Thursday 23 November 2017

Enda Sheehy: Dublin have more to give

30 August 2015; Bernard Brogan, Dublin, in action against Chris Barrett, Mayo. GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship, Semi-Final, Dublin v Mayo, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE
30 August 2015; Bernard Brogan, Dublin, in action against Chris Barrett, Mayo. GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship, Semi-Final, Dublin v Mayo, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE

IT'S always the same with championship replays. Things get tetchy. Simmering tensions from Day One bubble up to boiling point, even more so when you've DVD flashpoints to micro-analyse and disciplinary hearings to digest.

And we're not even talking about the on-field shenanigans. By the end of a long week, it's not simply a case of rival players united in enmity: even the fans are turning on each other ...

That won't happen with Enda Sheehy.

Here's a true Blue who also happens to be a former Mayo footballer. A pretty unique species, in other words.

Sheehy retains a strong affinity with Mayo, his mother's native county, having played under John Maughan in 2003. Eight years previously, in '95, he was the 19-year-old cub who ended his maiden campaign as a Dublin senior panellist with an All-Ireland medal.

He was back in Croke Park for last Sunday's crazy semi-final stalemate. He'll be back there again tomorrow evening.

So, putting his 'neutral' hat on, what does he think?

"I'd say it's still 50-50. I suppose, having been seven points up with ten minutes to go, Dublin would have felt they left it behind them and should have closed out the game," says Sheehy.

"But having said that, maybe other Mayo teams in the past might have folded - but this Mayo team has been through so much together. Jesus, it was a great comeback."

Beforehand, he had distilled the contest down to three main questions: "How would Dublin counteract Aidan O'Shea? Could Mayo curtail (Stephen) Cluxton's influence? And what team would win enough of the match-ups?

"With the first one," he surmises, "Dublin did counteract Aidan O'Shea - but Mayo played into Dublin's hands there by launching ball after ball in the first half into Aidan O'Shea. Philly McMahon did a reasonable job on him, but it's very easy for a full-back - no matter what size he is - to defend that type of ball going into Aidan O'Shea.

"Mayo, I think, shot themselves in the foot a bit in that they paid Dublin too much respect in the first half, and they retreated to midfield and the half-forward line. So in Croke Park, being such a big pitch, even if you kicked the ball from midfield you wouldn't reach the full-forward line.

"Most of Mayo's scores in the first half came from Cillian O'Connor frees. Dublin's tackle count was huge and they put in a lot of tackles ... I know Jim Gavin has worked a lot on the tackle, but they possibly gave away too many frees on Sunday."

The conundrum for Dublin is that they were the better team for most of that first hour and yet were hanging on to parity at the finish.

"Yeah, they were the better team in those 60 minutes," Sheehy reflects. "But still there is a lot of big performances (to come) in the Dublin team. Bernard Brogan didn't have a huge amount of possession … he got a good score in the second half (plus one in the first) but I think there's more to come from him.

"There's a possibility that you could start either Alan Brogan or Kevin McManamon. I know I'd be biased for Kevin," adds his fellow St Jude's man, "but he played very well when he came on, gave them a goal and a point."

The more he mulls over tomorrow, the more Sheehy accepts that it's on a knife-edge.

"Dublin have that bit more room for improvement. This game will bring them on a lot. Sure, we all know they had no real test over the summer," he says.

Countering that, all of Cluxton's short first half kick-outs reached their target - "but in the second half Mayo pressed up and I think that's what Mayo will have to take from that game.

"If Mayo can press up on Dublin, like they did in the last ten minutes, and have a bit more confidence in themselves, rather than playing that defensive system, they stand a great chance.

"If Mayo got a rub of the green, a bit of luck which had deserted them last year and in previous years, there's no doubt they could win an All-Ireland. But, if I was put my head on the block, you would go for a Dublin win by maybe two or three points."

READ MORE: 'My Mayo move was not a Seánie Johnston type, I've an affinity with Mayo but I'm a Dub,' reveals Enda Sheehy

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