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GAA | All-Ireland semi-final talking points

Mayo and Dublin will lock horns in the All-Ireland final for the second year in a row after prevailing over Kerry and Tyrone respectively. Here are the main talking points from an exciting weekend of gaelic football...

Magic Mayo

Few people would have bet on Mayo making the All-Ireland final after their defeat to Galway in the Connacht semi-final earlier this summer.

However, Stephen Rochford's side have shown all the resilience, heart and determination which has defined them in recent years, and completely dominated Kerry for 70 minutes on Saturday afternoon.

Many felt that Mayo might have lost their chance to overcome Kerry when they let a lead slip last weekend on three occasions, but the Connacht side defended tenaciously to prevent Kerry from clawing their way back into the game and finished as comfortable 2-16 to 0-17 winners.

Aidan O'Shea and Colm Boyle were superb, Lee Keegan was more involved in the replay, and Andy Moran gave Shane Enright another torrid time in the full forward line. The Mayo defence - including O'Shea - dealt with Donaghy much more effectively this time around, and the towering Kerry forward's frustration cost him when he was dismissed for striking O'Shea in the face late in the game.

David Clarke's kick-outs were also much more accurate and effective in the replay, which allowed Mayo to build out from the back and implement their strong running game.

Mayo have done it the hard way, but Rochford's battle-hardened forces will be eager to have another bite at Dublin after last year's All-Ireland final defeat, in what will be their 10th Championship match this summer.

Kerry and Tyrone disappoint 

Kerry and Tyrone were widely touted as the most likely counties to prevent Dublin from securing three All-Ireland titles in a row, but both sides produced disappointing performances over the weekend.

Kerry beat Dublin in the Division One final earlier this year, and there has been a real sense of excitement around Eamonn Fitzmaurice's side this summer. Kerry lost the tactical battle, and their attempts to use Paul Murphy as a sweeper backfired.

The Kingdom - who weren't tested before meeting Mayo last week - were outfought, out-muscled and outgunned by their Connacht opponents on Saturday, and their porous backline was ruthlessly exposed again by Stephen Rochford's men. Kerry lost their discipline as the game slipped away from them, and will have to patch up their leaky defence if they are to lift the Sam Maguire in the next few years.

Tyrone swept aside all opposition in Ulster this season, but Sunday's demoralising defeat to Dublin showed that the Red Hand are a long way off toppling the boys in blue. The Ulster champions were static and struggled to implement their counter-attacking strategy.

Dublin and Mayo deserve enormous credit for their respective performances (both were superb), but both Kerry and Tyrone will be disappointed with their performances. Whether the respective county boards in Kerry and Tyrone decide to stick with their managers or freshen things up remains to be seen.

Dublin demonstrate their depth

Dublin swatted Tyrone aside with ease on Sunday, and the strength in depth available to Jim Gavin is frightening.

It was supposed to be the Leinster champions' first real test of the summer, but Tyrone couldn't live with the dynamic Dubs, who provided a masterful performance in Croker.

"They're probably the greatest team I've ever played against and possibly the greatest team to have ever played Gaelic football," Tyrone veteran Sean Cavanagh reflected afterwards.

Mickey Harte's team tried to get numbers behind the ball and suffocate Dublin, but as Tomás Ó Sé observed on The Sunday Game, "Dublin make a mockery of blanket defences".

Tyrone were chasing shadows in Croker, and the injection of fresh, talented players in the second half made matters even more difficult for the Red Hand.

Dublin's bench on the day included Bernard Brogan, Diarmuid Connolly, Michael Daragh MacAuley, Kevin McManamon and Paul Flynn, and Gavin will face a selection headache when picking his starting 15 to face Mayo in three weeks time.

Connolly was introduced for the last few minutes, and McManamon impressed after his introduction and was unlucky not to score an exquisite goal.  Gavin must now choose whether to restore the fiery forward - who has been banned for 12 weeks - to the starting lineup for the final, or whether to keep faith with the forwards who have performed so well in Connolly's absence.

Jack McCaffrey is returning to his best form, and Con O'Callaghan also terrorised Tyrone's usually reliable defence from the outset, finding the back of the net within the first five minutes.

It was an emphatic performance from the boys in blue, who should have won by more than 12 points, and one which further illustrated why they are the best team in the country by some distance.

Slán to Sean

Sean Cavanagh's 89th Championship appearance against Dublin on Saturday has proved to be his last in a Tyrone jersey after 16 seasons.

The 34 year old captain was helpless to stop the Dublin machine in full flow, and was visibly emotional when he was substituted late in the game.

The Dublin players queued up to shake Cavanagh's hand after the full-time whistle in a touching gesture of respect, and the 2008 Footballer of the Year savoured his last inter-county appearance in Croker with his family on the pitch after the game.

"My incredible journey ends," he wrote on Twitter. "Blessed to have shared the highs & lows of our game with some amazing Gaels. Thanks for everything."

The five time All Star retires with three All-Ireland medals and six Ulster titles, and deserves to be regarded as one of the finest players to pull on the Tyrone jersey.

Donaghy's last hurrah?

Another long-serving player who may have played his last game in Croke Park is Kieran Donaghy.

The Kerry forward endured a frustrating afternoon against Mayo, and was well shackled by Aidan O'Shea and other Mayo defenders on the day, before seeing red for striking O'Shea late in the game.

Donaghy played some fantastic football this year, including the first game against Mayo, and it would be a huge pity to see the Kerry full-forward bow out of the inter-county scene in such a manner.

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