Mayo v Dublin
The champions of Connacht and Leinster face off in the All Ireland final of 2013 this Sunday in Croke Park. Both sides have blazed a trail to this stage, dominating their respective provinces, Dublin’s closest game being a 7 point win over Meath, Mayo’s being a 12 point win over Roscommon. In their knock out games they were both convincing too with Mayo beating Donegal by 16 points and Tyrone by 6 with the Dubs having 5 and 7 point wins over Cork and Kerry, though the Kerry game was in the melting pot but Dublin finished with a late blitz.
That is how we have the two best teams in the country meeting in this year’s final.
The wait Mayo have endured since last tasting All Ireland success is well documented, as is the number of finals lost in recent times, the most recent being last year’s loss to Donegal. This team has been on an upward trajectory under the guidance of James Horan since his appointment at the end of 2010, however, the only way was up after the Longford debacle. An All Ireland semi final defeat in 2011 followed by an All Ireland final defeat in 2012 suggests that the next step is to be crowned All Ireland champions in 2013. This team do not do sentiment and will be fully focused on the 70 minutes at hand. Playing in last year’s final will be advantageous as the occasion should not be a factor second time around. James Horan has gambled on the fitness of Cillian O Connor in starting the Ballintuber man on Sunday. O Connor has netted two hat-tricks in this year’s campaign and played a pivotal role in other Mayo goals this year. Dublin gave up three goals in the first 20 minutes against Kerry and if O Connor has the same influence in this game as in games gone by then the gamble will be worth it if their are green flags raised. The role of Keith Higgins, All Star corner back, playing in the half forward line will be crucial. When left isolated the Mayo full back line can tend to struggle against pace, which Dublin have in abundance. Higgins dropping deep could be a way to negate the Dublin inside line. Mayo are known for pressing high up the pitch and if they do this successfully then the Dublin inside line will not get enough possession to cause damage. Mayo have players in Higgins and Kevin Mc Loughlin who are capable of doing a defensive job if needs be.
The Mayo half back line will be a concern to Dublin. Dublin have played an attacking six all year so the question will be can they hold the rampaging Mayo half back line? Dublin will look to get these players to defend and hope that if they attack enough then the Mayo half back line will not be as influential in an attacking sense.
Mayo have been successful in the past at negating the Cluxton kickout. If they can do this on Sunday it will deprive Dublin of the building blocks of possession that they use effectively. This is why Higgins may not be deployed into a sweeper role as doing so would take away the pressure that Mayo can exert on the Dublin kickout. The Mayo forward line will be more intense in the tackle than Kerry were or any team that Dublin have faced so far so Mayo will be looking for scores off turnover possesion.
The battle in the middle of the park will be crucial as always. Mayo have done well from breaks this year, forming a platform for the half back line to attack from. If Mayo can pressure the kickout they will pick up breaks or win clean possession over the Dublin midfield who will not beat the O’Shea’s in the air. Dublin will look to break it if they are forced into long kickouts, Mayo will look to be hungry on breaking ball.
The Dubs have a lot of speed throughout their team and will be playing to their script if they can force Mayo to be running toward their own goal. Speedy players draw fouls and anywhere from 50 metres out will be punished with the laser precision of goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton. When Dublin ran at Mayo in the last 20 minutes of last year’s semi final they caused problems for Mayo. They will look to get Jack Mc Caffrey, Paul Mannion, Bernard Brogan in particular along with other strong runners like Paul Flynn and Michael Dara Mc Cauley running at Mayo to create overlaps and win frees. They also have great pace of the bench, in particular, Kevin Mc Manamon who has been a key factor in many Dublin wins in recent seasons. Dean Rock is Dublin 6th highest scorer with 10 points off the bench. The Dubs can get on a roll and this can overwhelm teams. Mayo will have to be prepared for the blue wave that may come and be ready to react.
This Dublin team is a highly talented team with some of the best young players in the country. Players like Mannion, Kilkenny and Mc Caffrey can be great talents in the game and will likely win All Ireland medals in the coming years. This year though may be a year so soon for this young side, however, there is plenty of All Ireland winning experience in the side as it is just two years since they won Sam Maguire.
Mayo though look ready to win out. There is a maturity and confidence in the side that looks like that of an All Ireland winning team. They are well primed to end the county’s long hunt for an All Ireland and at around 5:10pm on Sunday it should be Andy Moran lifting Sam to finally end the waiting for All Ireland glory for Mayo.