Ten reasons why we can win on Sunday and ten for us to worry about

I think Mayo have a great chance of beating the Dubs on Sunday. Luke Dempsey called earlier in the week to discuss Mayo’s chances. He too believes Mayo will win. He suggested that the Dubs need twice as much possession as most teams to manage a victory. He believes many of their players are lacking in some of the fundamental skills of the game. I too have suggested that many of the Dublin footballers appear to be manufactured footballers, ie, many are not naturally talented. Of course they are much better than the three teams we have played in this year’s campaign so far, but are the Dubs that good? I do not think so.

Ten reasons why Mayo can win on Sunday:

1. Mayo are under no pressure on Sunday as underdogs - same position as Donegal last Sunday.

2. Mayo are a good Croke Park team and have often reserved their best football for HQ (Donal Vaughan in particular ).

3. Mayo hammered Dublin in March in the league in McHale Park with a score line of 0-20 to 0-8.

4. Mayo’s confidence is high after three good victories. The last one at HQ v Down was particularly impressive.

5. Mayo’s midfield has enormous ball winning ability and both players are playing with great confidence.

6. Mayo are a united bunch who have worked extremely hard over the last two years under new management.

7. A good blend of youth and experience spread throughout the team with great pace in key positions. Mayo are very fit and will not have any problems going the distance.

8. Mayo are a team who can score goals when given half a chance.

9. Dublin have nothing like the hunger of last year and are definitely vulnerable after a string of average performances in this year’s championship.

10. Mayo’s supporters will travel in their thousands and are as noisy and supportive as any in the country.

Ten reasons for us to be worried

1. The loss of Andy Moran through injury.

2. Mayo have beaten three average teams to get to this position. I know you can only beat what is in front of you, but Mayo have not really been tested by any of those teams.

3. Dublin are due a good game and have enormous potential if they can find their form at this juncture.

4. Alan Brogan makes their forward line tick. He is apparently back to full fitness after sitting out the last game against Laois.

5. The Hill. A packed vociferous crowd is worth a point or two to Dublin.

6. Dublin are the current All-Ireland champions and would love to go down in the history books by winning back to back All-Irelands. They will respect Mayo but will not fear them.

7. That comprehensive victory in McHale Park in March will ensure there will be no complacency in the Dublin camp.

8. Dublin have years of strength conditioning work under their belts and if the game is tight, their superior strength might be a deciding factor.

9. Have Mayo four or five players who can kick two or three points from open play? Mayo’s subs bench looks a little threadbare in the forwards department.

10. Dublin have proved their ability to withstand pressure. Remember Dublin were able to withstand the Donegal onslaught last year and proved they have the power to unlock the new ‘system’!

Minors were robbed

Bernard Flynn, the former Meath corner forward gave me a nudge towards the end of the second half of the minor match last Sunday and remarked that the referee was “screwing” Mayo. I could not have agreed more. The three or four big mistakes have been well flagged at this stage. But there were so many more frees awarded to Meath for foul play and over carrying that were wrong. I was left wondering if some of these refs know the rules of the game. The push on the Mayo player on the sideline, the penalty awarded for a brilliant block down, not to mention the illegal hand pass that led to the second goal, the Mayo minors were robbed of an opportunity to play in an All-Ireland final by an incompetent referee. End of story.

McGuinness shows his and Donegal’s worth

Jim McGuinness, the Donegal football manager, now has top rating in the kindergarten class of big-time football management. After last Sunday’s magnificent performance in defeating a much fancied Cork side, we witnessed an outstanding example of grace under pressure. But grace is not his only impressive quality -- he has something which is far more vital in his business….character.

Two years ago Donegal invested in a man they hoped would take the county on to a different plateau. And my word has he done that. The transformation in his team is simply awesome. I have never seen such an improvement in a team over such a short period of time. McGuinness has, over the past two years, stamped his character on his side. He has shown that he will not tolerate players of a lesser competitive character than his own. He could not and did not accept the dwindling standards that prevailed in his beloved county.

I have spoken to several Donegal people about the man in recent weeks. They are least surprised by his ability, as they saw something special in the man when he managed the Donegal under 21 side three years ago.

Managing modern footballers is a tricky business but, when you are a winner to the extent that Jim McGuinness is, it is unlikely that you are going to struggle in the man management aspect of the game. It seems that these young players would do anything for their manager. He has indoctrinated a winning habit into the mindset of his players and has brought a winning philosophy to the core of the players’ lives. Donegal obviously recognised the passion and the fury that has made McGuinness one of the great managers of the modern game.

He is a driven man, a perfectionist, extremely intelligent, and an extreme character in some ways. But most importantly he is also an extreme achiever. This guy has us all agog at the moment with his Gaelic football strategy, one which has transformed the way the game is played.

I, like so many others, expected a comfortable Cork victory last Sunday. In fact everyone I spoke to in the press area before the match agreed with me. But such was the force of Donegal, particularly in the second half, that they made Cork look like nervous ‘first day back to school’ children.

Cork were doing things that heretofore were alien to their nature. They looked as sluggish as juggernauts in everything they did, with the odd exception. They appeared to have no bottle for battle, no desire to rescue the situation, no creativity. They looked pedantic and slow. Shock, obviously, has this kind of an effect on the body. Donegal by contrast were like a well-oiled slick machine and when they stepped on the gas there was enough poke to ease past flailing token Cork challenges. Last year Donegal managed to score six points in over 70 minutes of football against Dublin. They had achieved that in 27 minutes last Sunday. Mark McHugh suggested in a post- match interview that they had spent an inordinate amount of time working on their offensive game this year. He obviously was telling the truth. Donegal handed out a two point drubbing to Cork. The scoreline does not do them justice such was their dominance in the second half. I cannot recall a display of such quality, with so much at stake at semi-final stage. They played with such confidence, such certainty, such composure, and oh so much energy. They were ruthless and for the first time played a brand of football that was as near to perfection as I have witnessed.

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