Time to seize the day

Time for some in-depth analysis of Sunday’s big match, time for JPM to return to the guest slot with his match preview.

Mayo Dublin pre-match parade

Mayo and Dublin line out for the All-Ireland football final on Sunday next, September 22nd. The culmination of the GAA year and the biggest national sporting occasion in our country. How will the match go on Sunday? Everyone views it as an even contest but whereas the focus is now on team play, the fact remains that if on the day your 15 players beat their respective 15 opponents, you should win the game.

Generally the case is that both teams have star guys who they count on to carry them over the line. And the majority of winning teams have dominated because these outstanding players have triumphed in their individual battles. For those remaining, it’s a trade-off, resulting in many 50-50 tussles throughout. So at the end of the day personal combat is still very much what it’s all about.

Dublin icons

From 1 to 22 Dublin look like having a complete package. Between the sticks is captain and key man Stephen Cluxton. The Parnells player has been a pivotal inter-county competitor for the past 11 years, winning 9 Leinster titles, 1 All-Ireland and 4 All-Stars in the process. We all know about his free taking and quick kick-outs. But he is also a very good keeper. Over 60 senior inter-county championship games to his credit and a 60% clean sheet rate in the process shows his experience and the ability to defend his personal space. Somehow dealing with him will be crucial to the outcome of this All-Ireland. Kerry showed this is possible, however the strategy question remains. Do we go for goals as much as possible rather than accepting point opportunities? And do we push up on ‘Clucko’ to try and soften his impact, or ultimately surrender early possession and re-group with a sweeper at the back? Certainly difficult subjects for James Horan and his backroom team.

Michael Dara MacAuley: While Aidan O’Shea and Seán Cavanagh have been getting all the plaudits this year, there is another unspoken midfield star that has been consistently going about his business on behalf of his team. MDMA as he is known is the power house in the middle third for the Dubs. We have already seen his driving runs on display. He had goal opportunities against both Cork and Kerry that he spurned. The worry of course is that he is getting closer all the time. Strength, pace, stamina and bravery are the key to MacAuley. A fantastic cocktail to have in the middle of the park. He will take a lot of stopping and more than likely a bit of softening as well. He is ably assisted here by Cian O’Sullivan. Similar to MacAuley he has pace and stamina. It is likely that at every opportunity this Dublin pair will drive at our defence to keep them on the back foot as much as possible.


Photo: GAA.ie

Bernard Brogan. Having a quiet year by his own standards but the corner forward is still a lethal weapon in the modern game. The worry for Mayo fans is that we are also seeing a return to his obvious talent. His six points yield against Kerry aligned with an unlucky first-half goal attempt will resurrect his belief at competing at the highest level. It is another pivotal battle. From previous experience we know that key to restricting him is to try and knock him off his game early. Will Ger Cafferkey be the man tasked with this job? Another difficult question as if this is the case, who will take over in the middle to mind the house? If Ger is to be given the task most likely it would be Tom Cunniffe who would make the switch into the central full-back position. Chris Barrett has had a fine year but in all honesty his size is against him especially if the likes of Dean Rock or Eoghan O’Gara begin or are introduced.

There have been arguments for Tom to move to centre half-back and certainly there is merit in this. It is his natural position for his club and he does tend to dominate that area when playing there. Diarmuid Connolly or Ciarán Kilkenny are also tough customers to mark and we need reliable men to contain them. Donie Vaughan has been very impressive all year but more so because of attacking prowess. It will be interesting to see what role he takes up the next day.

Mayo prodigies

Aidan O’Shea has been the most talked about and tweeted footballer this year. His youthful rugged good looks are pleasing on the eye and he has that special natural mould one expects of a West of Ireland GAA man. Ally this to his candidness in the media and you have the perfect prospect for a broadcasting sensation. He has been the star in the middle of the park for Mayo and his power performances have been the fulcrum for our winning foundation. This in turn has reflected the mass media attention, and the praise swathed upon him by the same breed. The worry for Aidan is that he has won no Celtic Cross yet.

Aidan O'Shea

Photo: Hogan Stand

And the national media in this country are exceptionally fickle. One moment they are your best friend and will build you up as the unbreakable pillar. However if the cracks appear they will slowly peel back the layers like an onion causing you to wince each time a new one is unfurled. And they won’t let you forget any mistakes easily, particularly if it appears at the decisive level. It’s important that Aidan realises this.

But more importantly he must also realise that we are Mayo. If we don’t prevail the national media will be waiting with jagged knives to once more point out another failing in an All-Ireland final. Aidan may only have been 6 or 7 when we lost in 1996/97 but this will mean little to the media and GAA gurus who will turn once more upon us.

Therefore he must win his personal battle the next day. Dublin of course know all this and will be targeting him. This is a lot of pressure on young shoulders. Thus far he has been up to it and the hope for all in the West is that he can handle this pressure cooker All-Ireland final, and mark his place in history with another impressive performance.

Cillian O’Connor has been the mainstay in our full-forward line all year. It would be a shame if he were to miss the final as his presence lights up the day for everyone watching. No one knows yet what the likely outcome here is and the guessing games and prayers continue among the faithful inside and outside our county. What no one can deny is that we are a stronger team with him playing. His vision, free-taking, goal scoring, composure, and instinctive ability are what separates him from the lesser lights on the Mayo team. Twice young player of the year, the man has it all. His fluency in our primary language was not unknown however the ability to converse on TG4 as naturally in Irish as English displays a maturity that is welcome from a West of Ireland man. It also solidifies the leadership, natural poise and self-assurance that he carries with him.

Since his introduction to the team Kevin McLoughlin has been Mr. Consistency in a Mayo jersey. 2013 however has not been as rewarding for him. This is as much likely due to him being targeted as a vital cog in our attack machine, and therefore coming in for more attention from opposing defences. And although he had a poor enough game in the semi-final especially in the first half, his second was much improved and showed once more that when given a little space he can exploit any defence.

Truth be told the entire team were probably on the rack that day and it was only the intervention of points from Chris Barrett and Lee Keegan late in the first half that eased the pressure. We also must thank the ref for the early second half penalty which was fortuitous to say the least. All in all the Tyrone game exposed flaws in our team particularly if we lose focus or complete commitment to the day. But this was no harm. Better for a team to get a wake up call in the semi-final rather than experience the destructive nature of what a performance like that would ensure in a final.

The unassuming stars

As management will have their homework completed snuffing out obvious threats, the opportunities also lie for lesser known players to be the game changers. This could also be the case on 22nd as well. Both teams have real quality to watch out for. On Dublin’s side are Diarmuid Connolly, Paul Mannion, Paul Flynn and Dean Rock (if he gets the nod). All are in flying form. Also although Jack McCaffrey and Ciarán Kilkenny were somewhat nullified by the hard working Kerry defence their threat remains nonetheless. And we should not forget about the side-line they hold and the talent that can be called upon. To have an All-Ireland winning captain sitting on your bench says a lot for the ability of the players on the pitch.

Dublin v Mayo - GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final

Photo: GAA.ie

For ourselves we have our own stars in the making. Robbie Hennelly’s point from 55 yards against Tyrone shows his prowess at taking long range opportunities. Alan Freeman is having the season of his life and has begun to thrive at full-forward. Likewise Chris Barrett and Tom Cunniffe have shown the uncompromising no-nonsense defending required, aligned with ability to surge forward if the pressure is on our own forwards. It’s unlikely they will have as much leeway the next day to get up and score. The All-Ireland is a serious step up from all other levels and completing your primary task first is what counts at this stage. Winning their personal battles should be foremost in guys’ minds.

Tom Cunniffe

Photo: Sport.ie.msn.com

Mayo half- back line. Not a group of individuals, rather an individual group. Pivotal all year to our strategy to attack in waves and overrun the opposition defence. How will Dublin deal with them? One likelihood is that they will slow down these attacks by fouling high up, giving themselves time to re-group.

The outcome for this game

If they do go on to win, this team will go down as one of the greatest Mayo teams in history because of what has happened before and what it means to the county. Carpe diem is the famous Latin saying and it absolutely applies in this case. These men have no fear of Croke Park, or this Dublin team. The experience of last year’s All-Ireland will surely stand to them and we the supporters will be there in serious numbers to back them.

Much has already been discussed as regards how we start, where the match-ups should be, and what needs to be completed for us to claim victory. I would echo most of it. Perhaps a certain call for discipline should be made. There is a lot of pressure now on our guys (particularly younger fellas) and sometimes this can have an adverse effect on discipline. Being edgy or too desperate generally invites mistakes. So please God even if things are not going completely to plan, they will stay calm and concentrate as hard as possible on the strategies worked out and put in place. We have a great backroom team and management in place. Maintaining self-control and working as hard as possible for your team has been one of the mantras for James Horan’s era. It is this diligence, backroom homework, drills and hard training that have culminated in next Sunday’s date with destiny.

The players now must recognise for themselves where they are and what they have achieved so far that makes them special. From a supporter’s point of view everyone is hoping, including myself. All I can offer now is one little bit of personal advice and that again is the simple saying of Carpe diem.

“Seize the day!”

18 thoughts on “Time to seize the day

  1. Comprehensive read JPM that summarises the discussions that have been going on for the last few weeks all over the world.

    At this stage there is not a lot more to say, it is all up to the squad of players and management team to ‘carpe diem’.

    This team’s legacy will be written with the benefit of hindsight. Lose, and they are mentally weak and ‘experts’ will point to them being ‘rattled’ by Tyrone for 25 minutes and only coming through because Tyrone suffered injuries and tired legs ran out of steam.
    However, if they win, the exact same set of events will be seen in a totally different manner. Tyrone threw everything at Mayo, but they didn’t panic, stuck to the gameplan and came through pulling up. Showed how mentally tough this Mayo team are.

    At the end of the day, we do not simply deserve an All-Ireland for continuing to come back, we must go out and win it. Our hunger must be the deciding factor.
    There will always be a Dublin, Donegal or Kerry to beat.

    Even if we are outplayed on the day, it is time for us to outfight our opponents, and leave them wondering about balls that came back in off the post to end up in the net, or balls that hopped over the bar.

    Sorry for a bit of a disjointed ramble of a post, but the nerves are at me.

    Maigh Eo Abú

  2. Here here,
    Mayo will win the All-Ireland on Sunday.
    I think Dublin who have performed extremely well all season & will be formidable opponents will meet a completely different Mayo team from the opening round of the league & league semi-final.
    I think Dublin will find it tricky enough to deal with the physicality of this Mayo team.
    Mayo have come on so much in 6 months, the improvement even from last years final against Donegal is amazing
    Strength, pace, Power, Method in their game & basic ball handling, tackling when without possession & ball retention & quick movement when they have the ball.

    It’s all their now.

    Last year I went more in hope that we could beat Donegal & we didn’t. We were close but not close enough because of the 1st 10 minutes & the goals.

    This year i am confident we will play our best & most complete game of the year.

    My prediction.
    Dublin will try to go for goals in the 1st 5-10 minutes & rattle us.

    I guarantee you Mayo will be chomping at the bit & will nullify this threat.

    I will be bold.

    Mayo to win by 7 points

    Dublin will be blitzed.

  3. I’ve a feeling that Dublin will target Flynn and Connolly for their kick outs because this tactic worked so well in the league semi and we didn’t have an answer. The amount of ball that Flynn caught over Donies head was unbelievable.
    I’m worried too about our midfield and half forward line versus theirs for pace (Brennan v Higgins aside).

    We need to get our matchups right but if I can see these issues then our back room team will definitely have and will plan accordingly.
    The good news for us is that a great game or performance is often followed by a below par effort and the Dubs might be thinking that the hard work is done after beating Kerry even if it’s a subconscious thing. I’d be more worried for us if we were coming into this game off the back of the Donegal match. We all saw the hangover from that match against Tyrone.

    There’s a lazy perception out there that Mayo will beat themselves in any final and that can be our trump card. If we don’t play to script and roll over to have our bellies tickled the doubts can quickly show.

  4. Good point Biscan

    In ballybofey last year Murphy started at full forward and roasted Caff, to the point where caff got sent off. Murphy didn’t start there again until the final. Horan & co didn’t see this coming and the rest is history.

    We have been beaten by the dubs twice this year, all there goal chances & goals came from the space between midfield and the half forward line. This is created by the mayo tactic of pushing up on Cluxtons kickouts.
    To nullify this I think Higgins must play a sweeper role as cover for Vaughan. Win possession here, feed the O’Shea and we win the game.


  5. I flew into a rage after reading McHales piece about Brennan, i genuinely think he has some sort of chip on his shoulder regarding mayo football, i get the impression of him that he actually wants us to lose, felt it last year aswell. Maybe its paranoia but never liked the vibe of McHale in championship time.

  6. @Tony K , Murphy started on Kevin Keane in the final and scored the goal on him. Caff was only switched over to him after the first ten mins the reason being Horan thought Murphy would play out around the middle and Keane is a more mobile man marker than Caff so was detailed to mark him.

    I think if we are a point behind or level going into to half time or a couple of points ahead we should really go after the Dubs in the third quarter of the match. They will be super confident that , like in the Meath and Kerry games, they will be able to finish us off with their bench in the last 10 mins. We need to make sure it’s a mountain to climb and that they are really chasing the game for those last ten mins.

    The tactical match ups are fascinating but like a lot of Mayo fans I just can’t get that little nagging fear of a bad start out of my head. No doubt Any and the boys will have that fear well banished by 3:41 p.m. on the 22nd!!

  7. Take no notice of McHale’s take on things.

    1. This is a better chance than last year. We are in a much better place this year in terms of team development.

    2. The A vs B game at the weekend was not at Johnstown House.

    3. Andy’s knee is fine.

    4. Our system does not rely on a sweeper. We have a middle eight who interchange and cover for each other as necessary (see Emmet Ryan’s Action 81 site for how this works).

    5. Whether or not Ger Brennan plays is of no consequence to us and if he does, he will not be there to stop Alan Dillon. Just look back at the previous matches and you will see what I mean.

    6. I’m glad that he cannot make sense of Keith Higgins in the forwards. Hopefully, Dublin are just as confused about this too.

    7. Agreed. But Alan is way better than James O’Donoghue.

    8. It doesn’t take much insight to give this reply!

  8. Crete Boom

    The point I’m making is Mayo didn’t legislate for Murphy been thrown in at full forward, the impact he would have or the high ball into him.

    I know all to well what transpired, it will be etched on my psych forever.

  9. liam machale will never get over 96 , no matter if mayo never win another all ireland title or if we win 20 more before i leave this earth.

    i was hoping his recent success might have helped him but i think he is a haunted man , dont be too hard on him when he makes these statements,
    he will forever be going over old ground and what might have been…

  10. Agree with all that’s been said about McHale. Does the man ever think before he opens his mouth? That intervention alone is worth a couple of points to Dublin. God knows what else he has been saying.

    On a brighter note, there is a very good interview piece in the Examiner today with Cian O’Neill, who gives a very thoughtful assessment of the two teams and the possibilities. His point that Dublin don’t have a soft centre is worth noting. Full piece is here:


  11. Of course McHale will always hurt over 96 and so will many more, no shame in that, just shows you have genuine passion for Mayo football.

    We are awful quick to run down past players and management in Mayo and its often the wrong judgement imo.Worship players who were often playing club soccer when feigning injury for league games for Mayo and abusing men who have given their heart and soul to Mayo before and after involvement.

  12. Liam Hayes piece in the daily mail , seems to have a pop at Aidan O Shea and not for the first time . He seems to think Aidan has not played well this year apart form the donegal game . wow if that true , i just wonder what he be like when Aidan does play well .

  13. I hope the players don’t read the claptrap on these papers. Liam mchale should just close
    his mouth, or wait until Monday to talk about how strong Dublin are and how we left it behind in 2012 and 2013.
    We know how much effort he put into the game, it’s appreciated and thank you Liam.
    And if they do read those papers that they don’t take any heed of them.
    On Sunday they will play in a 70 minute game of football that they have been training hard for 3 years to be able to win, they will run out on the field and all the words written on the papers and in forums and the words spoken in homes and bars for the last month won’t mean a thing. Ball thrown in and they’ll let fly, if they are good enough they’ll win, if not then so be it.

  14. Kerry v Dublin

    From what I know of Kerry football there’s at least six of that Kerry team in recent times would’nt be let near a Kerry ‘panel’ nor within Ballyvary of the present Mayo team.

    Re Cafferky and Murphy….that game was in Bundoran and the sending off can be attributed to that infamous little bollicks from Sligo!!!!!

  15. Don’t pay a bit of heed to whatever Liam Hayes says, especially regarding Mayo football. He’d only be happy if every game ever played was a repeat of the 96 final replay.

  16. Well the t shirts have been done here in Dublin.

    No word of a lie selling for ten euro.

    Dublin all Ireland champions 2013.

    Over confidence ; cockiness or maybe just somone taking a chance to be in first in order to make a few quid.

    Either way i think its funny.

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