Monday 25 September 2017

Colm Keys: Numbers give Dubs the edge

Blues' superior bench and 'Brogan factor' just tip scales against Horan's men

Bernard Brogan
Bernard Brogan

Dublin and Mayo have been the leading contenders from the very start of the season and have maintained steady levels of form throughout, with only limited requirement to change personnel or style of play.

Collectively, very little appears to separate them, while individually there are only marginal differences too.

The general consensus is that over the first nine positions Mayo have a distinct edge but from then on, including the bench, Dublin have greater firepower. In Dean Rock, Denis Bastick and Kevin McManamon they have three players who have been consigned to impact roles but have yielded impressive results.

Mayo have got an impressive 2-17 from their defenders pushing deep, particularly their half-back line.

They lost both regular goalkeepers, David Clarke and Kenneth O'Malley, to injury earlier in the season but Rob Hennelly has stepped seamlessly into the position, having earned a recall from James Horan.

Dublin's highest performing line has arguably been half-forward, where all three – Paul Flynn, Ciaran Kilkenny and Diarmuid Connolly – have merited a man of the match award at various stages of the campaign.

Bernard Brogan retains a high rating despite an indifferent season because of his match-winning potential.

We rate the teams player by player and draw the conclusion that Dublin's advantage is quite minimal.

Colm Keys

Dublin

No.1 STEPHEN CLUXTON - 9

The supreme goalkeeper who provides Dublin with a very solid platform and such reliability from long-range frees. Despite conceding three goals and enduring pressure on his kickouts the last day, Cluxton's confidence won't have been dented.

No.2 PHILLY MCMAHON - 7

A first championship start of the season for McMahon after helping to steady the ship when he replaced Kevin O'Brien the last day. McMahon is strong and aggressive and can pick off scores from distance when he pushes up. Does concede frees, however.

No.3 RORY O’CARROLL - 7

Experienced difficulty against Meath early on and struggled with Ciaran Sheehan's aerial ability against Cork, but O'Carroll plays full-back from the front better than anyone else and has good scrambling powers when he's beaten.

No.4 JOHNNY COOPER - 7

Jim Gavin's All-Ireland winning U-21 captain in 2010 didn't find favour with the previous regime. Caught out badly against Kildare but recovered. Loves to counter attack, does it well and his selection underlines Gavin's stated philosophy most of all.

No.5 JAMES McCARTHY - 8

McCarthy's overall awareness of what's on around him has improved immeasurably this season. He's stronger in the tackle too, as Meath's Graham Reilly found out in the Leinster final. Brilliant ball carrier.

No.6 GER BRENNAN - 7

Brennan comes into this match much maligned after being replaced at half-time the last day. The way Dublin set up he is always vulnerable because of a dearth of pace. But he has probably the best delivery out of defence that Dublin have.

No.7 JACK McCAFFREY - 8

Quite a first season for McCaffrey whose penetrating runs have opponents on round-the-clock watch throughout matches. Lost his man too often the last day, however, and that is something Mayo will have picked up on.

No.8 MICHAEL DARRAGH - 9

Dublin's dynamic and energetic presence at midfield. His instinct is to drive forward and force gaps and chaos every time he gets possession. Not the most refined footballer but uses his acceleration to great effect.

No.9 CIAN O’SULLIVAN - 8

Enjoying his best season with Dublin in a position that few thought him cut out for. Does the simple things well. His pace allows him to track back and push forward routinely. But would he serve the team better at centre-back?

No.10 PAUL FLYNN - 8

Thrived in Dublin's Leinster campaign but has been less prominent over the last two games. Could possibly be Dublin's hardest-working player and a prolific break-ball winner. His kicking sometimes lets him down.

No.11 CIARAN KILKENNY - 8

Enjoyed two near flawless displays at centre-forward against Kildare and Meath but since opponents have pushed out on him since he hasn't been as prominent. Industrious and honest, could benefit from a spell in the full-forward line.

No.12 DIARMUID CONNOLLY - 8

His indiscipline tendencies appear to have been curbed and Connolly's leadership was most evident in the second half against Kerry. Still not converting enough goal chances for a player of his quality but there aren't many better two-footed kickers around.

No.13 PAUL MANNION - 7

One of the most elegant young footballers around, the sky is the limit for the talented Mannion who has picked off crucial goals. Dublin have put a lot of ball through his corner this season, but he lacks the physical strength to push by his man consistently.

No.14 PADDY ANDREWS - 7

Has started to maximise his talents this season with the faith shown in him as a full-forward. Injury derailed him in mid season. Played a deeper playmaking role against Kerry and made some impressive foot-passes.

No.15 BERNARD BROGAN - 9

Has simmered under the surface all summer as the point of attacks were switched elsewhere, but Brogan still remains the biggest threat to Mayo. A far greater grafter than he is given credit for, he can go it alone once too often.

THE BENCH - 9

The best in the business. They have contributed 3-15 already this year and entered the fray like a cavalry in routine fashion now. Denis Bastick, Dean Rock, Kevin McManamon, Bryan Cullen and Eoghan O'Gara represent some back-up.

Dublin total: 126

Mayo

No.1 ROBERT HENNELLY  - 7

His seamless re-engagement with the Mayo team earlier this year after injuries to David Clarke and Kenneth O'Malley reflects his quality. May lack Clarke's great shot-stopping qualities but his kick-outs and frees have probably improved Mayo.

No.2 TOM CUNNIFFE - 8

Those who recall the last minute of the 2006 All-Ireland U-21 final and the tackle he made then to turn the game won't be surprised by his collision with Peter Harte in the Tyrone game. Another plus point from last year, he mixes tenacity with great acceleration from defence.

No.3 GER CAFFERKEY - 8

A tight marking, intelligent full-back who got to grips with Bernard Brogan in the league semi-final and is likely to pick him up again. Never tries to complicate his game.

No.4 CHRIS BARRETT - 7

Another who has made sustained improvement over the last 12 months. Barrett's intervention with two points before half-time in the semi-final underlined a depth of quality that has been evident since his U-21 days and is really only flourishing now.

No.5 LEE KEEGAN - 8

Has scored in every championship game so far and has looked the consummate footballer in the three seasons he has been involved with Mayo. Superb foot-passer who got Mayo back into last year's All-Ireland final.

No.6 DONAL VAUGHAN - 8

Vaughan's long striding surges deep into enemy territory remain one of Mayo's most important pieces of artillery. His two goals this season were walked in but his timing for both was everything. Another who has developed a hard edge to his game over the last two seasons.

No.7 COLM BOYLE - 8

For his size, he delivers Brian O'Driscoll-style commitment and force to the tackle. Boyle is one of Mayo's most aggressive players but has showed great dexterity with his passing and shooting.

No.8 AIDAN O’SHEA - 9

Produced his career-best display against Donegal. O'Shea has the capacity to dominate any midfield with his power and greatly enhanced engine. Mayo have used him wisely in a more defensive role to allow defenders to push up, but can get forward to great effect himself.

No.9 SEAMUS O’SHEA - 7

One of the key engineers in turning the Tyrone game around, O'Shea's general handling, fitness and positional sense have improved immeasurably this season. Delivering the ball much more quickly has helped him.

No.10 KEVIN McLOUGHLIN - 7

McLoughlin showed in the early stages of the Galway game in May his effectiveness in claiming breaking ball off kickouts. Invariably shows great composure in possession where he can step back and put the ball in all the right spots.

No.11 KEVIN HIGGINS - 8

If he was named and played at corner-back, a higher rating would accrue but, as a half-forward, Mayo are playing to a weakness, not a strength. No one breaks from defence better in the game. Has he been reconfigured with Dublin's half-back line in mind?

No.12 ALAN DILLON - 8

Plays the game at a fast tempo and is arguably Mayo's most creative player but a pelvic injury has restricted him so far this season. One of the most economical users of possession in the game, Mayo may elect to play him in a more central role and give him freedom to roam.

No.13 CILLIAN O’CONNOR - 8

Comes into this match under a cloud after dislocating his shoulder for a third time. Ordinarily he brings nerve and accuracy to his free-taking, as he proved in last year's meeting, aggression in the tackle and a great goal-scoring touch.

No.14 ALAN FREEMAN - 8

Has had a couple of very big games this summer, especially the semi-final when he stepped up admirably. Decent fielder and fine striker of the ball. When he's good he can be very good.

No.15 ANDY MORAN - 7

The captain has struggled all season to rediscover his pre-cruciate form, and very little went right for him the last day. But the four-week break will benefit Moran, who brings such great heart to every aspect of his play. Punches holes in defence as well as anyone when he's on form.

THE BENCH - 8

Cathal Carolan is their most explosive presence off the bench while Mickey Conroy and Enda Varley, their two corner-forwards in last year's All-Ireland final, will run at Dublin when they get their opportunity. Barry Moran can make an impact to counter Denis Bastick's introduction.

Mayo total: 124

Irish Independent

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