'Cillian O'Connor nearly took me clean out of it' - Have Mayo cracked the Croke Park code? 5 years ago

'Cillian O'Connor nearly took me clean out of it' - Have Mayo cracked the Croke Park code?

John Casey has played in All-Ireland finals, he knows the craic.

The former Mayo full-forward has been marked by Darren Fay on the third Sunday of September, so he has a fair idea of what can occur on a Gaelic football field.

Advertisement

He has shared a stage with our GAA Editor Colm Parkinson too and professed to a room full of Mayo fans that Stephen Rochford's team are not interested in being liked. Later that night he also tipped a Dublin win.

Casey is a realist and someone who has seen a few things on a football field - so when he tells the world that he was scared by what he saw in the tunnel before Sunday's All-Ireland final, it is worth listening to what he says.

Casey was reporting from pitchside for Midwest Radio when the teams collided in the tunnel. There is some dispute over whether Mayo were loitering with intent or the Dubs were early, but Casey is pretty clear about what occurred when the two tribes collided.

"There was skelping in the tunnel," he said. "I had a bird's eye view of it and I am still shaking after it."

This is where the confusion starts, with some claiming Mayo hung around on purpose, while others state the Dubs were due out at 2.56 and were late, which is why they met Mayo closer to the Westerners' appointed time of 2.58.

Advertisement

GAA All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Final, Croke Park, Dublin 18/9/2016 Dublin vs Mayo Dublin and Mayo players take to the pitch Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

"Mayo waited purposefully for five minutes because they basically wanted to let Dublin know they mean business today," said Casey. "There were fracas in the tunnel, players going for each other."

Whoever instigated the tunnel ding dong, by Casey's account it was Mayo who won it.

"I am not going to tell you a lie, I was scared down there. There were fellas going hammer and tongs at each other. It was pure purposefully timed by Mayo to try and disrupt the Dublin juggernaut," said Casey.

"Aidan O'Shea ploughed through the middle of the Dublin players... Cillian O'Connor up-scuttled and hit a few fellas."

If this was a Mayo ploy to unsettle Dublin then the fact the reigning champions did not manage a score off one of their own boots for half an hour would suggest it worked.

Advertisement

If, on the other hand, it was a Dublin ploy to unsettle Mayo, the fact the reigning champions did not score off one of their own boots for half an hour would suggest it backfired.

As Casey told us in Castlebar a couple of weeks back, this Mayo team are not interested in making friends. They want to win an all-Ireland. When you have a fella like Cillian O'Connor 'up-scuttling' lads in a pre-match tunnel shemozzle, you know that they are not messing about.

Fans from other counties do a lot of moaning about the advantage that accrues to the Dubs from playing virtually all their matches at Croke Park. It has become a home ground for Gavin's team - they can travel there in their sleep at this stage, they know the dressing room, they know the pre-match routine, they have the Hill, they know the pitch and its dimensions - the whole thing is as comfortable as a pair of well-worn slippers.

Instead of complaining, the opposition can instead do everything possible to make Dublin uncomfortable.

Advertisement

If this was a Mayo ploy to upset Dublin's meticulous pre-match preparations, then it would seem to have paid off. Two Mayo own goals kept the Dubs in a first half during which too many of their stars looked out of sorts.

Whoever was responsible for the meeting, according to Casey it was Mayo who reacted with more gusto.

In 2006 Mayo rattled Pillar Caffrey's Dublin by warming up in front of the Hill, 10 years on from the 'Mill at the Hill' Rochford's side have seemingly unsettled the Dubs with a 'Rumble in the Tunnel'.

Calculated or not, Mayo have potentially landed on a means to cracking the Croke Park code. It is not Corinthian and it is not pretty but, if it works, you get a sense Mayo won't care a damn.

Advertisement

Tunnel vision.

Special live edition of the GAA Hour featuring Paul Galvin, Colm Cooper, Jack McCaffrey, Peter Canavan, Kieran McGeeney, Senan Connell, Vinnie Murphy, John O'Leary and Roberto Wallace. Subscribe here on iTunes.