I received numerous phone calls in recent weeks from Mayo people looking for tickets for this Sunday’s All-Ireland football final.
Irrespective of what teams are in the football final, I always get the calls. I cannot source a ticket for myself never mind those distant acquaintances who contact me. I do know of a couple of guys holed up in Rio who may be able to help though!
There is a misperception out there that former inter-county players and even All-Ireland winners have a stash of tickets. Flying the flag for your sport in your county colours counts for absolutely nothing when the search for All-Ireland tickets is concerned. I’m not that annoyed because it has been a fact of life since the GAA’s inception and it is something that I have become accustomed to.
I genuinely fear for Mayo on Sunday. Dublin showed their class in their semi-final meeting with Kerry when they recovered a five-point deficit and eventually went on to win. Dublin learned a massive lesson from their defeat to Donegal in 2014. That was a time when they believed that they were invincible and show-boating was an integral part of their game. Then they also swallowed up the media hype which put them out of reach of every other county. Since then, their manager Jim Gavin has put an end to the flamboyance and toned down their media exposure. He has turned Dublin into a solid cohesive unit. There is no more show-boating. They are a better team now than they were two years ago. This is why I cannot foresee a collapse against Mayo.
I’m sure that thirty-one counties will be supporting the westerners on Sunday. We are all aware of their litany of defeats in All-Ireland finals in recent years and more than any county, we would like to see this crop of players lift the title. It is easy to blame the nonsense of a curse on their failures but ultimately the blame for their defeats must rest with the players and former manager James Horan.
Since then a new manager in Stephen Rochford has replaced Horan. He has dithered and dallied with this group of players in an effort to add impetus to their play. I’m not convinced if he knows his right team or the system he should play.
Mayo have struggled all season and yet they find themselves in an All-Ireland final. Their biggest scalp was Tyrone who themselves foundered after an impressive championship campaign.
Remember Mayo didn’t even reach the Connacht final this year. Galway beat them by three points in the semi-final. Since that defeat, they have improved slightly but, not enough to trouble Dublin. In the lead up to Sunday’s game, various pundits are saying that Mayo can win this game. Why wouldn’t they? We want to look forward to a contest and not a one-sided hammering.
Mayo cannot have any excuses since Dublin have showcased their talents more than any other inter-county team since they have had the more difficult side of the draw. Both Donegal and Kerry brought them to the brink. Yet they survived.
Their tactics are no secret and no surprise for Mayo. Unless Mayo do away with the sweeper system and push up on Dublin’s kick-outs then Dublin will take possession.
It was great to watch Kerry rattle and unhinge Dublin just before half-time in the semi-final allowing Kerry to go into the break with a five-point lead.
The unbelievable thing about Kerry’s second half approach was to retreat once again and concede the kick-out to Dublin.
Why didn’t Kerry push on? I’m assuming there was a fear factor.
It takes courage to stand toe to toe with Dublin but, this is what Mayo must do. They must adopt a man-to-man approach and put pressure on the Dublin players.
The stand-out weakness that Dublin possess is their discipline. We saw their reaction when Donegal got stuck into them. They had two players sent off as a result. I don’t like to see any player receive his marching orders but Mayo need to unsettle them. If the Dublin players lose their discipline, then so be it. They must play within the rules.
Even with Mayo playing on the edge I believe that technically Dublin are a far superior team. Dublin’s most dangerous forward Bernard Brogan had an off-day against Kerry and was substituted. Other players such as Diarmuid Connolly and Kevin McManamon stepped up to the plate.
Mayo need to get their match-ups right. Mayo have two class defenders in Lee Keegan and Keith Higgins who will mark Connolly and Brogan respectively. It will be interesting to see who picks up McManamon and Ciaran Kilkenny.
Unfortunately, Mayo do not have enough brilliant defenders to contain the Dublin forward line.
They have a problem with their full-back position. Their main man for this position, Ger Cafferkey, is out injured. Kevin Keane and Barry Moran have been utilised here since but neither with much success.
It’s the ‘catch 22’ situation for Mayo. If they play toe-to-toe and don’t employ a sweeper, then Dublin could well exploit Mayo’s full-back deficiencies.
This is why I fear for Mayo. There could be a deluge. Let’s hope not for Mayo’s sake.
Keep the faith!