Three key duels that can decide the Connacht final

Alan Dillion/Trevor Mortimer v Diarmuid Blake

Against Roscommon in the Connacht semi-final Alan Dillon moved into centre-forward in a switch with Trevor Mortimer and he did untold damage on the Rossie rearguard with his constant movement, fast hands and excellent link play.

The Ballintubber man is a very experienced campaigner and played against Kerry back in the 2004 All-Ireland final. He collected an All-Star in 2006 based primarily on his excellence against Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-final when he shot 0-4, and he is a key player for John O’Mahony.

Likewise Trevor Mortimer who captains Mayo on Sunday had a sterling game against Galway in the league and got the man-of-the match award for his display from Mid-West radio’s Billy Fitzmaurice.

If Galway are to beat Mayo next Sunday Diarmuid Blake must stop Dillon or Mortimer as I expect them to interchange regularly.

Blake is a very robust defender and his use of possession is invariably good. He likes to hold the middle, win breaking ball and break the tackle, before finding a team-mate. He can be loose on occasion and Declan O’ Sullivan did a lot of damage in last year’s All-Ireland quarter-final.

The Milltown man has to be doggedly tight in Pearse Stadium on Sunday and still offer a security blanket to his full-back line by stopping traffic down the middle. Serving two masters is never easy, but for Galway to collect they will need a consistent and solid performance from their number six.

Trevor Howley v Padraig Joyce

He would probably admit it himself if asked, but John O’ Mahony set out his team very poorly in last year’s Connacht final. By half-time his two corner backs Kieran Conroy and Colm Boyle had been called ashore to be replaced by Aidan Higgins and Peadar Gardiner. However a lot of damage had been done before those changes were made.

James Nallen picked up Matthew Clancy and David Heaney was marking Padraic Joyce. Those match-ups did not work, and Joyce had a field day.

Heaney played his own game and did not man-mark Joyce which allowed the Killererin star to cause havoc. He scored 1-03 and was Galway’s most influential player. O’ Mahony won’t make the same mistake again. Mayo will want Joyce to be marked very tightly or he will open up defences with his vision and passing ability. He is going for his seventh provincial medal and he will make the Galway attack hum if given space.

Trevor Howley will be told to go out and stop Joyce and stick close to him at all times. Howley is a good tough player and he is very physically strong. He impressed against Roscommon in the semi-final and cut off a lot of supply going into his full-back line.

If he was to quash Joyce’s influence on the game and his creativity for the Galway attack, it would be a major blow for Galway’s chances. Another option too for the Mayo management team is to put the likes of Peadar Gardiner in on Joyce and tell him to tear up the field at any opportunity he is given. Either way, Galway need Padraig Joyce, - once again, as O’ Mahony often did in the past when in a maroon bib - to be their talisman up front. If Joyce can provide the bullets for Meehan and Armstrong, perhaps Mayo can be shot down.

Joe Bergin v Ronan McGarrity

Assuming the Ballina man passes his fitness test and can feature Galway will need Joe Bergin to be their “Big Dog” in the middle of the field. The likes of Michael Meehan, Sean Armstrong and Nicky Joyce can do real damage to most back lines if they get regular supply, however without it they are rendered as useless as a car without diesel.

Galway have had a persistent problem with midfield over the past few years as evidenced by the fact that they have used nine different players at midfield over the past four years and have had 11 different partnerships. From a Galway perspective they need the Mountbellew/Moylough man to grab the game by the neck and dominate the midfield proceedings. Bergin is injury free which is a major boost and he has been in scintillating form for his club, so self-confidence should not be a problem. On his game, Bergin is a serious player and if he could come up trumps and provide the possession and platform for Galway to play on the front foot he would have done more than his fair share to secure a Galway victory.

No doubt if Bergin is dominating around the middle Tom Parsons will be brought in to quell his influence. Based on their respective displays in Tuam in the league and against Roscommon and Sligo in the championship, Mayo have the edge in the engine room.

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