Mayo take Cillian O'Connor gamble with unchanged line-up for Dubs showdown
Published 20/09/2013 | 05:00
MAYO manager James Horan looks to have gambled on the fitness of star forward Cillian O'Connor after naming him to start in Sunday's All-Ireland SFC final against Dublin.
The two-in-a-row young footballer of the year dislocated his shoulder after just 11 minutes of the semi-final against Tyrone and will need surgery once the season is over.
But the Ballintubber attacker, who has scored two hat-tricks this summer and is Mayo's top scorer, reportedly played in an internal training match last weekend and has been named to start.
With former All Star Andy Moran still battling to find his best form, O'Connor is regarded as the ace in the Mayo forward pack, even though Alan Freeman did particularly well last time out.
However, naming O'Connor to start may yet prove to be a bluff. Horan could hold him in reserve and bring him on later, particularly as Dublin have such fantastic bench strength, which they tend to unload late in games to press on to victory.
Mayo have named the same 15 that started against Tyrone, with former All Star corner-back Keith Higgins once again selected at centre-forward, but expected to play his usual roving role.
There is speculation, though, that Higgins may be used more as a sweeper this time to try to take the sting out of Dublin's pacy attack. but giving him a holding role would rob Mayo of the full-pitch press and voracious upfield tackling that they have applied so effectively this year.
Dublin manager Jim Gavin faces a serious selection dilemma himself before releasing his team tonight.
Centre-back Ger Brennan and corner-back Kevin O'Brien are both under pressure to hold onto their places after getting hauled off against Kerry, with the Dublin defence leaking three goals inside the opening 20 minutes.
Brennan struggled against Colm Cooper and when Cian O'Sullivan was moved from centrefield to fill the No 6 spot, he plugged the gap impressively. But it looks unlikely that Gavin will break up the strong midfield partnership that he has with Michael Darragh Macauley, especially as they face the country's other in-form midfield pairing this summer, the O'Shea brothers Aidan and Seamus.
MAYO (SF v Dublin) – R Hennelly; T Cunniffe, G Cafferkey, C Barrett; L Keegan, D Vaughan, C Boyle; A O'Shea, S O'Shea; K McLoughlin, K Higgins, A Dillon; C O'Connor, A Freeman, A Moran.