BRIAN MCENIFF COLUMN: Dublin not as good as they were but still too strong for Mayo

BRIAN MCENIFF COLUMN:  Dublin not as good as they were but still too strong for Mayo

Well we had the All-Ireland final six days before Christmas and Dublin did, as expected, win their sixth title in-a-row.
Mayo had five new players and they played their part in the first half, doing very well, as Mayo always do. They were hit with a sucker goal from the throw-in but recovered really well.
Even after conceding a second goal, they again did well to recover, but they expended a lot of energy in doing so and it was hard to believe that Dublin were leading by two points at half-time, but that's what you get with Dublin.
However, as I said last week, I feel this Dublin side are not the side they were. They haven't replaced many of their quality players. They have replaced them but those replacements haven't the same quality. They are just workmanlike. Even fellows like Dean Rock, who were able to stay in their corners in the past, are now working all over the field.
Then again, some of the young Mayo lads struggled on the big occasion in Croke Park. Young Conroy in the corner-forward position couldn't make any progress and probably should have been replaced earlier than he was.
Even Eoghan McLaughlin, the man with the Donegal connection, found the going tough for the first time this year. His direct opponent Niall Scully had a big game for Dublin and he wouldn't be regarded as one of the better Dublin players. However, I do feel that McLaughlin and Conroy will come good and be a big part of the Mayo team of the future.
I felt Mayo could have used a couple of their more experienced substitutes. Keith Higgins is a very experienced player and the man with the Bundoran connection, Tom Parsons, I feel could have made an impact in the final 15 minutes.
I also feel they should have placed big O'Shea in at full-forward. He doesn't have the tank to play around the middle of the field anymore and if he was inside, he would occupy two players and could still be an outlet for long ball.
Overall, fair play to Mayo, they stuck with Dublin for three quarters of the game and did well in that period, but Dublin were too strong in the final quarter.
And what makes it all do disappointing is that I still feel Donegal would have given them one hell of a game, especially with the squad that we have. There will also be some disappointment in Kerry that they failed to get to the final
But at the end of the day we have to congratulate Dublin and especially the Donegal connections, not least manager, Dessie Farrell with his Meenaneary connection. It was not an easy task to fill Jim Gavin's boots, but he has done it.
We have to accept that Dublin are a really good side but they have many things going for them, not least geography, compared to Donegal, never mind the money aspect. In Dublin, they can be in Parnell Park for training in 10-15 minutes. That takes a lot of hassle and strain out of preparation but that's the way it is.

ULSTER CHAMPIONSHIP 2021
We can look forward to the draws for the Ulster championship in the New Year and I see there will be a new-look Allianz National League as well with Division One divided into a north and south group. Normally you would rather avoid playing Ulster teams before the championship but for the times that are in it, the splitting of Division One for travel reasons is probably a good idea. And we don't know when this pandemic will ease.
We will be starting at the end of February and we will have at least four games, three against Ulster teams and a semi-final or relegation play-off.
That should have us ready for the Ulster championship which is set for the middle of April.
We don't know what will happen at club level yet, or if we will have a club league in conjunction with county football. It is always difficult for teams with county players but then also it is good for players to get matches.

MINORS
I was sorry to hear that the Donegal minors lost out by just a point to Tyrone on Sunday in Ballybofey. It has been a difficult year for them and to be playing the Ulster championship at this time of year.
I'm told that the Tyrone star was a son of Peter Canavan. It is obviously in the genes. Need I say more
And staying with the minors I want to congratulate two local men on guiding Fermanagh and Sligo to great minor wins.
Congratulations to Maurice McLaughlin, assisted by Mark McHugh, on defeating Down on Sunday in Enniskillen. I was talking to Maurice on Saturday and he was telling me that he has been appointed U-20 manager for Fermanagh for 2021 so Sunday's win is a good omen for that campaign.
Also congratulations to former Bundoran player Darragh Fallon on guiding Sligo minors to a big win over Mayo, a big scalp for Sligo on any occasion. Fallon would have cousins, the McCaugheys, playing for Bundoran and his mum and dad were great GAA supporters. His uncle Sean was a very good player before emigrating to England
I remember Darragh at underage level. He was a very good player but then went to live in Sligo and threw his lot in with St Molaoise Gaels, which was our loss.

CONDOLENCES
My condolences to the family of Shane O'Brien of Belleek on their huge loss. Shane's tragic death in South Africa has evoked great sadness around the border area. He was a very talented footballer and played for Fermanagh before emigrating.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

A SAFE AND HAPPY CHRISTMAS
Finally this week, may I wish you all a safe and happy Christmas. It will be a Christmas with a difference with people not allowed to travel home from England. With levels of Covid-19 rising, can I urge everyone to stay safe and stay at home if at all possible.

Brian McEniff was in conversation with Peter Campbell

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