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Dublin: 5°C Thursday 13 May 2021

5 Talking Points - Mayo v Kerry, All-Ireland senior semi-final

Mayo and Kerry renew their rivalry in the All-Ireland semi-final today.

Image: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

1. Who will win the midfield battle?

Whoever comes out on top in the trenches in centre-field will go a long way to securing victory this afternoon.

After dominating the air against Cork, Kerry were less than impressive at midfield against a good Galway duo in the quarter-final. David Moran starts today and will be vital in Kerry’s engine room alongside Anthony Maher.

Centre-forward Johnny Buckley drops deep into midfield and is an extremely accomplished kick-passer of the ball. If Mayo can establish a foothold in midfield they will choke James O’Donoghue’s supply line, one that has been so productive so far this summer.

For the first time this year, James Horan has named the same midfield partnership in the championship, and he will hope to rely on another fine display from Seamus O’Shea and Donal Vaughan. Aidan O’Shea’s presence at 11 gives Mayo another option for kick-outs and he will attempt to drag the Kerry centre-back Peter Crowley out of position and create a gaping hole in the Kerry defence.

Colm Cooper celebrates scoring a goal Colm Cooper celebrates scoring a goal in the 2004 All-Ireland final Source: INPHO

2. Can Mayo stop the Croke Park rot against Kerry?

Today will be the seventh ocassion Mayo have met Kerry in the championship since 1996. They’ve been meeting with remarkable frequency in recent times, highlighted by the fact that you’d have to go back 64 years to find their previous seven meetings.

1996 was a landmark year. James Horan was part of the Mayo side that shocked Kerry in the All-Ireland semi-final with a lobbed goal that is the stuff of legend. But since then, Mayo’s record against the Kingdom is disastrous.

They’ve lost an All-Ireland quarter-final, a semi-final and three finals to the game’s aristocrats since then.

If Mayo are to end the ‘Curse of 51′, they need to start by stopping the rot against Kerry in Croke Park.

Cillian O'Connor Mayo will be depending on Cillian O'Connor for scores today. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

3. James O’Donoghue vs Cillian O’Connor

Two of the shining lights of this year’s championship, O’Donoghue and O’Connor will bear the scoring-burden for their respective sides once again. It’s highly unlikely the Mayo full-back line will allow O’Donoghue the oceans of space he enjoyed in the past two games, while O’Connor will likely be tracked by Allstar defender Marc Ó Sé.

A quick look at the stats would suggest that whichever side should best curtail the predatory instincts of  these marksmen will take a big step towards the All-Ireland final.

4. Are Kerry the real deal?

Kerry were written off as serious All-Ireland contenders last winter after the retirements of Tomas Ó Sé, Paul Galvin, Eoin Brosnan and Colm Cooper’s injury. After a huge amount of negativity and a few tough defeats in the league earlier this year, Eamonn Fitzmaurice has turned a squad supposedly in transition to within 70 minutes of another All-Ireland final.

But Kerry beat a Cork team who never turned up in the Munster final and a naive Galway outfit playing in their first quarter-final in six years. The argument is there that the win over Cork in particular gives a false impression of what Kerry are capable of.

James OÕDonoghue and Michael Shields James O'Donoghue takes on Michael Shields in the Munster final. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Are Kerry over hyped? Have they the necessary ammunition to down Mayo? Can they match Mayo’s athleticism in the middle-third?

It has been suggested Fitzmaurice’s men are waiting in the long-grass for Mayo. Win today and there can be no doubting they are back as a major force.

5. Who will win the tactical battle on the sideline?

Two of the best young managers in the game, Horan and Fitzmaurice will engage in a fascinating tactical battle on the line.

Fizmaurice’s brilliance as a manager can’t be understated. Kerry’s whole attack is built around quick kick-passing and delivering early ball into O’Donoghue and Paul Geaney.

Horan has turned this Mayo bunch into a steely group of players and how he chooses to counteract the threat of O’Donoghue will be telling, as will whether he opts to send a man out the field after Stephen O’Brien.

The game will be won out on the field but the touchline battle could go a long way to determining who advances.

‘It’s an easy outlet to say dual-players are the problem’ – Eoin Cadogan on Cork and Dublin

‘It’s the only prize’ – James O’Donoghue has sympathy for Mayo after All-Ireland defeats

About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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