Sunday 18 February 2018

From weather to potential changes – the main replay talking points

Ciaran Kilkenny Picture: Sportsfile
Ciaran Kilkenny Picture: Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Ahead of Saturday's eagerly-awaited replay Colm Keys examines the 10 issues that will decide the outcome.

1. Scope for change

With Alan Dillon carrying a knock Mayo's scope for change is quite limited and the odds on them starting the same 15 players is strong.

In that respect Dublin appear to have more cards to play. Paddy Andrews and Paul Mannion both looked sharp on their introduction, while Eoghan O'Gara could offer a physical presence in the one line where Mayo may not be best equipped to deal with it. That said, Keith Higgins was whipped out of attack in the 2013 All-Ireland final to curb a destructive O'Gara.

Switching Paul Flynn to midfield at Michael Darragh Macauley's expense is something Dublin may also be considering.

2 Mayo goal dearth when it matters most

Mayo haven't scored goals against any of the three provincial champions they have played this year, Galway, Tyrone and Dublin. Granted, they scored two against Tipperary who had taken out Galway, but even in those games where they have draw blanks creation of chances has been low. Take it a step further and Mayo have now registered more scores, 15 (1-14) and 15 to Dublin 14 (2-12) and 11 (2-9) in their last two All-Ireland finals, while they were level, 13 each (2-11 to 0-13), when beaten by Donegal in 2012.

3 Diarmuid Connolly v Lee Keegan

A duel that's knocking the Clinton-Trump head-to-head to the sidelines this week in terms of opinions generated. Who starts it? Who benefits? Who takes it to the next level? What can Dublin do to get more from their most talented forward? Keegan has outscored Connolly by 0-4 to 0-3 in their last four head-to-heads, Connolly has scored just two points in four All-Ireland final appearances now. He needs to find a way.

4 How do Mayo track Brian Fenton?

Twice Brian Fenton ghosted in behind the cover in the first half to create two gilt-edged goal chances that he didn't convert. He went on to be one of the game's big influencers. Maybe detailing the same player to track him won't curb that influence but at different stages in different parts of the field he was being picked up by Donie Vaughan, Tom Parsons and even Seamus O'Shea. More certainty required from Mayo here.

5 Replay history

Some teams just have replays down to a fine art: the Armagh team under Joe Kernan and various Meath teams under Sean Boylan invariably nabbed a second chance when it came their way. Mayo have exited the championship after replays in the last two years. Last year Dublin got the better of them and when asked about whether that would be a help, Dublin manager Jim Gavin acknowledged it was something that had crossed his mind.

6 Dublin vulnerable to runners

Cillian O'Connor's magnificent equalising point apart, it shouldn't be lost on Mayo how many other points they got from running directly down Dublin's middle channel. Jason Doherty, Donie Vaughan (twice) and Patrick Durcan all profited from this avenue, while Andy Moran's goal chance came off a Doherty incision. Cian O'Sullivan was last man rounded for three of the points, not something you might associate with the game's most stable defender.

7 The question of Jack McCaffrey

When James McCarthy was black-carded in the drawn game, Dublin had to resort to dropping Ciarán Kilkenny back deeper to cover for the second time in three games. Kilkenny is versatile and has been taking up deeper positions anyway this year but it opens discussion about the depth of the squad in certain positions. McCaffrey is back in the country almost six weeks at this stage and, not surprisingly, there has been no invitation back. Maybe parachuting him back in would be unfair on the other reserve defenders but deploying Kilkenny in McCarthy's place is hardly a ringing endorsement either.

8 Maurice Deegan's appointment

Conor Lane may have got some of his cards wrong the last day but he contributed to letting the game flow as much as possible in difficult conditions. Maurice Deegan will do similar. If they want to play football, he'll let them play it.

9 Floodlight final

The last two All-Ireland finals have required the lights on to conclude but there'll be a real autumnal feel to the replay with a 5pm throw in on the first day of October. That's an atmosphere that Dublin are wholly familiar with since the establishment of the 'spring series in 2011. Since then they've played 22 'home' matches in Croke Park (excluding semi-finals and finals). All bar three have been on Saturday evenings under lights and from that 19 they have lost just twice to Kerry (2012) and Tyrone (2013). A very slight advantage then to Dublin.

10 Weather forecast

Has there ever been as much interest in a weather forecast ahead of an All-Ireland final? Dublin's combined total of 21 points in two back-to-back finals has raised the question surrounding their difficulty in adapting their attacking game to wet conditions where control of the feet overrides control of the ball too often. But shouldn't that apply to Mayo too? Incidentally, the forecast is for dry weather.

Irish Independent

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