"They need Diarmuid Connolly back playing in sky blue" - Mugsy runs rule over championship contenders 6 months ago

"They need Diarmuid Connolly back playing in sky blue" - Mugsy runs rule over championship contenders

Owen Mulligan feels that this year's All-Ireland football championship is more open than the majority think.

A procession was what man feared at the beginning of the year with the Dubs apparently so far ahead of the rest. Slowly but surely though, from their O'Byrne Cup final loss to Westmeath to their League losses in Monaghan, in Kerry and in their own back yard to Tyrone, some chinks have began to show in their armour.

All the while, Tyrone have shown signs of improvement, with their distinct change in focus to a kicking game based around Cathal McShane giving them another dynamic in attack. Mayo look revitalised from 2018's rest with O'Shea, Durcan and co. kicking on along with a number of promising newcomers such as Carr, Coen, McDonagh, Ruane and Treacy.

Despite coming up short in the final, Kerry have also enjoyed a promising League campaign with youngsters Sean O'Shea and Dara Moynihan showing themselves to be the real deal.

In light of what we now know, Paddy Power news columnist Owen Mulligan has ran the rule over the state of affairs in Mayo, Kerry and in Dublin in his latest column.

Mayo

Mugsy feels that Sunday's League final win could be something of a watershed for this group of players. The demons banished, maybe they'll kick on, rather than come up short in tight games now.

"Now that they’ve landed a national title, I see no reason why Mayo can’t push on and destroy a big team in the final quarter of games."

Diarmuid O'Connor is going to be a key man in their ambitions.

"When you've got a player in the form that Diarmuid O'Connor is, then anything is possible for Mayo."

Kerry

From a near faultless League group stage, Kerry's young guns were brought crashing down to earth in the final against Mayo. James Horan's men bossed them physically and Mulligan feels they'll need to learn from this if they're to have a say in the championship.

"They were getting things far too handy in the league this year, Sean O’Shea and Dara Moynihan were destroying teams. Sunday gave him a taste of what’s to come in the big championship games this summer."

Dublin

Mulligan feels that Dublin will have their work cut out to make it five in a row. The Tyrone legends thinks Diarmuid Connolly - who has been back playing for St Vincent's in the county league, could make all the difference but doesn't feel Jim Gavin sees it that way.

"They need Diarmuid Connolly back playing in sky blue, but I’m not convinced that he fits into Jim Gavin’s plans. The Dubs need to be working harder than they’ve ever done before, if they don’t want to be caught out by Mayo, Kerry or Tyrone."

Meanwhile, Mugsy feels that Gavin isn't as relaxed as he lets on.

"Mickey Harte will be analysing every aspect of that game yesterday. Jim Gavin would have you believe that he was out walking on a beach somewhere. He’d be telling you that Diarmuid Connolly, Mayo, Kerry or anyone else are not on his mind.

"Does he think we're all muppets?"