Mayo v Derry
Mayo take on Derry in the first of the day’s semi finals at Croke Park on Sunday. The two sides met last week in Castlebar with Derry playing a second string side while Mayo also rested some regulars. The intensity should be much higher this week between the two with a place in the final on the line.
Both sides have had good campaigns to date. Derry have surprised many by making it to the semi finals, they were expected to be relegated. They have had notable wins, beating Dublin and Kerry in Killarney and have been impressive to date. Derry put up a decent performance against Mayo with a second string side so the expectation will be that they will run Mayo closer with their strongest line up.
Mayo are the league’s leading scorers but have also let in the most amount of goals. James Horan will be looking to stop leaking goals at the back. The open spaces of Croke Park are not a place to be loose in defence and he will know they will be punished if they do not address it. Mayo have scorers from all over the pitch and in Alan Freeman and Kevin Mc Loughlin have two players who are in a rich vein of form. They have had a very good league from a position where they lost their opening two games, they have since won 4 and drawn 1 and in games between the four semi finalists they have 5 points compared with Cork’s 4, Derry’s 2 and Dublin’s 1.
This should be an intriguing game but Mayo’s experience may be a key factor in determining the outcome.
Cork v Dublin
Cork beat Dublin when the sides met previously in the league. Cork or Dublin have been in the last four league finals, both were in 2011, so that trend will continue for another year.
Cork have been hugely impressive in this year’s league and finished it strongly with a resounding win in Kerry. Cork are under new management and had to deal with a lot of retirements but under Brian Cuthbert they have been very strong with just one loss in Castlebar against Mayo. They will be confident heading into this game that they can reproduce the result of their previous meeting with the Dubs. It will be a great test to see where they are at against a Dublin side who have improved since they last met.
Dublin have reason to be happy with their ending to the league. Playing against Mayo for 14 men for over half the game they came back to produce a draw with two late goals, underlining the character of their team. They have given game time to many panel members and when they had to produce a result to qualify, they did so when beating Tyrone in Omagh. They also had to play for the early part of the league without their St Vincent’s players, they now have talisman Diarmuid Connolly at their disposal, something they did not have when the sides last met. Jim Gavin may be concerned that they let a huge lead slip but there can be no denying the character of this side. They still play in spurts and can score at will for a period but can also concede a lot of successive scores too. Jim Gavin has said it is a bonus to be in the knock out stage, their aims being much different in the league this year. Despite this they still made the semi finals and are coming along nicely.
This should be an entertaining game, both teams are coming into the game in form, but, experience and know how could swing it Dublin’s way.