Mayo V Kerry All Ireland Football Semi Final Preview

21 Aug

By Paul Walsh
GAA Correspondent
Follow him on twitter @walshpots

This was not the way it was supposed to be. The pundits, the bookies and everybody with even a passing interest in GAA, had this down as a Kerry V Cork semi final. The Mayo players and management however, did not read the script. Their second half performance in the quarter finals left the All Ireland champions frustrated and as they floundered, Mayo prospered and booked their appearance at Croke Park today. Despite Mayo’s impressive performance against Cork, they still enter this game as massive underdogs. Are we about to see another upset, or have the experts got it right this time?

Jack O’Connor in the lead up to this game has played down the favourites tag. In his opinion and as long as he has been involved with Kerry, they have always had to deal with expectation. They were expected to progress against Down last year, when their campaign came to a shuddering halt. Despite the history, tradition and the presence of a number of All Ireland winners in Kerry’s team today, they are not unbeatable. Mayo needs to believe, they are a first division team and provincial champions, and they should not fear this Kerry team.

Mayo teams of course have come to Croke Park before and froze like a rabbit in headlights, at the sight of a Kerry jersey. Nobody from the West recounts the 2004 and 2006 All Ireland finals with any fondness. Both days were massacres as Kerry had Mayo beaten by half time on both occasions. Mayo need to contain Kerry early on and continue their excellent defensive play, that has got them this far. Players like Donal Vaughan of Mayo, who stood on Hill 16 at the 2006 All Ireland final, need to use that hurt to erase the impression of Mayo being a team with a soft underbelly.

The Kerry team’s strength lies in the All Star forward line. Mayo did contain Cork, but that was a Cork forward line decimated by injury. Mayo has to plan how they contain Kieran Donaghy, Colm Cooper and Darran O’Sullivan. O’Sullivan in particular has been in fine form, with his back heel against Limerick a clear indication of the confident mood he is in. Probably no other forward in the country would have attempted his audacious flick and it’s this ability to improvise that makes the Kerry forward line son dangerous. For Mayo, centrefield as it was against Cork is a key battleground. The Mayo O’Shea brothers had question marks hanging over them coming in to the Cork game, concerning their mobility. However, they came out on top in their match up with Aidan Walsh and Alan O’Connor. Today they face Anthony Maher and Bryan Sheehan and this Kerry midfield pair, should not strike fear at the heart of Mayo. If Mayo could dominate here, it could go a long way towards a shock victory.

With all due respect to the teams that Kerry has played thus far, they have not been tested apart from the Munster final against Cork. Today will be a real test of their title credentials. All Ireland Championships are not given out based on reputations and there are three really hungry teams that want to deprive The Kingdom of another title. I expect Mayo to be competitive and it will certainly not be a repeat of the 2004 and 2006 All Ireland finals. In the end despite some misgivings I have to plump for Kerry. Their forward line should just give them the edge but by a gap of just 3 points or less.

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