Mortimer's hasty departure should not halt Mayo's momentum
James Horan is right to put his faith in players with a tough, steely edge, writes Páidí ó Sé
The lifespan of a Gaelic footballer is short. It passes by in a flash. When you're living it and in your prime you can't imagine your career coming to an end but when it does it hits hard.
Last week, after being left out of Mayo's starting 15 for the second consecutive game, Conor Mortimer walked away from the panel. He claims he has no regrets but I'm not sure I believe him.
The man is 30 and while he's nearing the end he still has a few good years left in him. You can only play at the top level for a certain amount of time and even if it's playing the role of an impact sub, it's still better than not participating at that level at all.
There are always knocks in Gaelic football and Mortimer got one this season but if he has any sense he should bounce back not walk away. He's the county's all-time leading scorer and is just one game shy of his 100th appearance in the green and red jersey. Quitting prematurely will taint that.
I think Mayo will win today and he'll miss out on a provincial title and a chance to play in Croke Park in an All-Ireland quarter-final. Footballers the length and breadth of the country would give anything for those honours.
Although the Mortimer family released a statement supporting Conor and criticising James Horan's management style, I can see where Horan is going with his plans. One thing that stands out for me when I look at his team is that the Mayo players who are getting starting spots look different physically than the Mayo players of the recent past. The chosen ones are nearly all big strong men, who have a tough, steely edge to them. It's obvious Horan is trying to train them not to be just artists but winners as well and maybe Conor Mortimer doesn't fit the bill.
As for the game itself, I think it's going to go Mayo's way. If you look at the football that was played in the Connacht semi-final between Sligo and Galway, it was of good quality but I don't think Sligo were really tested.
The Sligo players were allowed to express themselves, they were given the freedom to kick nice long-range points and were given plenty of space but that won't be the case against Mayo today. The amount of time they'll get on the ball will be limited. Mayo will close them down quickly.
But Sligo can be clinical and will cause a bit of bother around the goal. Their inside forwards David Kelly and Adrian Marren have been very impressive and Mayo will have a job on their hands to keep them in check for the full 70 minutes. Marren's display against Galway was one of the best individual performances of the year. He is an intelligent footballer, with a real eye for goal. Sligo are over reliant on Alan Costello and this could prove problematic because from observing him so far this championship he seems to lack fitness and Mayo will definitely exploit that.
Last week I wrote in this column that Kildare could do without the Seánie Johnston sideshow when they travel to Breffni Park today to take on Cavan. Leaving him out of the starting 15 was definitely the right move to make.
I don't think Cavan will be any sort of a banana skin for Kieran McGeeney's men but getting a good win under their belt would go a long way to helping Kildare rebuild their confidence after the loss they suffered at the hands of Meath.
Nor am I expecting any major surprises in Mullingar. Kerry have upped the ante at training and are playing a lot of lively football. They will be anxious to to get a bit of momentum going and I reckon Westmeath won't stay with them for longer than 20 minutes.
I think today could also spell the end of the road for Laois and Justin McNulty. Losing to Longford and barely beating Carlow doesn't bode well on their chances against Monaghan. They will be up against it on their home turf.
Monaghan are not the force they were a few years ago but they may still prove too strong for a Laois team that has not shown any consistency this year.
Sunday Indo Sport