GAA Football

GAA stars run the rule over the All-Ireland SFC and MFC Finals

Dublin's Paul Mannion bears down on the Tyrone goal in the All-Ireland SFC semi-final at Croke Park


Tony Kernan (Armagh)

Can Mayo finally end their All-Ireland title famine? 

Definitely, they have been a match for Dublin over the past few years and but for a couple of freak own goals last year they should have won the All Ireland. 

They won’t fear Dublin and will feel a real togetherness in the camp as they have spent so many weekends together during this Championship run.

They seem to have started to perform and peak at the right time.
They appear to have a real confidence about themselves at present, but at the same time because Dublin have been such a dominant force there will be no chance of any over-confidence seeping into their mind-set like in previous years.

Are the Dubs unbeatable in their current form?

I was convinced from the start of the year that Dublin would be caught out at some point. 

I thought their game and build up play had started to become much slower with a lack of a link or outlet option holding centre forward.

They appeared to be kicking the ball to that position much less than previous years and I felt the ability to be able to mix up their game between running it and kicking it had made them so successful.

I thought their forward line was maybe lacking some shape and without Flynn, Connolly and Brogan for most of the year I didn’t think we would see them in this year’s final.

All that changed in the semi-final against Dublin. As much as the goal appeared to sap the confidence out of Tyrone, it looked to fill Dublin with confidence. 

They stuck their chests out and put on one of their finest performances.

Their decision-making in attack and discipline in keeping the pitch as big as possible created so many scoring opportunities for them. Whilst also retaining cover in defence with Johnny Cooper and Cian O’Sullivan.

That said, Tyrone will be disappointed with the physicality they brought to that game.

The Mayo defence will have learned a lot from that and I can’t see Colm Boyle, Lee Keegan, Chris Barrett standing-off Dublin as much as Tyrone did.

Why are Dublin so dominant?

Pat Gilroy had the foresight to put in place a structure in terms of their fundraising, training base, coaching and conditioning which allowed them to perform at an elite level.

This has been taken on to a new level by Jim Gavin and his coaching team.

Their 2011 All Ireland was backboned by Kilmacud and St Vincent’s players who had positive experiences from All Ireland Final days in Croke Park, this was backed up by the successful DCU Sigerson teams and then this flowed down into their minor and U21 teams.

That created an appetite for success which they obviously have been able to sustain due to the hunger and drive of the players but also as they have been able to introduce two or three younger players each year in order to keep them fresh and on their toes.

The sheer playing numbers that they have to pick from means that it is possible to keep this going.


Mayo boss Stephen Rochford.  Picture by Seamus Loughran


Where will the game be won and lost?

It will be won or lost in the first 15 minutes or the last 15 minutes.

If Dublin get a foothold in the game like they did against Tyrone then they have the ability to really push on, however if Mayo can keep it nip and tuck then they will grow in confidence and Dublin will realise that things aren’t happening as easy for them as it maybe had been all year.

If Mayo struggle to stay in the game early on, then that’s when it could be lost.

Each bench in the last 15 minutes will probably decide the outcome of the game.

Dublin’s bench has provided them with a huge boost in each of their All Ireland successes. 

Kevin McManamon in 2011, Alan Brogan in 2015, Cormac Costello in 2016.

Mayo have been able to get by with keeping Paddy Durcan in reserve for the last couple of games, they may have one eye on the last 15 minutes and keep him on the bench in the hope that he can come up with an important score for them and get them across the line.

Dublin’s bench is much stronger and can have a much bigger impact than what Mayo have to bring on.

Who will be the key player/s for each team?

Both keepers! 

Kerry have been able to put Cluxton under some pressure in recent years, but aside from that he has been flawless. If Mayo can disrupt him in the slightest then they will take huge confidence from it.

Dublin will be trying to put significant pressure on David Clarke, if he is able to retain his composure and find Mayo men from his kick outs then it will give Mayo a big platform to push on.

Mayo’s key players will be Lee Keegan, Colm Boyle, Keith Higgins and Jason Doherty.

Their attacking half back line has been the strongest part of their game for some time, however the form that Jason Doherty is in and the way that he is holding the line and providing an option for their defenders to kick the ball to a centre forward has provided a huge point of difference to their attack.

This quicker ball has seen Andy Moran in particular flourish.

Aidan O’Shea in beside Andy for spells with quick ball could be Mayo’s best chance of scoring a goal. If it is slow ball then it is pointless as Dublin with have their sweepers back to cover.

Diarmuid O’Connor needs to regain his confidence as he has had the measure of Jack McCaffrey in recent years. If he is unable to nullify McCaffrey and he gets moving alongside James McCarthy and Brian Fenton then it could be another disappointing day for Mayo.
Dublin have so many options in their forward line that they can all be a match winner on their day.

Dean Rock has always been extremely reliable from dead balls, however Mayo rattled him in last year’s drawn Final and missed a few kickable frees. 

If he keeps the scoreboard ticking over from dead balls then Dublin will be hard to stop.



Colm Cavanagh (Tyrone)

I was seriously impressed with how Dublin conducted themselves in the semi-final against us, their game management was impeccable and they moved seamlessly from defence to attack, each player knowing instinctively what they had to do. 

They defended in numbers and they seemed to have energy in the right places to probe openings. 

That said, I give Mayo a real chance in the final. 

They have a good balance throughout their team and have players who can change a game in an instant. 

The most important thing for Mayo is that they get in front of Dublin early on, and if they can do that, then I fully expect a real close encounter.

The game for me will be won or lost in the kick outs. 

There will be a huge dilemma for Mayo whether or not to push up on Dublin and try to force them to kick it long and fight for possession. 

There’s a fine balance here which will need to be considered. 

For me, it is very difficult for Mayo to push up every time on the kick outs as Dublin seem to get the ball away at furious pace. 

Mayo need to pick their moments to push up carefully, possibly from dead-ball scenarios.

Mayo need to decide where best to play Aidan O’Shea. 

He would ask serious questions at 11 or 14 and could be the key to unlocking the Dublin blanket.

Dublin have many quality players, Jack McCaffery is Dublin's link man and if he has a good day, then Dublin are likely to perform well.

I predict a close game, Mayo seem to have come good at the right time of year and I fully expect them to bring a serious aggression to the game. 

If Mayo can get in front early then I'm tipping that they can go ahead and see the game out.


Dublin manager Jim Gavin 



Paul Finlay (Monaghan)

Dublin's dominance is stemming from a really rich crop of footballers at their disposal at the moment.

Yes they have the pick and resources that many other counties don't have but this is a special group that won't last for ever. 

I expect the game to be won and lost in the middle third, if Mayo can get the upper hand in this area they have really strong runners that can hurt Dublin.

This will force Jack McCaffery, etc to spend more time defending than constantly having momentum going forward. 

Aidan O’Shea has shown enough form to suggest there is another really big game in him.

If Mayo can get the right type of ball into him on the full-forward line he can cause havoc in the Dublin defence.

Mayo must try something different and pushing Aidan up closer to goals on occasion could reap rich rewards.

Jack McCaffery is one of Dublin's best and has the potential to cause Mayo all sorts of problems with his pace.

If it's to be Mayo's year they will have to keep the Clontarf man quiet .... easier said than done.


Barry Owens (Fermanagh)

Dublin have destroyed most teams in the Championship this year.

I feel this is mainly down to opposition teams being afraid of what Dublin can do and trying to stop goals being scored by bringing 13 or 14 men back. 

So while teams drop men back it allows Dublin's defenders  and midfielders the chance to create overlaps and get space for the likes of Ciaran Kilkenny, Brian Fenton and Con O'Callaghan to score without much pressure on them. 

Mayo will have confidence in their defenders to be able to go toe to toe with the Dubs forwards with Lee Keegan, Colm Boyle and Keith Higgins all capable of scoring as well as keeping things tight at the back. 

Mayo will look to Andy Moran and Cillian O'Connor to be their main threats but the Dubs have men capable of nullifying their threat with Philly McMahon and Johnny Cooper among the best defenders in Ireland. 

It could all come down to who has the best bench and I think the Dubs edge this with Diarmuid Connolly and Kevin McManamon serious options to have when defences get tired.


Dublin will look to Ciaran Kilkenny to pull the strings, while Mayo must find the right position for Aidan O'Shea in Sunday's All-Ireland final Picture by Seamus Loughran



Mattie Donnelly (Tyrone)

Dublin are clear favourites here, however Mayo are perfectly set up to cause an upset. 

They have players who can go man to man and compete with Dublin's key offensive players, namely Jack McCaffrey, Kilkenny, O'Callaghan and Mannion. 

If they curtail and edge these battles they are in with a great chance. 

The rest will depend on how their forwards fair against the intense pressure from Dublin's defenders. 

If Doherty can keep acting as the link man on the 40 and provides Moran and O'Connor with enough good ball, they could cross the ball. 

However, mentally, this Dublin team are elite. 

They can solve problems very well, and their decision-making on the ball can nullify any game plan the opposition has. 

Jason Doherty is the key man for Mayo as they look for him in their transition a lot.

Andy Moran has been in super form, but if Cooper or Fitzsimmons curtail Mayo's inside line, Aidan O'Shea, Parsons, Keegan, etc are going to have to be at their offensive best. 

Flynn can play a big role, Connolly to have an influence also. 

It’s too close to call. I wouldn't be surprised if it was another draw.


Paddy Bradley (Derry)

I think Dublin will win ... and for reasons that everyone knows. 

Obviously they have unreal fitness levels. 

Their ability to set up slide fence quickly and filter men back will negate the influence of Mayo's diagonal kicking game. 

But then it's the speed with which they attack when they do turnover: forwards get back up the field quickly and keep serious width. 

They use every blade of grass on Croke Park. Again that comes from playing in it regularly.

Their bench should also be a factor. 

It's been mentioned many times about the amount of All-Ireland medals there are on the bench. 

So many players have been there and done it and have experience of the occasion.

They have so many scoring threats on the pitch and to come into the team from the subs.


Eoin Bradley (Derry)

I can't see anything other than a Dublin victory... their strength and depth is unreal.

I think the game will be won in the forward line.

Mayo need the two O'Sheas and O'Connors to stand up.

As for Dublin I love watching their half-back line which gives them a great platform for going forward.

I can see it being a physical game.

But I'll go for Dublin by six to nine points


Mayo fans have endured plenty of pain through the years and surely few would begrudge them an All-Ireland title


Niall McKeever (Antrim)

Mayo will go in with confidence knowing that they have matched it with them before and are battle-hardened in this year's championship. 

The Dubs on the other hand have got to this year's final without having been fully tested, which in its own way isn't ideal.

I can't see Dublin losing and it's in their ability to lock down on oppositions key players whilst executing the basics of gaelic football to such a high level that are their stand-out features for me. 

I think most neutrals would love to see Mayo win Sam. 

The Connolly incident has seemingly worked in their favour by being able to give O'Callaghan more game time.

The strength of the Dublin bench is probably unrivalled in county football and probably has the winning of the game.

I take Dublin to win by five points plus.


Caolan Mooney (Down)

For football you'd love to see Mayo toppling Dublin, but after the semi-final performance against Tyrone you would have to say it's Dublin's to lose. 

The Dubs have so much depth in each position. 

It was highlighted after the Tyrone game they have six forwards sitting on the bench who would start in all county teams throughout Ireland. 

Mayo need to stop Dublin coming at them. 

They have serious speed and all their players are comfortable on the ball, Mayo need to set up in a way to force the Dubs out wide and protect the middle.

In the semi-final Dublin got through Tyrone a few times for goals. If Mayo can keep the Dubs goalless they have a big chance. 

Key players for Mayo would be Lee Keegan Keith Higgins, Aidan O'Shea, Cillian O'Conor and Andy Moran.

If he can keep chipping away like he has been it's going to be a interesting battle with the Dublin full-back line. 

For Dublin, Ciaran Kilkenny controls the ball more often than not for Dublin he will need to be nullified out the field also Jack McCaffey speed form half-back is something Mayo didn't have to worry about last year. 

Diarmuid Connolly if he starts will need special attention again which will mean Keegan again for another fantastic battle. 

It's going to be a great final.


Enda Lynn (Derry)

Dublin are as near professional as you can get. They have more teams and players than any other counties in Ireland.

They have more money than any other county in Ireland.

But Mayo can win if they believe they can. 

Dublin's bench is very strong and can win the game for them. 

Mayo have played so many games and this can only help them.

It’s Mayo to win by three points.


Derry v Kerry minor football action


Tony Kernan (Armagh)

Derry have a huge job on their hands. Many of the Kerry players have been here and done it over the last couple of years.

Derry can look at the Under 21 final earlier in the year and take a leaf out of Galway’s book. 

They ripped into Kerry from the start and never let up. 

The game was gone before Kerry had realised that it started.

My advice to the players is to relax and enjoy it.


Kevin McGuckin (Derry)

This is one where my loyalties are obviously hoping for a Derry victory but they are up against it against the Kingdom, who seem to have their conveyor belt of talent back up and running again in recent years.

My lifelong friend, Killian Conlan, is part of the Derry management team and by all accounts they have their work done and their preparations completed to the Nth degree.

They are going down to Dublin to win, and it would be great to see Padraig McGrogan standing on the steps holding the cup. 

My advice to the lads would be to enjoy the occasion and make the most of it, but don't let it pass you by.

It's a serious long way back to the hallowed turf of Croker! 

Good luck KC and the lads.


Mark Poland (Down)

Derry were phenomenal in their semi-final win, a brilliant team performance. 

It's hard to know with minors what impact playing on the biggest stage will have on them but hopefully they go out and enjoy the occasion and express themselves like they did in the semi against Dublin. 

If they replicate that performance, their subs have the same impact they had and if they can keep David Clifford quiet, then they'll go a long way to winning the game.


Conleith Gilligan (Derry)

Derry have a great chance if they can clamp down on Clifford but it's a huge task. 

They will have to go defensive but the Derry bench is strong.

I suspect as is happening now in football, Derry will finish with their strongest team rather than start with it.




David Clifford is tipped to be a major Kerry star of the future, having starred at minor level since 2015. Picture by Seamus Loughran

Kieran Hughes (Monaghan)

I watched both minor semi-finals and I was very impressed by both teams.

They just went out and expressed themselves and every man trusted each other to win their own personal battle.

I thought the Derry management used their bench very well the last day.

Everyone will obviously be wondering how they are going to handle David Clifford who is an unbelievable talent but I've a feeling Derry will have something up their sleeve.

It should be a tight/high scoring encounter…drawn game for me.


Paddy Bradley (Derry)

Obviously we are hoping for a big display from the Derry minors. 
They were decent against Dublin but I think there is more to come. 

I know training is going really well and competition for places is ferocious. 

You can see that Damian McErlain has a strong panel and he has used it to good effect all year. 

Everyone is talking about David Clifford but Kerry are a rounded team with many more excellent players.

I don't think there is much between the sides and very often at minor level it could come down to the team who manages the occasion better. 

If Derry settle early and get a good start I think the strength of their bench could be key again.

The one thing you want to do is to try to enjoy the day; get an early touch, keep it simple and don’t try to do something spectacular straight away. 

They need to keep doing the simple things that have stood to them all year.


Damian McErlain's Derry minors bid to bring the Tom Markham Cup back to the Oak Leaf county for the first time since 2002 when they take on Kerry in tomorrow's All-Ireland final. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin


Mattie Donnelly (Tyrone)

I really hope Derry minors can bring home national silverware to Ulster... and I would be quite confident they can. 

The players on their bench are extremely strong, an indication of the quality within the group. 

Clifford will take serious watching, and if they can neutralise him in any capacity it will go a long way to a Derry win. 

The McWilliams brothers, Quigg and Brown have all impressed me, and big games from these players will be needed on the day, along with the disciplined and abrasive defending they've brought to the table already. 

The way they handled Croke Park against the Dubs recently suggests they won't have any problems dealing with the big day, which is important at this age. 

Their hunger may be greater than a Kerry team that have won this competition before. 

It could be a deciding factor.


Eoin Bradley (Derry)

The advice I would give the minor players is too enjoy the final.

It's a big day in their life so enjoy the build up and the game and work hard.

Play as a team, which you have been doing all year..

The management have done a fantastic job with them.

They have some quality players in McGrogan at centre-half, Quigg, the McWilliams.

Callum Brown was excellent when he came on in the semi-final.

I'm expecting it to be a tight game. Kerry are a quality side.

But I hope Derry can edge it as a lot of these players will be the core of the Derry senior team in the future.


Enda Lynn (Derry)

Derry minors did very well to beat Dublin in the semi-final. 

Kerry are Kerry are a different animal altogether, they are strong all over the pitch. 

Can Derry stop Clifford????


Niall Morgan (Tyrone)

I'd love to see another All-Ireland title coming to Ulster after our U17s were victorious.
The biggest thing for Derry is to believe and to play the players in front of them - not the jersey or the location.
Good luck to them.


Caolan Mooney (Down)

Derry have been fantastic at this level for a number of years now and should be going into the final full of confidence after a great win against a good Dublin team. 

Finals are there to be won and will come down to which team makes the fewest mistakes. 

In Kerry they have probably the best minor in Ireland in David Clifford if he can be kept quiet Derry will be in with every chance. 

My advice would be to go out and enjoy it. 

They have played in Croke Park in the semi. 

They are used to how it works, getting into Croker, the dressing rooms, so these boys can arrive and prepare like any other game. 

Just go out leave it all on the pitch.


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