GAA Football

Whoever holds their nerve in front of goal wins Sam: Peter Canavan

Peter Canavan (centre) during his time with the Tyrone U21s. The Tyrone legend fully expects the All-Ireland final between Mayo and Tyrone to go down to the wire

WHEN all the analysis, tactical takes and match-ups are done – Saturday’s All-Ireland final between Tyrone and Mayo will come down to one prevailing truth: who holds their nerve when the chances inevitably come.

Former Tyrone great Peter Canavan also can’t envisage anything other than the tightest of games when the Ulster and Connacht champions face-off in this year’s fascinating showpiece at Croke Park.

Painting a refreshingly uncomplicated picture of Saturday’s final, the two-time All-Ireland winner said: “It’s going to come down to the scoring stakes and who takes their chances on the big day. Free-kicks? Cillian O’Connor is not there for Mayo, Tyrone were guilty of missing chances against Kerry...

“I don’t think there will be very much between them and whenever you look back at it, one team will be more proficient in front of goals than the other team, and that’ll be enough to get them over the line.”

Mayo have a slightly better spread of scores in League and Championship in 2021, with 24 players compared to Tyrone’s 22.

Mayo have also hit the net 16 times to Tyrone’s seven, although half of Mayo’s majors came against Sligo and Leitrim in the Connacht Championship.

Darren McCurry goes into Saturday’s decider as Tyrone’s top scorer with 0-41 (0-18 frees, 0-2 marks) with Paul Donaghy next on the Red Hand charts with 0-17, with Cathal McShane and Conor McKenna's game-time sorely affected by injury although they still managed to mine 3-11 between them.

Mayo have been more prolific this season with Ryan O’Donoghue (3-23, 0-11 frees, 0-3 marks), Cillian O’Connor (injured) sitting on 2-24 while Darren McHale, Tommy Conroy and Mattie Ruane have hit a combined 5-35.

“How badly does Mayo want to win an All-Ireland? You don’t have to answer that question,” said Canavan, with the Westerners looking to end their interminable search for Sam for the first time since 1951.

“And from a Tyrone point of view, what’s their experience of All-Ireland finals? Losing one.

“So, in terms of motivations, you’ll have two sets of players who will give it absolutely everything, just as they did in their semi-finals.”

Echoing the sentiments of his former manager and Errigal Ciaran club-mate Mickey Harte, Canavan felt the narrative emerging from Tyrone’s brilliant extra-time win over Kerry in the semi-final was deeply flawed.

“It’s harsh for those people to say that Kerry lacked hunger and Tyrone were the hungrier team,” said Canavan, who is a pundit with Sky.

“Did Kerry not really want to beat Tyrone in an All-Ireland semi-final?

“And if one of those goal chances had gone in and Kerry won the game you’re looking at the game from a completely different lens and you’d be looking at so many aspects of Kerry’s performance they got right – the scoring prowess of [Sean] O’Shea and David Clifford and the fact they came from five points down in extra-time.

“Imagine they had won that game people would have been talking about the character that’s in that Kerry team to come back. So margins are very fine and I don’t believe it was a lack of hunger from Kerry’s point of view.”

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