Monday 20 November 2017

Mayo may have bolstered their belief but the Dubs remain the team to beat

Eight of the points were from frees by Cillian O’Connor, pictured, and one by defender Lee Keegan, leaving Diarmuid O’Connor as the only forward to score from open play up to then. But then they were playing so deep, it was no great surprise
Eight of the points were from frees by Cillian O’Connor, pictured, and one by defender Lee Keegan, leaving Diarmuid O’Connor as the only forward to score from open play up to then. But then they were playing so deep, it was no great surprise
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Such has been the sideshow attached to this evening's replay that it would be easy to get distracted and lose sight of what it's all about.

For while the winners will experience a massive sense of satisfaction - assuming, of course, that the game doesn't end level too - all it will have achieved is a place in the final.

That's quite a prize but it will count for little in the longer term if the All-Ireland title isn't secured.

After all, who remembers semi-final winners, irrespective of how impressive they might have been.

This is all very much to Kerry's liking. While Dublin and Mayo wage a fiercely intense, energy-sapping war, Eamonn Fitzmaurice has his troops on tactical manoeuvres down south, focussing solely on the push towards the final front.

It's different to last year when Kerry and Mayo took their semi-final into a replay, which included extra-time.

It was demanding but, significantly, Kerry had won the battle by late August, a day before Donegal beat Dublin, leaving both finalists with three weeks to prepare for the final.

This evening's winners will have only two weeks, long enough to re-adjust their thinking but still not as ideal as the situation in which Kerry find themselves.

Still, neither Dublin nor Mayo can control the timing and are instead concentrating on areas where it's possible to exert genuine influence.

It's quite an extensive range too. Mayo realise that a repeat performance, which relied on scoring an unanswered 1-4 in the final 15 minutes last Sunday, will not be good enough, since it's most unlikely that Dublin would suffer a similar collapse if they found themselves seven points ahead again.

Meanwhile, Dublin know that unless they deliver a more even performance, Mayo will exploit the insecurities which are bound to have increased among Jim Gavin's men after fading so badly late on six days ago.

At the very least, it tells Mayo that even if they fall quite some way behind, there's always a chance of recovering.

One of the more surprising elements of Mayo's performance was the failure to provide Aidan O'Shea with practical support up front for a very long time. There's no point having a consistent ball winner if he's not surrounded by able accomplices.

There were several occasions last Sunday when, after winning possession, O'Shea's only option was to try and kick down the Dublin door on his own, since most of his fellow forwards were scampering back from other duties out the field.

Obviously, Mayo felt the need to use them to block various channels further out but it greatly restricted their scoring opportunities, as shown by a return of just 10 points after 58 minutes.

Eight of the points were from frees by Cillian O'Connor and one by defender Lee Keegan, leaving Diarmuid O'Connor as the only forward to score from open play up to then. But then they were playing so deep, it was no great surprise.

Containment is one thing, but this was an All-Ireland semi-final so Mayo needed to be bolder. Mayo's video analysis will reveal that when they ran at Dublin with pace and power, the rewards came.

Obviously, it's not easy to do that all the time against Dublin, who are even better at creating openings when they get their game working smoothly. Nonetheless, Mayo need to be more adventurous.

Their prospects will be greatly enhanced if they play Barry Moran, who did so well against Donegal, yet wasn't introduced until the 66th minute last Sunday. Even then, he made an important contribution.

He is not named in the line-up but most announced selections are utterly unreliable nowadays. That certainly applies to Dublin, who rarely field the listed 15.

There's a view that Mayo hold the psychological edge after recovering so spectacularly in the drawn game but that's no more than a theory which, as often as not, doesn't hold up in replays.

In fact, they often take on a completely different texture to the drawn game. Mayo's odds have shortened considerably since last week but Dublin still have the greater overall scope which is likely to be enough to book that big date with Kerry.

Verdict: Dublin

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport