Mayo’s journey could be best described as an odyssey, not just this season but going back over a decade as they have strived to climb that All Ireland summit. So often with the end in sight, victory has fallen from their grasp.
This Sunday’s All-Ireland showdown will provide the men in green and red with another shot at redemption, another shot at scaling that peak. A battle of the neutrals’ favourites versus arguably the most talented side ever to take to the field in an All-Ireland final.
If Stephen Rochford’s men are to beat Dublin on Sunday, the will do so with the majority of people outside the capital wishing them on. Sporting Limerick caught up with Matt O’Callaghan to get his breakdown of the final. O’Callaghan believes Mayo have what it takes to test Dublin.
“Hearts all over Ireland, apart from the capital will be with Mayo there’s no question about that. They’ve done it the hard way this year after being beaten in the Connacht Championship. They had a few close brushes in the early rounds of the qualifiers but they seem to be gathering momentum. They’re becoming more battle-hardened, at this point they have the wherewithal to put it up to Dublin.”
Despite some memorable meetings of Dublin and Mayo in recent years, some of the encounters have lacked the quality expected of two heavyweights of the game. While certainly not lacking in physicality or intensity, neither side hit top gear in last year’s final or replay. The same could be said of the 2015 semi final in which the Dubs simply pulled away in the last twenty minutes.
The 2012 semi final was Mayo’s last victory Dublin who have gone 11 unbeaten against Sunday’s opponents since. Despite this, O’Callaghan thinks Mayo have a good shot and repeating their 2012 semi final victory.
“They certainly put it up to them last year. People were saying when it was a draw on the first day that Dublin would blow them out of the water – it didn’t happen. The important thing for Mayo is that they don’t fear Dublin, and I think on Sunday they’re going to give it a right go.”
Rochford’s selection for the final includes 13 of 15 players that began last year’s final replay against Jim Gavin’s side. The Mayo team in full is as follows.
1. David Clarke (Ballina Stephenites), 2 Brendan Harrison (Aghamore), 3 Donal Vaughan (Ballinrobe), 4 Keith Higgins (Ballyhaunis), 5 Lee Keegan (Westport), 6 Chris Barrett (Belmullet), 7 Colm Boyle (Davitts), 8 Seamus O’Shea (Breaffy), 9 Tom Parsons (Charlestown), 10 Kevin McLoughlin (Knockmore), 11 Aidan O’Shea (Breaffy), 12 Diarmuid O’Connor (Ballintubber), 13 Jason Doherty (Burrishoole), 14 Cillian O’Connor (Ballintubber, captain), 15 Andy Moran (Ballaghaderreen)
For their part Dublin have also named an unchanged side from their semi final victory over Tyrone.
Mayo have taken a long and winding road to this point. They have gone to the well so many times over the last seasons that you would have to believe that this will present one final change at redemption of this team. In their way lies a cold hearted and clinical machine that are the Dublin footballers.
While lesser mortals might be overawed by the challenge of the Dubs, O’Callaghan says fear will not be a factor for Rochford’s men.
“The one thing that they certainly will take is that they can play Dublin. A lot of teams just give up when they’re due to play Dublin. I think Mayo have a belief that they can beat Dublin. They’ve gone so close a couple of times in recent years and there will be a firm belief in Mayo, they will come to Croke Park with a spring in their step.”
Either way it promises to be a huge occasion between two giants of the game. Throw-in 3.30pm with live coverage on RTÉ and Sky Sports.
You can listen to the preview in full on the link below.