Match-ups and big performances needed

GAA: All Ireland Senior Football Championship Final

Big guns: Both Mayo and Dublin will be looking to curb the influence of the likes of Lee Keegan and Ciaran Kilkenny respectively. Photo: Sportsfile

Big guns: Both Mayo and Dublin will be looking to curb the influence of the likes of Lee Keegan and Ciaran Kilkenny respectively. Photo: Sportsfile

The number on the back of a shirt means relatively little these days in the game, with match-ups between different individuals taking players all over the park.

The battle in the middle third is one that Mayo will have to win or at least break even in if they are going to get over the line on Saturday. Brian Fenton has been a phenomenon since his introduction to the Dublin set up a few years back, and putting the shackles on the Raheny man will be a key task for Mayo.

Who will get the nod? There are a number of contenders with Breaffy’s Matthew Ruane looking the most likely one to get the job. Fenton is the spark that ignites the Dublin game and Ruane will have to be at his very best to dampen down that spark. He has the athleticism to stick with Fenton and will be looking to do some damage going the opposite way to keep the Dublin dynamo on his toes.

If Mayo will be looking to curb Fenton, Dublin will surely be looking to do the same to Cillian O’Connor - the Ballintubber man goes into the final in a rich vein of form and will be full to the brim with confidence. Johnny Cooper might get the nod to try and curb O’Connor’s influence - both men are up for a physical battle and Mayo will be hoping that O’Connor can get on top in this one.

At the other end of the field, Ciaran Kilkenny will be looking to fulfil a play making role for the Dubs, but he’s also a very dangerous scoring threat as his five points from play against Cavan in the semi-final showed. It will be a big call for James Horan to stick with one of his existing half-back line on him, with the likes of Stephen Coen possibly the man for the task or will Horan release Lee Keegan from the full back line, knowing that the Westport man can match up with the best any side has to offer and put them on their heels going the opposite way - and we know Keegan is no stranger to hammering home a goal on the big day.

Aidan O’Shea always gets special attention whenever he plays, the Breaffy man hasn’t has his best days in Croke Park in All Ireland finals - but he will always give you everything he has and his appetite for work is unrelenting. He’s been operating in the full forward line this year and along side Cillian O’Connor and Tommy Conroy they’ve formed a formidable trio. If he stays inside Davey Byrne could take him up or even his old sparing mate Philly McMahon - O’Shea may be needed out the field at some stage too and Mayo will need a big game from their captain.

Con O’Callaghan has been in storming form for Dublin this term, the Cuala man has been operating as not just an attacking threat but a serious kick-out option for Stephen Cluxton to aim at. Keeping tabs on him and the physical side to the game he brings is not going to be easy - but his old Sigerson Cup mate Stephen Coen might just be the man for the job. The Hollymount-Carramore man has quietly and efficiently gone about his business this year and would relish the challenge of taking on this battle.

Another big game at the back will be needed by Mayo from Chris Barrett - the Belmullet native who transferred to Dublin club Clontarff this year has slotted back into the full back role with ease in recent games. Tomorrow will be another big step up in class of opposition he’ll be facing with Paddy Small potential the man for him to take on - Barrett will need to be his touch tight best at this one.


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