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All Ireland Final Preview : 3 Key Battles

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Ahead of this weekend’s All Ireland Final  (full preview available here) , Danny Morrissey looks at three key areas in which the success of Dublin or Mayo will hinge on.

1.       Midfield

The midfield contest is somewhere I’m sure James Horan and selectors of Mayo will have looked at and will be hoping to dominate if they are to be successful come Sunday. Aidan and Seamus O’Shea in my opinion shade the Cavanagh brothers as the best midfield pairing in the country and are a large part of the Mayo success train. The Dubs will match these guys up with Michael Darragh MacAuley and one from Cian O’Sullivan or David Bastick. This part of the field is where I feel Mayo hold the real edge. No disrespect to the Dublin trio but this is possibly Dublin’s weak area with Meath earlier in the year more than matching up and dominating for periods in the middle. Kerry with an average midfield nearly had enough last time out too with the Dublin midfield at no point this year dominating this section of the field. Mayo will try and pressurise Stephen Cluxton in goal to avoid any short kick-outs and go long where the O Shea’s will want it up in the sky. Yes MacAuley is a good fetcher of the football and the others hard workers but if the O’Shea brothers keep up their fabulous form to date they will dominate here which might enhance Ciaran Kilkenny , the Dublin fulcrum of attack at 11 , back into the middle to help out thus reducing their attacking threat.

Either way I’m sure Mayo will have looked at the way Meath approached and had success in the early part of their game against Dublin and hope to emulate that. For Jim Gavin and Dublin they will hope their midfield pairing will rise to the occasion and put in their best performance to-date, something that will be required and more to nullify the threat the O’Shea brothers will bring come Sunday. Whatever way it unfolds the outcome of Sam will very much hinge on the dominance here.

2.       Half-Back line

I am tempted to say that the team whose half-back line exerts the greatest influence will be the one to emerge victorious on Sunday. The energy, drive and creativity of Lee Keegan, Donal Vaughan and Colm Boyle is matched by the authority of James McCarthy, Ger Brennan and Jack McCaffrey. The modern day half-back now has extra responsibility to run off the midfield and create an extra option in attack, both sets of half-backs do this excellently and if they can impact the scoreboard it will prove a mighty boost on a day of small margins. For Mayo if their half-backs can have the Dublin half-forwards thinking on the back-foot this will further weaken their forward prowess but alternatively if they decide to go and get caught up the field with no cover they will be opened up by a lethal attacking force in Dublin. Such little decisions to go or not could be the deciding factor come the end of seventy minutes. This is where the talented Keith Higgins is vital for the Mayo cause. Picked at centre-forward he is expected to deploy the sweeper role and fill any gaps that might appear should a half-back wander forward, along with providing the extra man in defence against the lethal Dublin attack which has averaged 2-18 a game this year to date. Half back dominance a must for either team to prevail.

3.       Bench

It’s a common saying now that “it’s a 20-man game” and such is the ferocity of our beloved game today, fresh legs mid-way through the second half is now a must and potential game-winning weapon. On Sunday the benches of both teams will again be vital in the end result. Added to the starting unit for Dublin is a back-up cast of score takers that would grace most teams in the country. An early injury may force the hand of management and the player then coming in must be ready to hit the ground running and adapt to the pace straight away. Between them the Dublin subs have accounted for 20% of Dublin’s scoring output and with few exceptions have augmented the work of the starting sextet. Dean Rock in particular has impressed with his two points per game tally. His poise and calm in the act of shooting is certainly something he didn’t lick off the grass. Whether it is Rock, Eoghan O’Gara, Kevin McManamon or Bryan Cullen for Dublin or Michael Conroy or Enda Varley for Mayo the bench will most definitely have a bearing on the scoreboard come the final whistle.

A draw is not a bad bet but I’m going to plummet for Mayo.

Mayo for Sam

Image courtesy of RTE.ie

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  1. September 20th, 2013

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