Croke Park will host the first All-Ireland Football final replay in 16 years on Saturday evening (5pm), a rare sight indeed.
Dublin and Mayo lock horns again after a compelling 2-09 to 0-15 draw in the first final two weeks ago. An outstanding 77th minute point from Mayo captain Cillian O’Connor levelled the tie for the fourth and final time to force the counties to do it all over again.
Of the 2-09 on the Dublin side of the scoreboard, the Boys in Blue received the gift of two Mayo own goals. This will have had Mayo fans believing they’d been struck by the so-called curse yet again, but the draw has given them yet another chance to end the 65-year hoodoo.
The replay guaranteed the GAA another lucrative replay, so Paddy Power decided our loyal customers deserved one too and refunded losing match bets as a free bet to the tune of over of €600,000 after the stalemate.
Unlike most Hollywood sequels, this game has all the ingredients to become an absolutely blockbuster.
The weather, nerves and some bloody tenacious defending on both sides kept the scoring to just 30 points between last time out.
With the forecast predicting a better day, the ball should stick for players more easily. That should calm any anxieties a bit earlier, meaning the total points of over (33.5) at could be in serious jeopardy – it’s come down from over (37.5) in the original final by the way.
You’d swear you were heading into a world heavyweight title fight given the amount of media coverage the individual battle between Mayo’s Lee Keegan and Dublin’s Diarmuid Connolly has gotten this week.
Dublin GAA legends have been seemingly lining up like a queue for the new iPhone 7 to vilify the Westport player’s defensive ‘tactics’ in marking Connolly. Meanwhile former Mayo icons have decried what’s being called “a coordinated Dubs campaign” against three-time All-Star Keegan.
There is no doubt Keegan will need to do whatever he can within (and maybe a little outside) the rules to keep Connolly quiet if his country are to finally take home Sam Maguire, but there’ll be ferocious pressure on Laois referee Maurice Deegan and his officials to keep an eye on him.
Connolly is definitely no angel himself, but there’s a reason he’s the outright favourite in the RTÉ Man of the Match market. He’s a stone-cold match winner. Keegan can be found at and if he does win the war with his greatest rival then he’s a nifty punt to land that award.
Of course, the refs notebook won’t be far away from these two either and the tiniest spark will light the touch paper here.
It’s 9/2 for either to be sent off at any stage during the game or a huge 33/1 for both to see red in the same incident and who could rule that out given their history.
Every man and his dog will be telling you this week that Dublin can’t be that bad again, and that’s true to a point. They really can’t be and that’s why they are favourites.
But, people seem to have ignored the prospect of the Westerns building on what in many ways was an excellent Mayo showing.
Mayo tenacious defence forced Dublin into their worst attacking day in five years and, when you take out the own goals, the Dubs finished the contest on a lowly 26% shot success rate. The wet day didn’t help for sure, but the Boys in Blue were unquestionably pressured into the vast majority of those misses.
The perfectionist in Mayo boss Stephen Rochford will want them to cut out the few goal chances they coughed up, however all in all it was a red letter day for his backs.
Rochford will believe his men can improve even more on the attacking front, even after storming through the second half, where they outscored Dublin by 10 points to five.
We might not have been writing this article at all if Andy Moran had kept his glorious opening under the bar a couple of weeks ago. A tightening up of the wayward shooting (we’re looking at you Aidan O’Shea) is necessary, but there is more than case for Mayo winning this game at .
Even if you think they won’t end in the hoodoo, the handicap bet of Mayo (+2.0) looks like incredible value.
History, the curse, the best Dublin team in a generation – everything seems to be against a Mayo victory on Saturday. However, sometimes records (and curses) are there to be broken and if the west were to wake on Sunday to the rare sight of Sam Maguire, you really couldn’t begrudge them the glory.
After all they’ve waited long enough…