All-Ireland Football Championship: Mayo aim to surprise favourites Dublin

Patrick Durcan battles with Ciaran Kilkenny in last year's semi-final replay
Patrick Durcan and Ciaran Kilkenny will both be in action at Croke Park on Sunday

Mayo aim to end a 65-year search for the All-Ireland Football title when they face holders and favourites Dublin in Sunday's decider at Croke Park.

The Connacht county have been beaten in eight All-Ireland finals since 1989.

Mayo lost finals against Donegal and Dublin in 2012 and 2013 and the current squad blew a great chance to beat the Dubs in last year's semi-final replay.

In that game, Mayo led by four with 15 minutes left only to be sunk by three late Dublin goals.

After that latest heartbreaking defeat, a players' putsch led to the departure of manager Pat Holmes and his backroom team and Stephen Rochford was then installed as boss.

A surprise defeat by Galway in the Connacht semi-finals put Rochford's reign under severe pressure but helped by former Armagh star Tony McEntee, the new manager successfully navigated Mayo through the back door to another final appearance.

Mayo unconvincing for much of the summer

Mayo have been unconvincing for much of the summer with their surprise 0-13 to 0-12 quarter-final win over Tyrone by far their most impressive performance.

A couple of weeks later, the men from the west were lacklustre for much of their semi-final against surprise packets Tipperary before eventually earning a 2-13 to 0-14 win.

Within a week, the Dubs were producing a stunning comeback to beat Kerry 0-22 to 2-14 in an epic semi-final.

On the basis of those two semi-finals and indeed of the respective form of both sides this year, there can only be one winner this weekend.

Yet there is that lingering suspicion that Mayo may be capable of ending the curse which has saw them failing to win the Sam Maguire Cup since their 1951 triumph over Meath.

For Mayo to win, Lee Keegan is probably going to have to play the game of his life during his expected dual with Dublin attacker Diarmuid Connolly, who is probably the best player in the current game.

Mayo's Diarmuid O'Connor shows his disappointment after last year's semi-final replay by the Dubs
The current Mayo side have suffered several heartbreaking defeats in recent years

Granted, Dublin are by no means a one-man attack with Bernard Brogan, Kevin McManamon and Paul Mannion among other potential match winners and Dean Rock's free-taking also almost guarantee to punishing Mayo defensive fouling.

Brogan had a poor game by his standards in the semi-final so could be ready to fire again on Sunday.

Mayo's 2-12 to 1-14 final by the Dubs in the 2013 decider summed up their frailties over the past decade as wrong options and missed chances saw Jim Gavin's side edge victory despite looking nervous themselves for much of the contest.

Given the scars in the squad, Sunday's occasion is surely a mental battle as much as anything else for the Mayo players.

While Dublin are capable of blitzing any team, Mayo travel to the game knowing that they are capable of competing with the Dubs, even though they have failed to beat them in several tight championship contests in recent years.

In terms of the team news, Rochford has made one change from the Tipperary game with Tom Parsons replacing Barry Moran at midfield in a side which has nine survivors from the 2013 final.

Jim Gavin has yet to name his side with wing-back James McCarthy understood to be a fitness doubt.

TEAM

Mayo: D Clarke; B Harrison, D Vaughan, K Higgins; L Keegan, C Boyle, P Durcan; S O'Shea, T Parsons; K McLoughlin, A O'Shea, D O'Connor; J Doherty, A Moran, C O'Connor.

Dublin: tba

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