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semi warning James Horan's Mayo should underestimate surprise package Tipperary at their peril


Tipperary players celebrate after the Munster victory over Cork

Tipperary players celebrate after the Munster victory over Cork

Tipperary players celebrate after the Munster victory over Cork

When the Championship was a knock-out competition, there was always the potential for an upset or two on any given Sunday and that’s what made the games great and not so predictable. I played during the nineties when it seemed that anything and everything was possible.

It was the decade when Ulster footballers found their feet again and came to Croker full of confidence after conquering their ultra-competitive province. Three different Ulster teams would win All-Irelands in four years with another, Tyrone, narrowly missing out, thankfully, on the big prize.

In the most competitive decade, eight different counties would win All-Ireland titles, some of them winning for the first time, with the likes of Galway bridging a 32- year gap.

It was also the decade that saw the re-emergence of Kildare as a major force and who can forget Leitrim and Clare winning their respective provinces against all the odds.

It certainly was a great time for football and perhaps the knock-out format forced teams to be more focused and determined to perform on these one off occasions. The new format has possibly taken the hard edge and bite out of the games, particularly in the earlier rounds.


 Ryan O'Donoghue of Mayo in action against Galway's Gary O'Donnell and Sean Mulkerry

Ryan O'Donoghue of Mayo in action against Galway's Gary O'Donnell and Sean Mulkerry

Ryan O'Donoghue of Mayo in action against Galway's Gary O'Donnell and Sean Mulkerry

The return to the old format this season seems to have brought that wonderful uncertainty back and we have seen some excellent attack-minded matches where the emphasis is on winning as opposed to not losing. There is a huge difference.

In Munster, Kerry were the first big gun to fall and their victors Cork would go down in the next game against a highly motivated and talented Tipperary team. Up north, Cavan thoroughly deserved the title after battling through each and every game.

Both teams will travel to headquarters next weekend with confidence but will know they have to produce something really special to stay in the competition.

The task facing the Munster champions looks to be the easier of the two as they face a Mayo team who have been improving with every game but are capable of having an off day that hurts.

In the Connacht final against Galway, it was another mixed bag, but they were able to hold on despite some late Galway chances. That win will, however, give them a massive boost and they too will arrive next weekend with the belief that they can get to yet another final.

Their big enemy could be complacency. When the draw was fixed they would have expected to have Kerry in the other dressing room and in that scenario, they would have been huge underdogs.

Tipperary pose a very different challenge, however. Underestimate them at your peril.

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A very hard-working team, well managed and coached and they have the firepower to hurt you if given the supply.

This game will attract a huge TV audience and it may well turn out to be a terrific match between two very attack-minded teams. The notion that Tipperary footballers would make it all the way to the All-Ireland final was unthinkable a couple of months ago but with just 70-plus minutes in front of them to achieve that goal, the dream could turn to reality.

On Saturday, Cavan come to town to take on the greatest team of them all. They will try and do what no other team has achieved since Donegal stunned them back in 2014 in that year’s All-Ireland semi-final. Since then the Dubs have won five titles on the spin and continue to dominate the Leinster Championship with their extremely high standards and the efficiency one only associates with the All Blacks.

The demolition of Meath in the Leinster final was a brutal reminder to the field that they are in no mood to relinquish their title anytime soon and you could argue that they look as motivated and hungry as they have done during the last five seasons.

It will be fascinating to see how Mickey Graham (below) and his players approach this challenge but they will all know that it will take something extraordinary from them if they are to compete with the holders.

Dublin are masters at breaking their opponents down and they do it by looking after the basics. Possession is rarely wasted and their efficiency in attack is very impressive.

The other thing that is non-negotiable is the ferocious work-rate they bring to every game.

That work-rate will be their starting point next Saturday so Cavan will have to match that from the throw-in.

It has been a very good season for the Cavan boys with a first Ulster title in 23 years and if they were up against either of the other two semi-finalists, Mayo or Tipperary, I would give them a serious chance of making a first final in 68 years but it’s Dublin and this is where it will end this season for them.

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