Wednesday 17 January 2018

Paul Curran: Dublin will need to perform at a different level to have a chance against Mayo

Aidan O'Shea, Mayo
Aidan O'Shea, Mayo

Mayo are seemingly unstoppable this year. That's according to most Mayo supporters I have spoken too over the last couple of weeks.

The confidence running through the camp is at an all-time high and for many this is 'their year'.

However, they have yet to be seriously tested despite the fact that they had to overcome the 2012 champions in the last round.

Dublin are in a similar position in terms of having no real test so something has to give and with no second chance at this stage it should make for a cracking game.

Games between these two teams have always been good open footballing affairs with plenty of attacking play and that trend is certain to continue.

The last time they met in the championship was in the final a couple of years ago and on that occasion Dublin just about did enough to get over the line.

The Mayo players who were involved in that game will still feel that they left it behind them having dominated the early stages of the game but a couple of Bernard Brogan goals gave the Dubs a lead that they were able to hang onto until the end.

The big question is which team has improved over those two years and who has the necessary hunger and desire to dig out a result when it matters most.

Dublin have been able to do just that over the last few seasons while Mayo haven't.

Whether or not the Dubs have the hunger in a dogfight is still unknown but that question will certainly be answered this Sunday.

Mayo are an excellent team and have been one of the best in the country over the last five years. They have dominated their province and most of the players have already played in two finals but for some reason they have consistently failed to clear the last hurdle. Nobody really knows why that is because they have had some really terrific teams in the past. There have been none better than the present one and what I like about this team is their honesty and their willingness to graft hard in every game they play.

So is there anything different about Mayo this year? Well for starters Aidan O'Shea has finally brought his 'A game' on a consistent basis and although he is just one player his performances have made a massive difference all year.

Paddy Holloway, Westmeath, in action against Dublin players, left to right, Rory O'Carroll, Cian O'Sullivan, and John Cooper

He is comfortable in his relatively new role at the edge of the square and will be a handful for any full-back. I think Rory O'Carroll will be given the job of marking him but I would prefer to see Denis Bastick doing that job as he brings more aggression and is very good in the air. He has also played that position in the past so it wouldn't exactly be left field.

It will be a difficult assignment whoever picks up O'Shea. Of course, Mayo are by no means a one-man show and have some terrific players right throughout the team. They have a very solid defensive unit who generally operate on a man-to-man basis.

In midfield they have ball winners and hard grafters so when you break them down there are not too many areas that you can exploit. Dublin will need to perform at a different level if they are to have any chance of winning this game.

The talent is there especially in the forward line and if Diarmuid Connolly, Paul Flynn, Bernard Brogan and Ciarán Kilkenny in particular find a big performance they could do serious damage.

Lee Keegan has always done well on Connolly and his all-out attacking mind-set has meant that Diarmuid spends too much time on the back foot. Perhaps a full-forward role for Connolly and someone detailed to track Keegan might give Dublin a more consistent scoring threat.

This game will be full of mini battles right from the throw-in. It will be fascinating to watch it all unfold in front of a packed house and it will come down to which team can hold its nerve when the game ticks into the last quarter.

If Dublin are in front at this stage I would expect them to close the deal so Mayo need to be ahead on the scoreboard with ten minutes to go to advance to another final. This is a tough one to call but Dublin have a big performance in them and if they can find it on Sunday they will be in another final.

Read Paul Curran's exclusive column  every Monday in the Herald

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