All-Ireland final - Mayo v Tyrone: Throw-in time, TV details and team news

More practised game plan and greater forward potential tilts balance Tyrone’s way

All-Ireland senior football final: Mayo v Tyrone, Croke Park, Saturday, 5pm – Live on RTÉ 2 and Sky Sports Arena

The final no one saw coming before either of the semi-finals, let alone any earlier, has given the season a voltage few were expecting when the season began. For added mystery it comes with virtually no reference points, as the temporary sudden-death format, unlike the qualifiers and Super 8s, leaves no intersecting form lines that might be helpful.

Rarely also has a final provoked so much hand-wringing over how close it is to call while, at the same time, prompting near unanimity that one of the teams, in this case Mayo, is going to win.

The emotional fervour behind Mayo is detectable with a Geiger counter. This after all is the 10th final since they last managed to win, 70 years ago. Ten finals in context is more than all but six counties have even contested in their history. Mayo have done it in 32 years without reward.

Tyrone’s All-Ireland stats are a tidy won three, lost three; Mayo’s are three, 14. They’ve lost more finals than Dublin, who have 10 times as many All-Irelands.

Do longing, however ardent, and the law of averages mean anything in finals?

To be fair to James Horan, he has always swum against the tide in the county by dialling right down the emotionalism and emphasising the science. His team, with its physical attributes and unrelenting work ethic, is testament to that.

They’re not robots, either. The heart and dedication with which they hunted down a faltering Dublin demonstrated the power of those intangibles.

Part of the excitement in the county is that Kerry aren’t the opponents and yet Horan probably had a thick dossier on the Munster champions’ weaknesses – headless running, poor judgement on the ball and susceptibility to claustrophobic man marking – that Tyrone successfully exploited.

Neither side has been shooting the lights out. Both managed 17 scores in 90 minutes of football in the semi-finals with the Ulster side doing better in that three of theirs were goals.

Horan set up very conservatively to deprive Dublin of goals in the first half. The problem was that the champions helped themselves to 10 points and few observers were stroking their chins at the break, saying that this was working out very well for Mayo.

Could they have been counting on Dublin to score just three points in the second half? If so, kudos but a more sustained performance is probably going to be necessary here.

An issue

That’s been an issue for Horan and his management. The past two matches have seen extraordinary recovery in the second half but dire first-half displays to necessitate it..

Injuries to defenders Mullin and McLaughlin were being widely speculated as cleared up but whereas Mullin is listed in the subs, McLaughlin isnt. Mullin’s availability gives May a real prospect of improvement along with the return of Brendan Harrison – who’s another who could be sprung

Brian Dooher and Feargal Logan have to decide whether to start Cathal McShane, who looked back in form with 1-3 off the bench against Kerry. If that's the case, Conor McKenna could make way even though his eye for goal yielded 2-0 in the semi-final, not insignificant in a one-point game.

The teams are going to have to adjust from semi-finals in which opposition defending was hospitable. Nothing is going to be easily available. Mayo’s young guns Ryan O’Donoghue and Tommy Conroy may have kicked on from the positive experience but Tyrone’s attack is more experienced and features a couple of All Stars in McShane and Matthew Donnelly.

The Ulster champions have a more dependable system and apply it with greater, if still imperfect, consistency whereas Mayo bring occasional thunder-periods when their backs, Lee Keegan, Patrick Durcan, Mullin, if fit, Matthew Ruane at centrefield pour forward and it’s hard to resist.

Tyrone also need to watch their discipline. The two black cards in the semi-final were ridiculous and if the match is to be swung by a moment of madness, they look more vulnerable.

Otherwise will Mayo adjust Aidan O’Shea into a more specific role rather the somewhat Sisyphean task of positioning himself at full forward under hopeful deliveries only to be devoured by the waiting sentries?

He could be deployed as a physical presence at centre forward, where he is named and where he is probably best suited, to make life difficult for Tyrone's transition experts like Niall Sludden and Kieran McGeary and in attack to bring others into play.

Andy Moran made a good point during the week that a final with two largely inexperienced teams without All-Ireland medals could be relied on to provide plenty of contests for possession now that Dublin’s choreographed ball retention has stopped working.

Turnovers aplenty happened in the semi-finals and although the winners led that count, they also conceded.

Cards on the table: the marginal preference is for the more practised game plan and greater forward potential of Tyrone. It’s not an irrefutable case but neither will it be easily undone.

MAYO: R Hennelly; P O'Hora, L Keegan, M Plunkett; P Durcan, S Coen, E Hession; M Ruane, C Loftus; D O'Connor, A O'Shea, B Walsh; K McLoughlin, T Conroy, R O'Donoghue.

Subs: R Byrne, C Boyle, B Harrison, O Mullin, J Coyne, C O'Shea, J Durcan, J Flynn, D Coen, E McLaughlin, J Carr.

TYRONE: N Morgan; M McKernan, R McNamee, P Hampsey; F Burns, P Harte, K McGeary; B Kennedy, C Kilpatrick; C Meyler, M O'Neill, N Sludden; D McCurry, M Donnelly, C McKenna.

Subs: L Quinn, M Bradley, D Canavan, P Donaghy, N Kelly, T McCann, B McDonnell, HP McGeary, C McShane, J Munroe, C Munroe/C Shields.

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times

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