GAA: Sky Sports expert Peter Canavan previews this weekend's All-Ireland semi-finals

Last Updated: 02/09/14 5:13pm

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We had the clash that the championship was crying out for at Croke Park last Sunday. It was a fantastic spectacle and credit must go to both Mayo and Kerry.

Speaking to a number of Mayo supporters afterwards, they felt that they had thrown the game away late on, that their side couldn’t see it out. In fairness to the Mayo players, that wasn’t the case. It was down to some excellent play by the Kingdom in the closing minutes.

Kerry’s late goal came from an excellent delivery by David Moran, a great catch and lay-off by Kieran Donaghy, and a quality finish by James O’Donoghue. And they also had to work hard for Kieran O’Leary’s equalising point. Their passing was slick and they created a scoring opportunity that wasn’t easy to take.

Rather than laying the blame at Mayo’s door for not killing the game off, I would give immense credit to the Kerry players for the way that they manufactured and finished those late scores to grab a draw.

"I still believe Mayo possess the stronger personnel in the middle eight. They proved that in the second half when they drove at Kerry. Even without Lee Keegan, they are a force to be reckoned with."
Peter Canavan

Looking ahead to Saturday’s replay, I still believe Mayo possess the stronger personnel in the middle eight. They proved that in the second half when they drove at Kerry. Even without Lee Keegan, they are a force to be reckoned with and are capable of building on last weekend’s performance.

Both managers have options ahead of the replay but there are two changes that could decide the outcome of the game – the use of the sweeper on both sides.

In Mayo’s case, Keith Higgins could swap roles with Tom Cunniffe as he would be a more attack-minded sweeper. And Eamonn Fitzmaurice could be tempted to do the same and play Marc Ó Sé as a sweeper, giving him the freedom to get on the ball and launch attacks.

Kerry are certainly more used to playing in the Gaelic Grounds so that may give them a very slight advantage. I have no doubt that the replay will be another classic, but I do think the CCC has got it wrong in not choosing to play the game in Croke Park on Saturday week.

Defensive Donegal

I can’t help but think that Sunday’s semi-final is going to be a repeat of their last meeting in 2011, where Donegal were ultra-defensive. When Jim McGuinness goes through both teamsheets and the individual battles, he’ll see that Dublin possess too many aces.

Donegal have a number of players who aren’t playing to their true potential at the minute. For that reason, McGuinness will be left with no other option but to get bodies behind the ball from the start.

Some commentators believe that to take on Dublin, you need to push up on their kickouts. However, I think McGuinness will use a tactic similar to what Monaghan used in the first half against Dublin, and sit back and defend from behind the halfway line. This policy will make life extremely hard for Dublin and will frustrate them.

ALL-IRELAND SFC
SEMI-FINALS

Kerry v Mayo
Saturday, 5pm
Live on Sky Sports 4

Dublin v Donegal
Sunday, 3.30pm
Live on Sky Sports 3

From Donegal’s point of view, it’s all well and good frustrating the opposition, but they’re still going to have come out and get scores. This is the one area where they will have to show serious improvement if they are to get one over the Dubs.

Donegal’s forwards haven’t been hurting the opposition like they did a couple of years ago. Again, it will be interesting to see at what stage McGuinness will play his most effective player – Michael Murphy - on the edge of the square. If Donegal are to score a major, it’s most likely to come from a long ball into Murphy, similar to what he did against Mayo in 2012.

I expect a tough encounter at Croke Park. Dublin are looking forward to this game. Their players have been talking about playing Donegal and getting one over them, and they feel they’ll never be in a better position to do that.

It will be physical and will be a difficult game to referee. Joe McQuillan will have a very tough job because there will be serious congestion around the middle third, and there will be a lot of occasions where there is two or three men tackling the one man in possession.

It’ll be a low-scoring encounter but Dublin’s class should see them through in the second half.

Watch Kerry v Mayo live on Sky Sports 4 on Saturday from 4.30pm, and Dublin v Donegal live on Sky Sports 2 on Sunday from 3pm

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