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
Although it was impressive to see at the time, I still think it was a bad sign that when they were in trouble against Tyrone, it was Lee Keegan and Chris Barret who had to come forward and kick the points that turned it around for them. What happens when those defenders are too tied up looking after the Dublin forwards?
How can Mayo be sure that the likes of Moran and Dillon are going to click? Okay, they’ve done it before but an All-Ireland final is the wrong game to be going into searching for form. If they don’t find it, Mayo are relying on Cillian O’Connor who can’t be 100 per cent right. Either that or they’re relying on the likes of Enda Varley and Mickey Conroy who just don’t look like they’re of the very highest standard needed to pull a team through a game this big.
The margins are very small here. The occasion shouldn’t be a factor since both teams have been in a final in the last two years. If anything, it might be more of a factor for Dublin since they’ll have four or five guys playing in their first final. But in general, it won’t be any great advantage for either side.
So in a tight game, you have to look at the X-factors that could decide a game late on. And the one thing that Dublin have is their bench. Dean Rock and Kevin McManamon are proven impact players. Eoghan O’Gara might not be just in their bracket but he still manages to have an effect when the game has opened up.
Rock has been brilliant off the bench all summer partly because he always offers something different to whoever he replaces. He’s actually come on for five different players in Dublin’s five matches – Paul Mannion against Westmeath, Diarmuid Connolly against Kildare, Bernard Brogan against Meath, Bryan Cullen against Cork and Ciarán Kilkenny against Kerry.
If he was coming on for, say, Mannion in every game, opposition defences would know what to expect. But when it’s different each time, he finds that bit more space. Add in O’Gara who is a different sort of threat and McManamon who is different again and Dublin have a lot of options.
Chasing the game
My worry for Mayo is that they just don’t have that sort variety coming off the bench. The likes of Conroy, Varley and Darren Coen are quite similar as players. Richie Feeney is different but you wouldn’t class him as a match-winner. He’s the kind of link-man forward who does the dirty work and feeds the scorers. If Mayo are chasing the game though, you can’t see him being the star of the show.
In the end, I’m going to plump for Dublin. It’s a fascinating game on so many levels and I don’t see it being one-sided. But based on their ability to change the pace and direction of the game in the last 15 minutes with those substitutes, I just think they will see the game out better than Mayo.
Now, about those tickets . . .