend.

"We have a young team and are strong up the middle with Ger Cafferkey, Donal Vauaghan and Aidan O'Shea all developing into fine footballers.

"Mayo deserve credit for reaching the semis and this will be another chance to pick up experience against a top side."

Irish Independent