SATURDAY 11 SEPTEMBER
All-Ireland SFC final
Mayo v Tyrone, Croke Park, 5pm
Live blog on RTÉ.ie/sport and the RTÉ News app
Live on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player from 3.30pm, with commentary from Ger Canning and Tomás Ó Sé. Irish language commentary available on the RTÉ News channel, with Garry Mac Donncha and Dara Ó Cinnéide describing the action. Also live on Sky Sports Arena from 4pm.
Live overseas on GAAGO.
Highlights on The Saturday Game, RTÉ2, 10pm, where the Team of the Year and Player of the Year will be revealed.
Live commentary on Saturday Sport, RTÉ Radio 1, from Darragh Maloney and Aidan O'Rourke - analysis from John Casey and Kyle Coney. Also live on Spórt an tSathairn, Raidio na Gaeltachta.
Saturday will offer a mix of cloud and sunny spells over Croke Park. There is a chance of a stray, light shower, with temperatures set to peak at 19 degrees. For more go to met.ie.
If in the event of a draw after 70 minutes, the final will go to extra-time. If we're still deadlocked after two periods of 10 minutes, a replay will take place next weekend.
Unlikely pairing, intriguing contest
Two weeks later than scheduled, football's finale is finally upon us. A season where the back door was shut for all has given us a novel pairing. For only the second time since 1948, the champions of Connacht and Ulster will meet for the right to claim Sam Maguire.
On paper it's two evenly-matched sides who love to counter-attack. Not only that but both are adept at making hay from turnovers. That's where this game could be won and lost. Fine margins, a black card at a crucial time, and who can rise above the congestion that will be the middle third, are just some of the ingredients that are likely to be part of a well-stirred pot. Has an All-Ireland final ever given such a conundrum?
You may have to go back to the 2003 final - Armagh-Tyrone - for the last time the footballing brain trust was so well exhausted.
At the start of the year it was expected that Mayo and Tyrone would play some part in the prelude to a Dublin-Kerry finale. The Dubs, despite a couple of absentees, would still be good enough, we thought, to challenge strongly for their 'Magnificent Seven', while the Kingdom looked more than primed to book their final spot with an attacking line that was scoring for fun.
But when the things got serious at the semi-final stage, it was Mayo's self-belief, drive and risk-taking that left Dublin floundering and snarly. Kerry, no doubt frustrated by the five-week gap before their semi-final, can't really have any complaints as they failed to land knockout blows when they had the chance against the Red Hand. A one-point defeat, it was a bit more than that.
Summing up that semi, John O'Mahony told RTÉ Sport: "They [Tyrone] played as a team, whereas Kerry played as individuals and didn't merit getting there. Tyrone won the mind games before the match and then won all the match-ups on the field."
The mind games in question refer to the Covid situation which affected the Tyrone camp in advance of the semi-final and Kerry's annoyance that not enough clarity was forthcoming from the Ulster champions.
Seán Cavanagh and Pat Spillane had their say in what was a lively exchange from two weeks ago.
Pat Spillane is not happy with the "vacuum of information" that he feels is coming out of the Tyrone camp in relation to the Covid-19 outbreak within the Ulster champions' squad #rtegaa #kerryvtyrone pic.twitter.com/cuNioPCJWI— The Sunday Game (@TheSundayGame) August 28, 2021
Road travelled has had a few bumps
And so here we are. Yes, Dublin and Kerry do possess more in the way of flair and individual talent, but Mayo and Tyrone are in the final because of they way they have solved puzzles up to now. Back on the weekend of 12/13 June, it was hard to envisage the pair reaching this decider after Cillian O'Connor's season was ended in that league game against Clare. How would the Green and Red cope without their talismanic score getter? Up stepped the likes of Tommy Conroy and Ryan O'Donoghue, with the latter taking over the free-taking responsibilities.
Tyrone's six-goal trimming in Killarney on that June Saturday was a cause for concern. The match report on these pages included the following: "Tyrone might have to offer the 'only the League' defence after this, even though they might have had a crack at a league title had they won in Killarney. Looking at the result, it seems fanciful that they might have ever entertained such a notion given how they performed here.
- Gamechanger Horan just needs title to set seal on great era
- Logan and Dooher's good-cop, bad-cop routine working wonders
- John O'Mahony hoping Mayo's momentum can now close sorry chapter
"It would be easy to make the joke about the Tyrone defenders adhering to the two-metre rule when it came to the opponents, but collectively and individually the Red Hand defence was a rabble."
Since then a greater sense of solidity has been on show, though Kerry over-complicating things on more than one occasion was a reason why the Red Hand rearguard wasn't breached a fortnight ago. Still, under Brian Dooher and Feargal Logan, Tyrone are a lot easier on the eye when it comes to their attacking intentions, but that mauling in Fitzgerald Stadium did call for a bit more pragmatism. Such an approach has served them well since through the Ulster minefield and semi-final victory.
Mayo's first-half showing against Galway in the Connacht final was far from inspiring. They looked off the pace. Their powers of recovery on the resumption were admirable. They outscored Galway by 1-03 to 0-00 in the third quarter and held them scoreless from play in the entire second-half, forcing an 11-point turnaround by full-time.
Ryan O'Donoghue and Matthew Ruane were outstanding.
Against Dublin the aim was to keep it tight in the opening 35 minutes and not concede a goal. That said Horan's side were listless - a six-point deficit at the break we thought was too much to make up. Surely the Dubs would kick at least six or seven points to seal the deal? Mayo's response was emphatic, chipping away at the lead, forcing the opposition to become irked. Even after Eoghan McLaughlin's injury, they would not be unbowed. They have had four weeks to prepare for this final.
We feared for Tyrone's well-being in advance of their delayed clash with the Kingdom. There was no need for such alarm. The Ulster champions clearly benefited by having an extra week's prep. It was the Kerry lads who were gassing more as extra-time played out.
Piecing it all together
Trying to figure out the potential match-ups is tricky. Who actually will start in their assigned positions? Aidan O'Shea, after he was subbed off against Dublin and then came back on, is down to start on the '40 but you would expect he and Matthew Ruane to exert a strong influence around the middle. However, if O'Shea is deployed on the edge of the square at some point, Ronan McNamee will be asked to keep tabs.
Mattie Donnelly is the obvious target man for Tyrone at No 14, so Padraig O'Hora or Lee Keegan could be tasked with nullifying his threat. Conor McKenna will also need minding - one of the aforementioned or Stephen Coen to get this job? Who will pick up the rampaging Kevin McLoughlin? Conor Meyler?
After kicking 1-03 from the bench the last day, Cathal McShane is again held in reserve.
Will Darragh Canavan get more game time?
Tyrone got 2-09 from turnovers against Kerry. Mayo, you suspect won't be as naïve as Kerry. The Green and Red kicked some delightful points from distance against Dublin. Where space is at a premium and channels clogged up, backing one's self could be the key to victory.
Enda Hession, who impressed the last day when introduced, starts on the half-back line in place of Eoghan McLaughlin.
Jordan Flynn, James Carr and Brendan Harrison are others that Mayo can call again. Tyrone's bench isn't bad either with Mark Bradley, Tiernan McCann, Ben McDonnell and Rory Brennan all able score getters.
Both teams have been named, with the other Mayo change seeing Bryan Walsh in for Darren McHale, who was substituted after 27 minutes against the Dubs. Tyrone are unchanged. The only positional switch suggested is Frank Burns lining out at wing-back and Peter Harte at No 6.
Mayo: Rob Hennelly; Padraig O'Hora, Lee Keegan, Michael Plunkett; Paddy Durcan, Stephen Coen, Enda Hession; Matthew Ruane, Conor Loftus; Diarmuid O'Connor, Aidan O'Shea (c), Bryan Walsh; Kevin McLoughlin, Tommy Conroy, Ryan O'Donoghue.
Tyrone: Niall Morgan; Michael McKernan, Ronan McNamee, Padraig Hampsey (c); Frank Burns, Kieran McGeary, Peter Harte; Brian Kennedy, Conn Kilpatrick; Conor Meyler, Michael O'Neill, Niall Sludden; Darren McCurry, Mattie Donnelly, Conor McKenna.
We need your consent to load this SoundCloud contentWe use SoundCloud to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences