Wednesday 26 October 2016

Eoin Liston: Script is written for Mayo to finally reach promised land

Published 15/09/2016 | 02:30

Aidan O’Shea Picture: Sportsfile
Aidan O’Shea Picture: Sportsfile

A lot of people seem to have blinkers on and can't see that this Mayo team have beaten Dublin before, and could've beaten them 12 months ago, so they certainly have a chance on Sunday if they can learn lessons from the past month.

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They have been to six straight semi-finals so the form is there. People will say the form isn't up to scratch this year but they were never losing in the Qualifiers or to Tipp in the semi-finals. They didn't overexert themselves.

That adrenaline to prove yourself when the back is to the wall hasn't been needed yet but it will be required in abundance at the weekend. They have a point to prove; they took a courageous stand and know they'll never get a chance like this again.

I understand why they're such big outsiders but the gap between the sides is not as big as some would have you believe. The difference could be whether Mayo have seen the error of their ways, and Kerry's, and whether action was taken to find a remedy.


Taking into account their quarter-final victory over Tyrone and the blueprint which Kerry provided to take down the Dubs, there's no doubt they have the firepower to end the All-Ireland famine stretching back to 1951.

Firstly, while Kerry put up a valiant effort, they were the masters of their own downfall by giving away free after free. Having a player of the calibre of Dean Rock, the Dubs won't turn their noses up at easy opportunities, they punish you.

Mayo must keep frees to a minimum and avoid fouls from 55 yards in. You can't afford to give away six or seven scoreable frees; it's non-negotiable, everything must be earned.

Mayo are excellent tacklers, and have spent endless hours working with Donie Buckley, but some referees interpret too much aggression and they'll have to tune in very quickly to see what Conor Lane is tolerating.

Secondly, possession is nine-tenths of the law and Mayo must use it well and avoid cheap turnovers. They must show patience and wait until they find the right man in the right position to execute the score. That's exactly what the Dubs do, they always play the percentages.

One of the things that has made Mayo so dangerous is their half-backs and midfielders bombing forward; running at opposition defences is their greatest strength. They must try to pierce holes through Dublin.

We saw them plough through Donegal in their prime three years ago, scoring four goals, and the likes of Lee Keegan, Colm Boyle and Kevin McLoughlin will play a huge role with their pace and energy.

The idea of having a sweeper is that your half-backs can go in and contest the breaks from midfield, and McLoughlin's presence allows Keegan to make Diarmuid Connolly follow him, likewise for Boyle and Ciarán Kilkenny. Then, when they have possession they must back themselves.

If they're still in the game with 15 minutes to go they must then realise that Kerry's semi-final approach of sitting back and expecting to soak up pressure might work against most teams, but not against the Dubs.

Rather than inviting Dublin onto them they need to find an extra gear and play Dublin at their own game. Against Tyrone they tried to defend their lead and it nearly ended in disaster so I think the gung-ho tactic is the only way to kill off the Dubs.

Lastly, the match-ups are crucial. I expect them to replicate Kerry's man-for-man tactic and if Stephen Rochford gets his personnel right, it'll go a long way towards winning this final as I fully believe Mayo have the resources to nullify the Dubs.

At the back they'll follow the forward everywhere he goes, and even if some of those duels are backfiring, McLoughlin is there.

They certainly won't fear Dublin, they've beaten them more than most in big games and I'm giving them a right chance.

But of course, I can totally understand why this great Dublin team are warm favourites.


They're an exceptional squad led by the brilliant Jim Gavin but they haven't achieved two-in-a-row yet and after taking everything Kerry could throw at them, it'll be tough to replicate that and a similar performance is going to be needed to win.

All the pressure is on Dublin while Mayo have kept a low profile. Everything is coming to the boil at the right time.

The supporters are afraid to believe, they've been hurt so many times that they're educated in keeping down the hype and the ultimate redemption for Mayo could be just around the corner.

Their motivation levels will be through the roof after all the off-field controversy. They have every bit of ammunition needed to spur them on and the script is already written for them. They just need the biggest 70 minutes of their lives to turn it into reality.

Irish Independent

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