Preview: All-Ireland SFC final
September 21, 2013
Mayo's Donal Vaughan with Jonny Cooper and Jack McCaffrey of Dublin. INPHO
Opinion is very much divided as to who will be crowned All-Ireland senior football champions for 2013 - but the one thing everyone agrees on is that the clash of Dublin and Mayo has all the ingredients of a potential classic.
The undisputed two form teams in the country, and two teams that place a greater emphasis on attack rather than defence, will contest this year's Sam Maguire showpiece.
On paper, there is little to separate them.
The betting odds favour Dublin slightly following their epic 3-18 to 3-11 semi-final victory over Kerry last month but Mayo have steamrolled their way to the last two and possess the added incentive of wanting to make up for last year's disappointment against Donegal.
James Horan has instilled a strong backbone in this Mayo team that was, some would say, conspicuous by its absence in teams of recent vintage and that is why their supporters will travel to Croke Park with confidence, moreso than hope, of ending their 62 year wait for Sam Maguire.
From one to 15, it's difficult to pick out a weak link but the outcome could depend on whether or not two-time 'Young Footballer of the Year' Cillian O'Connor can overcome a dislocated shoulder injury in time to line up against the Dubs.
His participation in the 1-16 to 0-13 semi-final win over Tyrone was brought to a premature end by his latest injury set-back and Horan and his selectors have to decide if his inclusion from the start is a gamble they can afford to take.
The Ballintubber clubman's haul of 6-14 in the championship to date underlines his importance to the Connacht champions' cause.
Midfield will be a key battle ground and Mayo will expect the O'Shea brothers, Aidan and Seamus, to give them the upperhand here against the likely Dublin pairing of Michael Darragh Macauley and Cian O'Sullivan.
The Leinster champions have struggled in this department all year but their half-back and half-forward lines have taken up the slack and Mayo will have to come up with a plan to combat the forward runs of wing-backs James McCarthy and Jack McCaffrey.
Paul Flynn, Ciaran Kilkenny and Diarmuid Connolly form a potent half-forward line and if Paul Mannion and Bernard Brogan get to see enough of the ball they can punish Mayo on the scoreboard.
The Mayo full-back line are well aware of the threat posed by those two following their two meetings in the National Football Leaguer earlier in the year.
Former 'Footballer of the Year' Brogan helped himself to 1-10 (1-4 from play) when the hosts inflicted a 2-14 to 0-16 defeat on the visitors in the group stage while Mannion hit them for 1-3 from play in the 2-16 to 0-16 league semi-final victory back in April.
A lot of water has passed under the bridge since those meetings and Brogan has struggled to reach the same heights since.
If he were to rediscover his goal scoring touch then Mayo could be in for a long afternoon but the Connacht champions get a tentative vote to bring their 62 years of misery to an end.
Regardless of the outcome, let's hope the entertainment value will live up to the pre-match expectations! Verdict -
S Cluxton; P McMahon, R O'Carroll, J Cooper; J McCarthy, G Brennan, J McCaffrey; MD Macauley, C O'Sullivan; P Flynn, C Kilkenny, D Connolly; P Mannion, P Andrews, B Brogan.Mayo:
R Hennelly; T Cunniffe, G Cafferkey, C Barrett; L Keegan, D Vaughan, C Boyle; A O'Shea, S O'Shea; K McLoughlin, K Higgins, A Dillon; C O'Connor, A Freeman, A Moran.Referee:
Joe McQuillan (Cavan) Odds:
Dublin evens; Draw 9/1; Mayo 11/10 Match details:
Sunday, September 22nd; Croke Park; 3.30pm
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