Dublin’s need looks greater than Mayo’s
Gavin’s men will be aiming to finish an impressive league campaign by booking a place in the final
Dublin's Kevin McManamon and Cillian O'Connor of Mayo. Photograph: Lorraine O'Sullivan/Inpho
Whereas both teams will be pleased with their progress so far, it’s safe to say Mayo are the ones who can lose this and remain happy enough if they manage a good performance.
For Dublin to have topped the division and not reach the final would be a disappointment and the prospect of a first league title in 20 years must be attractive.
Unlike Dublin, Mayo have a pressing championship engagement just five weeks away and James Horan could be forgiven any preference for getting back to the west and preparing for the championship.
Both teams came late last week to achieve significant results: Mayo moving from a position in the relegation zone at one stage of the day to ending Cork’s league and Dublin relegating the All-Ireland champions in injury-time.
Mayo have had to struggle through the campaign minus their three best forwards, Cillian O’Connor, Alan Dillon and Andy Moran – O’Connor’s impact on returning last week a glimpse of what’s been missing.
Dublin manager Jim Gavin has made two changes to the side which drew with Donegal. Ballymun Kickhams’ Jason Whelan starts start in place of Tomás Brady, whilst Bernard Brogan returns to replace Kevin McManamon at full forward Gavin has struggled to source additional players in centrefield but the abundance in defence has freed up Cian O’Sullivan for duty in the middle. James McCarthy could do a job there too after injury.
Mayo’s problem in the middle is more a reflection on the ongoing search for more menacing personnel in attack. Both Aidan O’Shea and Barry Moran, who have had game time in attack modelling a physical fulcrum role, remain the best options in the middle even if Séamus O’Shea and Jason Gibbons gave an heroic display against the vaunted Cork centrefield last week.
When the teams met earlier in the league Bernard Brogan ran riot and his return from injury could have a major bearing on the outcome. However, Mayo can be expected to tighten up on the supply lines in order to prevent their being exposed in the manner Ger Cafferkey was last month.
Dublin haven’t been brilliant to date but they’ve fairly consistently delivered results whereas Mayo have oscillated wildly – sometimes in the same match.
Dublin look the more likely to push on to the final.
DUBLIN: S Cluxton, K O'Brien, P McMahon, J Cooper; J McCaffrey, G Brennan, D Daly; MD Macauley, C O’Sullivan, P Flynn, J Whelan, D Connolly, P Mannion, P Andrews, B Brogan.
MAYO: D Clarke; K Keane, G Cafferkey, C Barrett; L Keegan, D Vaughan, C Boyle; J Gibbons, S O’Shea; K McLoughlin, A O’Shea, C Carolan; C O'Connor, J Doherty, M Conroy. Subs: K O’Malley, S McHale, M Walsh, R Feeney, K Higgins, E Varley, E Regan, B Gallagher, D Coen, A Murphy, A Freeman.
Referee: J McQuillan (Cavan).