It is the smallest things that matter at this level of the game, the marginal gains we are told will swing things one way or the other. Everything will not go right for you on the day, just look at Mayo putting the ball into their own net twice the last day, but it is making sure as much goes right for you as possible. That is the key to getting over the line tomorrow evening.
An All Ireland final is as high pressure a game as you will get and when you throw in the conditions in Dublin 3 last Sunday week it made sure that the stakes were increased even more. Even little things like new balls being used for the game have a bearing on how things go, elsewhere in this preview former Mayo free taker Maurice Sheridan expands on this issue. So it is about making sure you take your chances when they come and that you make as few mistakes as possible when it is in your own control.
Hitting the net
If Mayo are to win you would expect that they will need to hit the back of the net at least once over the 70 minutes, what we learned in the drawn game is that those chances are going to be few and far between. Mayo created only two really goal scoring opportunities, the first one fell to Paddy Durcan whose shot was blocked by Johnny Cooper. The shot was there for the Castlebar man to take on, but if he had glanced to the left he would have seen Andy Moran and Cillian O'Connor both with their hands out looking for the extra pass in space. But at the speed he was moving you cannot blame Durcan for taking his shot on. In the second half Andy Moran got in behind the cover at the edge of the box on the Cusack Stand side of the field. The Ballagahderreen man is well capable of netting the ball from there and was right to go for it, but he caught it wrong and it flew over the bar. Cillian O'Connor was once more in space free waiting for the flighted pass across the goal, but again it all happened so quickly Moran probably took the right option. But what those two chances have shown us is that when Mayo do get in for a goal chance, there is a good probability there is another player in there in support ready for an offload. There was a third time Mayo could have gone for goal late on when Donal Vaughan pointed to cut the gap back to just one point, but with plenty of time left on the clock the Ballinrobe man took the wise option of putting it over the bar rather than trying to bury it the net under pressure from 21 yards out. There will be chances for Mayo, they just have to make sure they take them.
Dublin got two goals thanks to Mayo putting the ball into their own net, but they both came from realistic goal chances. The first after Brian Fenton had got in and had his shot saved by Clarke, but it rebounded out to Bernard Brogan, then off Brendan Harrision before Kevin McLoughlin's foot had the final touch. Fenton got in for another goal chance in a very similar position that Clarke did brilliantly to stop. Dublin's second goal, they did not get a shot off but they created the opportunity for the chance brilliantly. Diarmuid Connolly played an inch perfect ball into Dean Rock who was the only Dublin player moving forward while the rest pulled out to create the space in what looked like a pre-rehearsed move. While Rock did not collect the ball and it spilled from his grasp, Dublin had got in behind Mayo again for the chance, and it was the unlucky Colm Boyle whose leg put it past David Clarke for the goal. The luck was with Dublin on that day when it came to converting the goal chances they created, Mayo will be looking for it to be with them this time.
Restarting the play
The restarts from kick-outs has become one of the main focal points of analysis of the game in recent years thanks in no small part to Dublin's Stephen Cluxton and his excellence from them over the past decade. Mayo have a short kickout strategy that worked for the most part in the drawn match, up until the last few minutes they had won 14 of their 17 kick-outs by David Clarke, but down the home straight from three poor kick-outs Dublin managed to tap over two points, a potential killer that late in the game. Dean Rock hit over a free after Paul Mannion was able to break the ball away from Tom Parsons who was put under pressure out on the right wing, and Eoin O'Gara was fouled and from the next kickout Clarke's short effort hit the back of Diarmuid Connolly who was able to collect the ball and swing it over the bar. Another short kickout after put Keith Higgins under pressure in the corner but he was able to get it away. Clarke had a fine game and did brilliantly well to keep himself composed after the concession of those two scores, but Mayo cannot afford to let a run of scores like that come around again tomorrow. The short game is Mayo's option of choice from the restart, despite having a much vaunted midfield pairing of Tom Parsons and Seamus O'Shea, when Mayo went long with four kick-outs in the game they lost the ball three times of the four. Mayo did manage to score four points off the 16 kickouts they won in the game including Cillian O'Connor's last gasp score, so even a marginal improvement on that could pay major reward for them tomorrow. When it came to the Dublin kickouts Mayo managed to steal possession four times from the 22, another area where they will look to up their returns.