In 2004, 2006 and last year, the county conceded a total of six first half goals with four of them coming inside the first 12 minutes (two v Kerry six years ago and Donegal in 2012).
O’Neill scored two goals before the interval in the 2006 decider but knows the importance on Sunday in Mayo keeping a tight rein on Dublin when in the danger zone.
“I think they have to be aware of that,” he said. “The first couple of minutes are absolutely critical. The last couple of All-Irelands that Mayo have played they have been caught out in the first 10 or 15 minutes.
“It might not be the more open expansive game that has taken place in the last two semi-finals and it could be quite a battle of attrition for the first 10 or 15 minutes until the game settles down.”
O’Neill’s head says Dublin and heart cries Mayo, but he knows the team won’t be psychologically damaged by last year’s final defeat as the 2006 team may have been by the loss to Kerry two years earlier.
“Apart from the hurt and pain of the defeat last year, I don’t think there’s any psychological barriers. All of the players involved have played in a couple of All-Irelands now, be it club, U21 or senior.
“I don’t think there’s any baggage from the past. If anything, I think in the first 20 minutes of the match they will really want to make sure they have a good start and get out of the blocks.
“I didn’t think there was [baggage in ’06] but on reflection, there were probably certain things that we should have approached in a different manner.
“You look back in hindsight on those things and there are regrets but you have to move on.”
He is buoyed by how well Mayo usually react to playing Dublin. “I think Mayo probably enjoy playing against the bigger counties. No disrespect to all of the other counties out there but I think Mayo tend to perform against the likes of a Dublin or a Tyrone. Kerry have been a bit of hoodoo team for Mayo over the last couple of years but if you look at Mayo’s record against Dublin over the last couple of years, even against the likes of Cork and Tyrone, it has been pretty good. I think they relish the atmosphere, relish the contest.
“What better way to test yourself as an inter-county footballer than to play against the best under extreme pressure at Croke Park?”