1. Both O’Sheas are in fantastic form
The performances of both Seamus and Aidan O’Shea were top class in their victory over Cork in the All-Ireland quarter-final.
I am a big fan of Seamus and have always been impressed by his honesty and work-rate for any team he lines out with.
Seamus is not a flashy player, however he has a terrific attitude that is appreciated by both James Horan and his team-mates.
Aidan has done very well in his centre-forward role and he will pose some serious questions for the Kerry rearguard.
He is such a powerful man that he is very difficult to stop when he is in possession and it will be interesting to see who Eamonn Fitzmaurice assigns to mark him.
Both players have matured a lot over the past few years and know what they need to do for Mayo to win. They were the midfield partnership when Kerry beat them by 1-20 to 1-11 at this stage back in 2011.
Three years later though, they are bigger, stronger, better, and more experienced footballers and they will be expected to play key roles this Sunday.
2. Work-rate of the Mayo forwards
One of the most eye-catching aspects of Mayo’s victories over Galway and more so against Cork, was the superb work-rate and tackling of the Mayo forwards.
From corner forward Cillian O’Connor out to Kevin McLoughlin at number 10, they work like Dervishes to dispossess and harry the opposition defenders.
It is something that they must work on consistently in training and have done for the past few years under James Horan’s watch, and are now one of the best teams in the country at that pressure game.
The Kerry defence have not faced anything like that level of intensity and in-your-face tackling this year and it will be a new experience for them.
Shane Enright, Fionn Fitzgerald, Killian Young, Paul Murphy, Marc Ó Sé, and Aidan O’Mahony are all good defenders, however as a unit they have not been seriously tested and I expect Mayo to do so this weekend.
A criticism of Mayo in the past few seasons is that they don’t have enough scoring forwards, however Jason Doherty seems to have improved significantly in the past 12 months.
And if Doherty and Alan Dillon, Andy Moran, Alan Freeman, Kevin McLoughlin, and perhaps Lee Keegan and the O’Sheas, can chip in with a few scores to augment what Cillian O’Connor normally hits, then they can hit a match-winning tally on Sunday.
3. Keith Higgins can quieten James O’Donoghue
O’Donoghue has been rampant in the past few games and probably has an All-Star wrapped up already. He shot the lights out against Cork in the Munster final and his 1-5 against Galway was taken at his ease.
He is a very confident and assured young man and he will be heading to Croke Park expecting to do the same against more western opposition; however if James Horan selects Keith Higgins to pick him up, he will be coming up against one of the top defenders in the game.
Higgins is not called “zippy” for nothing and that pace and ability to read the game is vital in Croke Park especially against the likes of the Kerry youngster.
The Ballyhaunis man collected his second All-star gong last year and he is at the peak of his game. He would relish the opportunity to nullify Kerry’s star forward and he has the skillsset to do just that.
Stopping O’Donoghue is not a one man job though, and the Mayo half-backs like Lee Keegan and Colm Boyle will also have to make sure that they don’t leave too much open space in front of their full-back line.
Pressure has to be put on the Kerry kicker out the field too and unless the ball is perfectly popped into O' Donoghue's path, then every Mayo supporter would have plenty of confidence in Higgins to make it a tough and unproductive 70 minutes for the Legion star.