Mighty Mayo On Course For Another Final
Kerry v Mayo
Mayo’s record against the Kingdom reads worse than ‘40 Shades of Grey’. To improve the Westerners will have to ‘tie up’ the Kerry forwards…
…and James O’Donoghue in particular. Mayo may not have the classy forwards that the Kingdom can call on, but do they have the backs and midfielders to ensure enough possession for the Westerners to squeeze through to their third All-Ireland final on the trot?
Both sides had middling leagues, with Kerry just doing enough in the latter stages to keep their top flight status. Their hammering of Cork in the Munster Final was the performance of the year so far, but there are question marks over the Rebels that take the gloss of that display. Mayo won’t be as lenient in terms of space and uncontested possession.
Mayo, it would seem, have tried to time their run to peak for this time of year. Last year they hammered everyone until the semi-final stages when they seemed to overheat a bit.
If they have timed it to peak now then Kerry could be in for a tornado of a 70 minutes.
There are a number of potentially mouth-watering head-to-heads but none are likely to be more central than the James O’Donoghue and Keith Higgins clash. Both Ger Cafferky and Chris Barrett struggled for long patches against Cork, so it’s likely that the versatile Higgins will take up the unenviable task of keeping the Legion marksman quiet.
The work rate of the outfield players will be vital in ensuring that Declan O’Sullivan, in particular, won’t have time to pick out those perfect inside balls to O’Donoghue. If he’s kept to less than 0-3 from play, Mayo will be in a good place. With the focus on O’Donoghue there’s a chance that Paul Geaney, who has hit 0-13 this summer already could shine and the 18/1 about him is being selected RTE Man of the Match is interesting.
On the other side, it’ll be interesting to see how Aidan O’Mahony fares with Aidan O’Shea. O’Mahony will do well to contain the big Breaffy man who is a tempting 8/1 for man-of-the-match. Pat Spillane’s criticism of his semi-final and final performances last season could add to his motivation for Sunday’s clash.
There’s no doubting that Eamonn FitzMaurice will have Kerry primed yet again. His manner and record since he took over what was seen to be a fading force has been good. Throw in the loss of household names like Galvin, Gooch and Thomas O Se and his unflappability is even more remarkable. They ran out of legs against Dublin, a fate that probably awaits all who are good enough to challenge the Dubs for 50 minutes.
However, are Kerry as good as last year? For me, Aidan O’Mahony had played his best ball by three years ago. He was a cameo man in recent years, now he’s a central figure. Balancing that, the contribution of Michael Geaney has been fantastic and David Moran’s contribution against Galway suggests he’s starting to come right.
Mayo haven’t set the world alight yet save a ten minute blitzkrieg of Cork after half-time. That was at a level that any team would struggle with.
The line that Cillian O’Connor is Mayo’s only top quality forward may be tested by Kevin McLoughlin and Jason Doherty this weekend, but it is a fair conclusion based on the last number of years. However, Mayo have still been a smart switch away from the big prize in the last couple of years and with the potential for midfield dominance (not a reference to 40 Shades) backed up by the best half-back line in the business, Mayo’s hunger can see them reach the level needed to get through this.
Mayo @ 10/11
Aidan O’Shea @ 8/1 Man-of-the-Match
Keith Higgins @ 18/1 Man-of-the-Match