The growing fascination with Donegal has shifted attention from this semi-final to some degree despite the presence of Mayo and Dublin, two good crowd-pullers, neither averse to glitz and razzmatazz.
At this moment in time, both are carrying handicaps. In Dublin's case, it is the worrying lack of elevation in their performances; they've had lift-off but there is uncertainty whether they will be able to clear those approaching hills. For Mayo, the cross is Andy Moran's absence, their All Star forward and main attacking weapon.
Without Moran, Mayo -- already modestly endowed in attack -- look to be shouldering too much of a burden. Alan Dillon can kick a few scores, Kevin McLoughlin is a good runner and link but not a prolific scorer and Michael Conroy is well advertised to a Dublin full-back line where for this game Philly McMahon had already been sacrificed. None of those last three defenders will want to lose their place for an All-Ireland final. Enda Varley is the player promoted in Moran's absence.
Cian O'Sullivan's redeployment nearer goal adds a serious pair of legs to the Dublin full-back line, while Ger Brennan's return to centre-back sees Pat Gilroy revert to a more familiar formation as they hope to find the spark that has eluded them for most of the year. If that is to come, though, it needs to be seen further up the field. Eoghan O'Gara loses his hold on an attacking position with Alan Brogan recalled after injury to a groin sustained in the win over Meath. Brogan's absence is sorely felt because of his value as an architect of Dublin attacking play although there is rising speculation that he may cry off once more and Ciarán Kilkenny start in his place.
Kilkenny is highly thought of but obviously raw and Gilroy has not been in any rush to introduce younger striplings, despite a number of excellent footballers featuring in Dublin's under 21 All-Ireland win.
There is such mystery about Dublin's current condition -- we have no idea what version will materialise today as we wait to see if they will finally reach a pitch worthy of All-Ireland champions and serious contenders. At this remove, Donegal are favourites to see it through and unless Dublin win with a sufficiently persuasive performance that won't change.
Mayo, trained by the well regarded Cian O'Neill, have prepared smartly and are in good physical condition, and areas where they were weak in the past have been addressed. From one to ten they are solid and functioning effectively, but the attack misses the cut and thrust of Moran. Midfield is strong, however, with Aidan O'Shea's return from injury a serious pep to the side. Do they have the ability to rack up enough scores -- that is the main reservation. With Moran on board you would have given them a better crack in light of Dublin's stuttering form.
In the league meeting at Castlebar, Mayo destroyed Dublin on Stephen Cluxton's kickouts, reading his intentions expertly and racing in on goal to register a rousing victory. Even with Moran missing, and Cluxton likely to be less exposed on this occasion, Mayo are capable of pushing Dublin to the limit. They could win but logic points towards the All-Ireland champions making a second consecutive final for the first time in 17 years. It is not just doing it that is important now, however, but also how it is done.
Dublin: S Cluxton; M Fitzsimons, R Carroll, C O'Sullivan; J McCarthy, G Brennan, K Nolan; E Fennell, D Bastick; P Flynn, MD Macauley, B Cullen; A Brogan, D Connolly, B Brogan.
Mayo: D Clarke; K Keane, G Cafferkey, K Higgins; L Keegan, D Vaughan, C Boyle; B Moran, A O'Shea; K McLoughlin, J Doherty, A Dillon; E Varley, C O'Connor, M Conroy.