Paul Curran - Mayo can go toe-to-toe with Dublin... but can they do it for 70 minutes?
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It is the final that most neutrals wanted. There is a strange silence coming from both camps at the moment but by the time we get to throw-in next Sunday, the noise will be deafening.
Both teams know each other very well, having faced off in a lot of big games over the last five years. But Dublin have always been able to get the better of Mayo by the odd point or two.
Last year, Mayo had Dublin where they wanted them in both the drawn game and the replay. Ultimately, they couldn’t close the deal. Dublin didn’t show up last year but their strength of mind and quality coming off the bench proved crucial in the end.
But despite all the near misses over the years, Mayo keep dusting themselves down and coming back with more determination and confidence.
The big question is whether or not they are better this time. If you look at their season in its entirety, you would have to say that there is little or no improvement. Yet they find themselves in the final again, having only produced a couple of decent performances.
In the provincial championship they lost to an average Galway team. They didn’t impress in the early rounds of the qualifiers and probably should have lost to Derry and Roscommon in the All-Ireland series.
Their league form wasn’t much better but to be fair to them, they have become a very good ‘Croke Park’ team and once they got their heads around the second game against Roscommon they looked like a different outfit.
I think people made far too much out of the result against Kerry but it was significant because of the recent championship results between the teams. Kerry are coming but they are a long way off, so the Mayo players will know that they will have to be a lot better next Sunday if they are to dethrone the champs.
Dublin too have been less than impressive this season, especially in the early rounds of the league and that poor form was carried into the provincial championship. Like Mayo, they looked to be back to themselves in the quarter-final and semi-final against northern opposition.
According to some, the training has been tailored this year so they can be at their most explosive from August onwards. If that’s the case it would explain the sluggishness in the early part of the season. Maybe Stephen Rochford took a similar risk.
Whatever the case we are in for a game that will be very physical. It is hard to see Mayo doing anything other than getting into the Dublin faces and asking serious questions.
This game could be as close to a traditional game of football as we have seen for many years. I expect the Mayo team to push up on their men and go toe-to-toe for as long as they can. This is the only way you can compete with the Dubs but the problem is doing it for over 70 minutes.
Dublin have the most talented group of players in the country. A lot of them are on the bench and are primed to make a massive contribution, something that has become systematic under Jim Gavin.
Can Stephen Rochford and his management team plan for every change that Jim makes next Sunday? The answer is probably no but perhaps the best way to counter the Dublin subs is to make the changes at the same time and use fresh legs against fresh legs.
It must be very disheartening for defenders who have worked extremely hard to see the likes of Eoghan O’Gara, Kevin McManamon, and Bernard Brogan heading in your direction with something to prove.
Dublin have won their All-Irelands because they have had the better bench and the replacements have always been managed perfectly.
Jim Gavin’s message after giving Tyrone a walloping in the semi-final was that his players will need to turn up this year because he felt that they did not perform in last year’s decider.
I fully expect them to show up on Sunday with a fully committed performance. When you look at both teams, the Dubs have more scoring forwards, a better midfield and a lot more class to come off the bench.
So it’s Dublin for me and if they give the performance demanded of them, it will be another tough day for Mayo.
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