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Sunday 24 September 2017

Rivalry that goes up to 11

Jim Gavin has a clear edge on Mayo, with eight wins, three draws and no losses

Mayo’s manager Stephen Rochford and Dublin manager Jim Gavin shake hands following the All-Ireland SFC Final Replay at Croke Park last October. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Mayo’s manager Stephen Rochford and Dublin manager Jim Gavin shake hands following the All-Ireland SFC Final Replay at Croke Park last October. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

There's a first time for everything? Mayo fans sure hope so, because their team's record against Dublin in the Jim Gavin era is a tale of recurring regret punctuated by the occasional stalemate.

Ahead of Sunday's All-Ireland final the manager-versus-county head-to-head reads: eight wins for Gavin, three draws and a big zero for Mayo.

Three different managerial regimes (James Horan, then the Pat Holmes/Noel Connelly axis, and latterly Stephen Rochford) have sought the template to topple the inscrutable Gavin.

All have failed. And yet all three could argue what might have been.

Horan had no problem beating the Dubs - once it was 2012 and they were managed by Pat Gilroy. He did it twice that year, hammering them in the league and toppling the All-Ireland holders in that year's semi-final.

But he suffered three setbacks to Gavin in 2013, culminating in All-Ireland final defeat by a point.

Presumably revenge was on Mayo minds when Croker league battle resumed in 2014 ... only for Horan's initially ebullient troops to blow a six-point lead against 14-man Dublin.

Holmes and Connelly had three shots at the Dubs in their one season, 2015: they were humbled at home in the league but famously fought back to draw their All-Ireland semi-final, then let a winning position slip in the replay.

Rochford has endured a similar sequence - one league collapse (this year), a much closer one (in 2016) and then of course last year's All-Ireland final saga, a battling day-one comeback followed by another what-if replay result.

If you look at the overall scoring picture, a few statistical nuggets emerge. Dublin's 11-match dominance is predicated primarily on goals: they have accumulated 150 points to Mayo's 145, but amassed 20 goals compared to Mayo's paltry six. That leaves a cumulative scoring difference of plus 47.

However, when you confine the trawl to their five SFC meetings, the margins are far finer: Dublin 10-63, Mayo 4-72, and a difference of plus nine.

Based on that, another close run thing beckons on Sunday.

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