GAA Expert & Columnist
Peter Canavan: Mayo must be ruthless to challenge Dublin
Watch Dublin vs Mayo live on Sky Sports
Last Updated: 06/08/19 7:40pm
Sky Sports analyst Peter Canavan reviews the weekend's action, and looks ahead to the All-Ireland semi-final between Dublin and Mayo.
Mayo needed to produce a special performance on Saturday night, and they did just that.
Donegal were warm favourites. It took grit, endeavour and energy from the Connacht county. Their tackling was first class. They out-worked Donegal, and that was the foundation for the victory.
James Horan and his management team will know it wasn't flawless. They made mistakes too. They were guilty at times of coughing up possession cheaply. Again, an old failing was they weren't clinical on the scoreboard.
They only converted 15 scores from 25 attempts.
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The MacHale Park atmosphere was something else, especially the last few minutes when the Mayo supporters knew they were going to win the game. Everyone was up off their seats. It was special to be there to see it, and to see how vocal and passionate the Mayo people still are about this team.
Mayo couldn't afford to lose. I think James has either this year or next year to achieve the ultimate goal, the Sam Maguire, with this crop of players. On Saturday night, they had eight players on the 26-man panel that are 30 or over.
So a lot of these players don't have time to develop. For them, it's about the here and now. That's why there was a greater edge to Mayo.
In comparison, Donegal's older players already have an All-Ireland medal in their back pocket. The majority of their side have a younger age profile. They will learn from it; they will get better.
Before the game, I said it was difficult for the Ulster champions, because they were coming in on a high. They hadn't been defeated in the championship, Mayo had already lost two games.
Simply, they didn't match Mayo when it came to work rate.
We were hearing all week about the advantage Donegal had with Stephen Rochford, but Horan got the big calls right. Lee Keegan, by and large, did a decent job on Michael Murphy, and Paddy Durcan was very effective on Ryan McHugh.
It's very much a learning process for a lot of the younger lads Declan Bonner has brought in. Michael Langan, Jason McGee, Oisin Gallen, Stephen McMenamin and Odhrán McFadden-Ferry have all been recently introduced. There's a lot of young lads there that have learned a lot in their first few seasons of senior intercounty football.
I would expect there'll be no major changes in Donegal ahead of 2020. One poor performance shouldn't take away from what has been a very successful year for them up to this point.
In a year or two down the line, there's no reason why Donegal can't climb the steps of the Hogan Stand, because they have such a talented young squad at their disposal.
Dublin approaching the semi-finals fresh
We didn't learn much from Dublin's victory over Tyrone in Omagh.
But Jim Gavin has got to be pleased with young Seán Bugler, who was named man of the match. Bugler certainly has put up a hand. If Gavin needs someone to come off the bench, he's got a form player right there.
Diarmuid Connolly showed in glimpses that he still has it. He was able to fetch ball in the middle. He was able to link play. The quality of his passing was good. He still has that vision. He kicked a point. The black card was the only disappointing aspect of his performance.
The St Vincent's man badly needed that game.
Would he be of benefit to Dublin coming on with 10 minutes to go in a close game? Absolutely.
Would he get the crowd involved? Absolutely.
Is he capable of making a difference? Absolutely.
Next Saturday has to be one of those games where everything goes right for Mayo. They've got to display the same hunger and commitment that they did in Castlebar. They can replicate that, as difficult as it is.
It's in the space of seven days. But this team have backed up big performances before. They haven't this year, which is a concern.
They've got to be ruthless in all areas. They've got to push up on Dublin's kickouts, but most importantly, they've got to be ruthless in front of goal.
It's important to note that no team should be in a position, whereby you play an important quarter-final game one week and the semi-final the next. There needs to be a two-week break for that to happen.
If that were to be the case, it would be to Mayo's advantage. Dublin are going into the game with most of their side well-rested, and much fresher, ready for the challenge.
I just think it's too big an ask for Mayo, after their heroics on Saturday night. To make matters worse, they didn't need any more injuries and they've got that with Jason Doherty.
Dublin to win with something to spare.
Sky Sports' GAA coverage continues next weekend with live coverage of both All-Ireland SFC semi-finals.