The Championship

Kenny Archer's thinking fans' guide to who should win Sam

Andy Moran celebrates bringing his side level in last year's All-Ireland Senior Football Championship semi-final at Croke Park
Picture by Colm O'Reilly

AHEAD of this Sunday’s All-Ireland Senior Football Championship final, there’ll be plenty of words written and said about who will win. This column, though, considers the various factors influencing who we should want to win...

THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT
If you’re truly neutral, then you must go for Dublin, who have been hailed as ‘the saviours of football’. Compiling the stats, I see they play terrific attacking football, with almost all their players getting forward to get on the scoresheet, even their goalkeeper.

So far in this Championship campaign, they’ve had 19 - yes, nineteen - different scorers. Oops, sorry, I’ve double-checked and that’s actually Mayo. Dreary Dublin have ‘only’ 15 different scorers in this Championship - and their ’keeper Stephen Cluxton hasn’t been one of them.

 

THE SYMPATHY FACTOR
Come on! Have you got a heart (and aren’t from Galway or Dublin)? Mayo have lost seven senior deciders since their last win. Seven! 1989, 1996, 1997, 2004, 2006, 2012 and 2013.

Most of this particular Mayo team have also lost semi-final replays to the eventual champions of the past two seasons and were definitely hard done by against Kerry in that second meeting of 2014.

If you don’t feel a shred of sympathy for them, then you’re a zombie (and/or from Galway or Dublin).

 

 

BANTZ
Come on! Haven’t you got a sense of humour? If Mayo win that would mean everyone else can no longer laugh at them, even lesser counties who have no chance of winning their province, never mind the All-Ireland.

 

KARMA'S GONNA GET MAYO
You don’t have to be from Fermanagh to have been disgusted at Aidan O’Shea’s theatrical tumble to con a crucial, game-changing penalty against the Erne men in the round two Qualifier this year.

Fortunately for Aidan, he’s not from Tyrone, so he didn’t get all that much criticism - certainly not from, cough, a certain Dublin-based national broadcaster - and the outcry didn’t last very long either.

Having said that, big Aidan has shipped a fair (unfair?) amount of punishment himself, notably from Dublin’s Philly McMahon, with many clear fouls on the Breaffy man-mountain going unpunished in previous seasons.

So perhaps he deserved to be on the right side of some ridiculous refereeing for a change.

 

KARMA'S GONNA GET DUBLIN
In a strange way, it would be good for the reputation of the GAA if some dubious refereeing helped Mayo to win/contributed to Dublin losing. I realise those are two sides of the same coin, but that scenario might weaken the argument the GAA is only interested in the money Dublin’s massive support generates.

Besides, some people (looking into no mirrors in particular) reckon Dublin definitely benefitted from some generous officiating in both the 2011 and '13 finals. Even the most ardent Kingdomite would accept Kerry had no one to blame but themselves last year - although perhaps we should recall some of the ‘attention’ Kieran Donaghy received from the Dublin defence...

 

DOMINATION IS GOOD FOR THE GAME
Fans of all the other counties secretly love a big dog - in order to see if anyone can knock it off its perch/Crufts-style podium. Some - the type I don’t understand myself - actually just love the regular winners, even if it isn’t their own county.

If Dublin win this Sunday, it’ll be their fourth triumph in just over five years (six seasons). Yet, has hurling suffered from Kilkenny’s dominance so far this century? The Cats won more All-Irelands in this period than Dublin have done in half-a-century. Indeed, the Dubs haven’t even retained the title since 1977. Not yet, anyway. We’re told Kilkenny and Dublin have raised the standards of their games - is that true?

On the other hand, have levels of interest in either code waned? Are attendances declining? Discuss, debate, answers in an email please. 

 

STATISTICAL ANALYSIS IS OVER-RATED BY FACTOR OF 3.7
A Mayo win (and a Dublin defeat) would reinforce that old, in-depth, considered statistical analysis which states ‘all runs must come to an end’. It would also add credence to the traditional prediction technique of ‘ah, sure, you never know...’

 

THE WEST IS COMATOSE
Connacht hasn’t had an All-Ireland senior football champion since Galway in 2001 - that’s 15 years, fact fans - and that’s too long for any province to go without a winner.

Ulster folk felt annoyed and aggrieved that no one seemed to care about Sam Maguire’s absence from the north throughout the 1970s and ’80s, so some fellow-feeling for those in the west wouldn’t go amiss.

Then again, Galway’s wins in 1998 and 2001 have been the only times Sam has gone west over the past half-century, since the Tribes men completed the second most famous sporting hat-trick of 1966.

Given that stat, it’s hard to make a case that Connacht football ‘needs’ an All-Ireland. It’s surviving despite that drought. It just wants an All-Ireland. Like everyone else.

Including Dublin.

 

DUBLIN GET IT EASY
Well, up to a point. Leinster may be a stroll for them but, since then, they’ve beaten the 2012 winners (and 2014 finalists) Donegal and the 2014 winners (and 2015 finalists) Kerry.

Mayo, in contrast, have got here with only one truly tough match, against Ulster champions Tyrone, and the Red Hands have not quite been at the level of Donegal or Kerry in recent seasons, having not reached an All-Ireland final since 2008.

Otherwise, Mayo’s opponents outside Connacht have been Fermanagh, Kildare, Westmeath and Tipperary.

 

 

GOOD GUYS SHOULD FINISH FIRST
I may have related this anecdote before, but it bears repetition, it bears repetition. Besides, unlike some columns' stories involving high-profile players, I actually witnessed this one, rather than merely making it up to illustrate a point.

After the 2004 All-Ireland U21 Football Championship final, which continued Mayo’s losing streak in All-Ireland finals at all levels, the defeated Andy Moran stood in the tunnel area and shook the hands of all the victorious Armagh players making their way to their dressing room.

If a man like that doesn’t deserve a Celtic Cross, who does?

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The Championship