Mayo will win if Herculean defensive performance is matched by a clinical attacking display
THE Connaught Telegraph's GAA analyst Martin Carney gives his prediction on tomorrow's All-Ireland SFC final replay at Croke Park.
This is his preview of the much-anticipated encounter.
AFTER a draw, attention will often focus on which of the two teams should have won.
On the last day’s evidence Mayo were the one really unfortunate not to have taken the prize.
In nearly every facet of play, apart from turnovers, composure and decision making, they matched or surpassed everything Dublin threw at them.
Defensively they rendered the All-Ireland champion’s attack toothless with a display of no-nonsense aggression.
In registering 11 scores, Dublin recorded their lowest return since registering an eight-point total in the 2013 defeat of Donegal.
A raging desire was manifest in the levels of intensity and energy expended by Mayo. Dublin, for long spells, were left gasping as Mayo's approach and hunger bespoke of a team perfectly primed.
Yet, has what happened on September 18th any remaining relevance? Will the replay unfold as did the drawn game?
One thing’s for sure, draws and replays never follow the same script.
Certainly I hope not as far as own goals are concerned!
Mayo will again attempt to generate the same energy levels and hope that Dublin once more give the impression of a team whose best days are behind them.
The answers will be revealed in time but first and foremost in forcing a draw Mayo will have grown in belief.
They debunked the myth about the invincible label that seemed to have inhibited rather than inspire Dublin.
Mayo's abundant spirit linked to their sense of organisation and structure can once more provide a base line for next Saturday’s game.
Married to this must be a determination to draw on the character that sustained them the last day.
Dublin will carry memories of the wounds inflicted by Mayo and will be mentally sharper this time round. I wrote a few weeks ago that I felt that Dublin had peaked against Kerry.
Most of the things that were positive about them in this game - organisation, skill sets, perseverance and execution - were absent against Mayo.
Take, for example, Dean Rock’s place kicking. Against Kerry he scored nine points from 10 attempts while in the final he only got three from seven.
Apart from the notion that they may have peaked earlier, I definitely feel that Dublin failed to afford Mayo the levels of respect appropriate to the occasion.
Perhaps they read too much into all the talk of their lengthy unbeaten run and this became a greater burden than expected. As a group who have been chastened and given a reality check, Dublin will be more cognisant of the challenge that awaits them this time so Mayo can expect a furious response that wasn't there last Sunday week.
Despite that, Mayo have nothing to fear. I expect the same defensive formation as before but I'd love to see players having a greater licence to attack when the opportunity arises.
In the man-marking department Brendan Harrison will once again take Bernard Brogan, provided Brogan is selected.
Of all their top players, he is the one whose form has nosedived this year. Apart from the fact that his scoring rate is less than a third of what it was in 2015, his speed and industry appears to have declined.
Don't be surprised if he is dropped for Paddy Andrews, who scored five points in last year's replay. This guy is a viable alternative.
Episode 2 of the Keegan/Connolly tango will be short on loving glances but rich in fire.
I'd love to see Keegan getting forward more often in the manner of Patrick Durcan on the last occasion.
Durcan’s tour-de-force, snuffing out the threat of Kevin McManamon, didn't prevent him from attacking with purpose.
If the aforementioned trio can repeat their performances Mayo will stand a great chance of victory.
Playing Seamie O’Shea in a pivotal defensive role yielded a rich harvest in turnovers and tackles during the first half.
I thought he excelled in this period and made a huge contribution to the rearguard action. I see Dublin targeting David Clarke’s restarts with a view to forcing him to kick long.
In this respect, the O’Shea brothers, Tom Parsons and Donal Vaughan will have to contend with a more traditional midfield battle than the last day.
Furthermore, it is important that they curtail the influence of Brian Fenton. He mustn't be allowed ghost unchecked behind the Mayo defence with the same impunity as before.
There is an element of robbing Peter to pay Paul about Mayo's attacking strategy. The outstanding duo of Jason Doherty and Kevin McLoughlin become so preoccupied with defending that the forward line at times is left short on manpower.
The O’Connor brothers never spare themselves but Mayo need Cillian to remain in an as advanced a position as possible in order to get on the end of moves. With his accuracy from placed balls and open play he remains Mayo's primary scoring outlet.
Andy Moran, an excellent finisher, and Aidan O’Shea will win ball but they need players coming off their shoulders to unhinge the Dublin defence.
It will help the cause if the big man can remain closer to the D than before as his size is sure to cause mayhem once he gets ball in the right positions.
Maurice Deegan, who was a linesman in the drawn encounter, will have spotted some of the shenanigans that occurred off the ball. This time, as referee, I hope he will afford O’Shea more protection than his predecessor and award frees when they are merited.
Mayo will to have to recalibrate themselves mentally for Saturday. It's a new game where this time circumstances may be at odds to what happened before.
First and foremost Mayo must bring fire to the occasion but at the same time be mindful of the thin line that separates what's legal from illegal.
Discipline and composure are essential. Dublin will be a different animal but provided a Herculean defensive performance is matched by a clinical attacking display, Mayo will win.
It's long past time to banish talk of curses and hard luck narratives.
Time instead to climb the steps of the Hogan Stand as All-Ireland champions.