Looking ahead to Sunday’s All-Ireland final I think there is one key point to make. I am going for Dublin to win this game, even though I backed Mayo from the start of the year.
From last winter I thought this would be Mayo’s year but the way Dublin are playing, and the manner in which Mayo have not been fully impressive on occasion, has led me to go for the Dubs.
But the important point to make here is that Mayo come and make a statement. They must show belief. They must play the game and not the occasion.
It seems like a very simple thing to say but the truth of the matter is that they have come down to Dublin in the past and played great stuff in All-Ireland quarter and semi-finals. There have been times when they have looked like the best team in Ireland – and then they have reached an All-Ireland final and retreated back into their shell.
Many GAA fans around the country would love to see Mayo win this, but the way Dublin are set up and the way they play it is hard to go against them.
Everyone in Mayo is sick of that. The players are sick of that. This time they have to come down and play the game, and play the game to win. They have to express themselves. This is the time for them to step up.
Complacency is also an issue. Not for Mayo obviously but for Dublin. A few people would argue with me on that front and say that, under Jim Gavin, the Dubs do not do complacency, and that’s fair enough. But it is something to be concerned about that they generate enough hunger on the day to produce a display that will be reflective of the team’s talent.
By that I mean, they have been getting plaudits and pats on the back for a year solid. More than a year. Eventually that seeps through to the players. At the very least, a form of complacency is something that they have to look out for and be on guard against.
Tactically, Dublin will not change one bit from what they have been doing all year. They will remain rigid in defence and they know how to set up at the back. They will be well organised at midfield. But I can see a surprise here in terms of selection.
I can see Denis Bastick starting at midfield for Dublin and running himself into the ground for 40 minutes, with Michael Darragh Macauley then coming on with huge hunger and running at the Mayo midfield when they are tired out. And Michael would feel he had a massive point to prove coming on like that. I don’t know if they will do it, but they might.
There is a dilemma for Mayo, too, and that is regarding the placing or otherwise of Barry Moran. He dropped back into a sweeper role against Tipperary and dealt well with two long balls that came his way.
I would not play him in that role against Dublin. The Dubs are a lot more than a long-ball team and if Mayo think they can play Moran there and expect him to have a huge impact they could be mistaken.
They may look at him in the midfield area but again I would feel that the mobility of Tom Parsons is something that could be a huge boost to them there. Also there is the option to play Moran in the full-forward line. The Mayo management have a dilemma on their hands there. It is important that they pre-empt and then react in the right way and make the correct call.
Finally, I wonder will it all come down to the free-taking? If it does Dublin look set. They have Dean Rock on an 87 per cent ratio in front of the posts from play and placed balls. He has been unreal all year, converting 38 out of 41 shots.
Cillian O’Connor has been in great form too but you could see the last day that Mayo are lacking a left footed free-taker and that could come back to haunt them.
All these elements go into the pot. Many GAA fans around the country would love to see Mayo win this, but the way Dublin are set up and the way they play it is hard to go against them.
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