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15th Sep 2016

#TheToughest Choice: Who’s going to win the All-Ireland, Mayo or Dublin?

The SportsJOE office is split

Conan Doherty

Mayo, Mayo, Dublin, draw, Dublin.

Since 2006, that’s the tale of the tape between these two great rivals.

In the last four years, they’ve met four times in championship football. Dublin have gone on to win three All-Irelands since that epic battle of 10 years ago. Mayo are still waiting.

They’ve been close, they’ve been told that they’ve been the second best team in Ireland all the while. Sunday gives them a chance to be the best.

Who’s going to win?

The SportsJOE and JOE offices can’t agree.


Conor Heneghan says: Mayo.

Why? Why not.

For all of the many reasons to tip Dublin based on their impressive path to the final this season, the truth is that both Donegal and Kerry provided evidence that the All-Ireland Champions are vulnerable.

Donegal lacked the ruthlessness to expose those vulnerabilities; Kerry simply didn’t do it for long enough.

Mayo’s path to the final hasn’t been anywhere near as impressive as their opponents, but for the first time in a long time, under Stephen Rochford, the Green and Red are showing an ability to tailor the game to suit the opposition, rather than trust in a gung-ho style that has left them agonisingly short of ultimate glory in the recent past.

It’s going to take one hell of a masterplan to down the Dubs, but my (admittedly biased) hunch says Mayo to win.


Conán Doherty says: Mayo.

Mayo don’t fear Dublin.

Physically, they can match them. Mentally, they hate them. Technically, they have enough players to expose Dublin’s weak links and, unlike before, this Dublin team has weak links.

The fitness of James McCarthy is a worry and so too is the form of Diarmuid O’Connor – for Dublin of course. The Castlebar man will fancy himself against either John Small or a half-baked McCarthy.

Andy Moran will win ball in behind Jonny Cooper if the corner back marks from the front. Aidan O’Shea will cause no end of bother to a Rory O’Carroll-less full back line during the frequent occasions Mayo push everyone up and force Cian O’Sullivan to pick up a forward.

Dublin don’t look unbeatable. Kerry gave a glimpse of that, even Donegal did in the quarter-final. In the heat of battle, the man who knows what it’s like to lose will come out on top.


Paul Moore says: Dublin.

Prior to Stephen Cluxton’s minor brain fart, there was something remarkably impressive about how calm, cold and clinical Dublin were against Kerry, especially in those opening 15 minutes as they exerted their dominance over the Kingdom. Then it all went to hell.

Dublin looked ragged, disorganised and on the ropes. This was the poorest that they’ve played since Donegal destroyed them in the 2014 semi-final and yet, they still found a way. Even when they were staring down the barrel of Championship elimination, the Dubs conjured enough skill, smarts and scrapping ability to claw their way back from the brink.

The experience and lessons from that game could prove to be invaluable on Sunday.

I’m not entirely convinced that Mayo posses the same unwavering belief that this trophy BELONGS to them. You get the impression that the Dublin players are utterly convinced that nobody will take this title away from them. In those Championship minutes, calm heads win games. Bearing this in mind, Dublin have already been there and lifted Sam.

That experience might just be what gets them over the line again.


Colm Parkinson says: Mayo.

This is a cup final between two big rivals so as the say – all form is thrown out the window.

Last year there was nothing between the two teams. Mayo went four points up in the replay, had Dublin on the ropes and allowed them to score three goals in the last 15 minutes. That won’t happen this year because Rochford is more conservative than previous Mayo managers.

Dublin have lost last year’s player of the year and last year’s All-Star fullback so are clearly weaker defensively. Mayo can exploit that.

But when you break it all down it comes down to this – Dublin want to win, Mayo have to win. Mayo for me.

Stephen Rochford 8/9/2016

Paddy McKenna says: Dublin.

Like all neutrals I want Mayo to win and the best thing any of us can do for them is to tip Dublin. The best chance they have of triumphing on Sunday is by coming in under the radar. The Mayo camp to be fair has been very careful in playing down their chances; keeping in check that force of nature that is the Mayo GAA fraternity’s annual All-Ireland hopes.

Any rational analysis of the respective performances on the road to Croke Park would lead you to conclude that Dublin are an unstoppable force with an embarrassment of riches at their disposal.

In Diarmuid Connolly they have the stand-out footballer of the generation and when he’s on the field he’s in imperious form. Mayo’s leading men have been largely ineffective and they have yet to produce a really compelling seventy minutes of football that would have you believe they can knock the best football team in the country of their perch

The finest game of football I ever saw in the flesh was Mayo’s incredible All-Ireland semi-final victory over Dublin in 2006. I was there to watch Leitrim vs. Louth in the Tommy Murphy Cup final and we decided that we’d stay on till at least half-time in the second game to see if it was any good. The stars aligned for Mayo that day as they delivered an All-Ireland final winning performance a game too early.

They’ve yet to produce anything close to that level of football in this year’s championship and those tipping them on Sunday maintain that that epochal performance is in the locker and ready to be unleashed. Have they timed their peak to perfection? Maybe, but even their A-game won’t be enough to stop Dublin.


Mikey Stafford says: Mayo.

Back in May, when 33 counties were still standing, I was alone among my colleagues in predicting a Mayo All-Ireland victory. Now look at me, 70 minutes from a winter of smug smiles and self-satisfied comments. I’ll be a bigger legend than Aidan O’Shea.

I was even clever enough to predict Mayo would not win the Connacht title for a sixth year running. Throughout the league they looked like a team struggling to find their rhythm under Stephen Rochford and, sure enough, Galway beat them back in June. Since that defeat they have honed a more rounded, more practical game – they now know how to win different matches in different ways.

While their semi-final win over Tipperary may not have been stellar, their cool, calm and collected dismantling of Tyrone a round earlier was the calling card of a supremely talented team being directed by a smart manager.

Dublin are all those things too, of course, but they have not managed to defend an All-Ireland in a generation and I believe there are signs they will fall short once more. The defence is nowhere near as strong as it was with Rory O’Carroll and Jack McCaffrey on board and I think they are ill-prepared to deal with the mayhem Andy Moran and Aidan O’Shea can reap to the benefit of the O’Connor brothers.

In Lee Keegan, Keith Higgins, Donal Vaughan and Colm Boyle, Mayo have the dogged defence to frustrate Dublin’s attack.

Mayo and myself, 70 minutes from glory.


Patrick McCarry says: Dublin.

Nothing I have seen this summer has convinced me that Dublin are going to give up their crown… apart from those nervous half-time minutes when Kerry were itching to get back at them.

One of Dublin’s strengths has been different men standing up to be counted as the summer progressed. Whether it was Jonny Cooper, Bernard Brogan, Paul Mannion, Diarmuid Connolly (or lots more), there has always been a player willing to take the responsibility upon himself. All the while, Dean Rock has been punishing teams with unerring frees.

Mayo failed to impress me in their opening three games of the summer but got the breaks, grit their collective teeth and got through.

That has steeled them but Dublin are a machine and won’t let this opportunity pass them by. Many of the arguments I have heard about Mayo revolve around it finally being their time. Match them up, skill, heart and endeavour. Dublin shade all elements.


Four for Mayo.

Three for Dublin.

Stephen Rochford chats with Colm Parkinson on The GAA Hour, heated Lee Keegan debate, and Barry Cahill is outnumbered by Mayo backers. Subscribe here on iTunes.