Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport GAA

Rochford's men must overcome the odds and facts as everything points in Dubs' favour

All-Ireland final preview

By Declan Bogue

After all the plotting and scheming, column writing and radio blah-blah, you might think that this All-Ireland title will go to Mayo if they can successfully 'spook' Stephen Cluxton with his kickouts, whatever that means.

Stephen Rochford would hardly be checking in on all the noise outside the camp this week, but those who do it for him will be amazed at how far off the point the narrative is.

The facts are that this year, Cluxton has found a Dublin player with 91% of his kickouts, and 78% of the time he went short.

So Mayo will push up at some stage on Dublin's kickout.

And they might get some success.

But then what?

Then, you are relying on skills execution. And Mayo have not been executing the skills of the game well this year, or at least for long stretches of each match.

They might come up with a few tactical ploys. They might string Aidan and Seamus O'Shea, along with Tom Parsons, across the middle for kickouts. Barry Moran might feature as a full-forward.

And then what?

Then they have to get their match-ups right. Lee Keegan will naturally pick up Diarmuid Connolly, and see if he might get a red card out of him. Brendan Harrison might go on Bernard Brogan - who has a brilliant record against Mayo and in finals too - and Keith Higgins might try to replicate Paul Murphy's stranglehold of Ciaran Kilkenny from the semi-final.

But what then?

Will Andy Moran expect to get the same room with Johnny Cooper breathing down his neck and Cian O'Sullivan mopping things up? Will Aidan O'Shea deliver a performance worthy of his talent in an All-Ireland final, particularly against an opponent that relishes facing him in Philly McMahon?

Who looks after Kevin McManamon, the biggest of all big-game players? And Dean Rock, a man who has begun to chip in with a few from play this season, has added value to his game. There is chat that Paul Flynn may be a doubt, but that won't kill them.

After the 2013 final, Jim Gavin had complaints about the amount of frees his team were penalised for. This season, they have conceded only 75 in Championship football, which shows these things can be worked on.

Mayo have conceded 149. You cannot do that when Rock carries an 87% shooting accuracy.

And while Rochford and Tony McEntee are sure to have plans for the inevitable introduction of Eoghan O'Gara (say, Kevin Keane) and Paul Mannion (Chris Barrett), it's one thing having a plan. Everybody has a plan until they are punched in the face, as Mike Tyson once said.

For me, this stands out more than anything else. When the two sides have met in the Championship since the 2013 All-Ireland semi-final, for the last 10 minutes of those games, Dublin have outscored Kerry 4-10 to 0-4. They are relentless and have no tail-off.

They have better players. They have a greater balance to the team and they are on-field problem solvers.

And here are the two final, crucial, ingredients.

Plenty of teams like Dublin could be reasonably self-satisfied with themselves. There is not a trace of that in this group and that is down to their superb management team.

Ego has no place within their dressing room walls.

But hate and spite has. It has a very special place inside the walls of any successful sports team's psyche.

And Dublin have it in for Mayo, just as much as Mayo have it in for Dublin. That guards against everything.

Dublin. Absolutely.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph