If you had told me at the start of the year that Donegal and Mayo would be in the All-Ireland final I wouldn’t have believed you.
Donegal were semi-finalists last year but have improved again and the county is in a frenzy at the moment will talk of bringing Sam home. Mayo had a good league campaign beating Kerry and Dublin – but I think a lot of people underestimated that form.
Donegal have beaten Tyrone, Cork and Kerry and they can suffocate teams when they score early on and then go on a run of scores in the third quarter.
Mayo have come in under the radar but know they find themselves in an All-Ireland final. They’ve back-to-back Connaught titles and they’ve won ugly as well.
They’ve got this hoodoo about Croke Park to overcome but that League form will stand to them in the capital. They’ve a good pedigree coming into the game.
This could be the most tactical All-Ireland final we’ve ever seen and it’s crucial that Mayo are level are slightly ahead at half-time because Donegal will be coming on strong in the latter stages.
Mayo manager James Horan has a decision to make and he has to get it right. Does he let Mayo play their own game or start to man mark Donegal’s forwards.
Jim McGuinness’s Donegal will have to watch Kevin McLoughlin and Alan Dillon who were key players against Dublin. When McLoughlin went off as a blood-sub Dublin went on the rampage and kicked eight points.
I can’t see this being a lovely, flowing game of football. It’s going to be tight and tactical and whoever makes the least mistakes are going to win.
Donegal are now as use to playing in Croker as Ballbofey and have won 11 of their last 12 Championship matches. I think they’ll see the game out at 1/2 favourites in Paddy Power’s online betting.
Donegal have only conceded one goal in open play in the last two Championships - but have conceded two penalties.
But Mayo will have to score a goal in my opinion to have any chance. Donegal are ravenous to win this one. I expect them to win and even money at -2 on the handicap betting is a great bet.
Colm McFadden at 11/2 to score the first goal is interesting. He’s direct so if he gets a sniff at goal he’s going to go for it. He takes the penalties as well so that’s another big plus.
It’s harder to see who’ll score the goals for Mayo.
But what sticks out for me is the no-goalscorer market option at 9/2 in Paddy Power’s online betting and I’d fancy that as a more reliable option.
Donegal are 10/11 to be leading at half-time and full-time. I can’t see them being beaten if they’re leading at half-time particularly how they finish their games.
We put up Mark McHugh to be the GAA’s Player of the Year at 20/1 and he’s in to 7/1 now. He’s going to get a lot of ball and he has a steady game he’s looking at an All-Star at least.
I think Meath will put it up to Dublin in the U-18 game and although I expect the Capital to win, I think the Royals will get to within six points of them at 11-10 in the betting.
Donegal (-2) evens / Meath (+6) evens on the handicap double.
Donegal v Mayo senior game: No goalscorer at 9/2.