The Dubliner who managed Mayo players Lee Keegan and Fionn McDonagh to All-Ireland club glory believes Mayo can halt the drive for five on Saturday.
Marino native Damien Loftus managed Westport to All-Ireland intermediate glory in 2017 at Croke Park. He played senior football and hurling with St Vincent’s and minor with Dublin in both codes.
He moved to Mayo in 2006 and says this is the first time in recent years he feels his adopted home county have the game to take down the Dubs.
“I like the look of Mayo this year. In previous years Mayo fell short for a few reasons, one was a lack of depth. I like the way they are playing this year. They are not running handpasses near as much, they have a fresh impetus in the squad and there is something different about them,” Loftus said.
“Everyone knows the challenge facing them but I think it is a huge opportunity for Mayo, particularly in a semi-final.
I think a final would be harder to beat Dublin in, playing them in a semi-final is a big advantage.
“There seems to be a consensus that Dublin’s weakness is their full-back line. I don’t fully subscribe to that. I think it is more a case that their defensive set-up and shape can be exploited. Their defenders are offensively minded and have a carte blanche to attack, that is something Mayo can exploit,” said Loftus.
Loftus said Mayo need to be risktakers in order to halt the five-in-a-row chasing Dubs.
“If Mayo can (A) continue and improve their turnover count and (B) if they can predominantly employ a kickpassing game, particularly into their inside line, then they can punish the Dubs.
They have shown that they can cut out unnecessary handpasses, that’s a huge addition. You have to take risks against Dublin. You cannot be defensively minded. You have to be confident in your one to 15 and the subs you bring on.
“Dublin will cough up serious scoring chances. Mayo’s conversion rate has to be better than it has been in any game this year.
“Game management is going to be key. The backroom team have to cater for every eventuality, especially the last 15 minutes. What do you do if you are ahead? If you are behind? Game awareness and tactical nous will be vital. If Mayo take their chances, I can see them winning by two to three points,” said Loftus.
While Mayo have to recover from a bruising clash against Donegal while Dublin were able to rest players for an almost dead-rubber against Tyrone, Loftus does not feel the seven-day turnaround will hurt James Horan’s side.
“Dublin haven’t been tested and don’t underestimate what momentum from a win like that over Donegal can do to a team.
Momentum can do a lot to compensate for whatever fatigue might be there. They will be buzzing. They will know they have to step it up for Dublin but what a position to be in.
“I think it is going to be the clash of the champinship. It is no coincidence that we have the four semi-finalists we have. They are the best four teams in the country and were the top four in the league as well. Notwithstanding Mayo’s poor performance against Kerry, I think you have the top two teams in the country in this semi-final and I think whoever wins is going to go on and win the All-Ireland.”