Eoin Liston: Dublin's extra dangermen to trump Mayo's hunger
Published 27/08/2015 | 02:30
At the moment, if Dublin and Mayo played ten times I'd expect the Dubs to win six of them. These are both very good teams and it's extremely close between them, but Dublin are just ahead.
The difference is the Dubs have six scoring forwards while Mayo only have three - Cillian O'Connor, Aidan O'Shea and Kevin McLoughlin - who have consistently delivered at the top.
If you hold two or even three Dublin forwards, there are three more still doing damage and they have another three to come off the bench to make a difference.
If you hold even one of Mayo's dangermen up front, they are down to two scoring forwards and it's very hard to win big games with that.
I also feel that Dublin have improved defensively over the past 12 months.
Jim Gavin was badly caught out in last year's All-Ireland semi-final. His attitude was 'we're going to score more than you', but they weren't able to do that against Donegal.
Since then, they have worked on a defensive system that has paid dividends.
I've said plenty of times before; Stephen Cluxton has the best kick-outs in the game and this is a huge plus in Dublin's favour.
In that Donegal game last year, Jim McGuinness - one of the shrewdest managers we've seen in Gaelic games - tried everything he could to disrupt those kick-outs and his side still only won three out of 22, which really is a remarkable statistic.
Dublin clearly do a lot of work on this and a lot of credit has to go to the management.
With his outfield players constantly alert and making runs, Cluxton always has options.
He can chip it short to the corner-backs or to Cian O'Sullivan making the run from centre-back, any of the three half-forwards can be jogging towards the opposition goal as if they're not interested then turn and burst into the space they know is there. It's a potent weapon.
Mayo have long impressed me with the energy, hunger and intensity that they bring to every Championship game and the ruthlessness they have displayed this summer shows just how much they want to finally win an All-Ireland title for their county.
So how can they come out on top in this game?
They are strongest where Dublin are strongest. Mayo's half-back line, particularly Lee Keegan and Colm Boyle, will have a great battle with Paul Flynn, Ciaran Kilkenny and Diarmuid Connolly.
They have added mobility in their midfield thanks to Tom Parsons this year and with Michael Darragh Macauley not playing every game, there is an unsettled look about the Dubs in the centre of the park.
Aidan O'Shea at full-forward has added an whole new dimension to the Mayo attack.
I expect them to vary their play: they'll run at Dublin from deep with their slick hand-passing and other times they'll play low ball in for O'Shea to run on to and pop along to an attacker bursting towards the goal.
They'll hit high balls into O'Shea, who will be marked by Rory O'Carroll - who has struggled against good high fielders like Kieran Donaghy in the past - and they'll try to work one-on-ones and two-on-two situations.
Mayo's main weakness is the full-back line, and it has been since they started out on this run that has brought them five Connacht titles in-a-row.
Against Donegal in the quarter-final they used Barry Moran as a sweeper for the first time and it worked really well to blot out the threat of Michael Murphy at full-forward.
Moran's reward for that fine display may well be a place on the bench because I don't think he's tailor-made for sweeping against Dublin, who don't have a similar big target man, so I wouldn't be surprised to see Boyle play spare man.
Dublin's sweeper will be O'Sullivan and Mayo have to make sure that he is kept honest. My preference would be to see Kevin McLoughlin push up on him and then try to take him around the field, taking him away from his primary role.
Make no mistake, this is a game that Mayo are good enough to win. But I think too much will have to go right for them on the day and that is why I am tipping Dublin.