Mayo should shade epic Croker clash with Dublin

Mayo should shade epic Croker clash with Dublin

By Peter McNamara

All-Ireland SFC semi-final, Dublin v Mayo - 3.30pm, Sunday, Croke Park

Live on RTÉ and Sky Sports

If the All-Ireland minor championships are seen as 'major', then this All-Ireland SFC semi-final can be epic, absolutely epic.

This All-Ireland semi-final, Dublin versus Mayo, can be the saviour of an underwhelming GAA summer.

People said the Galway-Tipp All-Ireland semi-final lifted the spirits of the masses.

It did, to a point, but, in hindsight, that was a triumph for work-ethic over grace.

Dublin-Mayo can be the proverbial roller-coaster that offers a whole host of potentially fascinating crescendos and even leaves Galway-Tipp in its rearview mirror.

And it'll do so via an aesthically pleasing context whereby traditional values and forward class are the order of the day.

All over the pitch there'll be potentially enthralling duels such as Keith Higgins and Bernard Brogan while at the opposite end the tussle between Rory O'Carroll and Aidan O'Shea could define the tie.

Mayo should shade epic Croker clash with DublinWill Bernard Brogan (left) and Jack McCaffrey be celebrating again on Sunday?

However, high-fielding in the middle-third should be the most crucial element of all.

Tom Parsons and Séamus O'Shea will come up against Brian Fenton and Denis Bastick in midfield if, of course, Jim Gavin does not have Michael Darragh Macauley pencilled in instead of Bastick.

For now, though, it is the Templeogue Synge St player that is named alongside the impressive Fenton for the Boys in Blue.

However, the Parsons-O'Shea axis has a much more settled look about it, and also one capable of pitching in with a couple of key scores.

After all, does Gavin really know his best central pairing?

Or is it that Dublin have been essentially going through the motions thus far in this Championship campaign, holding back on facets on their truly first-choice line-up and in-game approach?

No disrespect to the opponents the Metropolitans have encountered but none of them exactly find themselves in the top-tier bracket.

The shade of cynicism in this writer leans towards the latter scenario because Dublin are surely slightly weaker without Macauley in their starting shake-up.

Mayo should shade epic Croker clash with DublinMayo have been relentless in their pursuit of possession, forcing turnovers.

Regardless, Mayo, having defeated Donegal in their previous outing, are in extremely decent nick.

The aggressive nature of their in-game attitude presents a level of pressure to their opponents that marks them out as a nuisance of a challenger.

Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly possess players hell-bent on forcing turnovers high up the pitch and Mayo will push up on Stephen Cluxton's kick-outs.

His opposite number, David Clarke had a clean sheet in the All-Ireland quarter-final and another one would go a hell of a way towards Mayo securing a spot in the All-Ireland final.

Mayo should shade epic Croker clash with DublinMayo goalkeeper David Clarke.

Yet, clean sheets have not quite been par for the course for the westerners.

As was highlighted here earlier in the week, there has been 79 goals scored in Mayo's last 24 League and Championship clashes dating back to the commencement of last season.

That is a ridiculously high figure for a team with the loftiest of ambitions.

Still, this is where Parsons and O'Shea come in.

If that duo can edge the battleground that'll be midfield Mayo could be in business.

Aidan O'Shea, obviously, is virtually unmarkable currently but Gavin's men will be aware of Cillian O'Connor's threat too.

Cillian O'Connor (left) and Philly McMahon could be central figures at Croke Park.

O'Connor has been ticking along nicely and could explode tomorrow at headquarters if afforded high-quality possessions.

Equally, Mayo will have to pin Jack McCaffrey down as his darting runs from Dublin's half-back line illuminate matches.

The Clontarf clubman has arguably been Dublin's most proficient overall performer this season, with Ciarán Kilkenny a very close second, and will need watching.

Nevertheless, and despite the fact they are outsiders, this can be Mayo's day.

Without conviction, that is, the westerners are tipped to progress.

Either way, Croker should rock to the beat of a titanic collision.

Key players: Tom Parsons and Séamus O'Shea

Verdict: Mayo

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