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Quite remarkably, this year’s four All-Ireland semi-finalists is a repeat of the 1920 Championship’s. In the same way, that year Mayo and Tipperary played in the semi-final. The Munster men won 1-5 to 1-0 on that day before beating Dublin in the final. Now, Mayo vs Tipperary will again determine who gets a shot at All-Ireland glory a century on.
LISTEN: our final episode in 'The Road to Croker' series on the @Mayopodcast is well worth a listen. @murphyrob, @bjpadden11 and @colinivan are all at the top of their game in this one! Podcast proudly sponsored by @GrgSportswear. https://t.co/JWTNsLsaJU @MayoGAA @TipperaryGAA pic.twitter.com/Tn3yu2eKQ1
— Mayo GAA Blog (@MayoGAABlog) December 5, 2020
In the last decade, Mayo competed in four All-Ireland finals and lost all four. Furthermore, they lost another four semi-finals. As a result, this Mayo team have become one of the best teams to never win an All-Ireland.
Are Mayo Finally ‘Back’?
This year, James Horan has found a blend of youthful injection to bolster the experience of his tried and tested. Youngsters Oisin Mullin, Eoghan McLoughlin, Tommy Conroy, Mark Moran, Bryan Walsh and Ryan O’Donoghue have all played their part in winning Nestor Cup against Galway three weeks ago.
These additions have brought out the best in the veterans also. David Clarke, Lee Keegan, Chris Barrett, Kevin McLoughlin, Aidan O’Shea and Cillian O’Connor are all in inspired form. Meanhile the likes of Colm Boyle, Tom Parsons and Keith Higgins still wait in the wings. Elsewhere, Stephen Coen, Paddy Durcan, Matthew Ruane, Conor Loftus and Diarmuid O’Connor are coming of age to bridge the gap nicely.
All of this has resulted in a successful equation for Horan. Wins over Leitrim, Roscommon and Galway propelled them to the top of Connacht for the first time in five years.
Mayo had just a point to spare after an attritional Connacht final against Galway. They could have made it more comfortable for themselves however if they had been more efficient in front of goal in the opening half. They converted just 8 out of 17 chances, a statistic that Horan will be aiming to rectify sooner rather than later.
On the other hand, he will take pleasure in the composure his team showed when the game was in the melting pot. For example, Bryan Walsh came off the bench to score two vital points. Equally as important, Eoghan McLoughlin took a clever black card when Sean Kelly was charging towards goal in the dying moments.
Mayo will be delighted about Kerry’s failure to progress out of Munster. However, Horan would be wise not to underestimate Tipperary. If they navigate this game correctly, they’ll have another chance at ending the Mayo curse.
Tipp-ing the Scales
When Tipperary beat Cork in the Munster Final a fortnight ago, the Munster Cup crossed Tipperary borders for the first time since 1935.
To make it even sweeter, the Premier men had to earn the cup. Firstly, they had just a goal to spare over Clare. Then, they were on the brink of elimination against Limerick. To illustrate, Tipperary were a point down in the Gaelic Grounds with the clock in the red. Then, Conor Sweeney produced a moment of magic to send it to extra-time. Sweeney nonchalantly equalised from a dead-ball on the sideline with the outside of his left foot. For added measure, the ball went over off the post. Extra-time was a low-scoring affair. In the end, a Brian Fox point separated the teams.
Somewhat surprisingly, Tipperary’s largest win in Munster was in the final. They had a three-point margin over Cork at the end of the final to finish a super performance. Taking inspiration from their commemorative Bloody Sunday jerseys, Tipp scored three in the first three minutes.
Conor Sweeney and Michael Quinlivan led from the front with all of their attributes on display. But, Steven O’Brien, Liam Casey, and Colin O’Riordan were the unheralded heroes in the middle of the field as they went toe-to-toe with Cork. Tipperary had a deserving four-point lead at the halfway stage.
The second-half had its tentative and nervy moments but the Premier held firm. The closest the Rebels came to catching Tipperary was within a point but the ever-reliable Philip Austin soon quenched that possibility.
Semi-Final Take 2
Now, Tipperary face Mayo in a repeat of the 2016 Semi-Final. Many of the Tipperary players who take to the field on Sunday were members of the famous 2011 minor campaign. Similarly, nine of the players who started against Mayo four years ago will be in the squad come Sunday. Hence, these Tipperary players are no strangers to a big occasion and the timely addition of Colin O’Riordan is an added boost.
Mayo will no doubt be the toughest test Tipperary face yet. But, they have the tools to challenge the Connacht men and David Power will be focusing on how to free up his key men.
The game is live on Sunday on RTÉ and Sky Sports Mix.
Mayo are the favourites with Paddy Power at 2/7. Meanwhile, Tipperary are 4/1 and a draw is 9/1.
Prediction: Mayo. But Tipperary will make them earn it. The Connacht side have always proved competitive when they reach Croke Park and the vast pitch will only benefit their pacey players. Furthermore, Mayo took the long route through Connacht and in recent years more games have made them stronger.
SFC Semi-Final: Mayo vs Tipperary, Sunday, December 6th, 15:30 (Croke Park).
— The GAA (@officialgaa) December 2, 2020