Andy Moran's joust with Michael Fitzsimons will have a big impact on Sam Maguire's destination
Andy Moran (Mayo) v Michael Fitzsimons (Dublin)
MAYO talisman Moran has been the find of the season for the Connacht men.
A few weeks shy of his 34th birthday, the Castlebar Mitchels forward had been seen as an impact sub, but he has been transformed since swapping his job as a salesman for running his own gym.
Instead of doing miles in his car, he has covered acres on the field this season and reprised his role as the focal point of the Mayo attack.
Moran has found the back of his opponents’ net in the last three games and Cuala clubman Fitzsimons is the Dublin man-marker who will be tasked with keeping him quiet today. Moran will have to work hard for every ball because space will be at a premium and Fitzsimons is quick and relentless. The winner of this battle could decide tomorrow’s final.
MAN OF THE MOMENT
Aidan O’Shea (Mayo)
A POTENTIAL matchwinner, Breaffy clubman O’Shea is close to unmarkable at his best and if he produces his A game tomorrow Mayo have a huge chance.
He played at full-back against Kerry to negate Kieran Donaghy’s aerial threat but more likely to play at centre half-forward tomorrow. He is a ball-winner, a runner and a score-taker and one of the most fouled men in the game. Will be shadowed by either Cian O’Sullivan or Philly McMahon and they will have to be prepared for an all-out war to stop O’Shea tipping the balance Mayo’s way.
THE big call for Jim Gavin is whether to include Diarmuid Connolly in his starting line-up. Connolly returned from suspension as a late sub against Tyrone and, if he’s fully fit and playing well in training, he should start tomorrow.
Paul Flynn also came on as a sub against Tyrone, scoring three points and will hope to make the first 15, but he may have to be content with a place on the bench. Niall Scully could be the man to make way if Flynn or Connolly start and he will join a star-studded bench that includes the likes of Bernard Brogan, Michael-Darragh Macauley and Kevin McManamon.
Dublin (possible): S Cluxton; P McMahon, C O’Sullivan, M Fitzsimons; J Cooper, J Small, J McCaffrey; B Fenton, J McCarthy; D Connolly, C O’Callaghan, C Kilkenny; P Mannion, P Andrews, D Rock
LAST year Mayo manager Stephen Rochford committed the cardinal sin of switching goalkeepers for the All-Ireland final replay. It didn’t work and it’s highly unlikely that he will tinker with a line-up or a system that has worked well for him this year.
Donal Vaughan will play at full-back and Aidan O’Shea will move out to centre half-forward with Paddy Durcan remaining on a bench that lacks the strength-in-depth of Dublin’s.
Mayo (possible): D Clarke; B Harrison, D Vaughan, C Barrett; K Higgins, C Boyle, L Keegan; S O’Shea, T Parsons; K McLoughlin, A O'Shea, D O’Connor; C O’Connor, A Moran, J Doherty
AT the back Dublin use Philly McMahon and Michael Fitzsimons as man-markers with Cian O’Sullivan operating as a holding player and Johnny Cooper used as a roving second sweeper.
Without possession Dublin funnel men back behind the ball to deny the opposition space and with it they attack with searing pace.
The new midfield combination of Bryan Fenton and James McCarthy has provided a solid platform for Dublin’s six shooters up front and there are more on the bench. They’ll be likely to push up on David Clarke’s kick-outs because the Mayo custodian has had some jittery moments against them in the past.
MAYO are as close to the old-fashioned 6-2-6 as you’ll get in the modern game. Every man knows his job in a solid defence that will go man-to-man on the Dublin forwards and half-backs Lee Keegan, Colm Boyle and Keith Higgins will grab every opportunity to attack.
They can vary their tactics in attack. Early in the semi-final replay against Kerry, Mayo kicked the ball long and this tactic helped to keep the Kingdom defence on the backfoot. As the game progressed Mayo employed a running game into the space left in the Kerry half that cut their opponents to shreds and saw them claim a fully deserved victory. They will continue this positive approach tomorrow.
Andy Moran and Jason Doherty have been outstanding this year while Mayo will also need a big game from Cillian O’Connor from frees.
WHO'S THE REF
Joe McQuillan (Cavan)
THIRD All-Ireland final for the Cavan man – Dublin have won the previous two, including 2013 when they beat Mayo in a thriller.
Back then, controversy reigned after Mayo insisted that Cillian O'Connor was told there was time left before he tapped over a late free to cut the gap to a point. Then Jim Gavin claimed: "Not only were we playing Mayo, but we were playing the referee as well".
Both teams can mix it, so it’s up to McQuillan to try to let the game flow but keep a lid on things.
Not bad for the middle of September: scattered showers with a top temperature of about 15C. Bring a coat (obviously).
LAST 11 CHAMPIONSHIP MEETINGS
2016: Dublin 1-15 Mayo 1-14 (All-Ireland final) Replay
2016: Dublin 2-9 Mayo 0-15 (All-Ireland final) Draw
2015: Dublin 3-15 Mayo 1-14 (All-Ireland semi-final) Replay
2015: Dublin 2-12 Mayo 1-15 (All-Ireland semi-final) Draw
2013: Dublin 2-12 Mayo 1-14 (All-Ireland final)
2012: Mayo 0-19 Dublin 0-16 (All-Ireland semi-final)
2006: Mayo 1-16 Dublin 2-12 (All-Ireland semi-final)
1985: Dublin 2-12 Mayo 1-7 (All-Ireland semi-final) Replay
1985: Dublin 1-13 Mayo 1-13 (All-Ireland semi-final) Draw
1955: Dublin1-8 Mayo 1-7 (All-Ireland semi-final) Replay
1955: Dublin 0-7 Mayo 1-4 (All-Ireland semi-final) Draw
LAST CHAMPIONSHIP MEETING
All-Ireland final replay 2016: Dublin 1-15 Mayo 1-14
DUBLIN retained the Sam Maguire for the first time since 1977 with a nail-biting replay win as Mayo lost their eighth final since 1951.
In a nip-and-tuck game, Diarmuid Connolly’s second-half penalty was the vital score for Dublin while Dean Rock bounced back from an off-day in the drawn game – the first of his nine points was a sitter from under the Mayo posts.
Cillian O’Connor, whose late equaliser had set up this thrilling re-match, had an opportunity to do it again, but missed a difficult free deep into stoppage time in front of a crowd of 82,249.Veteran