Cable Bay and dazzling Dubs are well worth supporting
BELIEVE it or not, myself and one or two others at school got quite a bit of stick from our classmates back in the early '90s for following Gaelic games.
Dublin hadn't won an All-Ireland since 1983 and football was still considered a "culchies' game" by quite a lot of people on the capital's southside.
At the time, Sky Sports had just become available in Dublin and the brand new Premier League on TV from across the water seemed far more sophisticated and polished than our own indigenous sports.
This meant that those of us who followed the GAA instead of soccer risked looking untrendy – the most devastating label possible for a bloke in his teens. But everything changed in 1995 when some real glamour was injected into GAA by the winning Dublin football team which included the likes of Jason Sherlock, one of the first real pin-ups of our sport. The culchies' game was now in vogue.
Nowadays it's fashionable to 'check in' at Croke Park at a match on Facebook and, despite the fact that some genuine fans (myself included) have been left ticketless for tomorrow, I think the hype surrounding All-Ireland finals these days is fantastic.
Yes, some of them may be fair-weather fans but the buzz about the city this week has been marvellous.
Thankfully, the skilful football is there to match the hype and the Dubs' semi-final against Kerry was the greatest game of football my generation has seen.
Dublin's style of play is an absolute joy to watch, but that talent will be equalled by Mayo's passion as they seek to win their first All-Ireland in 62 years.
I'm not really a football writer so I'll leave the match previews to my more knowledgeable colleagues, but coming at it from a betting point of view, I'm all over Dublin at even-money. Having attended Dublin matches since I was knee-high to a grasshopper, I'll admit it's difficult to take an objective point of view and I foolishly lost two ton last year trying to win €114 backing the Dubs at 4/7 against Mayo in the semi-final.
But the strength in depth in this Dublin side is scary – they have so many options in every area of the pitch.
Dublin fans are often accused of cockiness but behind the banter, we have huge respect for this Mayo team – the threat they pose is formidable, which makes the game quite hard to price up.
When placing a bet, you have to ask yourself what chance you think your selection genuinely has of winning and then convert that to odds to see if there's a mismatch in the bookies.
It's hardly an exact science but we have to have some way of trying to spot value and, having estimated Dublin's chances at 60pc, any price above 4/6 would qualify as a bet for me. As such, I'll gladly roll the dice tomorrow at evens.
But win or lose, betting at even-money won't pay for many pints of plain in town after the match so today, a chance is taken on Cable Bay at 8/1 in the Dubai Duty Free Mill Reef Stakes at Newbury (2.20). He's been keeping good company and made the frame in his latest three races, all of which were Group Two contests. Although he probably has some developing to do before he makes a name for himself, the maiden he won in June was quite strong and Charles Hills is right to keep on trying him at this level.
Richard Hannon's Shamshon looked very smart in his two victories to date and is the one most likely to make life difficult for the selection.
Benzanno's mark is due to rise, so he gets into the Dubai Duty Free Handicap (2.55 Newbury) 3lbs to the good at 8st 7lbs.
The four-year-old gelding is in top form right now and with Daniel Muscutt claiming a further 5lb allowance in the saddle, I'll be surprised if he goes off as high as his forecast price of 12/1.
1.50 Newbury: Kassiano
2.20 Newbury: Cable Bay
2.55 Newbury: Benzanno (e/w)
3.15 Ayr: Remember You
3.30 Newbury: Maarek (e/w)