Winners of Dublin-Kerry clash will have name on the trophy, insists Tyrone boss Mickey Harte
Tyrone manager Mickey Harte, in the midst of contract extension discussions, believes that Sunday's Dublin v Kerry All-Ireland football semi-final is the decider in all but name.
Mayo, of course, await the winners in the final but while Harte is at pains to stress that he harbours no sour grapes following his team's agonising one-point defeat to Stephen Rochford's side at the quarter-final stage, he nonetheless feels that the westerners are doomed to even more All-Ireland misery next month.
The popular theory doing the rounds is that Mayo might just have acquired the mental steel, something they lacked in the past, to get them into a sporting paradise after a 65-year wait to reclaim the Sam Maguire Cup.
Former Armagh All-Ireland winner Tony McEntee has had a significant input into Mayo's whole approach to the current championship and he is credited with strengthening the team's mental resolve but Harte's clinical analysis nonetheless cuts to the quick.
"You would definitely think that the All-Ireland winners will come from the Dublin v Kerry game. I believe that either of these two teams will beat Mayo," states Harte who looks set to be offered a one-year extension to his current contract, taking through to 2018 after talks with the county board.
He added: "I can't see Mayo producing enough over 70 minutes to come out on top. They have been very good in spells in some of their games to date when they had purple patches but a purple patch will not be good enough to bring victory in the final."
"Mayo will really need to have a decent consistent spell with a few purple patches included if they are to have any chance of winning but I still think they fall short of what is required to win an All-Ireland title and that's certainly not sour grapes because they beat us."
Since the start of the year Dublin have remained as odds-on favourites to claim the Sam Maguire Cup once again yet Harte sounds a note of caution as Sunday's clash of the titans draws nearer.
"Somewhere in the back of my mind there is the belief that Kerry will feel they have taken a beating from this Dublin side rather too often over recent seasons," points out Harte.
"Dublin are a bit more vulnerable than they have been over the past few years because you can't take players like Rory O'Carroll, Jack McCaffrey and James McCarthy out of a defence and replace them easily. I know that despite this, everything says it's Dublin's to win but you can never rule Kerry out.
"But no matter who wins it, I don't think that Mayo will be fit for them. To all intents and purposes this semi-final on Sunday will be the final."
While Harte has identified what he believes to be possible deficiencies in the Dubs' defence, he is convinced that should Kerry get their own defensive strategy right then they can cause Jim Gavin's side problems.
However, he contends that Kerry will carry one inherent fear into the semi-final.
"I think they will feel they might have too many men in there with too much mileage," observes Harte. "That is a fact, there is no doubt about it. But I would not say that Colm Cooper will be back marking Philly McMahon in his own defence, he will be up hurting the Dubs where he can hurt them.
"I think that Kerry will have absorbed the lesson that they will need to have men up in their attack and if some of the Dublin backs require to be chased then it should not be a player of Cooper's pedigree who should have to fulfil this function.
"I am sure, indeed, that Kerry will have learned a lot from last year and the challenge now is for them to put this into practice on Sunday."