Mayo v Dublin is down to belief

Our All-Ireland semi-final with Dublin is now only a few days away and I’m delighted to welcome back JPM into the guest slot to preview Sunday’s showdown. 

After last weekend’s upset, the second semi-final is upon us and as Mayo men we are in the mix once more at precisely the right time. And with everything to play for and the dream All-Ireland against Donegal at stake, the goal on Sunday must be just to get over that line. Everything after is simply a bonus.

Dublin move into this position as (not quite) red-hot favourites but favourites nonetheless. And correctly so!  The return of Alan Brogan to the team should make a marked improvement as his distribution, pace and movement will enhance the entire forward line. The only questions surround his match fitness and whether or not he has 70 minutes of championship football in him. His return will also allow big Diarmuid Connolly to move back into the full-forward position, where he is deemed more potent when closer to goal. On the other side the loss of our inspirational captain through unfortunate injury was probably the defining factor that swung the tide in the bookmakers’ decision.

Mayo however should not be totally despondent. In all honesty Andy’s injury is a major blow and the timing of it could not have been worse. But at least we have had four full weeks to come up with a plan to replace our talisman. The hope for James Horan and all the supporters is that whatever plans are now in place for Andy’s absence are delivered upon by those players involved.

Another factor in our favour is that we don’t fear this Dublin team. All-Ireland champions they may be, however they have yet to light up the championship this year. Also our same Mayo team roundly trounced the daylights out of them in Castlebar. This may all change on Sunday and that is what the entire Dublin backroom team and fan base are hoping for. In fact there is no doubt that Dublin are seeking revenge for that humiliation (as highlighted by Michael Darragh Macauley in yesterday’s Irish Independent). But revenge is a dangerous tool. To focus too much on this one factor may mean losing sight on the bigger picture.

Revenge can also have a negative impact on team discipline although both managers must surely have their troops warned that any ill-discipline will only cost themselves. Referees are coming increasingly under scrutiny and the highlighting of last week’s minor debacle on The Sunday Game will place even more focus on them. The pressure will be on Joe McQuillan on Sunday to ensure that nothing untoward is allowed.

The bigger picture for Mayo is their performances to date. Beating Leitrim and Sligo did not spark any fires nationally but the thrashing of what was a supposedly reasonable Down team has given the supporters confidence that these players can produce it at the top table. Undoubtedly though we won’t be given the same latitude as we had against the Mourne. Sunday’s test will most likely be a battle of discipline and tactics especially in the middle third. Whoever comes out on top in this sector will have a serious advantage in the overall proceedings.

To date Barry Moran has been immense for Mayo in gaining primary possession. Dublin however will have noted this and once again it should be expected that someone will be there to try and knock him off his stride. Most likely Michael Darragh Macauley will begin in and around the middle with the aim being to pick up at least several breaks and go bursting through against our defence. Both half-back lines will also be given authority to attack instantly when opportunities arise.

Another crucial approach for us will be getting the ball into the hands of Aidan O’Shea with the command to drive forward at that Dublin defence. This tactic will put pressure on their  half-back line and will result in pressure being applied and frees conceded. Overall winning the middle third is vital. Dublin cannot be allowed to gain momentum or the upper hand here. Momentum has always been the key to Dublin’s victories and breaking this will be vital to our chances.

Another area of concern will be Stephen Cluxton’s quick accurate kickouts. In McHale Park  they were very effectively dealt with, however Croke Park is a much bigger field. Against Laois, Dublin always seemed to have a man free that Cluxton could aim for. This can’t be the case against us or Dublin will simply change the modus of their attack to short fast kick outs and a full-on running game. So key for us will be a tenacious half-forward line.

Centre half-forward will once again be a huge call for James Horan. All year it has been a questionable position for Mayo and although Cillian O’Connor was named there against Down, he instead took up a more roving position where he was thoughtlessly followed by the Down backs. This tactic worked a treat as Down were left exposed time and again through the middle with Kevin McLoughlin exploiting with glee the gaping holes left behind.  It’s unlikely however that Dublin (or Kevin Nolan) will follow suit in Down’s meanderings and if this is the case then a Plan B must be in place to allow Mayo’s forward line the space and opportunities to put valuable points on the scoreboard.

Overall Sunday’s game should be a very tight affair. It may come down to fitness and any goals will also be crucial. In our favour all the pressure should be on Dublin to deliver and if things are not going to plan the mob from the Hill will surely turn upon them. We have nothing to lose as Andy Moran’s injury will be seen as a legitimate excuse if we don’t prevail. This gives us a little edge as it takes some of the pressure off our guys although make no mistake – they must still perform in his absence! Most likely though it will be up to whomever wants it the most on the day.

At this stage last year we were roundly beaten by a Kerry team that should have won the All-Ireland. No-one in Mayo expects that to happen on Sunday next. The hope instead is that our men have grown beyond that experience and can deliver in a much tighter affair. The team must realise that they will never get a better opportunity to beat this Dublin side. The hope is that on Sunday they believe in themselves (as we the supporters do), as this belief will help them prevail.


17 thoughts on “Mayo v Dublin is down to belief

  1. Mayo have every chance on Sunday. Dublin are due a good performance but aren’t they waiting for that since last September? The defence is critical – particularly the full back line. Keane is a solid defender with great anticipation but my concern is around his pace. Connolly is very much a form player so stamping out his influence in the first 15 minutes is critical. He’s also very easy to wind up so a few well timed shoulders from the start should soften him up. When he is on form he is unmarkable.

    The Dubs have 3 score getters (B. Brogan, McMenamon, Connolly) and 3 ball providers (Flynn, Cullen, Brogan). I know it’s obvious but cutting out the ball providers’ influence is critical. Our half back line is the best attacking line and also one of the fittest in the country – they have to take these players up and down the pitch all day. It worked a treat vs. Kerry in the league semi. The scores our half backs get is an added bonus – it places added pressure on their marker.

    Personally I’d prefer to see more pace in the forward line so I’d like to see Varley selected. We need a player that can win grass cutter ball – down and up and quick on the turn. Varley might be small but he is physically strong. Ok so he didn’t perform v Sligo but I think he’ll do better in the open spaces of Croker. My reservation about Freeman is shared with the majority of posters – he’s off form and appears to be lacking confidence. McGarrity is a fine player but isn’t suited to the pace of the game Horan wants – not convinced that he’s going to go for high ball tactics on Sunday.

    It’s a 50/50 game. As JPM says its down to belief. Which team wants it more?

    Mayo are hungrier.

  2. First Gen Dub the problem with Varley is that he has a long history of not performing in championship.

    He has acore very little and usually wheb the ball goes into him
    Its a back bringing it out.

    Freeman has at least shown before. He needs to be braver but should get the jersey. And thats the bottom line cos Stone Cold says so

  3. Personally I would have picked Richie feeney in the 1/2 forward line and moved Cillian into the edge of the square. Cillian provedagainst Down he can show and hold onto the ball as well. But if you have him in there then you’re losing a very good paser of the ball.

    AS to the backs – well it seems straightr forward to me
    Higgins on Connolly
    Ger C on Brogan and Kevin Keane on whoever is named in the other corner.

    at 1/2 backs
    Colm Boyle on McManoman
    Donal on Cullen
    and Alan Brogan to be picked up by our pace man Lee K.

    Probably wont work out that way though
    wouldnt be surprised to see Dublin play a 2 man FF line of Connolly and BB with Kevin McMenoman given a roaming role fro the corner.

    This would also allow both Bryan Cullen and McCauley to operate in the 1/2 forward.line.

  4. There are two things here – the team that starts and the team that finishes. Like most I believe JH will go with Freeman or Varley (probably Freeman) to start with. Anything else is simply saying to the two lads that they really are not up to it. I doubt if JH will do that. And if they are good enough now is the time to really show it.
    On the other hand if this forward arrangement is not working out he has several options which I hope he will not be slow to use.
    1. He can use Seamus O Shea (if fit) in the middle and send Aidan forward or SOS could play at CHF himself (remember he was an outstanding player for us last year)
    2. He could play Richie Feeney at half forward as a general purpose player – covering back and linking up etc and use Kevin McLoughlin as an out and out attacker / score getter
    3. Gibbons, McGarrity, Geraghty or Vaughan could fill in at midfield and move AOS or Barry Moran (or both) forward.
    I reckon JH may need to be bold and radical in his choices. We now have an excellent opportunity to get to an AI final and this might not come our way again for a very long time. Talk of team building and next year and the year after is daft – now is all that matters.

  5. I think Horan & co believe this is a great opportunity not just to beat Dublin but go all the way. He probably feels he’s got his backroom team and tactics in place and he seems to have great faith in his panel at the moment despite Andy’s injury. For me I’m only thinking of Sunday and how we can win?
    Firstly I would guess Horan will go for Freeman at fullforward to replace Andy. Assuming we stick to our gameplan used so far or at least a close variation of it ,it’ll be quick, accurate direct ball into the inside line with runners peeling around the corner with goals in mind first and points second mixed with a running game with McLoughlin ,Vaughan and Boyle expected to punch holes in the Dublin rearguard. This will mean the burden of scoring from distance will probably rest with Dillion and hopefully our midfield and wing backs can chip in with a few as well.
    Midfield will be where we will try to gain an edge and even a slight edge here will relieve pressure off our backs allowing Keane , Higgins and Caff to get tight and frustrate whoever they mark. Keegan will probably have the unenviable task of marking Alan Brogan and hopefully he’ll relish it. Breaking ball as always will be key to the midfield battle so Doc , Dillion and Kevin Mac will have to work hard to back up the two big men and our half backs in this.
    So allowing that things go well and our backs can keep a lid on what can be potentially an explosive Dublin forward line (with plenty of goals in them) , midfield and our inside line is where we could potentially come a cropper.
    Can Conroy get his radar consistent for the game? Can Jason Doc add a few more scores to his high workrate? Can we neutralize the influence of Flynn and McCauley in the middle third and cut off Dublin primary possession?
    Will we be able to create scoring chances if Dillion is curtailed ever so slightly at periods during the game/ Can O’Shea and Moran dominate at all in the middle?
    Lots of questions to be answered I know so I’ll try and keep it short! I think we could possibly get the possesion we need in the middle and just about manage the Dublin attack but will be caught short up front probably due to relying too heavily on Dillion and O’Connor for scores. This I think will lead to a narrow loss of a couple of points and the lack of unspectacular but consistent score getter who can win say 50% of his own ball in the full forward position is the reason while we will come up short this year , if not in this game then the final.
    Just to add I fully expect the Dubs to be on top form and the above assessment is based on us playing to top form also. If we slip back to say our league final performance I expect a convincing Dublin win.
    So while I haven’t yet attained the unwavering belief of Horan and his charges I will still travel to Croker this Sunday in hope and with the stern belief the lads will leave everything on the pitch and as a Mayoman I can’t ask for anything more.

    Mhaigheo Abu

  6. Dont believe Doherty best option.dont think feeney answer.think gibbons has to feature.caff on brogan? No.higgins on brogan.need quick sideline response sunday

  7. I would play Doherty. The guy can get goals and has so in the past against the Dubs in croker(albeit the league). Goals are the key. Freeman has done it against the Dubs as well in Croker. Start with Freeman as FF and make the switches fast if that is not working. Keegan will have to mark A Brogan, Boyle on Cullen and Vaughan on No. 10, whose name escapes me. Higgins on B.Brogan, Caff on Connolly and Keane on Kevin Mac. Good enough match ups from us at the back, but I feel it is the other half of the pitch that will let us down and could well cost us the game.

  8. Yea I agree facetheball.Those are the matchups not the ones mentioned by JPM.Excellent piece though by JPM in my opinion.
    I guess we all know we will find it hard to get scores. Doherty will start so lets hope it works out for him. He deserves our support.
    Not convinced you can anticipate where goals will come from or who will get them in Gaelic Football. I have been involved in football for a few years now and I am surprised at the idea that someone is picked because they ‘get goals’ I actually would like to see Jason up the work rate ,have many assists,take his points and if goal opportunities come go for them like every other forward would. He would be the easiest player to mark if every time he got the ball he went for goals and it would be so counter productive.
    I hope we get some luck on Sunday too. That is often underrated and we are due some.
    Finally for me til Sunday thanks to all bloggers for great interest and thought provoking opinions.We may have different opinions but come Sunday we are all on the one side. Hope we are arguing on how to beat Donegal on Monday!

  9. Whats up lads nothing bad has happened since Q/F why all the negativity now
    Keep the spirits up Mayo are a different team now ie we attack in packs from the back
    The FFL is not as important as in the past Look at the number of scorers in the three games to date 13 / 9 / 9 not bad I think Dubs have more to worry about than who wears 14 I would start Freeman if after 20 min not working we have other options I know its not Andy but we know that for a month Keep the faiths lads it will be worth it
    PS if we need a stunt could someone convince C Mc to hang around team hotel for a while on Saturday night

  10. Everhopeful about Sunday. Mayo have the potential, despite Andy Moran’s absence to win this game. We beat them handsomely in the league and should do so again if we have the belief.
    I was at the the Mayo/Down, Dublin /Laois games earlier this month and I was impressed with Mayo I have to say. I was not impressed with the Dubs in their match and I have to say I think they are are there for the taking in all honesty. The time for showing too much respect for the top guns in GAA is over, look at Donegal. II will not be there on Sunday unfortunately as I am working abroad but I will be following developments keenly on the day. I saw how our minors were screwed over by the ref on Sunday agaainst Meath again on Sunday so we need a more vociferous sideline presence on Sunday. I admonished a little girl for booing the Laois freetakers kindly the last day in the Cusack Stand and I was lit on by her mother who accused me of doing the same when I was young too. I have been to GAA matches for the past 40 years up and down the country and told her I had never in my life done so. It seems that this unsavoury element has crept into the stands as well as Hill 16 and could have a say in how our team react on the day. This is a huge issue for the GAA to tackle and I am not sure if they can do anything about it. I realise that these unsporting elements do not represent true GAA values as I know them to be but they are a major issue at Dublin matches. I did point out the big sign on the pitch denoting “Give respect, Get Respect” but they didn’t seem to understand me, at that point I gave up. I am tempted to suggest that vociferous Mayo supporters should do the same on Sunday but I have too much pride to do so. But it appears that you get nothing for staying silent these days Mayo abu

  11. Donie will need a big game if he is up against Paul Flynn, who is in top form.

    @ Cool Hand Luke – Some players are more natural goal getters than others, the ability to manufacture space and finish well (as opposed to just hitting it as hard as you can) isn’t something every forward has in abundance.

  12. @ Cool Hand Luke and Facetheball
    i’m not entirely sure my matchups are completely inaccurate. Anyway here’s my reasons.

    Dublins most potent forward in my opinion is Alan Brogan. I think we need someone really tight on him all the time, and in my opinion the stickiest defender we have with experience is Ger C. He is an out and out defender – he won’t be going forward on lung bursting runs like Higgins.
    Who looks after Brogan when KH is up the other end of the pitch and aquick kickout is taken by Cluxton? There is a much better chance of someone being able to cover across or back to take up Connolly with the ball rather than looking to get back on Brogan when he racing down on goal.

    Higgins also is a much looser defender than Ger C. He relies on his pace to make up the difference & 9 times out of 10 this is enough, however pace is one thing Alan Brogan is also blessd with.

    As to the others yere expecting that Kevin McMenoman is picked in the corner (and stays there). I agree he may start there but as I said I think Dublin will end up with a 2 man FF line of Brogan and Connolly.

    Does Kevin Keane so come out of defnece to follow McMenoman? If he is able to do this for 70 minutes up and down the pitch fair enough however I dont think this is his natural game.

    McMenoman likes to get the ball into his chest and turn quickly. He has a low centre of gravity that allows him to do this with pace. The only fella I see with this on our side is Colm Boyle. He too has the same attributes and is a tough nut who can hassle and harry the likes of Mcmenoman with the ball, without giving away soft frees. If Keane can do this job fair enough mro power to him. I think a lot of pressure is probably on him this weekend as he is the newest to this level.

    Donal V. will either be picking up Cullen or McCauley depending on where they are picked. Both are big fellas who like to pound straight through the defence and this is exactly the type of weapon Donal Vaughan likes to meet,hit and smash into with his phenomenal shoulders.

    We all agree Lee Keegan is the man for Alan Brogan.

    Obviously it’s all speculation on my part but that’s the way I see things for us to get on top of them in our defence.

  13. While it’s our “job” as fans to speculate before a match, and I get great enjoyment myself from sitting down with a put of tea with knowledgable people discussing games of the past and games to come, I don’t think I am being unkind to anyone by saying when it comes to this game no one really has a clue what will happen.
    Dublin are either lesser than they were last year or have been planning to peak around now.
    Mayo have improved considerably but I think question marks still remain as to wether we really are in the top 4 now or not, last years meek exit to Kerry still leaves me wondering if we’ve moved up that extra level or not, this game will tell us.
    Because we don’t know enough about either, in my head this game could go any which way, big (5 or 6 points) win by either team, close fight to the death or even a draw.
    However, while we always look for progression, even if we put up a brave performance against Dublin and come up a little short it would be very disapointing to lose, it’s very hard to get to this stage and when you do you have to take your chances. All right I’m stating the obvious now.
    One thing we haven’t really talked about is the influence of Cian O’Neill, success follows this man generally wherever he goes and he brings alot to the table. Many iln Tipp would give him alot of credit for their recent successes, he’s a football man first and foremost and his input might be the differentiator that could separate this scoreline in our favour.

  14. East cork exile, if you watch the mayo Kerry game that finished us last year mayo ran out of steam with twenty minutes left. Simple as it sounds, they were not fit enough on the day.

  15. David, We did’nt run out of steam v Kerry. we hit the woodwork & continued to bring the game to Kerry, We should have scored 3 goals at least, & possibly stopped that genius Gooch scoring his 3rd championship goal v Mayo into the canal end, Where Kerry were definatly better than us was around midfield, Kerry were just better than us on the day but not by 8 points. I’m sure we have improved immencly in midfield this year. Coming from defeat to Sligo & Longford in 2010 we were very good in 2011, close to as good as it reasonably possible to improve. I think we have continued to improve at the same rate.. I expect we will all have to speculate as what Mayo team starts & the formation, untill the Artane Boys band finish playing the national anthem…I read Alan Brogan’s contribution in the ‘ Hill 16’ site very fair I taught & well worth a read!

  16. Personally I think Richie Feeney CHF playing the role O’Connor played against Down with O’Connor moving to full forward. These games rarely go to plan. It is up to someone to step up and grab the game. Remember the Galway half backs against Kildare. I feel that we have a lot of strong characters on the team that can do this. Boyle, Keegan, McLoughlin, Feeney, Dillon, etc.. All of them are capable of going beyond the average. I think Feeney is essential. Unfortunately we may have to look at natural backs to contribute to attack.

  17. I would play;


    I think we need a presence somewhere in the spine of our attack,so I would move Aidan there.Alan Freeman,if he does the simple things from the off,grows in confidence he is a real threat and goal getter,if he underperforms all you have to do is make a change.Cillian is much better off inside where he can kick scores and win frees.Jason Doherty is a very good substitute to have as is Richie Feeney and Jason Gibbons.

    Seamus O shea had a massive game v Cork last year,winning mountains of posession and hes been training for a good while now,I feel he could be up to it,if he is no he would be a good impact sub to have too.

    I think Mayo have a real genuine chance.I fancy Mayo to get on top at midfield as we did in the League.Our defence has been superb and if our defence and midfield can hold up well I feel we can still get enough scores to win it,even without Andy Moran.

    As for match ups;

    Higgins-B Brogan

    Cafferky-whoever is at 14 but cafferky not to follow him if he plays as 3rd midfielder(McCauley)

    Keegan-Alan Brogan


    Vaughan may also be an option to mark McCauley if he should be around the middle somewhere.Vaughan will have the engine to mark him aswell as contribute to the attack.He is the fittest man around.

    Maigh Eo Abu

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