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Dublin need to shun the sideshows to retain title in All-Ireland replay

By Declan Bogue

There are three strands that will influence the All-Ireland final replay between Dublin and Mayo this weekend: the sidelines, the psychological side and the football itself.

Let's start with the sidelines, and by that we don't mean the respective management teams - we mean the add-ons.

During the half-time break of the RTÉ broadcast of the drawn All-Ireland final a fortnight ago, there was some prime advertising space to be filled. One of those slots featured the Dublin squad, clad in three-piece suits with a discreet sky blue check, in their trade-off with 'suit partners' Benetti.

We saw Bernard Brogan giving a shoulder rub to Stephen Cluxton, all light-hearted and natural. In the second ad break we met Brogan again, hawking himself to SuperValu.

In the matchday programme he is advertising Volkswagen. And Benetti again, and Benetti once more on a separate page. He also appears on behalf of the GAA Annual Health and Wellbeing Conference. The inside back cover? Brogan wearing a red SuperValu hoodie!

Outside, as you approach Croke Park, there is a mean and moody depiction of Brogan, along with the tagline 'King of the Hill', advertising King crisps.

And yet, at the business end of the game, Brogan was substituted, scoreless, for the last 15 minutes.

He was also taken off against Kerry in the semi-final and Laois in the first round of the Leinster Championship. The ruthless thing now is for Jim Gavin to demote him to the bench.

And the sideline feeds into the psychological aspect.

Does the lustre of being champions wear slightly thin? Is there a temptation to see your status in the game and decide to monetise it while you are playing, just like the lads up in the RTÉ studio?

Mayo have a psychological edge. While Dublin will have spent a while beating themselves up for not closing out the first game, and Diarmuid Connolly would have been discreetly assured of his ego getting in the way for attempting that audacious sideline at the end, Mayo just refuse to die.

Although Dublin were 2/7 favourites and the overwhelming tip of the assorted pundits, ex-players and journalists, Mayo are bulletproof in their belief that an All-Ireland is there for them. When labels such as 'Celebrity Losers' are thrown at them, it feeds their inner monster.

And now, the football. There are many things to be answered on the day, but here are some:

1) The Lee Keegan/Connolly war has gone on too long. Both men were lucky in that the first Mayo own goal happened at a time they both wrestled each other to the ground in the build-up. They could and should have been on yellow cards from that point. Maurice Deegan might be keen to lay down an early marker, which will not suit Mayo. Likewise, James McCarthy should last the whole game this time.

2) Weather. Darragh Ó Sé made the excellent point after the first clash that every ball on the big day comes straight out of the wrapper. Anyone who has ever played with a fresh ball on a wet day can vouch for how it behaves differently than a ball that has had a couple of outings.

Both attacks suffered from getting their footing wrong and not being able to hold onto the ball in traffic. At this stage, not a drop of rain is forecast for Saturday.

3) Can Dublin play as poorly?

4) Can Mayo produce the same again?

This punditry business makes mugs of us all. After the pre-match statistics are analysed, a side can put the ball into their own net twice and step on their own landmines.

Once again, I'm going for Dublin. With the utmost of hesitation.

Belfast Telegraph


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