The rules of a replay? The rules are there are no rules. No regulations. No obligations. In the build-up, fiction becomes just as relevant as fact, as revisionism rivals reality.
Forecasting what won’t happen is an easier exercise than attempting to predict what will.
So, what can’t be expected?
The teams Kerry name tonight and Mayo, either later today or tomorrow? Don’t believe them.
A six-day turnaround is short enough to get the better of a team who have had your number without presenting them with your starting team.
Kerry aren’t known for dummy teams, but look at what happened three years ago when Éamonn Fitzmaurice named a team that included Marc Ó Sé, only for him to be replaced by Killian Young, and Colm Cooper togging out to spook the bejaysus out of Mayo.
James Horan, too, named an unchanged side from the drawn game, only to draft in Barry and Andy Moran for Jason Gibbons and Alan Freeman.
Mayo status quo:
As an addendum to that point, Mayo have announced the same team that started their last four drawn championship games for the subsequent replays these last four seasons only to make at least one personnel switch on each occasion.
After Limerick, there was Dublin in 2015, when Barry Moran replaced David Drake. Against Dublin again, last year, Rob Hennelly came in for David Clarke.
This year in the second clash with Roscommon, injured Lee Keegan and Ger Cafferkey were replaced by Donal Vaughan and Tom Parsons.
Sacred Kingdom cows:
As the youngest Ó Sé found to his cost in ’14, Fitzmaurice isn’t prepared to let friendships or reputations get in the way of his decision-making.
Like he did with Ó Sé three years ago, this week he might have taken away a player for a sit-down to explain why he won’t be starting the replay.
If there was a vote for the most likely candidate on this occasion, out-of-sorts James O’Donoghue would top the poll, but then captain Johnny Buckley could also come into the reckoning.
Peace and love:
If the row at the end of last Sunday’s game is anything to go by, there will be a lot of pent-up tension in the opening stages tomorrow.
Regardless of the Peter mCrowley incident last year, David Gough has proven himself to be the best in the business (he has likely lost out on the final to Joe McQuillan, who will shortly finish up at inter-county level).
The Meath official might allow for a little steam to be blown off. There was a lot of it early on in Limerick — though Shane Enright was so lucky not to be sent off — as there was in the Mayo-Dublin replays these last two years.
No grief for Gough:
Relative to what Mayo bring to Croke Park, the Kerry support might be lacking (more of that anon), but they are sure to remind Gough of their ire from last year’s All-Ireland semi-final.
Showered with match programmes and bottles as he left the field following their defeat to Dublin, he can expect the decisions against Kerry will be greeted with more discord than usual.
A Kerry sweeper:
Earlier this week, we suggested Fitzmaurice might consider one when his full-back line were made to look as if they were fashioning the emperor’s new attire, but truly, Kerry will only deploy one if Mayo see fit at the other end and they replicate it.
Instead, personnel changes and a deeper-lying half-back line should be the order of the day for Kerry.
Fitzmaurice, as much as Jack O’Connor before him, revels in trying to create mismatches and the match-ups will be key though he will accept that Stephen Rochford and his management team also have an acumen in such analysis.
A low-scoring affair:
Better weather is predicted for tomorrow, which on one hand might lend itself to fewer mistakes, thereby less scoring opportunities, or more, depending on how you determine what influence rain has on matches.
There shouldn’t be as many spills and slips, anyway, and Kerry and Mayo are a couple of teams who might adjust themselves to face more defensively-minded teams (eg: Kerry v Donegal 2014, Mayo v Tyrone ’16) or a superior one (Dublin), but when they see a lot of themselves in the other, there’s a tendency to just go at it.
All four of Mayo’s replays since 2014 have boasted more scores than the drawn games.
Meek Mayo management:
Highlighting the decision to push Aidan O’Shea to full-back, Stephen Rochford reminded people after last Sunday’s game that he was never going to die wondering as manager.
That bolshie approach is in keeping with a team that continues to move away from the county’s stereotype of one that has lied down when it matters most.
The O’Shea move mightn’t have worked, it mightn’t be repeated, but to anticipate Mayo will be as conventional again in terms of where their players end up on the field would be myopic.
Kerry fans evening up the score:
As much as the trains from Kerry tomorrow were sold out early, when there are pleas to supporters to turn up to cheer on their team again you know they are going to be lacking.
Following Mayo this summer has been costly, but the green and red-clad will again make up most of the attendance tomorrow, which should be around the 50,000 mark.
If their fans outnumbered Kerry three to one last Sunday, it could be five or six to one on this occasion.
For a team playing their eighth championship game, it may have surprised some that Mayo only used four subs in the draw – Kerry had exhausted all but one of their reserves by the 62nd minute, Bryan Sheehan only brought on for Kieran Donaghy in additional time as a
potential match-winner after the danger of not being able to replace a black-card recipient had passed.
A second game in six days, the onus on Mayo to utilise their resources will be greater.
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