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Our panel of GAA experts answer 6 big questions ahead of Dublin v Mayo replay

GAABy Sean McGoldrick
The battle between Mayo's Lee Keegan and Dublin's Diarmuid Connolly will be crucial to the outcome
The battle between Mayo's Lee Keegan and Dublin's Diarmuid Connolly will be crucial to the outcome

Punditry took a hiding in last Sunday’s drawn All-Ireland final as Dublin and Mayo defied all logic to fashion a truly bizarre encounter.

Two own goals, a complete malfunction by the Dublin forwards and Mayo finishing like an express train caught us all by surprise.

Neither side deserved to lose, though neither did enough to win either. So it’s back to headquarters next Saturday for the first All-Ireland football final replay since Kerry beat Galway in 2000.

Mayo, in particular, will be left with a bellyful of regrets if they fail for the 10th time to secure the silverware next Saturday.

Despite conceding two own goals they succeeded in really rattling Dublin last Sunday, but still never looked like delivering a knockout blow. 

The conventional view that Dublin will never play as poorly again may be true. The uncomfortable truth for Dublin is that this team may be actually past its peak.

Their scoring averages have dropped compared to last season, they are netting fewer goals and conceding more, and have become very dependent on Dean Rock (right) for their points – he has contributed over 30 percent of their total.

Mayo, meanwhile, must be worried that for all their big match experience  their game management skills still leave much to be desired in All-Ireland finals. Here our team of experts give their predictions on how the replay will pan out.


1 - Which team will be happier after the draw?

DAVID BRADY: Mayo, because Dublin left it behind them. With 30 seconds left on the clock they were a point ahead and had possession. Just imagine what would have been written about Mayo if they had surrendered a five-point internal lead and a three-point advantage in injury time.

ROSS CARR:  Mixed emotions. Dublin relishing a second chance but concerned about the form of key players; Mayo knowing they can match Dublin but worried about an inability to stop conceding soft goals.

ROY CURTIS:  Dublin. Mayo were comfortably the better team, Dublin’s celebrated attack completely misfired. Gavin’s forwards will hardly be as toothless again and the general display from a team that has not lost for 28 games was anaemic.

SEAN McGOLDRICK: Mayo – any team which scores three points on the spin in injury time to earn a second chance in an All-Ireland final has to be happier.

CHARLIE REDMOND: Mayo – they came from three points down in injury time.

PAT SPILLANE: I doubt if either were too happy. After all Dublin had just produced arguably their worst ever performance under Jim Gavin while Mayo would have been kicking themselves for not taking full advantage.


2 - Who will win next Saturday and why?

DAVID BRADY:  Mayo. They have the measure of the Dublin forwards. Overall Mayo finished stronger than the Dubs who are showing signs of weariness after going non-stop for two years.

ROSS CARR: A really difficult question. I was convinced Dublin would win last Sunday but if Mayo can nullify Bernard Brogan and Co again and stop conceding goals then it could be their day. I think Dublin will win and go down in history as one of the greatest teams ever.

ROY CURTIS:  At maybe 50 per cent, Dublin came within seconds of retaining their title. The Dubs in a high-scoring shootout. 

SEAN McGOLDRICK: Dublin. In the history of All-Ireland final replays the underdogs rarely get a second chance.

CHARLIE REDMOND: Dublin. This group of Dublin players know this is their chance to achieve greatness and, after getting a second chance, they won’t mess up.

PAT SPILLANE: Dublin. While both teams can improve there is far more room for improvement in the Dublin’s performance. The scoring return from the forwards and Dean Rock’s frees couldn’t be as poor again.


3 - Who if anybody should be dropped from Dublin team

DAVID BRADY: Interestingly neither half-forward lines scored from play and both camps have other options. Certainly I expect Paddy Andrews to start the replay. He has a particularly good record against Mayo.

ROSS CARR: Neither Paul Flynn or Bernard Brogan have had the greatest of seasons but both play in a team system and work very hard. So I think both will start.

ROY CURTIS: Jim Gavin doesn’t do panic measures. That said, Paddy Andrews has earned the right to start. Restoring McManamon to super-sub would be a crushing psychological blow to a Footballer of the Year candidate.  But Brogan, now 32, might draw a fresh lease of life from that role. 

SEAN McGOLDRICK: Jim Gavin doesn’t strike me as a gambler though the continuing poor form of Paul Flynn, who doesn’t look match fit, will be a source of concern. 

CHARLIE REDMOND: Paul Mannion, Eoghan O’Gara and Paddy Andrews all have strong cases to be included but my gut instinct is that Dublin will go with the same team again.

PAT SPILLANE: I think Paul Mannion would make a difference and unfortunately for Kevin McManamon he makes a bigger impact when he comes off the bench.


4 - Does Keegan have the Indian sign over Connolly?

DAVID BRADY: Basically the two best footballers in the country are cancelling each other out. But Keegan’s preoccuptation with Connolly is costing Mayo up front.

ROSS CARR: Players occasionally come up against opponents whose style they find difficult to play against. With officials turning a blind eye to ‘off the ball’ contact forwards can get easily frustrated, which deflects their attention.

ROY CURTIS: No. They are two exceptional talents who largely cancel each other out. Connolly  scored a point and assisted a goal with the pass of the game.  Remember too, Keegan’s attacking brilliance was sacrificed to shadow the Dublin player.

SEAN McGOLDRICK: Connolly didn’t shoot the lights out but still provided the assist for a goal and hit a point. Keegan is so pre-occupied with him, but he rarely ventured forward.

CHARLIE REDMOND:  It would help if Connolly got better protection from the officials but, having said that, forwards have to learn to look after themselves.

PAT SPILLANE: The fact that Keegan has outscored Connolly in their direct clashes tells its own story. Dublin ought to consider keeping Connolly on the edge of the square. They need a target man and this move would stop Keegan from going forward.


5 - Can Mayo get more out of Aidan O’Shea?

DAVID BRADY:  He’s working a lot harder off the ball than used to be the case. In the replay I expect he will be deployed closer to the Dublin goal for longer periods.

ROSS CARR: For an inter county forward his decision making leaves a lot to be desired. I’d probably leave him on the edge of the square with Mayo hoping that officials give them the protection that big full forwards don’t seem to get against Dublin.

ROY CURTIS: Place him closer to the Dublin goal and play to his aerial strengths.

SEAN McGOLDRICK: Stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Cian O’Sullivan and force the Dublin sweeper to mark him.

CHARLIE REDMOND: He’s Mayo’s trouble shooter but he always gets the blame when they don’t win. He has never been allowed nail down one spot in the side.

PAT SPILLANE: He is four inches taller than any of the Dublin full-back line which must count for something. Use him as a target man but switch him to midfield on occasion as he did so effectively against Tyrone in the quarter-final. 


6 - Highlight one tactic either manager could spring for the replay?

DAVID BRADY: Start Eoghan O’Gara at full-forward as Mayo don’t have an orthodox full-back. Mayo could introduce Conor O’Shea  – might give them the X factor.

ROSS CARR: Dublin will be looking to move the ball quicker through the middle third and hope that Flynn and Kilkenny re-discover their scoring touch. Mayo might play O’Shea on the edge of the square.

ROY CURTIS: Mayo need to get more from Aidan O’Shea. Dropping long range bombs on a twin or even triple tower full-forward line of O’Shea, Barry Moran and Tom Parsons is an option worth exploring. Dublin simply need to remember all they have been over the past 18 months.    

SEAN McGOLDRICK:  Without an orthodox full back Mayo could be spooked if Dublin sprung their U-21 star Con O’Callaghan. For Mayo assign Brian Fenton a man marker.

CHARLIE REDMOND:  I think both managers will concentrate on the fundamentals. 

PAT SPILLANE:  Dublin could play Diarmuid Connolly as a target man. Stephen Rochford might try the twin towers approach with O’Shea and Moran.