Mayo go into Sunday’s All-Ireland football final as big underdogs against a Dublin team looking to keep Sam Maguire for the third consecutive winter.
Coming into this clash, which is a repeat of last year’s decider, the Connacht side will look to their big-game experience to try to force them over the line and win a first title since 1951 – 66 long, painful years ago.
However, if they are to overcome the mighty Dubs, they will need huge performances from the 20 or 21 players who take to the turf on Jones Road.
That said, these are three guys in particular that will need to shine out, if Stephen Rochford can lead the green and the red of Mayo to the promised land.
There is a lot of pressure on Aidan O’Shea to perform in this final. While it may be unfair that he gets the burden of having to drag his county up the steps of the Hogan Stand at about 5pm on Sunday, that is the price he has to have to pay for the talent he possesses.
O’Shea was also much talked about after the drawn semi-final against Kerry after manager Rochford put he talisman at full-back to mark Kieran Donaghy – a move that had mixed reviews.
This has led to the question of where O’Shea will line out on Sunday. He will certainly start at midfield to contest the throw-in – where Mayo have been able to launch attacks from the get-go in games in the last few weeks. However, it is probable (but by no means certain) that the Breaffy man will settle at centre forward and lead the attack from there.
Moran was exceptional in the two games against Kerry. He is a real leader in this Mayo outfit and another big performance from the veteran attacker could see Mayo come really close to pulling off an upset.
Moran has scored 3-09 in Mayo’s last four games – all in Croke Park – in the championship including goals in his last three outings.
The Ballaghderreen man will be key the westerners on Sunday, however, you feel he will have to find the net again if they are to get the win over the men from the capital.
Stephen Rochford’s decision to drop Clarke for the replay last year means that the goalkeeping position will be one that is much talked about heading into Sunday’s clash.
Kick-outs are such a vital part of the modern game and whether Clarke goes short or long, winning primary possession will be key to their chances of success.
The kick-out strategy will obviously depend on the positioning of Aidan O’Shea and whether Dublin drop back and allow the Mayo corner backs have the ball.
The bread and butter of goalkeeping – shot-stopping – will be crucial too as it goes without saying that Mayo cannot afford to concede anything soft if they are to be successful.
Should this trio all play to the best of their ability – then Mayo have a great chance of a first title in 66 years.
Joel Slattery, Pundit Arena
Check out the latest episode of The 16th Man, where we previewed the All-Ireland final between Dublin and Mayo.