James Horan says Mayo must force Dublin onto the ropes

Former Mayo manager James Horan claims his county can score big against Dublin on All-Ireland final day if they can find a way of putting the holders ‘on the ropes’.

Horan managed Mayo when they last faced Dublin in an All-Ireland decider, 2013, and said that while Dublin don’t get rattled easily, they do tend to leak big scores when that happens.

The obvious example is the mini meltdown Jim Gavin’s side experienced approaching half-time of their All-Ireland semi-final win over Kerry, when they coughed up two goals and went in trailing by five points at the break.

Horan feels Dublin were ‘saved by the bell’ at half-time that day and claimed Mayo’s task is to find a way of exposing that vulnerability, allowing them to go for the jugular.

“The way they conceded the goals, they were absolutely on the ropes,” said Horan of the Kerry game. “It’s about how you get Dublin on the ropes because when that happens they concede heavily. If you think back through a lot of the games, even last year’s drawn game with Mayo, the second-half against Laois this year, Donegal, Kerry, there’s been times when they’ve been on the ropes and conceded very, very heavily.

“They were saved by the bell at half-time against Kerry.

“Now they came out and showed what quality they have afterwards so for Mayo it’s about how can they get Dublin on the ropes for that period, that’s the thing.”

Pundit Horan said he hopes that Dublin dip their standards from the thrilling semi-final win over Kerry.

“Dublin, they’re very keen on their legacy and the build-up to the Kerry game for them was huge,” said Horan. “There was huge emotional involvement in a game like that, getting ready and playing Kerry, all that kind of stuff, and then to win and to win it the way they did, it’s hard not to bask in that for a while.

“It’s hard not to look at it and think, ‘How strong are we!’ So it’s going to be hard for Dublin to get back up. No matter what Jim Gavin says, he needs to manage that as their manager and have them right but I’m sure he will.”

Interestingly, Horan claimed that the current Dublin and Mayo teams are the fittest groups in GAA history.

“They’re the two best-conditioned teams in the history of Gaelic games, in my opinion,” he said. “But that’s just one aspect of the game. They both have a huge amount of top level players as well. When you throw it all in together, there will be fireworks.”

Meanwhile, former All Star Dublin forward Ray Cosgrove has teed up an intriguing battle between Dublin’s Diarmuid Connolly and Mayo defender Lee Keegan.

Connolly was red carded for striking Keegan last year and Keegan later admitted he provoked the incident.

“Getting mixed up in the other stuff doesn’t do Diarmuid any favours, he is too good to be getting mixed up with confrontation with Lee,” said Cosgrove.

“I think there’s a big game still in Dermo. When the lights are shining on the 18th, it would be just like him to put in a huge performance.”

* EirGrid, the official GAA timing sponsor, is offering clubs nationwide the chance to win a digital clock and scoreboard for their pitches. Entrants must explain in 200 words or less why their club should win and email to eirgrid@psgsponsorship.ie 

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