Intercounty Football

Dublin Mayo – All Ireland Final Preview

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As Dublin and Mayo prepare to renew their rivalry on Sunday, we take a look at some elements of the match up.

Dublin Attack vs Mayo Defence

Dublin’s ‘pick and poke’ style of attack reached new levels of sophistication against Tyrone. Tyrone, it must be said, allowed Dublin to recycle the ball a little too easily from the corners when no more advantage could be gained.

Mayo almost certainly won’t allow this to happen. From 1 to 15 they are ferocious tacklers as is often demonstrated by their forwards turning opposition over high up the field. It’s hard to imagine Ciaran Kilkenny or Philly McMahon being afforded the kind of time they were against Tyrone to direct play.

Mayo should try to pressure Dublin higher up the field, and when Dublin players have committed to attack, they should look to apply serious pressure and stop them recycling the ball as affectively as they did against Tyrone.

This requires a huge amount of effort and discipline from Mayo as a defensive unit, but they showed in the replay against Kerry that they are capable of such efforts. One question that will be asked of them is if the midfield pairing of Seamus O’Shea and Tom Parsons will be able to keep pace with the runs made by Brian Fenton and James McCarthy from midfield.

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In the aerial battle, I would say that Mayo have a slight advantage. But Dublin’s pairing is far superior athletically to Mayo’s, and they will look to exploit this on the ground. Expect Keegan, Vaughan and others to pick up some of the slack in this regard.

Mayo’s Kick-Outs

Mayo’s kick outs, and particularly their short kick outs, were a critical platform for them in the replay against Kerry. Their clever movement, along with Clarke consistently choosing the right option, ensured vital possession for them throughout the entire match. Whereas Kerry gained primary possession on 68 percent of their kick-outs, Mayo won primary possession on 91 percent of theirs.

Jim Gavin will no doubt have worked on this with his forwards. As illustrated in our article ‘Dublin’s Key Men From 1-30’, Dean Rock is crucial in organising Dublin’s forwards when opposition are taking kick outs. Paddy Andrews has experience as an inter-county defender but its yet to be seen if the rest of the Dublin attack have the required discipline and concentration to counter this element of Mayo’s game.

Connolly and the Attack

Much media coverage has been given to the question of whether Diarmuid Connolly will start or not. It’s testament to the embarrassing array of attacking options Dublin have that this is even a question and I personally don’t think that he will. Jim Gavin this year, has looked to finish games with as strong a team as he started them. Connolly would serve as the ultimate trump card and his introduction, at whatever stage, would surely take a psychological toll on Mayo.

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Dublin’s shot selection was impressive against Tyrone and will need to be equally so on Sunday. With more individually superior tacklers to contend with compared to Tyrone, the mettle of O’Callaghan, Mannion and Co. will surely be tested. If the Dublin attack is anywhere close to as efficient as it has been, it will go a long way to securing a victory.

Mayo Attack vs Dublin Defence

In previous years, when playing Mayo, it was safe to assume that if you thwarted Aidan O’Shea and Cillian O’Connor, you would fancy your chances beating them. This is not the case anymore and it’s hard to say who their most dangerous attacker is.

Andy Moran has seemed unmarkable at times this summer and Jason Doherty has become more of a scoring threat. I would expect Cian O’Sullivan/Jonny Cooper to pick up O’Connor, Mick Fitzsimons to pick up Moran, and McMahon to account for Doherty when he’s in the full forward line.
Should Aiden O’Shea move to full forward, I would expect McMahon to be given the task of marking him once again.
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In the 2015 semi-finals, Diarmuid O’Connor was the source of the majority of Mayo attacks. Although his blistering pace often compensates for it, Jack McCaffrey’s defending is still notably slack. This is rarely shown up against wing forwards who typically spend much of their time behind the ball, but against a forward of O’Connor’s calibre, it was shown up clearly in 2015. O’Connor is not having his best year, but his goal against Kerry illustrates that he still requires close attention.

The positioning of Aidan O’Shea is another point that has been hotly debated in the lead up to this final. I expect him to spend time at midfield, centre forward and at full forward. I feel he is most effective at centre forward, provided he doesn’t spend the whole time tracking O’Sullivan or John Small. O’Shea is a big source of scorable frees for Mayo so how he, and his maker, are refereed in the tackle will have a significant bearing on the game, especially the closing stages.

Dublin’s Kick-out

Mayo’s forwards were exceptional on Kerry’s kick outs in the replay. Their man marking was something to behold and their discipline and determination forced Kerry long far more often than they would have liked. Granted, Kerry didn’t have Stephen Cluxton in goals.

Cluxton is capable of putting the ball more or less where he likes. However, with Mayo man marking his defence, along with their ability to turn teams over high up the field, will short kick outs be the best option for him on Sunday? If Mayo push up fully on Dublin kick outs and Cluxton is forced long more often than normal, Dublin will need to improve on their own breaks or Mayo will be capable of clearing up in this regard.

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Of course, if Mayo push up entirely on Dublin’s kick out, Dublin could revert to their hundred miles an hour attack that they are still more than capable of.

Mayo’s attack is more dynamic than it has been in previous years and Dublin have the defenders capable of matching up to them one-on-one. Mayo’s ability to stop Dublin launching attacks from their own defence, will be a key factor.


This is an area where Dublin look to have a significant advantage. Mayo will certainly introduce Conor Loftus and Paddy Durcan, and almost certainly Conor O’Shea and Stephen Coen. O’Shea is the most erratic of these, but all are solid players to bring on. But, as far as I can see, that’s all they are. Coen’s pace could give spark to Mayo but none of these look like significant game changers.
Compare that to the effect which Kevin McManamon, Eoghan O’Gara or, possibly, Diarmuid Connolly would have when introduced. If Dublin are struggling on kick outs, Paul Flynn at wing forward could instantly change this dynamic. (see again our article ‘Dublin’s Key Men From 1-30’).

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If Dublin are struggling to score from play in a crowded Mayo defence, even at 33, Bernard Brogan is still a supreme score taker.

Although they won’t offer as much going forward, Darren Daly and Davey Byrne can slot into the Dublin defence without weakening it at all.

Victory, for either team, will be hard earned. It’s been proven over the last few years that there isn’t much between the sides.
However, Mayo possibly need more to go right for them and have less margin for error in their execution. This, coupled with Dublin’s superior bench, could be the difference.

Verdict: Dublin by four.

By Conor Dunne



Images courtesy of Kieron O’Brien