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final countdown Now Mayo have to go to war with an outfit that is a mirror-image of themselves

Just like Mayo, the Red Hands would not take ‘No’ for an answer to set up intriguing final

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Conor McKenna shoots past Shane Ryan to get Tyrone’s first goal

Conor McKenna shoots past Shane Ryan to get Tyrone’s first goal

Conor McKenna shoots past Shane Ryan to get Tyrone’s first goal

Well now, Mayo are heading into the 2021 All-Ireland Football final as the favourites, playing a team they have beaten regularly in the Championship in the last 20 years.

The two teams who have broken Mayo hearts over those two decades, Dublin and Kerry, are gone.

Instead we have two counties in the showpiece who have in common the fact that they would not take ‘No’ for an answer in 2021.

Even when Tyrone were at their brilliant best in the middle of the noughties, Mayo teams that I played on found a way to beat them. I don’t know why, I don’t know how, but they did.

Now the current Mayo team have to go to war with an outfit that is a mirror-image of themselves.

There was a doggedness about Tyrone yesterday that I see in Mayo too. They hunted, they tackled, they fought for every ball.

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Diarmuid O’Connor of Kerry in action against Tyrone players, from left, Mark Bradley, Ben McDonnell, Michael McKernan, and Darragh Canavan,

Diarmuid O’Connor of Kerry in action against Tyrone players, from left, Mark Bradley, Ben McDonnell, Michael McKernan, and Darragh Canavan,

Diarmuid O’Connor of Kerry in action against Tyrone players, from left, Mark Bradley, Ben McDonnell, Michael McKernan, and Darragh Canavan,

They would not accept an honourable defeat.

They say managers often have their best impact in their first season, when all is fresh and new.

We didn’t think that would apply to Feargal Logan and Brian Dooher, simply because the Mickey Harte habits had been so ingrained in Tyrone football.

So what they have done with the team is all the more to be admired.

Remember Tyrone have reached the All-Ireland final by dethroning the Ulster Champions Cavan and beating three sides from Division One in the Allianz League, Donegal, Monaghan and Kerry.

Mayo have qualified by beating a Division One team in Galway and then another one – the six-times champions Dublin.

You cannot argue that the two teams do not deserve to play on the big day on Saturday week.

One word of warning for Mayo fans. Don’t think we have the upper hand on Tyrone in experience.

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Saturday week is going to be the first ‘real’ All-Ireland final for many Mayo players.

I say that because last year was shorn, understandably, of so much of what surrounds an appearance in the All-Ireland final.

There was no media day, no sorting out suits, no planning an overnight in Dublin, no hustling for tickets, no 82,000 people at the game.

So I suspect Tyrone have as many survivors from their 2018 loss to Dublin on a ‘real’ big day as Mayo have from their defeat a year earlier.

Of course, the final should have been played today, August 29th, in the GAA’s masterplan.

The extra fortnight suits Mayo just fine.

It gives them a chance to get Oisín Mullin and Eoghan McLoughlin back fit.

I suspect Eoghan may be able to make some appearance wearing a faceguard, just as Antonio Rudiger did for Chelsea in big matches at the end of last season.

And before you say, “Eoghan broke his jaw two weeks ago”, I broke my arm at training three weeks before the 2001 Connacht final against Roscommon.

I had a plate and seven screws inserted in it, adapted a shinguard to go over the area of the break and then wore a long-sleeved jersey.

I came on midway through the second half and all was going well until Gerry Lohan did us with a Rossies’ goal in the last minute.

So don’t rule Eoghan out of playing just yet.

And there is a whisper around the county that Cillian O’Connor is back running after his Achilles injury.

Of course, he won’t start, but it would be a huge boost for morale, but yet a huge gamble, to have him as a substitute.

I say gamble because the two subs’ benches are going to have a huge bearing on the outcome of the final.

There’s an argument that Cathal McShane and Darragh Canavan were Tyrone’s best forwards yesterday.

Neither man started the match and I suspect that is way it will be in the Final as well.

Tyrone have a powerful squad as well as a powerful team.

If Cillian is able to do something for Mayo in the last quarter of the final, that would be brilliant.

But if he’s not right, I trust James Horan and the lads to leave emotion out of it and to make sure our bench is packed with lads who can change the game our way if it is not going well, or who can close it out if Mayo are leading.

‘If Mayo are Leading’.

Aren’t those mighty words to be even dreaming, never mind writing, less than a fortnight before an All-Ireland final?

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