Dublin’s variety off the bench should prove the difference despite Mayo’s upper hand at midfield
With neither side a stranger to the occasion, Jim Gavin’s side have more scoring power
You do it for two reasons. One, there just isn’t enough time once the whistle goes. I’ve said it many times – no game goes by faster than an All-Ireland final. All your decisions have to be made that bit quicker so it’s vital you have spent some time early in the week going through as many different scenarios as you can. That way there’s no confusion.
You saw that in Dublin’s semi-final against Kerry. When Kieran Donaghy came on in the second half, Paul Flynn immediately dropped back in front of Rory O’Carroll. There was no discussion, nobody wondering whether they should or they shouldn’t. A switch that could have taken 30 seconds to organise took no more than five. Flynn just went back there and the Donaghy move came to nothing for Kerry.
The other reason you do it is for the player himself. I read somewhere last week where Aidan O’Shea was saying that he and his brother Séamus don’t decide beforehand who they’re going to pick up and instead they just let it happen. I don’t buy that. You have to have a focus for the week building up to a game like this.
Ready to adapt
Yes, things can change in a game and you’ll have to be ready to adapt. I used to set out to mark Seán Cavanagh only to find that Kevin Hughes had his mind made up that he was marking me. So be it, you just go with what you’re faced with. But you still have to make a plan. From early in the week, you’ve got to know who you’re looking to pick up. If nothing else, it helps you pass the time. It gives you something to concentrate on.
I do think the key area of the pitch on Sunday will be centrefield. That’s not just the bias of a former midfielder either. Dublin have shown signs that they can be got at in that area, good and all as Macauley has been. They pretty much have to start with Cian O’Sullivan there even though he was so impressive at centre-back in the second half against Kerry.
I’d say they’d like to play him at six because Ger Brennan has been taking on water in a few games now but I don’t think they believe that Denis Bastick has a full 70 minutes in him. The O’Sheas are such a formidable pairing – they’re strong in the air, they’re mobile and they have a good understanding with each other. So you would expect them to have the upper hand.
The problem for Mayo though is that they are going to need something close to a 70-30 shake in that area. That’s the sector of the pitch where they are strongest compared to Dublin so they need to drive home that advantage.
And they need to do it even though you can be sure Stephen Cluxton is going to seriously limit the amount of ball he kicks out into the middle. I’d imagine across the game, it will work out at something like one in four kick-outs will go long.
So the work around the middle for the O’Sheas won’t be about high catches, it will be more about tackling and covering and turning the ball over. That’s one thing Aidan O’Shea does really well – if he turns over as many balls as he did against Tyrone, Mayo have a great shot at keeping Dublin in their sights.
Mayo’s greatest weakness is still in their forwards. They might be sick of hearing that kind of thing but there are clearly doubts in that area. Alan Dillon hasn’t been firing this year – he’s scored just seven points in five games even though four of those games were turkey shoots. Neither has Andy Moran, who’s scored 1-3 since he came back from his cruciate injury. I know they’ve run up big scores as a team but I would worry for them on the basis that so many of those scores have come from their defence.