Friday 24 February 2017

Eoin Liston: Mayo will need the heavens to open to finally kill off Dubs

Eoin Liston

Eoin Liston

An Garda Siochana have issued a bizarre travel warning ahead of Saturday's All-Ireland replay. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
An Garda Siochana have issued a bizarre travel warning ahead of Saturday's All-Ireland replay. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Met Éireann should be expecting plenty of anxious phone calls from Mayo supporters between now and Saturday week begging them to confirm that the heavens will open on the day of the All-Ireland SFC final replay because if it does, there's only one winner and the 65-year famine will be over.

They'll need a wet ball, that's when Dublin have looked most vulnerable, scoring just 0-12 in last year's final against Kerry and 2-9 four days ago, with just six points coming from play and Mayo horribly unlucky to score two own goals.

Mayo adapted superbly in testing conditions and there is definitely a question mark over Dublin's wet-weather skills. It probably rains a lot more in the west than in the capital and they seemed at their ease. If it's a wet day again, I'd go for Mayo.

I wouldn't be at all happy with the Croke Park surface when it's damp, however, and there are too many fellas slipping for my liking. It's one of the worst pitches in the country on a wet day and that's not good enough.

Bonanza

Whatever extra money is generated from the replay bonanza should be allocated to ensuring that GAA headquarters can take a bit of rain - Lord knows we get enough of it - so more research is needed to seek improvements to the sod.

Mayo got an awful lot right without hitting the Dubs with that knockout blow and their fitness, match-ups, tackling and shooting accuracy were all on the money. You'd have to tip your hat to them, they were ferocious.

Suffering two own goals and trailing by five after being the better team for 35 minutes must have hurt but they dragged themselves back into it after the break. Then falling three behind with time almost up and levelling again - that's guts.

I even started to believe that Mayo were cursed when the goals went in but what mental resolve they showed to come back. A few things let them down and, if rectified, they can go all the way. Some of their deliveries into the forward line were just terrible and their decision-making also needs to be better.

They need to mind that ball, they worked so hard to steal it and at times the way which they gave it away was inexcusable. Mistakes are understandable under that pressure but needless errors nearly cost them dearly.

People are wrong to question Aidan O'Shea. Fair enough, things didn't go right for him but don't tell me he didn't leave everything he had out there. He sloped off the field at the end a broken man after a huge effort. They all put their shoulder to the wheel. What Mayo executed well they'll have to do it equally as efficiently the next day and what they did poorly, that'll be the game-changer. They must improve while still maintaining their positive aspects and that's a challenge for Stephen Rochford.

A management can only focus on three to four things for the next nine days and if you focus on new ideas there's a danger that the bread-and-butter stuff will suffer. They can't get sloppy in defence again and make a hero out of Dean Rock like Kerry did.

There's no worries about Mayo having the determination or passion, that's a given, but will they continue to execute the basics? This game will be worlds apart because I felt Dublin believed the hype after beating Kerry in a classic and for a team so mentally strong, they weren't at their best psychologically. Selfishness was evident which I haven't seen in Dublin for a while.

The pressure of All-Ireland final day is something totally unique; everyone wants to play well and these fellas are still human despite what some would lead you to believe. Everyone is telling them, 'You're the man of this team' and it seeps in.

All the talk is of Jim Gavin overhauling a misfiring attack but I only see one change and Paul Flynn is the player coming under most pressure because there'll still be loyalty there with Bernard Brogan.

Fouled

He was involved in four points against Kerry, kicking two and fouled for another two, so he's not totally off the boil or anything. And it'll be interesting to see if Kevin McManamon will be held in reserve again considering the impact he has off the bench in the past.

Dublin converted less than one third of their scoring attempts and that's not going to win you an All-Ireland, They'll have enough possession to win and I don't see them being similarly off-colour even if Mayo maintain that manic pressure. On a dry day you'd have to say Dublin are in the driving seat. A lot of their scores came form Mayo mistakes and from Rochford's point of view, it won't take much to convince the Mayo lads that they have a huge chance.

But I still think Dublin are the better team with better players. Is their confidence a bit rattled? It is. If Mayo start like a whirlwind the next day doubt will hit Dublin psyche but champions rarely spurn a second chance.

Irish Independent

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