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GAA Betting: Mayo could pull off the upset as rivals clash

Lee Keegan
Lee Keegan will be key to Mayo's chance
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The game of the season is in store on Saturday evening at Croke Park. Johnny Ward believes that Mayo can go very close, and may even dethrone the champions, Dublin.

"Dublin and Mayo have met at at least once in every league campaign during this spell. Tally the two teams' scores against each other since the 2012 All-Ireland semi-final and Dublin are up by just seven points, an average of one point per game."

Mayo on a roll ahead of Dubs test

Dublin v Mayo
Saturday, 17:00

"The Dublin-Mayo rivalry is a Gaelic football rivalry between Irish inter-county teams Dublin and Mayo, who first played each other in 1906."

So begins a page on Wikipedia dedicated to the history of Dublin and Mayo games in Gaelic football. Yep, that's right: Wikipedia has an entire page dedicated to matches between the pair, including one sub-heading: "2012-Present: The rivalry reaches its zenith".

There is no doubt but that these matches are pretty special, Dublin usually (but not always) winning and if history tells us anything it is that this will be a close game.

And, with Dublin not really tested as yet this year, daft as that sounds after three Super 8s matches, Mayo surely come into this game in far better shape for what will be a colossal physical battle.

Dublin cantered through the Leinster Championship, got a minor scare against Cork, then faced Roscommon and a second-string Tyrone in a dead rubber. It told us nothing other than that Diarmuid Connolly was alive. Compare that to Mayo.

The green and red faced both their main Connacht rivals, losing to Roscommon, and had to overcome stern tests against Armagh, Meath and Donegal, their victory over the Tir Conaill men suggesting they are coming to hand.

If Dublin have taken the motorway to an all-Ireland semi-final, Mayo have pursued the back roads, and have survived better for it. Their performance against Donegal, who were pretty hot favourites in Castlebar, was up there with the best any team has produced in the All-Ireland series.

Ryan McHugh's influence was effectively nullified by Paddy Durcan, while the brilliant Lee Keegan at times snuffed out Michael Murphy. Mayo led 1-7 to 0-4 at the break but should have been further ahead after registering seven wides in the opening period. Donegal failed to score from play in well over half an hour of the first half, Mayo's defence in superb form.

And it is that defence, in particular Keegan, that will be called to arms Saturday. If they can establish parity against the Dublin forwards, or better, Mayo's midfield looks strong and their forwards have been hitting big scores in recent games.

Getting back to the midfield area, Mayo are figuring out their kickout strategy, Rob Hennelly an addition in that regard, and the O'Shea brothers are hitting form at the right time.

I am not totally convinced by Dublin's full-back line, especially under a high ball, and the reality is they are coming into a semi-final without a proper test. There is also a slight worry the five-in-a-row dangle will seep into the collective.

Mayo managed to win a league final in Croke Park, which holds no fears, this year. And let us look at the record between the teams.

This game - awaited like no other all year - will be these old foes' eighth championship meeting this decade, four of the previous seven coming in All-Ireland finals and three in semi-finals. Mayo have now reached eight of the last nine all-Ireland semi-finals.

Dublin and Mayo have met at at least once in every league campaign during this spell. Tally the two teams' scores against each other since the 2012 All-Ireland semi-final and Dublin are up by just seven points, an average of one point per game.

I expect this to be close, and Mayo are in no mood to fear anyone at this stage. The main concern is the loss of Jason Doherty, and James Horan has a decision to make as to what to do with Andy Moran. But Mayo are hard to pick holes in at the moment.

Johnny Ward,

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