Coming away from Sunday's Super 8s action at Croke Park, you could not help be taken by the quality that Donegal and Kerry served up. 

In a game of 42 scores that saw the sides level on 14 occasions, many heroes emerged. Between them Michael Murphy and Paul Geaney scored 2-11, and while some will point to weaknesses in the respective defences, the quality of forward play on offer made it hard for both rearguards to keep the score down.

Kerry and Donegal finished 1-20 apiece

All told Kerry found it a little easier to get scores, and in the pecking order of those best equipped to take down the Dubs, they are still best placed.

If we all enjoyed the main course at GAA HQ, the starter of Mayo-Meath was something of a let down.

Yes, both sides showed plenty of endeavour, but the overall tempo of what was played out was a world away from the game that followed it.

That said, Mayo won't mind as they remain in the championship race. They take on Donegal on Saturday week in Castlebar and know that a win will see them progress to the All-Ireland semi-final.

Meath's interest in the race for Sam is over, but there are the makings of a decent team there. Second-half fade outs against Mayo and Donegal underline the journey they still have to travel. Playing top-flight football next spring should help them on that journey.

And so back to Mayo

I'm sure all in the camp will be glad of the week's break. Collectively, they will also be saying that they need to improve a lot. Indeed, there are shades of two years ago about Mayo in the way they stumbled through the backdoor, with observers noting that their demise was imminent.

They survived and really found their groove in the All-Ireland quarter-final replay against Roscommon.

The Rossies got a hammering in Croke Park. Onwards to the decider against Dublin and Mayo's best performance this decade as they ran the Dubs to a point in a game that was there for the taking.

Of course, the question is can Mayo can find renewed vigour to really kickstart this campaign?

As things stand, you would have concerns as to whether James Horan's side can keep the likes of Michael Murphy, Paddy McBrearty and Oisin Gallen quiet at MacHale Park. Added pressure then on the hard-working Colm Boyle and the O'Shea brothers in keeping a defence that looked anything but secure against Kerry and Meath tight for the do-or-die clash on 3 August. 

Late on when the Royals pushed up on David Clarke's short kickouts, the Connacht side looked very vulnerable and sloppy in the extreme. 

Paddy Durcan's absence is a huge loss.

Andy Moran in his 36th year gave the Green and Red a spark of life that was badly missing against the Royals.

It's not the first time this season that Moran's introduction has lit a fuse and I'm sure the calls for him to start against Donegal will grow louder.

Cillian O'Connor scored a goal late on against Meath

Speaking to RTÉ GAA correspondent Marty Morrissey after the win over Meath, Cillian O'Connor summed up where Mayo are at.

"We are close to an All-Ireland semi-final but not performing at our very best"

"I don't think that performance would be good enough to go anywhere," he said. "I think we have scope for improvement.

"We created plenty of chances against Meath, were getting into their '45 plenty of times but our conversion rate wasn't good enough. 

"Eventually we got a bit tidier around the goal and finished off some moves we should have done a little earlier.

"We are close to an All-Ireland semi-final but not performing at our very best.

"We can't wait for two weeks time. It's fantastic to be welcoming a team of Donegal's quality to Castlebar.

"It's exactly why you play the game. The lads can't wait for it."

Will that sense of anticipation be enough to drive Mayo greater heights?

Their fans will think so. The rest of us remain unconvinced at this stage even though notable injury absentees, including Tom Parsons and captain Diarmuid O'Connor could be in line to feature against the Ulster champions.

That, in itself would be a welcome boost for the westerners in their quest to get back to Croke Park. Getting the most out of their week off will be crucial.