The dust has almost settled on the first All-Ireland Senior Football Championship semi-final – if you’re prepared to see past the ongoing back-and-forth in the media between the GAA and a certain RTE pundit.
In a rainswept encounter at HQ, Kerry came through an absorbing first semi-final to defeat a dogged Tyrone side by 0-18 to 1-11.
Now it’s time for Dublin and Mayo to decide which county will be joining the Kingdom in the All-Ireland football final on 20 September.
The Dubs are the reigning National League champions and this year’s Championship gives them the chance to underline their claims to be the best footballing team in the land.
In the opposite corner is a Mayo side that’s bursting with potential and, in Aidan O’Shea, have found a new talisman at full-forward.
The odds might be currently stacked in favour for a Dublin side that’s effectively playing at home (4/7), but the Connacht champions aren’t far behind in the match betting at 15/8 – a price that many will find a shrewd gamble.
Dublin, however, are the team to beat in this year’s Senior Football Championship. Kerry’s semi-final victory may have the Kingdom down as favourites to lift the Sam Maguire Trophy for a second successive year (evens), but this second semi-final holds many more answers for those wondering who will be celebrating come full time in three weeks’ time.
The Dubs can point towards their tremendous strength in depth as a reason they’re the county to be reckoned with this year.
Under the astute management of Jim Gavin, the Boys in Blue have such fierce competition for places beyond the match panel – and that has lifted the game of each player eventually picked for the starting 15.
One man who could well shape the pattern of the game is Dublin goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton, with his quick kick-outs pivotal in shifting the momentum back in favour of the Dubs and striking opponents on a rapid counter.
Mayo will need to show plenty of energy in closing down Cluxton’s options from the kick-outs and it’ll be a demanding task.
The semi-final also pits full back Rory O’Carroll against Aidan O’Shea, an on-field battle that’ll be worth keeping an eye on. After putting Sligo, Galway and Donegal to the sword, Dublin need a plan to stop O’Shea weaving his magic under the gaze of an 80,000 sell-out crowd at Croker.
And that plan will be centred around the in-form Rory O’Carroll.
No matter where you look, Dublin have match-winners to keep the game out of Mayo’s reach.
The quarter-final win over Fermanagh might not have been as convincing as everyone had predicted, but Dublin were up against a team with nothing to prove. There were no expectations on Fermanagh that day, which gave them all the freedom to enjoy their game. Dublin, by comparison, avoided the upset and sometimes that’s all you need to do.
Mayo are capable of upsetting the odds this weekend and it could turn out to be the most enthralling encounter of the Championship so far.
But when it comes down to it, Dublin are the team with the on-field options to open up the game and find the scoring options that’ll ultimately determine which county will pit their wits against Kerry in three weeks.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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