Morning all. It’s now the day before the day before, with Saturday evening’s All-Ireland semi-final replay against Dublin back at Croke Park (throw-in 5pm) coming sharply into view.
There’s plenty of talk in the papers this morning about Diarmuid Connolly’s unsuccessful CHC appeal last night (Irish Independent, Irish Times, Irish Examiner). All of these reports mention the possibility of further appeals, to the CAC and even to the DRA, so this one could still have a bit to run. Time is obviously not on their side but whatever about trying to get a DRA hearing ahead of Saturday, it’d surely be feasible to get the CAC scrambled in time to consider an appeal against last night’s CHC ruling.
The fact that the issue is rumbling on is obviously a distraction for them but given Jim Gavin’s enormous backroom team (which equates in size to a small multi-national company) and the resources available to Dublin GAA generally, it’s surely a task that can be handled by functionaries who aren’t involved with getting the team prepped for Saturday’s replay. Who knows, maybe Jimbo has an in-house legal firm squirrelled away in his backroom coterie for just such an eventuality.
Regardless of what happens from here with the appeal, Dublin obviously have to be planning for how they’ll line up if the Vincents man doesn’t get off the hook. They’re due to name their team tomorrow night but I’d say they’ll just follow our lead and name the same team as last Sunday, swapping Kevin McManamon for Connolly (and Fitzsimons for O’Carroll if the latter isn’t okay to make their match-day 26) in the team they announce.
No more than ourselves, how they actually set up will be another issue altogether. If neither O’Carroll nor Connolly are fit/cleared to start then their hand is to some degree forced. The question then becomes whether or not they’re willing to risk altering their formation in a more fundamental way. O’Carroll would obviously be replaced, as he was the last day, by Fitzsimons (who played really well, his first half rob on Cillian being a particular highlight) and while McManamon or Alan Brogan might be drafted in for Connolly, I think Tomás Brady – a player who did enormous damage against us in the League match down at MacHale Park in March – is the likelier option to start.
Midfield’s a problem for them too but given that both teams are likely to maintain the same kind of cautious approach to kickouts, at least in the first half, they could probably gamble with MacAuley and Fenton there again. This isn’t ideal for them as the former is visibly a shadow of his 2011/13 self and while I thought watching on the day that Fenton played well, last night’s second viewing showed that he squandered several possessions. It’s fairly clear they’ve got pretty major issues there.
An obvious switch would be to move Cian O’Sullivan up and draft in John Small at centre-back. That’d be a risk, though, not least given that McMahon is unlikely to be given the same latitude to foul Aidan with the kind of impunity he enjoyed the last day and so keeping O’Sullivan in his established role as sweeper might be considered a higher priority than redeploying him in midfield. Bastick would be more than okay for a full half of action so I’d say they’ll gamble with the same midfield pairing for the opening 35 minutes and seek to limit the aerial exchanges they’ll have to face during this period.
Enough on them. There’s nothing of substance in the nationals today about us, apart from reports on our team announcement, and I’d say we’ve pretty much finished our public talking now ahead of Saturday evening. As in truth it’s been pretty much ever since the full-time whistle sounded last Sunday, the focus now is on gearing up for the replay and making sure we’re as ready as we can be for the enormous challenge that awaits us then.
Support the lads ahead of the replay: go to the Mayo GAA website (here) and click ‘Play Now’ to contribute to the cause via the Mayo GAA Players Training and Welfare Fund Lotto.