The drawn All-Ireland final was an absorbing encounter, an entertaining 78 minutes in its own right.
It could never have been a classic with the horrible conditions and the rain pouring down but I think the players from both sides have to be credited for what they achieved on that miserable Sunday in Croke Park.
The referee Conor Lane deserves credit too. He did a good job but it was hard; battles were breaking out all over the field and I think that he deserved better assistance and help from his fellow matchday officials.
Hopefully that will be the case for Maurice Deegan in this replay because quite simply there is too much going on for one man to make sense of and too much for one man in the middle to keep an eye on.
Both of these teams know each other inside-out and there is no love lost, although there is huge respect, between the separate groups of players. The point I am making is that every match official needs to have their eyes open in the replay. No question of that.
But I have to say that I was licking my lips at the prospect of watching these two lock horns all over again. And this time around I think we can see a really explosive game, and not just in the tackles and the personal grudge matches.
It was explosive from the moment the teams met in the tunnel for the drawn game but all the talking, macho stuff is out of the way now and, weather permitting, we will see a great game of attractive football this time around.
Dubs will come back stronger
I remarked that Mayo bullied Dublin last time out and to be honest I can’t see that happening again.
Dublin will come back a lot stronger. They will have dissected their performance in huge detail and have a very analytical management team who will have left no stone unturned as to what they have to do to get the win. There is every chance that they will catch fire now and no chance really that they will only score 0-9 during the game.
There is no chance either that they will go 30 minutes without scoring.
Dublin will get a lot more out of their forwards in the replay, no question of that.
The question for Mayo is can they come out once again and play as if their very lives depend on the result? Can they come out one more time fuelled by the hurt of 65 years of torture? If they can, they can win this title.
The general feeling coming home on All-Ireland final night was that Dublin had failed to fire, but the key thing is they have serious options. They could start Paddy Andrews. They could throw in Paul Mannion. They might decide to start Denis Bastick and then bring on Michael Darragh Macauley after 40 minutes or so to drive at the Mayo men again.
Dublin do have that little bit more strength in depth. Also, they do have another few gears to find. Mayo probably do too but will they ever face a Dublin team so out of sorts?
That said, will they ever have luck as cursed as conceding two own goals on the biggest day of the sporting year? I don’t think so.
Mayo gains from drawn final
Mayo’s belief will have surged through the roof after coming back from the dead in the final. They probably had lots of belief in the first instance but they will gain a huge amount from that. They had their press night for the replay two days after the drawn game and all the hoopla and hype was dealt with early on.
In terms of tackle execution, making turnovers and in terms of support running and tracking back, Mayo were superb. They are one of the few teams who can challenge the conditioning that Dublin have.
But Dublin will get a lot more out of their forwards in the replay, no question of that.
Dublin possibly should have killed off the game near the end and ran down the clock – and you could tell that some players were annoyed that they didn’t. But next time around Dean Rock, Kevin McManamon, Bernard Brogan and all of the other forwards will chip in with more scores. Jim Gavin will have them fine-tuned.
Equally, Mayo will hardly take a step backwards either. Due to the change in management they began their training programme under Stephen Rochford a little later than other teams and maybe they will hit their peak at precisely the right time.
It would be the most famous win of all time for them, but if Dublin win they take another step towards being the greatest team of all time.
The stakes are so high.
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