Mayo meet Dublin in the All-Ireland final replay this Saturday at Croke Park
Mayo's Enda Varley says he is relishing the battle between Diarmuid Connolly and Lee Keegan in this week's All-Ireland final replay and says the winner will have a massive say on the outcome of the game.
Cillian O'Connor scored a last-gasp point for Mayo to ensure the game would finish a draw and both sides will go into the game looking to correct mistakes that were made during their first encounter.
Speaking yesterday, Varley said that their duel has been one of the most interesting this season and says Connolly isn't a bad person despite the attention that he garners during games and some of the reactions that provokes.
"Diarmuid is a very nice guy," he began. "Obviously on the pitch it’s going to be competitive. Lee [Keegan] is going to be competitive too so they’re not going to give each other an inch. To me, pound for pound, they’re two of the best footballers in the country.
"I just can’t wait for the battle again on Saturday. Whoever comes out on top will have a major say on the game and where Sam goes. Off the pitch whatever dealings I’ve had with him, he’s always been a very nice guy."
Asked who what said would benefit should each player negate the other he said: "It doesn’t do any team any good to be honest because Lee is a very important launching platform for Mayo as well. Obviously Diarmuid is extremely important for Dublin… It’s going to be extremely interesting.
"Definitely Mayo will miss Lee’s runs coming deep from the half back line. Paddy Durcan, Colm Boyle, Donal Vaughan, Seamie O’Shea, Tom Parsons these are all good runners too. Kevin McLoughlin as well, it’s not just about Lee. There’s serious athletes in that Mayo team. I think they match up very well with Dublin."
Diarmuid Connolly gets some close attention from Lee Keegan. Image: ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy
The game was a strange outlier for Dublin, who didn't manage to register a score for almost 30 minutes but were still ahead courtesy of two own goals. But while many feel that it was a missed opportunity for Mayo, Varley says that the draw was an accurate reflection on the game.
"I think it was a fair result in the end. I think Mayo did very well to come back from five points down going in at half time and the three points down heading into injury time. Dublin will be disappointed with their own performance as well, so with everything taken into account I think a draw was probably the fairest result.
"I don’t buy into that [Mayo missed their chance]. Mayo didn’t lead for the whole game bar the first minute and Dublin had a three point lead heading into injury time, so I don’t buy into that. Mayo won’t be happy with their performance either so they’ll want to up their game as well.
"Again, Dublin didn't play to their standards either so they’ll want to up their game. It’ll be a very interesting game the next day."
Both sides will likely may changes, with Bernard Brogan and Paul Flynn rumoured to be on the chopping board for Dublin, while injury concerns may mean a reshuffle for Stephen Rochford's side. Where the improvements will need to be made from a Mayo perspective, Varley explains that the runners from deep will be their main concern.
"I think Mayo match up very well with Dublin, their backs match up very well with their forwards. In terms of Dublin’s midfielders and half back line coming through, they're the ones who are creating the goal chances.
"They kind of ghost through, the likes of [Michael Darragh] MacAuley and [Brian] Fenton, the last day he had I think it was 40 possessions. He’s the engine of that team now. They’ll have to pay serious attention to him I feel.
"They [need to] tag those runners, because it’s not actually the forwards that are creating the goal chances it’s actually the deep runners coming through and creating them. They have to be switched on for that."
The outcome is likely to be decided this weekend, with another draw meaning extra time before the match goes to yet another replay. So what would it would be like in Mayo if they could put this so-called "curse" to bed and clinch a first All-Ireland title in 65 years?
"Mayhem. Chaotic. Look, it’ll be fantastic. I can only imagine..."
Former Dublin footballer Ger Brennan and former Mayo footballer Enda Varley crossed swords at AIG Insurance’s offices today as AIG offered Dublin supporters the chance to take advantage of discounted insurance which could save them up to 15% on car and home policies. Call 1890 50 27 27 or log on to www.aig.ie/dubs to get a quote.