Saturday 25 November 2017

Our Mayo/Kerry Dream Team

Declan Whooley

Declan Whooley

The first of the All-Ireland football semi-finals takes place this weekend with Kerry and Mayo clashing in Croke Park. Here is our Dream Team selection from the respective squads.


Rob Hennelly (Mayo)

Brian Kelly has impressed this year, but Rob Hennelly is the man in possession of the number one jersey. Was fortunate to get his chance last year with injuries to those ahead of him in the pecking order, has not looked back since. One of the best in the business and he produced a brilliant save from Ian Maguire against Cork when the game was back in the melting pot.

Full Backs

Marc Ó Sé (Kerry)

Chris Barrett can consider himself highly unfortunate not to make the fifteen after a stellar season, but the youngest Ó Sé sibling is arguably the finest full-back of his generation. Likely to be given the task of picking up Mayo's dangerman Cillian O'Connor.

Ger Cafferky (Mayo)

Not at his brilliant best against Cork where the two-man full-forward line of Colm O'Neill and Brian Hurley caused problems, but still a rock in the Mayo defence. A brilliant reader of the game and a formidable physical presence on the edge of the square.

Keith Higgins (Mayo)

A stand-out performer no matter what number is on his back, the only dilemma for James Horan and his management team is where to place the Ballyhaunis man for the maximum benefit of the team.

Keith Higgins: Dampening Mayo hype

Half Backs

Lee Keegan (Mayo)

His attacking prowess is well-noted at this stage, but showed his primary duty against the Rebels in the quarter-final. Was given a man-marking task on Paul Kerrigan and kept the Nemo Rangers man relatively quiet for the contest. Will cover every blade of grass again this weekend.

The Renard man is an often unheralded member of the Kerry team. The holder of three All-Irelands and no All Stars, his value is never over-looked by his team mates. Not as attack-minded as his Mayo counterparts in the half-back line, he is as defensively solid as any centre back remaining in the championship.

Kerry's Killian Young in action against Clare duo Shane Brennan and Enda Coughlan during their Munster SFC semi-final. Photo: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

Colm Boyle (Mayo)

Another eye-catching Mayo defender, Boyle works tirelessly up and down the pitch. More often the custodian of the number six jersey, he is equally comfortable as a marauding wing-back.


Seamus O'Shea (Mayo)

The Breaffy man was outstanding again against Cork and his ability to break up opposition attacks and quickly get Mayo on the front foot has seen the towering midfielder emerge from the shadows of his more profile sibling. One of the most consistent midfielders over the past two seasons.

Bryan Sheehan (Kerry)

The deadly accurate free-taker limped off early against Galway in the quarter-final, but the classy St. Mary's playmaker showed his pedigree during the demolition of Cork. Often rotated between midfield and the half-forward line, he knocked over three placed balls as well as linking up play throughout with astute use of possession and precision passing.

One free in Pairc Ui Chaoimh stood out, sweetly striking the ball from on the sideline near the 21m line.

Bryan Sheehan, Kerry

Half Forwards

Kevin McLoughlin (Mayo)

The secondary school teacher and Irish Rules player is a vital component to James Horan's game plan. His work ethic and stamina complement his reading of the game, rarely wasting possession and a link man between defence and attack.

Plays a similar role to the one created by Brian Dooher during his Tyrone career and his style of play will be vital against either Donegal or Dublin should Mayo reach a third successive All-Ireland Final.

Aidan O'Shea (Mayo)

The all-action player has moved further up-field this season and so far it has worked a treat. Similar to Johnny Buckley for Kerry, O'Shea is almost a third midfielder and his presence on the 40 will curb the attacking threat of the centre-back. A model of composure for Mayo's late goal against Cork that sealed the quarter-final victory.

Aidan O'Shea celebrates scoring Mayo's only goal in their All-Ireland qualifier clash with Cork at Croke Park. Photo: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

Donnchadh Walsh (Kerry)

A player who was often under-appreciated by the general public, but rarely by Kerry managers. To describe Walsh as a workhorse doesn't do service to the intelligence of the Cromane player.

If you want a job done in Kerry, ask for Donnchadh Walsh

Finally getting the praise he deserves, Walsh goes about his business in an understated manner and he will need to be at his best on Sunday with Mayo's willingness to get forward from the back.

Full Forwards

Cillian O'Connor (Mayo)

It has long been said that Mayo lacked the marquee forward to win an All-Ireland. The two-time Young Footballer of the Year has consigned that argument to the past. The top scorer from the four remaining teams in the hunt for Sam Maguire with 2-23, he is likely to have veteran defender Marc Ó Sé in close attention on Sunday.

Should the men from the west see off Kerry's challenge on Sunday, O'Connor may well be one his way to a first All Star.

'Cillian O'Connor's injury-hampered final showing last year shouldn't mask the fact that he's become one of the most dangerous forwards in the game.'

Declan O'Sullivan (Kerry)

With Colm Cooper out injured, perhaps the most naturally gifted footballer in the 2014 championship. Eamon Fitzmaurice has eased O'Sullivan back into action after niggling injuries and he revelled in a deeper role in the Munster Final.

Kerry reaping the rewards of their patient approach

Centrally involved in the quarter-final defeat of the Tribesmen without overly concerning the umpires, it will be interesting to see whether Ger Cafferky follows the Dromid Pearse's star if he moves out the field.

James O'Donoghue (Kerry)

Colm who? After an All Star in his debut season, O'Donoghue has moved his game onto another level. Neighbours Cork were ruthlessly put to the sword as he gave an exhibition of forward play with 10 points scored off both feet , while Galway were taken to 1-05 from play.

One of the stars of the 2014 campaign, Horan and company will feel if they can curb the Killarney Legion man's influence on the game they will have one foot in the final.

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