Sunday 18 February 2018

Same again for Mayo as they bid to stop Dubs' drive for three-in-a-row


Mayo’s Stephen Rochford and Jim Gavin shake hands after last year’s All-Ireland final replay – the two managers will go head-to-head again at Croke Park tomorrow. Photo: Sportsfile
Mayo’s Stephen Rochford and Jim Gavin shake hands after last year’s All-Ireland final replay – the two managers will go head-to-head again at Croke Park tomorrow. Photo: Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Mayo will start tomorrow's All-Ireland final with 13 of the team that lost last year's replay to Dublin.

Manager Stephen Rochford has remained loyal to the 15 who started the semi-final replay against Kerry. Speculation that he might start Paddy Durcan, who replaced Donal Vaughan in that game, has proven to be unfounded.

Chris Barrett for Durcan and David Clarke for Hennelly are the only two personnel changes from the team which started last year's replay against Dublin which they lost by a point.

Irrespective of who wins tomorrow, it will go down as one of most historic successes in Dublin or Mayo history.

A victory for Dublin would secure their first three-in-a-row for 94 years while a Mayo success would end their 66-year wait for a return visit from Sam Maguire.

They have been in 10 finals since then, losing eight and drawing two, with their most recent disappointment coming last year when they were edged out by Dublin in a replay.

Who will win the All Ireland football final?

A general view of the pre-match parade ahead of the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final Replay match between Dublin and Mayo at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Paul Mohan/Sportsfile

Andy Moran (34), who made his championship debut in 2004, is enjoying possibly his best ever season, scoring 3-21 from open play in the championship, with 3-9 coming in Mayo's last four outings against Kerry (twice) and Roscommon (twice).

"You can see how his game has evolved over the last number of games. He's very, very impressive," said Dublin manager Jim Gavin.

Moran was especially effective in both semi-finals against Kerry, scoring 1-5 and 1-1 respectively.

Gavin is likely to delegate Jonny Cooper, a noted man-marker, to track Moran, who is Mayo's top scorer from open play in this championship.

Mayo have improved substantially over the course of seven games since losing to Galway in the Connacht semi-final, with the biggest step-up coming after the draw with Roscommon in the All-Ireland quarter-final.

Dublin have been even more impressive, having won all five championship games easily. However, it leaves them without a serious test since losing the league final to Kerry in April.

They were particularly impressive in the All-Ireland semi-final, beating Ulster champions, Tyrone by 12 points.

Despite that, Gavin believes they need further improvement.

"We've identified things we have to work on and we're going to have to get them right against Mayo," he said.

The senior final (3.30) will be preceded by the minor decider (1.15), with Derry taking on Kerry.

It will be the last U-18 final, as the minor age limit will be reduced to 17 next year with Kerry bidding to win the title for the fourth successive year and for the 15th time overall while Derry, who are seeking their fifth title, were last successful in 2002.

Part of tomorrow's fringe events in will feature the Air Corps conducting a fly-past over Croke Park towards the end of the National Anthem.

It has also been announced that the All Stars scheme will have a new sponsor from this year, with PwC taking over from Opel. The All Star nominations will be announced next week.

MAYO (SF v Dublin): D Clarke; B Harrison, D Vaughan, K Higgins; L Keegan, C Barrett, C Boyle; S O'Shea, T Parsons; K McLoughlin, A O'Shea, D O'Connor; J Doherty, C O'Connor (capt), A Moran.

Irish Independent

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