Mayo can beat Dublin if they play to their optimum

This Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final clash between 2013 All-Ireland champions Dublin, and the team they defeated by a single point in that final, Mayo, is eagerly anticipated. 

Croke Park itself is a total sell-out, so there will be 82,000 plus a few stragglers at the game itself, and about 750,000 viewers tuning in on TV.

And with the quality of players on both sides, and two of the top teams in the country in action, it has the potential to be the game of the championship.

These two sides have produced some truly fantastic games over the past decade, with the 2006 classic where Ciarán McDonald kicked a stunning winner to edge Mayo to a 1-16 to 2-12 win in the All-Ireland semi-final providing epic entertainment.

For that game, only Keith Higgins and probably David Clarke, and perhaps Andy Moran (Mayo ) and Stephen Cluxton (Dublin ) are likely to start this Sunday’s joust, with both Higgins and Cluxton - ironically - the sides’ respective captains. 

Former all-star Alan Dillon has also seen regular action for Mayo off the bench during the year and he might play a cameo role on Sunday too.

The inter-county Gaelic football season could do with a truly top game on Sunday as the action has been underwhelming in the main. 

Calling a winner for next Sunday is not easy, however, I would give a very slight nod to Mayo if they can get their match ups right and get plenty of supply into Aidan O’ Shea and Cillian O’ Connor in their full-forward line.

Jim Gavin has correctly described O’Shea as the form player in the country and his clash with Dublin full-back and 2013 all-star Rory O’ Carroll will have a huge bearing on who will be facing Kerry in the final.

O’ Shea has been in superb form in the three championship matches we have seen him in thus far in the championship, namely Galway, Sligo and Donegal. However Sunday will be a massive step up in intensity and speed on anything he has faced in that position and it will be interesting to see how Dublin play him.

I would expect Mayo to try and put pressure on Dublin on Cluxton’s kick-outs, and to push up on them. 

They will want to try to get the five time All-Star goalie to make a few errors, similar to what Kerry did on Neil Morgan last weekend. If he is forced to kick it long, the percentage of ball that Dublin retain will be reduced.

The game has some potentially explosive match-ups with the likes of Keith Higgins picking up Bernard Brogan, Lee Keegan on Diarmuid Connolly and Kevin McLoughlin on Jack McCaffrey.

Dublin centre-forward Ciarán Kilkenny is another player who Mayo must target as he is a superb link player and Holmes and Connelly must assign a player – perhaps Colm Boyle - to stop his influence.

The bookies have Dublin as hot 4/7 favourites with Mayo at 15/8 and the not implausible draw at 8/1.

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