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Can Dublin 'hit sweet-spot' to crush Mayo dreams? | John Maughan previews

Saturday evening sees the first of the All-Ireland Football semi-finals between Dublin and Mayo i...

Can Dublin 'hit sweet-spot' to...

Can Dublin 'hit sweet-spot' to crush Mayo dreams? | John Maughan previews

Saturday evening sees the first of the All-Ireland Football semi-finals between Dublin and Mayo in Croke Park. Like many previous encounters between these two counties, this one looks to be another thriller. 

The battle of Dublin and Mayo has already begun before the thrown-in.

The two teams have played out some feisty games over the past few years – with Dublin getting the upper hand on the Maritime county on 11 occasions, to Mayo's two. For Dublin, an All-Ireland semi-final has been a routined outing over the years. For Mayo, Dublin remains the begrudging thorn in its side to obtaining that elusive Sam Maguire trophy.

Never write off Mayo

Having breezed through the Connacht Football Championship, Mayo's hopes of causing an upset remain high. Speaking with OTB's Ger Gilroy on Friday, former Mayo manager and current Offaly manager John Maughan feels confidence is a strong component of this Mayo side.

“We have a lot of young talent coming through," says Maughan. “You think things are going to be desperate losing another All-Ireland final. But then you have your Oisin Mullens and Matthew Ruanes bursting through into brilliant form Then that bit of optimism creeps back in.”

Dublin at their best?

While Dublin do remain favourites, Maughan was keen to stress that Dessie Farrel's side has not been playing the champagne football we have come to expect from this Dublin panel. Despite a comprehensive route to the semi-final, Maughan highlighted that some of Dublin's stalwarts have not been giving their top performances.

"Dublin’s form has been sputtering along. A number of their players have really not hit their form. Dean Rock, Brian Fenton James McCarthy, Conor Callen have not been operating at their best. That has given us a bit of hope” says Maughan.

Is their best still to come?

The Mayo man did concede however that this Dublin side need not be at their flying best – and that maybe the favourites are choosing their moment to turn it on.

"Dublin haven’t hit their sweet spot yet. I think they’ve been quite methodical in trying to peak for a semi-final. They didn’t really have to for the Leinster-final. It reminds me of the Kerry teams of the 70s and 80s who didn’t have to peak until August or September,” says Maughan.

18 March 2018; Sean Andy O'Ceallaigh of Galway in action against Brain Fenton of Dublin during the Allianz Football League Division 1 Round 6 match between Galway and Dublin at Pearse Stadium, in Galway. Photo by Ray Ryan/Sportsfile

"We all agree. I’ve never seen Brian Fenton, as brilliant as he is, so ordinary in a Leinster-final. He’s a genius of a player and highly regarded across the country. But they have ambled through. I never doubted that they were going to lose a game,” Maughan continued.

“I know the green and red of a Mayo jersey will certainly fire them as well. There’s a great healthy rivalry. And they will be fired up. But I am anticipating that Dublin will be a lot fresher and smarter tomorrow evening.”

Fans back at Croker

After the success of getting fans back into Croke Park for the hurling last week, the GAA football semi-finals will also see a return of 24,000 fans to the stadium. 40,000 fans will be allowed in for both the hurling and semi-finals.

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All-ireland Dublin John Maughan Mayo Otb