Kevin Madden: Mayo attempts to frustrate Dublin will fail
Dublin stand on the brink on greatness while Mayo will be going all out to end their All-Ireland heartache. Kevin Madden looks at what may tip the balance for either team...
“EXPECTATION is the root is of all sadness”, according to William Shakespeare. So many false dawns have almost left Mayo people with this inevitable feeling of doom when it comes to All-Ireland day. 89, 96, 97, ‘04, 06, ‘12, ‘13 are years that promised so much but in the end delivered only raw heartache and with each passing final defeat that pain must only intensify. This year the landscape is a little different however as expectation is at rock bottom and they are yet to play their best game. But will any of that make a hoot of difference against an exceptional Dublin team on the verge of true greatness?
1 THE FORM
There is a lot to be said for a team coming in under the radar playing below par. Especially a team who traditionally have failed to handle the pressure of All-Ireland Final day.,A Connaught final defeat to Galway was met with some unflattering performances via the back door, before a solid well thought out Semi-final win over Tyrone. Having won three out of the last five All-Irelands surely Dublin are already among the pantheon of ‘great teams.’ But achieving back to back titles is an achievement triumphed by only three other teams in the last 30 years Kerry, Meath and Cork. Their winning rrun of games (consecutive) is now approaching 30 and nothing seems to faze them, due to an ability to hit the scoreboard hard when required.
We asked Irish News AllStars who would win the All Ireland:
2 WHAT HAVE MAYO LEARNED?
Perhaps a bigger question is what Mayo have learned from the 2013 All-Ireland final when they conceded 100% of the Dublin kickout. As I’ve said many times, you cannot expect to beat the best team, with the best scoring talent, by happily allowing them to have more of the ball than you. Eventually, greater possession will lead to them picking you off. In many respects, you have to go for the game, and contesting their kickout will be an important ingredient. Mayo won’t go man to man either as Cluxton will just pick men out even higher up the pitch, which would cause more damage than a simple concession to a corner back. I feel they will go with the full forward and centre half forward marking tight but the corner forwards and wing forwards will play zonal. The corner forwards will play about 5-10 yards on the inside of the Dublin defender between goal and the side-line, just enough to tease Cluxton to play the short kick, but also close enough to intercept - a la Paul Geaney. The Mayo wing half forwards will hold a side each and mark on the outside to deny the ball close to the sideline, and the mid-fielders will hold and stick to a side each in a more central position to close out the pockets of space down the middle where Cluxton will want to exploit. The Mayo wing half backs will also be key to pushing up a little higher to contest. Mayo won’t be able to put full pressure on the Dublin kickout for the entire game as this would leave them too vulnerable defensively, but when they do, they will hope to get scores from it. The anecdotal evidence would suggest, winning the Dublin kickout will guarantee scores. Kerry managed 2 goals and a point from the four or five that they won at the end of the first half of the semi-final. This aspect of the game will be fascinating.
3 KEY MATCH-UP
It’s pretty much nailed on that Lee Keegan will match up against the top footballer in the game right now, Diarmuid Connolly. Both men have plenty of previous history. In the 2013 All-Ireland Final the Mayo defender actually outscored his Dublin counterpart 0-2 to 0-1. In last year’s All-Ireland Semi-final Keegan got Connolly sent off, admitting afterwards that he instigated the incident that led to the dismissal. As Sean Cavanagh found to his cost, the Mayo defender has little to learn when it comes to gamesmanship, so we can be sure he will be on a mission to distract the player who makes Dublin tick most. Renowned for their continuous rotation up front, it will be interesting to see if Connolly pulls Keegan in and plays him closer to goal for any significant period of time. The further the Mayo man lurks from his defensive goal, the more dangerous he becomes. Would he stick or twist? If he sticks, will he be able to handle Connolly in there? Don’t rule out Connolly and Brogan as a twosome inside with Rock and McManaman playing off them.
4 THE REFEREE
They say if you don’t notice the referee then he is doing something right. For a long time, I have been a fan of ‘if you are in doubt blow nothing’ David Goldrick, and more recently (bar last 10 minutes of Dublin v Kerry) ‘The Meath man, living, working and coaching in Dublin’ David Gough. But Conor Lane, we know much less about. He refereed the Down v Monaghan game this year and although it may seem unfair to judge him on one performance, he was quite poor that day. Far from consistent in his application of the Black Card rule, Peter Turley fell foul for the exact same offence that Dermot Malone escaped punishment for. Last year, Derry manager Brian McIver quipped after his team’s defeat to Galway, that the performance of referee Conor Lane was something he “couldn't live with any longer.” As a fairly inexperienced referee it will be interesting how he handles the big calls on free-kick situations. In their Semi-Final victory over Kerry, the Dublin forwards managed to put enough heat on David Gough to give a few decisions their way which turned the game. Aidan O’Se is that physically strong and robust that he is fouled almost every time he gets the ball. The likes of Philly McMahon will play on the very edge, so it will be interesting and key how the referee interprets some of the up close and personal exchanges. With O'Se almost certain to play a portion of the game at full forward, Mayo will pursue a route one approach. If the game ends up a close encounter, the referee will have a massive role to play on these exchanges.
5 THE VERDICT
The expectation of a Mayo win is practically zero. But for a group of players who made a huge statement in ousting last year’s management, they will feel an extra obligation to vindicate the stance they took. Perhaps this was the way it had to happen for Mayo. Beat in Connaught, low key through the back door, and hey presto they stumble upon Sam Maguire when it seemed least likely. But then again, they are coming up against one of the most complete Gaelic Football teams the game has ever produced. Mayo will set-up to frustrate and although it may be close in the end, don't expect a tale of the unexpected come Monday morning.