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gaa verdict Mayo will never get a better chance of beating their tormentors Dublin

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Brian Fenton (right) and Matthew Ruane have been hugely influential for their teams

Brian Fenton (right) and Matthew Ruane have been hugely influential for their teams

Brian Fenton (right) and Matthew Ruane have been hugely influential for their teams

IT’S been fewer than 250 days since the All-Ireland final of 2020, yet it seems like a lifetime ago that Mayo and Dublin met on that cold December evening.

However, neither team has stood still.

Dublin’s form has dipped and Mayo are still the team fancied by many to break the unbelievable championship-winning run by the greatest collective group of players we have witnessed in the GAA.

Are we about to witness the start of the end? I, for one, don’t see it as simply as that.

This Dublin group have been tested in every way, shape and form that you can possibly imagine and they won’t relinquish their crown lightly.

Yes, this season they have not been the all-conquering force in the Leinster Championship, or the Allianz League for that matter – though they would still have been in the final if one was played.

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Stephen Cluxton's absence could be felt very keenly by Dublin this summer. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Stephen Cluxton's absence could be felt very keenly by Dublin this summer. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Stephen Cluxton's absence could be felt very keenly by Dublin this summer. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Stephen Cluxton, their inspirational leader, play-maker and captain, has remained outside of the squad.

Combine that with other players such as Paul Mannion who chose to sit this season out, and you are looking at a vessel that was once seemingly unsinkable starting to take on water.

Mayo are still chugging away and there were moments in the Connacht final when they were in real trouble.

I watched the forward line very closely in the first half from my pitch-side seat in line with their attackers and it did not surprise me how little room Galway gave them.

Yet what did alarm me was how little space Mayo created for themselves.

Many of their runs were independent of colleagues and they did not take the opportunity to open the Galway defence up and create room for others.

Mayo’s Tommy Conroy is a class act and everyone knows it.

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On his second senior Championship appearance once again the opposition singled him out for special attention which resulted in his time on the ball being futile.

Just like in last year’s All-Ireland final he failed to beat his marker in the opening half.

When things opened up at the restart he came a little deeper and found time on the ball.

I fully believe Tommy is the future of a Mayo attack. But I think to be successful against Dublin James Horan needs to hold him in reserve for the closing 25 minutes.

There will be mistakes and tired legs and that’s when a direct runner and fluid forward like Conroy could deliver a killer blow.

Mayo’s substitutes have continually failed to make an impact against Dublin in big games.

The introduction of Kevin McLoughlin was very influential against Galway at half-time – and it is the result that matters, not who starts.

Many people are tipping Mayo for the win, and they have the quality throughout the field to really challenge and beat Dublin.

However, there has got to be an appreciation of reality. The loss of Cillian O’Connor is monumental, as a leader and scorer- in-chief.

It falls to Conor Loftus and Ryan O’Donoghue to each put their both feet into a shoe each as nobody can replace O’Connor as an individual on the field.

Dublin have deprived Mayo of multiple All-Ireland football titles over the last few years.

The Green and Red may never get a better chance of beating their tormentors than next Saturday.

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