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5 talking points ahead of Dublin and Mayo's sold-out Croker clash

Who will get the chance to dethrone Kerry on 20 September?

Dublin edged the last championship battle between the two - the 2013 All-Ireland final.
Dublin edged the last championship battle between the two - the 2013 All-Ireland final.
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

1. Kicking kings

It hardly needs to be said that Stephen Cluxton’s kickouts are one of the key weapons in Dublin’s arsenal. His dead-eye accuracy and the clever and varied movement of the outfield players turn what would otherwise be a 50/50 contest for possession into a solid attacking platform.

You don’t need to look far for proof. According to Don’t Foul’s analysis, Dublin won 100% of their own kickouts against Westmeath in the Leinster final; in the quarter-final win over Fermanagh, they went short almost two-thirds of the time and scored 1-10 from the resulting possessions.

Noel Connelly and Pat Holmes would be foolish to arrive in Croke Park without a plan to counter Cluxton, and they won’t.

But writing in the Irish Times this week, Darragh Ó Sé made an important point: it’s one thing to talk about pushing up on Dublin’s kickouts to disrupt their rhythm; it’s another to do it consistently at the frenetic pace of a championship clash.

Stephen Cluxton 31/8/2014 Cluxton's short kickouts led to 1-10 in the win against Fermanagh. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

2. The middle ground

No matter where you turn, the matchups are tantalising. Aidan O’Shea versus Rory O’Carroll; Mayo’s half-back line of Keegan, Barrett and Boyle versus the Dublin half-forwards Flynn, Connolly and Kilkenny.

And then there’s midfield, so often the battleground for the winning and losing of a tight contest.

Jim Gavin has alternated between Michael Darragh MacAuley, Brian Fenton and Denis Bastick in midfield without settling on a preferred duo.

At the same time, Mayo’s midfield has been a model of consistency. Seamus O’Shea is on the brink of his first Allstar while Tom Parsons has been a revelation this season.

It’s an area where Mayo have the slightest edge.

Tomas Flynn and Fiontan O Curraoin with Seamus O'Shea and Tom Parsons Seamus O'Shea and Tom Parsons have been outstanding this summer. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

3. Dublin’s fab five

There’s no bushel big enough to hide Dublin’s dazzling attack. In four championship games the Dubs have scored an ominous 13-79, winning by an average margin of more than 14 points.

Of course there’s an argument to be made about the quality of opposition they have faced but it is still worth noting the spread of scorers that contributed to that haul. Bernard Brogan has blazed a trail with 5-16 but Dean Rock (2-19), Diarmuid Connolly (3-8), and Ciaran Kilkenny (0-13) have also racked up huge tallies while Paul Flynn has managed 2-4 despite not hitting top gear.

With so many scoring options to contain, the Mayo defence will have their hands full.

4. Sweeping up appearances

Mayo’s decision to deploy “Big Bird” Barry Moran as a sweeper against Donegal proved to be one of the best-kept secrets of championship 2015, and it was a masterstroke by the Connacht champions.

But Moran himself was the first to admit that there is no one-size-fits-all approach in modern football. Dublin’s agile and fluid forward line are a very different prospect to the Donegal attack anchored around the powerhouse that is Michael Murphy, and so Mayo must go back to the drawing board.

Cian OÕSullivan and Rory OÕCarroll with Tomas Corrigan Cian O'Sullivan and Rory O'Carroll team up to stop Tomás Corrigan. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Moran wears #13 on Sunday but don’t expect to see him anywhere near the full-forward line. Wherever he finds his home, he should prove to be an asset in contesting any long Dublin kick-outs.

As far as Dublin are concerned, Cian O’Sullivan will be more than comfortable sitting in front of the full-back line and helping O’Carroll to deal with O’Shea if that’s what’s asked of him.

5. Someone’s O has got to go

The championship landscape changed utterly with Aidan O’Shea’s reimagination as a full-forward. There was plenty of pre-summer scepticism about Mayo’s prospects in Noel Connelly and Pat Holmes’s first season but the Breaffy bulldozer quickly set the record straight with his performances.

A few weeks back, Philly McMahon said he was yet to watch O’Shea in action this summer but Jim Gavin pulled no punches, labelling him as the form player of the championship.

Neil McGee is unable to prevent Aidan O’Shea O'Shea dominated McGee in the first half against Donegal. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

He has scored 4-5 in three championship games but on top of that, he has been a vital piece of the puzzle in many more Mayo scores.

Fortunately for Gavin and the Dubs, Rory O’Carroll is one of the top full-backs in the country but if O’Shea was able to physically bully Neil McGee, then nobody is safe.

It’s set to be unmissable viewing.

Poll: Dublin or Mayo – who’s going to join Kerry in the All-Ireland senior football final?

‘Mayo will win but if you let Dublin play, you know what they’ll do to you’ – Mortimer

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About the author:

Niall Kelly

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