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all-ireland final Now it’s the turn of this Mayo team to create their own history in Croke Park on Saturday night

Returning Oisín has a critical role to play

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Ronan McNamee of Tyrone tangling with Aidan O’Shea of Mayo back in 2016

Ronan McNamee of Tyrone tangling with Aidan O’Shea of Mayo back in 2016

Ronan McNamee of Tyrone tangling with Aidan O’Shea of Mayo back in 2016

This weekend’s first-ever Mayo v Tyrone All-Ireland Football Final is so different in so many ways.

The script was written for a Dublin-Kerry decider in 2021 – but neither team could withstand the ferocity of intent delivered by their opponents in the two semi-finals.

Mayo players and supporters needed the four-week break since qualifying, to calm the emotion generated by finally beating Dublin.

The break has also given Mayo a chance to refocus and leaves them with a distinct advantage.

Top defender Oisín Mullin ­returned to training last week and is ready to play his part.

It will be a concern that the ­final will be his first game in seven weeks.

James Horan might be considering doing a so-called ‘Peter Canavan’ with him.

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Lee Keegan (left) and Pádraig O’Hora of Mayo celebrate.

Lee Keegan (left) and Pádraig O’Hora of Mayo celebrate.

Lee Keegan (left) and Pádraig O’Hora of Mayo celebrate.

Depending on how the game ­unfolds, Horan might give him a break at the start of the second half and then reintroduce Mullin when the game is in the melting pot with 20 minutes to go.

Abundance

Had Kerry won their semi-final, the match-ups for Saturday night from a Mayo perspective would have been much more straightforward than they are now.

But as we witnessed last weekend, Tyrone have an abundance of quality, on and off their bench – and they have no reliance on a scorer-in-chief.

Still, I want to see Mullin shadowing Mattie Donnelly.

Mullin would have three jobs – reducing the influence of Donnelly, seeking to contribute to the Mayo attack when possible, and being around when Tyrone counter-attack at pace because the Mayo man has the pace that can cut off the Tyrone lines of running. It’s a lot to ask of a lad who has been injured of late, but that package is what Mayo may need of him to win this final.

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Thus my notion of giving him an extended half-time break.

I would not allow Pádraig O’Hora the same latitude because he has now become head of Mayo GAA security.

Mayo did not allow Dublin’s dangerous forwards to score a goal and have conceded only two in the entire championship.

Much of this is down to O’Hora’s ability to anticipate danger and offer protection to goalkeeper Rob Hennelly.

Refuse

Regardless of whether he starts or comes off the bench, you know ­Tyrone’s Cathal McShane will ­feature on the big day.

I want O’Hora to ask for McShane’s ID straight away and refuse him entry to the Mayo D!

I expect Ronan McNamee will pick up Aidan O’Shea at the other end of the field.

This final is made for the Mayo captain to let rip.

If Mayo deliver direct intelligent ball into their captain it could be a foundation for success.

Up until now, and regardless of O’Shea’s below-par performance in the semi-final and previous finals, this year the quality of ball directed into him has not been good enough.

‘Touch-tight football’ is defined as having your opponent within reach at all times and leaving not two seconds between his touch of the ball and your touch of him.

Tyrone this year have brought it to a whole new level.

I call it Octopus tight, with a ferocity and intensity that either fouls, smothers, or dispossesses the opponent. But nobody gets time on the ball when you are playing Tyrone.

It is vital on Saturday that Mayo players run into spaces, not ­opponents.

Tyrone bosses Brian Dooher and Fergal Logan have their team feeding off this intensity and close contact.

Faze

Nothing can be ruled out, a goal in the first minute, a row, an early red card.

Yet nothing will faze this Mayo bunch. They have seen it all before.

They have never failed to put on a performance on All-Ireland day, albeit even in so many heartbreaking defeats.

As supporters we have endured some great days on this journey as well as being there for the team when there was only the cruel sting of defeat, but the attitude of the Mayo group has never changed.

They always say, next year, next game and the next final and here we are again.

This is their best ever opportunity to plant the flag after a 70-year break and I write that not because they are playing against Tyrone or because they ended a once-in-a-lifetime run of Dublin success.

It’s because they are good enough; Mayo are capable and experienced and not reliant on one or a few.

It is because they are a team driven by one common goal.

As the old Irish saying goes, “may the road rise to meet you and if not tear it up and create your own path in life.”

Now it’s the turn of this Mayo team to create their own history in Croke Park on Saturday night.

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