Finishing power tilts the verdict towards Dublin
Dublin will be better able to raise the tempo in the final quarter than Mayo
Mayo, with their more aggressive attack, will push up on Stephen Cluxton’s kick-outs although Kerry’s ploy of encouraging short re-starts to static defenders created difficulty for Dublin. But Mayo don’t have a Colm Cooper to orchestrate the moves that nearly killed off the semi-final in the first half.
They do have work rate and a menacing turnover threat but they also have full fitness issues over two of their top attackers, Andy Moran and Cillian O’Connor, whose shoulder might last or might not, hardly an ideal state of affairs for him or the team but such is his importance from frees as well as play that there was no real alternative.
If Mayo’s combination game catches Dublin flat footed - and with Keith Higgins’s pace and class now operating in attack, it’s a possibility - they’ll get the goals that are almost certainly going to be needed to win.
Maybe more significantly, how will matters progress at the other end of the field?
Mayo’s defence is so fast and clever that it poses an offensive threat – as the points at the end of the first half against Tyrone proved – and although Dublin’s forwards are more associated with getting scores they’re going to have to make counter attacks as hard as possible to launch, knowing that if they run out of puff, reinforcements will arrive.
I think Dublin will win this. They don’t have the hurt of last year’s final to drive them but they’re a newly constructed team under new management with the salutary experience of last year’s semi-final.
They can mobilise a formidable bench, which allows them to raise the tempo in the final quarter and even though they won’t have the usual conspicuous advantage of pace throughout the 70 minutes, the bench has consistently brought scores in a way that Mayo’s replacements won’t match.
If we accept that this match isn’t going to be won easily, then the final 10 minutes will be vital and Dublin have been there more often than Mayo whose victories have been wrapped up by the final quarter never mind the closing minutes.
It’s finely balanced but the tilt is towards Dublin.
DUBLIN (SFC v Mayo): Stephen Cluxton(capt.); Philly McMahon, Rory O’Carroll, Johnny Cooper; James McCarthy, Ger Brennan, Jack McCaffrey; Michael Dara Macauley, Cian O’Sullivan; Paul Flynn, Ciarán Kilkenny, Diarmuid Connolly; Paul Mannion, Paddy Andrews, Bernard Brogan.
Probable subs: Shane Supple, Denis Bastick, Shane Carthy, Kevin O’Brien, Bryan Cullen, Darren Daly, Michael Fitzsimons, Kevin McManamon, Kevin Nolan, Eoghan O’Gara, Dean Rock
MAYO (SFC v Dublin): Robert Hennelly; Tom Cunniffe, Ger Cafferkey, Chris Barrett; Lee Keegan, Donal Vaughan, Colm Boyle; Aidan O’Shea, Seamus O’Shea; Kevin McLoughlin, Keith Higgins, Alan Dillon; Cillian O’Connor, Alan Freeman, Andy Moran (capt).
Probable subs: Brendan Walsh, David Clarke, Shane McHale, Kevin Keane, Brendan Harrison, Barry Moran, Jason Gibbons, Cathal Carolan, Richie Feeney, Enda Varley, Jason Doherty, Michael Conroy.