More Mayo misery in store as rejuvenated Dublin hold the aces
Mannion could be the star
Dublin v Mayo
Sky Sports Arena/RTE 2, 3.30pm Sunday
Dublin required a replay to master Mayo in last year's All-Ireland final but the champions have strengthened up considerably in the last 12 months and a second bite of the cherry should not be needed this time.
It won't be a walkover, though, as this Mayo side are made of strong stuff, so a Dublin win by between one and five points looks the way to go at 11-8.
Apart from Andy Moran and Jason Doherty, it is hard to argue that any other Mayo player has improved significantly in 2017, whereas Dublin look an entirely different side.
Jack McCaffrey has retained his status as the most wonderful wing-back in the game, Con O'Callaghan and Paul Mannion have added pace and panache to an attack that was becoming stale and James McCarthy has moved to midfield to form a powerful partnership with Brian Fenton.
Those four alterations have made Dublin look even better in 2017 and, while 31 of the 32 counties in Ireland will be cheering for Mayo, that goodwill might not be enough to end their 66 years of misery.
Dublin are the calmest, most assured side we have seen for a long time. They do not panic and stick rigidly to the game-plan no matter what happens. They tormented Tyrone by holding on to possession and being patient, while they had simply obliterated Westmeath, Kildare and Monaghan prior to that.
Mayo might be able to physically match Dublin, something that no other side have done this summer, but they lack the attacking options of the All-Ireland champions and that could cost them.
You have to go all the way back to 2007, when Kerry hammered their Munster rivals Cork 3-13 to 1-9, to find an All-Ireland final won by more than four points so it is hard to envisage Dublin winning by double figures. That's why the 11-8 available about Dublin winning by between one and five points appeals most.
Dublin have conceded only one goal in the championship and Mayo's defence has been reasonably solid so there may not be as many goals as expected.
There were two goals in each of the finals last year, but none in 2015 when Dublin beat Kerry, so quotes of 13-5 about under 1.5 goals appeal, as does the 11-10 for one or both teams not to score a goal.
Cillian O’Connor will finish the championship as top scorer, that’s a certainty. He has accumulated 3-59 over nine games and is 35 points clear of Dean Rock. But that seems to have been falsely factored into the price of him scoring more than his Dublin counterpart in the final.
O’Connor averages 7.5 points per game and, although Rock has only averaged 6.6 points per game in 2017, he picked up an early black card in the Leinster final against Kildare.
Nine of Kerry’s 17 points came from frees in the semi-final replay against Mayo, while Dublin conceded only four points to Tyrone from frees. Mayo are not as disciplined in the tackle as Dublin so are likely to concede more frees within scoring range.
Given that Dublin are 2-5 to win the game and favourites to score more than Mayo, the 5-4 available about Rock outscoring O’Connor looks huge and has to be snapped up.
O’Callaghan and Mannion have been the two biggest success stories in the latest chapter of this Dublin fairytale and Mannion looks overpriced at 9-2 to receive a Man of the Match nomination on RTE’s The Sunday Game.
He was exceptional in the win over Westmeath, deservedly winning the man-of-the-match award, and has been consistently dangerous in the wins over Kildare, Monaghan and Tyrone since.
O’Callaghan is 11-4 to make the top three so Mannion does not deserve to be 9-2 as he has been every bit as good as the Cuala clubman this season.
If Stephen Cluxton keeps a clean sheet or is his usual assured self, the Footballer of the Year award could be coming his way. He was 150-1 at one stage during the summer and still 13-2 after saving a penalty in the Tyrone win, but there is still some juice in the 11-4.
Cluxton has completely changed the art of goalkeeping and deserves the accolade during his career. He has been flawless this season.
Dublin to win by one to five points
2pts 11-8 Coral, Ladbrokes
One or both teams not to score a goal
2pts 11-10 BoyleSports
Under 1.5 goals
1pt 13-5 BoyleSports
D Rock to score more than C O'Connor
4pts 5-4 Paddy Power
P Mannion to receive match-of-the-match nomination
1pt 9-2 Paddy Power
Stephen Cluxton to win Footballer of the Year award
2pts 11-4 BoyleSports, Paddy Power
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