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EXCLUSIVE Mayo is the only team which can have the level of manic, chaotic energy capable of rocking Dublin

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Dublin players and family members celebrate with the Sam Maguire Cup after last year's All-Ireland success

Dublin players and family members celebrate with the Sam Maguire Cup after last year's All-Ireland success

SPORTSFILE

Aidan O'Shea may have to move to midfield at times to win primary possession for Mayo

Aidan O'Shea may have to move to midfield at times to win primary possession for Mayo

SPORTSFILE

Brian Fenton will bring momentum to the Dublin attack from midfield

Brian Fenton will bring momentum to the Dublin attack from midfield

SPORTSFILE

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Dublin players and family members celebrate with the Sam Maguire Cup after last year's All-Ireland success

Looking ahead to the All-Ireland SFC final, you could be lured in by the ‘gambler’s fallacy’ – that incorrect belief that because a particular outcome occurred so frequently in the recent past that surely the next outcome will buck the trend.

Mayo will travel to Croke Park more in expectation than hope. They have to, with their confidence high after the nature of their display, specifically in the first half, against Tipperary in their semi-final.

However, the Connacht champions’ last victory, in either league or championship, against Dublin was back in 2012, when they defeated the then All-Ireland champions. Since then, the counties have collided 16 times and Mayo have never got the better of the Dubs.

They’ve drawn twice in championship action (2015 All-Ireland semi-final, 2016 All-Ireland final) and once in the league (2014) but on all other 13 occasions the boys in blue have prevailed.

Surely they have to buck the trend soon?

Last year’s All-Ireland semi-final defeat was probably the most sobering of the lot from a Mayo perspective and it looks like it was a key juncture for their manager, James Horan.

At half-time, Mayo led 0-8 to 0-6 but within 12 mesmeric minutes of the restart, Dublin had tallied 2-6 without reply and were on their way to a ten-point victory (3-14 to 1-10).

Horan immediately set about reconstructing his team – building a team with the physicality, pace and endurance, both mental and physical, that he felt could deliver the big prize and end all the years of torment in Croke Park.

Could such a transformation be successful in just 15 months? Anything is possible.

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Aidan O'Shea may have to move to midfield at times to win primary possession for Mayo

Aidan O'Shea may have to move to midfield at times to win primary possession for Mayo

SPORTSFILE

Aidan O'Shea may have to move to midfield at times to win primary possession for Mayo

Close to half of Mayo’s starting 15 tomorrow will not have started in last year’s semi-final defeat and don’t carry the psychological scars that possibly some of their more senior panellists do.

Players such as Oisín Mullin, Eoghan McLoughlin and Tommy Conroy look made for Croker and they’ll face the ultimate test of their early career credentials in the final.

Dublin, themselves, were transformed from 17-point losers and ‘startled earwigs’ to All-Ireland champions from the summer of 2009 to 2011, with Stephen Cluxton’s iconic late free reversing the trend of a generation.

Or going back a bit further to 1995, Dublin defeated Meath by ten points in the Leinster final, yet a year later the Royals, with some new young faces on board, turned the tables to win by two on their way to capturing Sam Maguire.

But as we know, the current Dublin team is an entirely different proposition to any past team from the capital.

So Mayo will arrive in Croke Park for another spin of the wheel, buoyed by the injection of lots of new blood this year, determined to break out of their House of Pain.

Apart from Kerry in last year’s drawn final, Mayo have pushed Dublin to the edge on several occasions in the championships of recent times, but never over the precipice to then reach the summit themselves.

So Horan and his brains trust will have to come up with a game-plan that knows when to hold ‘em and when to go ‘all in’. A strategy of risk/reward, with another plan for the eventuality of a going head-to-head with the Dubs in the home straight.

I think Mayo will come with a containment game in the early passages, to make sure they don’t concede an early goal and utilise their hard-running game to disrupt Dublin’s pattern.

Mayo is the only team which can have the level of manic, chaotic energy capable of rocking Dublin, putting them onto the back foot.

The difficulty, though, with playing a team of Dublin’s ability is that when you close one door, they’ll break down another; erect one road block and they’ll find an alternative route.

Look at the match-ups, for example. Mayo will detail specific man-markers on Ciarán Kilkenny and Con O’Callaghan. but then Dean Rock has a fine scoring record, from play as well as placed ball, in All-Ireland deciders.

Dublin, when they go into attacking mode, are so dynamic that it is extremely hard to pin them down over 70-plus minutes. The forward unit, aided by the momentum from the likes of Brian Fenton, James McCarthy and now Robbie McDaid, will pull the Mayo defenders around Croke Park so Mayo will need a game-plan that covers not just Plan A but several others also.

It’s not like in their semi-final victory over Tipp, where the main strike force of Conor Sweeney and Michael Quinlivan stayed inside and relied on accurate delivery. The Dublin forwards have far greater flexibility and take matters into their own hands by moving out the field when the need arises.

The kick-out is another vital area in tomorrow’s big clash and one where Dublin will look to gain a significant advantage.

While David Clarke, as he proved last day out, is an excellent shot-stopper, his kick-outs have caused problems for his side against the Dubs in the past.

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Brian Fenton will bring momentum to the Dublin attack from midfield

Brian Fenton will bring momentum to the Dublin attack from midfield

SPORTSFILE

Brian Fenton will bring momentum to the Dublin attack from midfield

The trajectory of his kicks when he goes long can prove very inviting for opposition midfielders and this is an area of concern for Mayo.

In Matthew Ruane and Conor Loftus, Mayo have a good footballing midfield, but their ability to win clean, primary ball is questionable.

If Clarke is forced by Dublin to go direct to the middle third, we will see Diarmuid O’Connor and Aidan O’Shea, at times, operating in this area, with Tom Parsons being introduced off the bench.

Kerry flooded this sector in the drawn final last year and enjoyed a fair bit of success but then Cluxton puts the ball down, Brian Howard pulls off an incredible fetch and seconds later Jack McCaffrey is haring through on goal at the Hill 16 end.

There’s no Jack this year to strike fear into Mayo, no Diarmuid Connolly to come off the bench either and these are factors that will give Mayo greater belief.

The more subdued build-up this year could also suit Mayo. There has been no hype, really, and that could aid their younger players especially.

I anticipate Dublin will look to get off to a flying start and sow doubt in the minds of this new-look Mayo side.

This year has been one of flux but I expect one thing to remain constant – the Dubs to be crowned All-Ireland champions again and an eighth Celtic Cross for Stephen Cluxton, James McCarthy, Michael Fitzsimons, Kevin McManamon, Philly McMahon, Michael Darragh Macauley and Cian O’Sullivan.

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