Expert views: Who will win the All-Ireland football semi-finals this weekend?

Mayo or Kerry? Dublin or Tyrone? John Evans, Ronan McGarrity and Ciarán Murtagh have their say

 Kerry’s Kieran Donaghy under pressure from Mayo’s Aidan O’Shea last weekend.

Kerry’s Kieran Donaghy under pressure from Mayo’s Aidan O’Shea last weekend.

 
John Evans
John Evans

John Evans (Former Tipperary manager)

What are the key areas in the Mayo v Kerry replay? Unusually it is the same for both counties and that’s to find a way of shoring up the respective full-back lines. Eamonn Fitzmaurice and Stephen Rochford will be looking to tweak the way they set up their respective teams to ensure that they are less vulnerable defensively. That team that manages that better will have made significant progress from the drawn game.  

What are the key areas in the Dublin v Tyrone match? I think the biggest question facing Tyrone is whether they can match Dublin’s physicality and pace. The Dubs have a physical advantage and also in the pace in which they transition from defence to attack. Tyrone needs to find a way to counteract both.

Do you expect the Aidan O’Shea tactic to be repeated on Saturday? I am probability in a minority when I say that I thought placing O’Shea on Kieran Donaghy worked reasonably well from a Mayo perspective. There is an obvious difficulty for a big man in trying to defend in bad weather, in terms of keeping you footing and balance, and you have to temper aggression. I think on a dry sod the Aidan O’Shea experiment would work even better.

Would you start Diarmuid Connolly? Absolutely. He is a top player, one of the best and makes a huge contribution to the team. The first player I would pencil in on a Dublin team is Stephen Cluxton and the next one, the first outfield player in any position, would be Diarmuid Connolly.

Who will win in the Mayo v Kerry replay and why? Mayo. I said earlier in the championship on Radio Kerry that Mayo were the team to watch. I’ve admired the way they have brought something different to every game. Kerry will be physically sore and stiff and I think a physically stronger Mayo team will be in better shape. It’s nothing to do with either management but I think the experience of the Mayo players gives Mayo the advantage.

Who will win in the Dublin v Tyrone match and why? Dublin. It goes back to the points I made earlier, I don’t think the Tyrone forwards can match the Dublin defenders in the physical stakes and this coupled with the Dubs’ pace and depth of squad will be crucial.  

Ronan McGarrity
Ronan McGarrity

Ronan McGarrity (Former Mayo footballer)

 What are the key areas in the Mayo v Kerry replay? The Kerry fullback line was extremely poor in the drawn match and Mayo will look to exploit that once again. The key will be getting well-directed, quick ball into the Mayo forwards, denying Kerry the time to filter back or regroup. Eamonn Fitzmaurice is a very intelligent football man and he’ll potentially make changes to systems and personnel. Mayo can get more from Diarmuid O’Connor and I’d like to see Colm Boyle play until the final whistle because his influence can be crucial in that end game.   

What are the key areas in the Dublin v Tyrone match? Fundamental to the outcome will be whether Tyrone can stay with Dublin for the 70 minutes. The Dubs work teams so hard physically and mentally and if there’s any drop off when fatigue sets in there isn’t a better team at latching on to their opponents’ mistakes.  

Do you expect the Aidan O’Shea tactic to be repeated on Saturday? Mayo don’t have any real alternatives either within the team or the squad as things stand. Ger Cafferkey has been injured and Barry Moran, a potential candidate for the role, has seen very little game time, and as history demonstrates painfully from a Mayo perspective you can’t just throw someone in at short notice. I’d like Aidan to get tighter because Donaghy’s first instinct is not to look at the posts, or try and get round his man, but to lay the ball off. If Mayo allow Donaghy to dominate aerially then they’ll be in big trouble. O’Shea has sacrificed his game for the good of the team.    

Would you start Diarmuid Connolly? No. He’s a player I love to watch and puts bums on seats. He has been the best player in the country for the last few years. He makes everything look so effortless with his skill levels but he hasn’t played since the Carlow game and I don’t think the Dubs will risk him because of that inactivity. They only time I’d expect to see him is if Dublin were looking to close out the game and give him some game time in that context.   

Who will win in the Mayo v Kerry replay and why? Mayo because they are battle hardened, have shown great resolve throughout the campaign, and have the players to exploit the weaknesses in the Kerry fullback line.

Who will win in the Dublin v Tyrone match and why? Tyrone. History shows how difficult it is to win three in succession and part of me thinks that an upset would be good for the football championship. Tyrone have shown in the league that they can match Dublin, have the athleticism and fitness to defend and then pour forward. I’d like to see them man-mark Ciarán Kilkenny to curb his influence. Tyrone possess huge, hunger, desire and pride and will relish the challenge.    

Ciarán Murtagh
Ciarán Murtagh

Ciarán Murtagh (Roscommon captain)

What are the key areas in the Mayo, Kerry replay? Obviously each one-on-one battle is going to be massive for both teams but the key areas for me will be both full forward lines. I felt that Keith Higgins was very effective in his role last weekend and really took the game to Kerry, snuffing out various balls and being very strong in the tackle where he was able to force turnovers. Chris Barrett gave a solid display on James O’Donoghue and he will need to minimise the Kerry forward’s impact again in the replay. At the other end, I do not expect Kerry to allow Mayo’s inside forwards to score as freely from play the next day and could even see them going with a sweeper.

Key areas in Dublin/Tyrone? The key areas in this game will be Tyrone’s transition from defence to attack. Tyrone are very effective at defending in numbers and then getting the scores at the opposite end, you only have to look at some of the totals they’ve racked up this year. They have great ball carriers who can transition at pace and if Tyrone can force turnovers they will trouble Dublin.

Do you expect the Aidan O’Shea tactic to be repeated? Yes.

Would you start Connolly? No. I think this game will be tight and when Connolly comes on from the bench it will give Dublin a huge boost. The game will have opened up, which will allow him to have more of an impact and avoid being targeted at the start.

Who will win in the Mayo and Kerry replay? It’s a very hard game to call. Mayo were impressive last weekend, whereas Kerry will feel they underperformed. For that reason, I’ll go with Kerry.

Who will win Dublin and Tyrone? I’m going to go for Tyrone here. I just feel they have something up their sleeves and that their system they play could cause an upset. They’ll be going for the win, whereas many teams Dublin have faced this year were perhaps only trying to limit the damage.

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