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Race For Sam: The 4 teams bidding for All-Ireland football glory

Mayo, Kerry, Tyrone and Dublin are left in the hunt.

pjimage (2) Harte, Cluxton, Geaney and Keegan chase All-Ireland glory. Source: Inpho

Kerry

Their recent semi-final history involves… a great deal of success. You have to go all the way back to Tyrone in 2003 to find the last team outside of Dublin to beat Kerry in an All-Ireland semi-final. The Dubs evicted Kerry in the last four of 2016 and ’13, but they did enjoy victories at this stage over Tyrone in ’15 and Mayo after a replay in ’14.

Eamonn Fitzmaurice Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The player they cannot do without is…Paul Geaney. The Dingle poacher didn’t set the world alight against Galway, but Kerry will need him to perform close to his optimum on Sunday against a talented Mayo rearguard. Geaney dispatched 1-5 in the Munster final win over Cork and forms a dangerous inside line with Kieran Donaghy and James O’Donoghue.

They will be happy because…they’ve made it to the semi-finals relatively unscathed and with a full hand to chose from. Mayo’s clinical quarter-final replay win over Roscommon has ensured there won’t be a hint of complacency from the Munster champions, who’ll recall the close nature of their 2014 contests.

They will be worried because…they haven’t been brought to the wire since their April league final win over Dublin. Cork and Galway are the teams of note Kerry have beaten so far this summer, but both opponents lacked any real conviction they could beat Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s men.

Dublin

Their recent semi-final history involves… wins to a large extent. Since 2011, Dublin’s semi-final record stands at: Played 7, Won 4, Drew 1, Lost 2. Under Jim Gavin they’ve lost just one semi-final – the 2014 upset to Donegal. Kerry gave Dublin a stern test last August but a 12-point haul from Dean Rock helped the Metropolitans to two-point win.

Jim Gavin Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The player they cannot do without is…Stephen Cluxton – the conductor of the Sky Blue orchestra. Of all the riches at Jim Gavin’s disposal, Cluxton is still the one he’d least like to go into battle without. The speed of his restarts, the pinpoint accuracy of his mid-to-long-range kick-outs, his shot-stopping and command of the defence remain unrivaled in the game.

They will be happy because… Jim Gavin has a full squad at his disposal for the first time this year. Paul Flynn, Michael Darragh Macauley and Cormac Costello have all made full recoveries from injury, while Diarmuid Connolly’s 12-week ban runs out the night before they take on Tyrone.

They will be worried because… Mickey Harte has carefully constructed his system with Dublin in mind. Since that loss to Jim McGuinness’s Donegal three years ago, Dublin haven’t faced anything like the sort of fury and defensive awareness this Tyrone team will bring on Sunday week. Harte is one of the few managers in the game with a credible record against Gavin. Crucially, Tyrone will come into this game expecting to beat Dublin. That counts for a lot.

Mayo

Their recent semi-final history involves… a mixture of victory and replay heartbreak. Mayo were successful in ’13 against Tyrone and ’16 against Tipperary, but lost after a replay to Kerry in ’14 and Dublin in ’15.

Stephen Rochford Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The player they cannot do without is…Lee Keegan. He missed out on their replay win over Roscommon, but make no mistake about it – Keegan is the heartbeat of Stephen Rochford’s team. His mental resilience, energetic runs, defensive brilliance and score-taking ability makes the 27-year-old the key man in this team.

They will be happy because… they successfully returned to a running game against Roscommon and it’s the best way to take down Kerry. The return of Lee Keegan will further bolster that style of play. Mayo are match sharp, having played five games since the start of July, including two that went to extra-time.

They will be worried because… it’s Kerry in Croke Park. The 2004 and ’06 final defeats to the Kingdom are relatively fresh in the memory of supporters, while the semi-final replay defeat to Kerry to ’14 still stings. History is Mayo’s greatest obstacle on Sunday. It’s been 21 years since their last championship win over Kerry.

Tyrone

Their recent semi-final history involves… a four-point defeat to Kerry in 2015 and a six-point reversal at the hands of Mayo in 2013. It’s been nine years since Tyrone’s last trip to the final.

Mickey Harte Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

The player they cannot do without is… Peter Harte. Tyrone’s counter-attacking style is perfectly suited to Harte’s hard-running game. He takes the frees from the right-hand side and is a very reliable penalty taker. He’s hit 1-8 in Tyrone’s four games to this point and will take serious watching against Dublin.

They will be happy because… this appears to be a team hitting its peak. The form line shows Tyrone are ready to compete for an All-Ireland. Players like Harte, Mattie Donnelly and Tiernan McCann are at the top of their games, while they’ve their system down to a tee. Mark Bradley with his low centre of gravity and movement is the ideal inside forward for the Red Hand.

They will be worried because… they’re facing a battle-hardened Dublin outfit who know how to close out tight games. Dublin eked out a draw in their league meeting back in February despite only returning to training a few weeks previously. Dublin are as tactically astute as Tyrone and they keep great width in their attack in an attempt to leave space in the middle for runners from deep.

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Kevin O'Brien

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