Monday 26 February 2018

Marie Crowe: The dream All-Ireland final has arrived

Michelle McGinty from Achill and her boyfriend Tommy Walsh from Bonniconlon, taken in Whangarei Falls, New Zealand.
Michelle McGinty from Achill and her boyfriend Tommy Walsh from Bonniconlon, taken in Whangarei Falls, New Zealand.
Claire Mc Namara supporting the DUBS from Everest Base Camp
Alan Stynes sent us this picture of Calum and Libby
Deirdre Prendergast sent us this picture from New York of Declan age 6, Pearse age 8, Maeve age 4, and Eamonn, age 9
Jenny & Derek Graham from Ballina, County Mayo in the Gaza Strip, Palestine
Even the birds in far north Queensland are sporting the red and green with Conor Puri, Cairns, Far north Queensland, Australia.
All-Ireland Champion piper Eamonn Walsh from Ballina playing "Moonlight in Mayo"
Tatiana Serrano sent in this Mayo supporter photo before Sunday's clash.
Jim Healy sent this photo in - they 'Mayo-bombed' a Dublin supporter's office desk.
His Father is a staunch Dub fan and his Grandfather is a dyed in the wool Mayo Man... so Jonnie Doyle (4 months) has chosen to go with the Dubs!
The Black sands of New Zealands west coast is supporting Mayo (Picture: Arvind Puri)
It might be a week away yet but Clare man Dermot Tubridy from Cooraclare has to get a mention for his efforts!
Derek Wheeler and daughter Samantha are cheering for the Dubs in Tenerife.
Padraic Walsh has the Mayo jerseys hanging out at Niagara Falls, NY. The jerseys originated in Kiltimagh, Co. Mayo.
Aoife and Conor Puri, at Cornet Peak, Queenstown, New Zealand. Mum Orlagh is from Crossmolina, home of the legendary Mick Loftus.
Brenda Nash is supporting her teams on their New York office front.
Picture on landing at Ireland West Airport Knock this morning were Pilot Billy McCarty and First Officer Raymond O’Donnell. The pilots were showing their support for Mayo after piloting a Ryanair flight from Milan to Ireland West Airport Knock
The Kelly twins, Michael and Jackson from Glasnevin, divided over who will win on Sunday.
Who needs the Naked Cowboy when you have Mamadu, Mayo's biggest supporter in Times Square! Dressed by Ballyhaunis native, Helen Moran
Aoibhìnn Fahy supporting the Dubs!
Mike Kelly showing his true colours on the beach in Sagres, Portugal
"Up the Dubs!" from Laura, Dav and Mr Sna in Cambodia.
Claire Walsh from Straide, Mayo and Karen Healy from Killala, Mayo, sending their support all the way from Busan, South Korea
Tara Forde flying the flag for Mayo at Mount Everest base camp.
Co Down man Sean flying the Mayo flag in Thailand on the bridge over the river Kwai.
The Mayo Haka: Claire (3) & Tom (7) Nestor, children of former Mayo player, David Nestor, now living in Switzerland.
Jack from New Jersey / Ballyhaunis getting the Germans behind Mayo!
Aoibheann O'Beirne, aged 9 months, is a true Mayo supporter
"Where the streets are called Mayo" - The Farrell family (Gerry, Lorcan, Darragh, & Aoife) on Mayo St. in Raleigh, North Carolina after watching the semifinal. The boys are lucky enough to be heading to Croke Park for the final.
Killian Duffy from Crossmolina, Co Mayo flying the flag for the boys in red and green at the finish line after winning WRC rally Australia on Sunday 15th of September.
Up Mayo from Sydney! Anita Cafferkey, Aisling Carey and Lisa Geoghegan flying the flag at Sydney Opera House Australia
Baby Anthony Walsh AKA Willie Joe Padden from Brussels, Belgium
Mayo for Sam taken at the Salt Flats in Bolivia. Pictured: Sinead Browne, Dearbhla Brogan and Eveann Kennedy. All from Ballina, Co. Mayo
Ben Thornton (14) is flying the flag for the Dubs!
3-year-old Alfie White from Clonliffe Road in Dublin is one of the luckiest boys in the country - he lives on the doorstep of Croker
Jacinta Mc Hugh, Miriam Conway and Marie Heneghan at the Full Moon party in Koh Phangan Thailand
Stephen Togher from Mayo set this picture up on a construction site in Hong Kong.
'Dublin on top of the world in Alaska', from Darren Butler, a true blue who brought his jersey on a cruise
Marie Heneghan's dog Belle waiting for Sam.
The family that goes to Croker together...The Cassidys are True Blue supporters.
Kiltimagh businesses supporting Mayo team 2013. Woohoo!
Arch bar in Killala supporting Mayo – photos/signwriting by Merrick’s Ballina
Shouting for Mayo, Nathan O'Neill - living in Chingford, London but travelling to Swinford in Mayo to watch the match with his parents Martin and Noelle
Jeanette Walsh's 5 week old niece Lucy Duffy in her signed mayo jersey & her grandfather Michael Walsh from Claremorris.
David Cunningham and Mark Kelly from Glasnevin, Dublin shouting for Boys in Blue
Martin sent us this picture of his dog supporting Mayo
Jim Higgins Mayo MEP (L) and Gay Mitchell Dublin MEP (R) have their bets on for Sunday's clash.
Eimear Cantwell, Jennifer Cox, Fiona Mullins....Croke Park.
Laurena Kelly on her horse Jack who's wearing his county colours
Jason O'Neill sent us this from Macchu Picchu in Peru.
Grainne Furlong's puppy Bruce proudly wearing his Dublin colours.
Eimear Cantwell, Jennifer Cox and Fiona Mullins.
Debbie with her sister, nephew & niece
Carmel English sent us this picture of her family
Breege McGinty in Croke Park.
Aidan Beirne takes to the sky to wish Mayo well.

THE dream final between Mayo and Dublin has arrived; two teams who play exciting and exhilarating football are contesting the biggest game of the year.

And although a lot of the talk in the lead up to the game has been focused on tickets or rather lack of tickets, the excitement has still been building steadily.

Just over a week ago I spent some time in Mayo as a tourist,within a couple of days I made my way around most of the county and unintentionally encountered a lot Mayo fans.

In most of the towns and villages I visited there was serious preparation for the final going on. The team’s loyal bands of followers were busy putting up bunting and flags, painting calves and penning songs about Sam. They were savouring the run up to the big game, their second in two years and sixth in 24 years.  And although this time round the Mayo fans were trying to keep the hype to a minimum they couldn’t help themselves.

Before I visited Mayo I was pretty sure they wouldn’t be claiming the Sam Maguire this year but the lack of fear the people showed for the mighty Dubs gave me a different outlook on the game.

They weren’t worried about the attacking threat the 2011 All-Ireland champions possessed because their six backs are the best in the country. They couldn’t care less about Michael Darragh Macauley breaking the line all day long because the O’Shea brothers are well capable of taking care of him and as for the Dublin backs, well their forwards are going to exploit their weak spots.

And while I don’t think it will be as simple as that for Mayo I do believe they are capable of beating Dublin. All season long they have dismantled teams including Galway, Donegal and Tyrone and while a stumble, a fall and even an implosion had been expected they have impressively powered through without faltering.

Ok their star forward Cillian O’Connor is a doubt and that’s a worry but this Mayo team don’t rely on just one forward, that’s a thing of the past. Instead they share the scoring burden and even their backs frequently get on the board. This season Mayo have racked up 14-81, an impressive tally especially when compared to Dublin’s 11-87.

Dublin’s Ger Brennan has been touted as the weak link in the backs and that is not entirely accurate. He’s an All-Ireland medal winner with huge experience and his role as a general is often under valued. Albeit he had an off day against Kerry but so did several other Dublin players. He’s the organiser of the Dublin defence, the dictator and in ways the gel that holds them together. Without him there calling the shots the gaping holes often seen would be a lot bigger.

Although Mayo haven’t concerned themselves with other teams, instead opting to play their own game and focus on themselves, they will still have learned a lot about how to deal with the Dublin attack from watching other teams play against them.

They need to limit the impact of Diarmuid Connolly; if he gets a strong hold on the game he could blitz a team for seven or eight points as he can score off both feet. Bernard Brogan is showing flashes of form but he seems to be under pressure and All-Star winner Ger Cafferkey could be the man to do a job on him.

While Paddy Andrews is a super player his groin injury has hampered his chances of getting a good run at the championship and it remains to be seen how fit he is. Both Ciaran Kilkenny and Paul Mannion have been called ashore in Dublin’s last two games so undoubtedly they will be out to impress on the big day.

Mayo will also be aware of what Stephen Cluxton can do from frees and 45s, his accuracy has kept Dublin in the game on more than one occasion so discipline will be paramount particularly inside their own half.

Michael Darragh Macauley and Aidan O’Shea are they two key men in the middle but it is unlikely they will mark each other. Cian O’Sullivan will probably go on O’Shea while his brother Seamus O’Shea will pick up Macauley.

Aidan has been exceptional all year, with every game he’s getting more effective. Although he hasn’t been scoring, he’s a dominant force on the field from winning kick-outs, to tackles, work rate and his link play, he’s everywhere.

So far this season the Mayo bench hasn’t featured as much as the Dublin one. And while Dublin’s subs are seen as match winners Mayo’s have become forgotten men. However on closer inspection there is plenty of firepower waiting in the wings with Mickey Conroy and Enda Varley who both started last year’s All-Ireland final.

Mayo manager James Horan has left nothing to chance in terms of preparation, his team are focused and driven. There will be no need to call on hunger in Croke Park when the ball is thrown in because they are good enough to make it happen.

Sunday Independent

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