Michael Murphy, captain of the last team to beat Dublin in the Championship 35 games ago, has suggested what it’ll take for Mayo to repeat that feat this weekend — a 2-20 scoreline.
On paper, it’s a giant ask and significantly higher than the 20-point estimate that Mayo’s Andy Moran last year admitted he always aims for.
In Dublin’s 45 Championship games under Jim Gavin, opponents have only hit 20 points or more against Dublin on seven occasions, Cork most recently in the Super 8s.
Murphy said the reality is that Dublin, in turn, are virtually guaranteed to hit a relatively high score regardless of whether teams set up defensively or in attack-mode against them.
It’s why the 2012 All-Ireland-winning captain — whose Donegal side hit 3-14 when they beat Dublin in the 2014 semi-finals — has suggested that Mayo should go for broke and aim for a large tally at Croke Park on Saturday.
Asked what that magic winning number might be, and if Moran was on the mark with his 20-point estimate, Murphy said: “You’d need at least that anyway. Probably 1-20, 2-20 you’d need to be looking at.
“I do believe that you do need to rack up a score against Dublin and it’s probably one of the things that teams haven’t been able to do over the last number of years because they were so interested and so mad about how to stop Dublin, so I think that’s always the big challenge, racking up a big score to actually match their score.
Because they’ve shown that whether they play against a team that’s set up defensively or that’s set up attacking against them, they’ll hit a certain score themselves.
“You need to take risks and the risks need to come off. You need to be at it and you have to have a bit of luck. You need to have a damn good team. You need to be able to match them as regards that 70-minute period so you need a hell of a lot of things to be going your way and you need a hell of a lot of boxes ticked.”
Back in 2014, when Donegal beat Dublin, it was a Dublin side that contained both Diarmuid Connolly and Bernard Brogan. The ageing duo aren’t expected to start this weekend despite both featuring in Tyrone last weekend, prompting the suggestion that the current Dublin team may lack a little of the stardust that was sprinkled on the 2014 group.
“I don’t know about that, I think you are very, very harsh,” responded Murphy. “I still think they are playing at a damn high level and with the introduction of a lot of their new players now.... like, realistically it is a newish team when you look at it in comparison to a few years ago.
“When you look at the Brian Howards and the Niall Scullys, the new leaders on the team, they are phenomenal players, and when you add them to Ciaran Kilkenny, Paul Mannion, and Jack McCaffrey, look, the list kind of goes on and on. And now you have Diarmuid Connolly to come off the bench too, that’s not a bad player to have either.”
Murphy got up close and personal with Mayo in Castlebar, shooting 1-4 but ultimately coming out on the wrong side of their Super 8s showdown.
He said he doesn’t see fatigue being a problem for Mayo.
“With the level of science that’s there now and the level of knowledge about how to peak, you put all your trust in that so you can be able to take part in these games,” he said.
“If we can do that in the middle of the league, playing games week on week, I can’t see any reason why we can’t do it in the championship.
From a player’s point of view, it is difficult. That one-week turnaround is a hell of a lot more difficult than it would for a two-week turnaround.
“You just have to do it. Dublin obviously rested up a few lads last weekend. But on the flip-side, you get momentum from winning. You get trust in the way you’re playing and you get relationships with the players you’re playing with. That can’t be undervalued, that level of consistency of playing week on week with the players.”