Posted by Shane Stapleton

Much has been made of Dublin's bench but Mayo have actually produced more from this sector

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The destination of Sam Maguire will be decided by 40 players on Sunday, assuming managers Jim Gavin and James Horan continue with what has worked during the championship this year.

Both have used their full complement of substitutes in each game, and both have gone as far as using 21 players on occasions when blood subs have been called for.

The managers have shown a confidence in the panels and nothing exemplifies this more than seeing Dublin’s Bernard Brogan – the 2010 Footballer of the Year — hauled ashore in four of five games so far. That includes late on against Kerry when nothing was decided and Gavin still trusted his bench; rightly so with replacement Kevin McManamon scoring the game-breaking goal.

Ballymun Kickhams man Dean Rock has been introduced from the line in every game and weighed in with 0-2 on each occasion, a regularly-trotted out fact that has also been used to validate Gavin’s planned substitutions.

But as seen in the tables below, Mayo have actually been able to draw more from their bench than the Leinster champions. In terms of brass tax alone, Dublin have brought in 3-15 from outside their starting XV compared with 4-13 from Sunday’s opposition.

As an overall percentage of their championship tally this year, the Dubs have produced 20% of their scores from the reserves’ power to Mayo’s 20%. These are tight margins, and finals are so often won by just that.

Perhaps one of the more telling results of this research is that Horan has seen seven different men come on and affect the scoreboard, to five for the opposition. As such, the Connacht side this year have been able to draw water from more wells than most.

But a huge ratio of those came in one game, a provincial final walkover against London. Cillian O’Connor was then returning from a shoulder injury — some things never change — and rattled in 3-3 (1-0 pen, 2fs) as the fish lined up in the barrel.

And because Mayo were so dominant in four out of their five championship games, with Tyrone proving the exception for 50 minutes, the bench has never really had to bail out the starting XV. Dublin struggled for a time against Meath but the late scores from substitute Rock were effectively icing on a cake that had long since been baked and was half-eaten. The win against Kerry, however, is proof positive that there is bite on the sidelines for the Dubs.

Rock, Eoghan O’Gara and McManamon combined to score 2-2 as the game headed for the final whistle. It was the winning factor and whatever of the statistics showing that Mayo have tallied more from the bench, they’ve never had to out a victory from the jaws of defeat. Yes, O’Gara’s goal was in garbage time and McManamon’s was possibly a mishit shot but these men delivered as was designed.

Gavin can have full confidence in them doing so again if anyone is not pulling their weight. Or even if they are, as proven with Brogan taken off at a critical time against the Kingdom despite scoring four points from play.

Whatever team is named by Mayo, we won’t fully know if O’Connor is going to start until 3:30pm on Sunday afternoon. There is an interesting dilemma here for manager Horan because playing the Ballintubber man when carrying an injury and persisting with an out-of-form Andy Moran might possibly suggest a lack of confidence in his reserves, despite what they have produced this year.

On the other hand, you don’t hold anything back in your last game of the year so it would be an understandable gamble to start his metronomic free-taker and his former captain, who you would expect to regain his form at some point.

But as we mentioned with the 4-13 to 3-14 returns from the two sides’ benches, these games are so often won and lost on small margins. It’s worth pointing out though that 4-4 of the 4-13 from Mayo’s bench came from the two starters in question, O’Connor and Horan.

The main question for Dublin relates to centre-back Ger Brennan, and whether a demotion to the bench might see Denis Bastick promoted to midfield and Cian O’Sullivan moved into defence.

Gavin must decide whether he is going to trust his number six to deliver or whether the sub-par performance against Colm Cooper was simply down to the latter being of the very highest quality. Not forgetting, of course, that Brennan was also taken off against Cork in the quarter-final.

Promotions from the benches, or cameos off it, might well decide this intriguing final.

BENCHMARKS
DUBLIN
v Westmeath
Subs scored 0-2 (0-1f) of 1-22
K O’Brien for Daly, N Devereux for McCarthy, D Rock (0-2, 1f) for Mannion, D Bastick for Macauley, C Costello for Brogan. 5 subs used

v Kildare
Subs scored 1-4 (0-2f) of 4-16
Eoghan O'Gara (1-02) for Andrews, Kevin McManamon for Brogan, Kevin Nolan for Brennan (blood), Kevin O'Brien for Daly, Dean Rock (0-02, 0-02f) for Connolly, Nicky Devereux for O'Sullivan. 6 (incl blood sub)

v Meath
Subs scored 0-2 (0-1f) of 2-15
K McManamon for O’Gara, D Bastick for O’Sullivan, D Daly for Brennan, D Rock (0-02, 0-01f) for Brogan, B Cullen for Connolly. 5

v Cork
Subs scored 0-4 of 1-16
D Rock (0-2) for B Cullen, P McMahon for J Cooper, K McManamon (0-1) for P Mannion, D Bastick (0-1) for MD Macauley, E O'Gara for C Kilkenny. 5

v Kerry
Subs scored 2-3 of 3-18
P McMahon (0-1) for O’Brien, D Bastick for Brennan, D Rock (0-2) for Kilkenny, E O’Gara (1-0) for Mannion, K McManamon (1-0) for Brogan. 5

Total
Subs scored 3-15 (0-4f)
3-15 (24) of 11-87 (120) throughout season – 20%
Scoring spread (of 3-15): Rock (0-10; 0-4), O’Gara (2-2), McManamon (1-1), Bastick (0-1), McMahon (0-1)

MAYO
v Galway
Subs scored 1-2 of 4-16
S McHale for Cafferkey, R Feeney (0-01) for Freeman, D Coen (0-01) for Dillon, J Burke for Keegan, A Moran (1-00) for Carolan, J Gibbons for A O'Shea. 6 (incl blood sub)

v Roscommon
Subs scored 0-3 of 0-21
K O’Malley for Clarke, A Moran (0-01) for Carolan, D Coen (0-02) for Varley, S McHale for Cafferkey, K Keane for Higgins. 5

v London
Subs scored 3-3 (1-0 pen, 2fs) of 5-11
C O'Connor (3-03, 1-0 pen, 2fs) for Coen, M Conroy for Freeman, D Vaughan for Feeney, E Varley for Moran, S McHale for Cafferkey. 5

v Donegal
Subs scored 0-3 of 4-17
C Carolan for T Cunniffe, R Feeney (0-1) for A Dillon, E Varley (0-1) for A Moran, D Coen for C O’Connor, K Keane (0-1) for C Boyle. 5

v Tyrone
Subs scored 0-2 of 1-16
E Varley (0-1) for O’Connor, M Conroy for Moran, C Carolan (0-1) for Cunniffe, R Feeney for Vaughan, B Moran for A O’Shea. 5 

Total
4-13 (1-0 pen, 2fs)
4-13 (25) of 14-81 (123) throughout season – 20%
Scoring spread (of 4-13): O'Connor (3-3) Moran (1-1), Coen (0-3),Feeney (0-2), Varley (0-2), C Carolan (0-1), K Keane (0-1)

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