Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Biting Back: Mind games begin as Donegal get ready for Mayo in All-Ireland final

Telegraph Sport: where the debate really gets started

Jim McGuinness celebrates after Donegal's win over Cork in the All-Ireland semi-final

When writing about the transformation of Donegal, that notorious day in 2010, when Armagh mowed them down by 10 points, is frequently invoked.

On the same afternoon, however, Mayo were over in Longford in a qualifier game that they lost by a point, bringing an end to the managerial career of John O'Mahony.

From losers in the first round of the qualifiers, sending supporters home on long journeys with the words ‘never again' featuring heavily in their thoughts, both sides have embarked on a journey that has brought them to the All-Ireland final.

Guiding both sides have been two 40-year-olds who belong to a new school of Gaelic football; clued into the sport sciences and playing football to their own logic.

In some ways, Donegal will be delighted that they now have Mayo in an All-Ireland final. There is no baggage or feelings of inadequacy, nor will they fear them.

But they will not be let fall into that trap. This Mayo side is far removed from that of the teams that collapsed so spectacularly in the 2004 and 2006 finals.

That horrible, lazy line on Mayo — that they are chokers in Croke Park — will be dredged up again. It will be said that they cannot win big games at headquarters, but a semi-final against Dublin is as big as they come.

Let the mind games begin.

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