It’s the second semi-final at Croke Park on Sunday and reigning champions Dublin face Mayo. I think all the pressure is on Pat Gilroy’s Dublin side and Mayo manager James Horan will be happy with that.
Of the four semi-finalists Mayo have slipped somewhat under the radar and the focus has been on the Dubs to reach consecutive All-Ireland finals in the hunt for Sam.
I don’t think it will be easy for the reigning champions who have stuttered so far in this year’s championship.
They were lucky at times against Wexford, Meath and Laois and really look like they’re struggling to reignite the ravenous hunger they showed last year to lift Sam.
Years of heartbreak in the latter stages of the championship gave them that appetite but it doesn’t appear to be there this season.
Dublin go into this tie at 4/9 favourites in Paddy Power’s online betting with Mayo at 5/2 while the draw is priced up at 8/1.
But Pat Gilroy is not without his headaches in team selection.
Should he start Alan Brogan? The ace forward has been injured and punters need to be aware he won’t last 70 minutes of top-flight football if he’s on from the start.
I think he’ll certainly see game time but will it be at the throw-in or will he come on as a sub?
From Dublin supporters’ perspective they need a fit Alan Brogan driving forward and getting scores.
They need his brother Bernard to have his radar on also. The forwards haven’t really being firing on all cylinders with just 1-4 from play in the last eight games with Alan missing.
If Dublin are going to score and score heavily they’ll need both Brogan’s to be on top of their game.
When the Dubs start to roll they can score goals.
In the first goalscorer’s market Bernard Brogan appeals at 5/1 as he’s going to be the focus in attack while 15/8 for him to score a goal at anytime is tempting.
If you’re a partisan Dub the 10/3 for Bernard Brogan to score first for the Capital looks a fair price.
Diarmuid Connolly got a hat-trick against Mayo in the League at Croker and 13/5 for him to hit the net at anytime has to enter calculations.
A worry I would have though is that defensively they’ve lacked discipline and Laois scored eight frees against them.
They can’t afford to concede soft frees to this Mayo side because they’ll gladly pick them off.
Ger Brennan comes into the Dubs defence and that’s a major plus. I believe the ‘A’ team in training is moving very, very well and the competition for places is huge.
Mayo have had a month to prepare without talisman Andy Moran so they should be ready to deal with his absence.
But it is hard to see who’ll get them scores and goals in particular.
They’ll have a structure and a game plan to unhinge the Dublin defence and could spring a surprise.
The last time the two sides met at this stage was six years ago so I don’t think that will have a massive bearing on Sunday’s clash.
I’m not sure though that Mayo can emulate Donegal last week against Cork and take that giant stride forward to be All-Ireland contenders.
If Dublin click I’d expect them to win and if the 4/9 isn’t to your liking I think they’ll cover the handicap (-2) at 4/5.
In the anytime point scorers Stephen Cluxton at 1/3 to kick at 45’ is tempting while Paul Flynn, who looks well on his way to an All-Star, looks a bit of value to put one over the bar at 4/9.
Mayo’s Donal Vaughan at 3/2 Lee Keegan at 5/6 and Keith Higgins at 10/3 are all decently priced to get points for the Westerners. Higgins might be a corner-back but he will ramble forward to try to get scores for Mayo.
Overall I’d expect Dublin to advance to the final by a 1-3 point winning margin at 11/4.