Mayo can put 66 years of hurt behind them on Sunday and deny Dublin a three in a row, curse be damned. Here’s how….
1. Maybe don’t drop your number one goalkeeper on All Ireland final day?
In the replayed final less than a year ago, Stephen Rochford made the inexplicable decision to drop David Clarke in favour of Rob Hennelly.
It was a gamble by the Mayo management team with the intention of improving Mayo’s kick-out strategy but it backfired spectacularly.
Lacking match practice, Hennelly understandably betrayed signs of nerves and when he mishandled a high ball and subsequently fouled Paddy Andrews in the square, his final was over.
A black card and a converted penalty followed and Mayo would go on to lose by a point.
2. Attack really is the best form of defence
The ease with which Dublin obliterated the defensive structures of both Monaghan and Tyrone en route to another final should have clearly shown that such an approach would be ruinous for Mayo.
Allowing the Dubs to attack at will is akin to waving a red rag at a bull – and won’t end well for Mayo.
Mayo need to play Dublin at their own game, focus on turnovers and commit the half-backs to the attack at every opportunity. Boyle, Keegan and Higgins have the experience, pace and ability to trouble any defence.
3. The O’Shea Factor
Ideally, Stephen Rochford would like Aidan O’Shea to play full-back, midfield, centre-forward and full-forward.
But where that might be is anyone’s guess. Rochford has deployed Aidan in different positions this year and it’s possible the manager might have another trick up his sleeve.
However, O’Shea is still Mayo’s best all-round player and needs to play in his best position in the middle of the park.
4. Composure in front of goal
In the drawn All-Ireland final of 2016, Mayo were out of the blocks fast, hassling and harrying the Dublin full backs and forcing wayward kick outs from Cluxton.
Despite their turnovers and overall dominance in that first ten minutes, only two points were converted from eight attempts. Oh, and they conceded an own goal.
The consensus appears to be that Mayo are too lacking in quality forwards to win an All Ireland, but the O’Connor brothers rank amongst the best in the country.
Andy Moran is playing the best football of his career and Jason Doherty has been magnificent in that understated way of his. With Aidan O’Shea making gut-busting runs into the forward line, the firepower is there.
A more composed effort from their front men and Mayo could really drag Dublin into a dog-fight.
5. Time for the 70-minute performance
At various times this season Mayo have been both resourceful and wasteful, dazzling and dull, ingenious and breathtakingly stupid. They misfired against Galway and Derry only to the annihilate Roscommon and eventually dispose of Kerry.
In each game, Mayo enjoyed periods of domination, but also to one degree or another, periods where their play became disjointed and scores dried up.
And though we can’t deny that it is this very erraticism that makes us neutrals fall in love with Mayo, it is hardly helping their claims to be All-Ireland champions.
However, there is a growing sense that a full 70-minute performance of the highest standard could yet be coaxed from this team.
It will need to be as anything else will mean we will all be subjected to yet another playing of Molly Malone and Jim Gavin being so damn gracious and decent in his post-match interview.
Kevin Boyle, Pundit Arena