Looking back before we look forward
IN the run-up to the 2006 All-Ireland Final, then Mayo manager Mickey Moran admitted that he and his players wouldn’t be looking back at the tape of the 2004 decider against Kerry.
The reasoning was that the result had negative connotations.
But if fool me once is shame on you, then fool me twice was definitely shame on me, as Mayo went on to lose that 2006 final in a remarkably similar way to the 2004 defeat to the same opponents, Kerry.
Failing to learn from previous mistakes is nearly always fatal, and James Horan is an avowed believer in looking back before looking forward; breaking down what went wrong and correcting it. We saw a marked improvement in Mayo’s forward play and tackling in the 2013 season compared to 2012. However, Mayo still fell short against Dublin.
A look back at the tape and how each player performed is instructive. Mistakes were made all over the field, and on the sideline, and we broke down each individual’s contribution.
If James Horan waits on, a forensic look at the tape of the final will be one of his first jobs for preparing for the 2014 season.
THE goalkeeper has received plenty of criticism for his part in Dublin’s first goal, when he was beaten in the air by Bernard Brogan to a dangerous ball in by Paul Flynn.
Hennelly should, we believe, have waited on his line. Darragh Ó Sé argued in The Irish Times that the ‘keeper should have come and taken man and ball but that is easy for a midfielder to say; a mistake out the field is not as fatal and a goalkeeper has a lot more risks to worry about.
The trajectory of Flynn’s pass also meant it was a very difficult ball to judge and Hennelly’s hesitation bears this out. However, once he did hesisitate, he needed to wait on his line. It was a minor miscalculation with major implications.
However, that aside, Hennelly was superb. He made three impressive saves, in particular the save from Eoghan O’Gara’s piledriver, was solid under plenty of balls which dropped short, handpassed and kickpassed well when on the ball in open play, and Mayo won 81 per cent of their own kick-outs.
They had to fight for them more than Dublin did for Cluxton’s kick-outs as Mayo didn’t create the space for runs into open country for Hennelly to find them.
But his kicking didn’t put Mayo under pressure either and 81 per cent is a high return.
In all Hennelly was on the ball 12 times in open play, including the three saves. All of his handpasses and kickpasses found a Mayo jersey, which you would expect from a goalkeeper who often has plenty of space to find a teammate when an opposition attack breaks down.
THE corner-back had only five plays while on the field but he started very well on Paul Mannion, turning over the first ball that came in their direction, and got forward to play one dangerous crossfield ball to Alan Freeman. Mannion had one wide, kicking under pressure from his marker, but when he went off injured, it gave Cunniffe an entirely different prospect in Eoghan O’Gara.
He did appear to be fouled by O’Gara in the lead up to Michael Darragh Macauley’s goal chance, but no free was given. However, when O’Gara ran at him for Dublin’s last point of the first half, it looked like Cunniffe was struggling physically with the abrasive Dublin attacker.
YOUR man leaves with the ‘Man of the Match’ gong and yet you have one of your better days in a Mayo jersey … Ger Cafferkey must be a frustrated guy after this game. He had fifteen plays in the game and, incredibly, eight of those saw him turn over Dublin attacks.
It is an exceptional figure, but in keeping with Cafferkey’s ability to snaffle possession with the poise of a pickpocket.
He will have to hold his hand up for his terrible kickpass to Diarmuid Connolly for Dublin’s opening point and was deemed to have fouled Bernard Brogan for a free he converted in the second half. However, that seemed about as much contact as Cafferkey himself received from Eoghan O’Gara to edge the Ballina man out of the way for O’Gara’s goal shot which was saved by Hennelly.
The second goal saw him in a near helpless situation, Denis Bastick through on goal with Bernard Brogan over and just Cafferkey defending. Personally, I’d always prefer to see the defender wait on the dangerous forward and allow a not too refined midfielder have a one-on-one with the goalkeeper, rather than coming across and allowing a simple handpass and palmed effort score a simple goal.
But it is hard to blame Cafferkey for closing the man down either. Perhaps he could have done more for the first goal to shield the ball from Brogan but, like Hennelly, he was dealing with a difficult ball into the square.
But the All Star’s positive contributions were many. He turned over Brogan four times and was involved in another four turnovers. Mayo defenders turned over Dublin attacks 27 times. It’s a huge figure, but Cafferkey was ahead of the field, responsible for 30 per cent of them.
You have to credit his performance on Brogan too in the context of the amount of space in front of them. Oft is the criticism of the McGee brothers in Donegal that it is easy to look like All Star defenders when you have Mark McHugh and co covering the space in front of you. Cafferkey has no such luxuries but continues to look like the All-Star defender he is and will go close to winning another one this year.
THE Belmullet defender was a very busy individual in the game. He was involved in 17 plays and turned over Dublin attacks on four separate occasions. While it is only half the amount Cafferkey turned over, it is still a high and commendable figure. He kicked one ball away when his kickpass didn’t stick and was turned over in possession once himself but his influence was, overall, positive and he drove Mayo on late on with a big turnover too.
THE wing-back’s possessions stats are often in the 20s which is very high for a defender and the All-Ireland Final was no exception, with the Westport man on the ball 22 times. He was the only Mayo defender who consistently got forward to good effect.
He kicked two points, one off either foot, but will remain annoyed about the effort he dropped short from 25 metres off his better right foot at a crucial stage in the second half. He made three positive turnovers but was involved in two negative ones also.
ANOTHER busy defender, Boyle was on the ball 19 times and turned over Dublin on five occasions, three of which were down the crucial home strait. He was one player whose energy levels didn’t seem to dip.
The Davitts defender will be annoyed with the fact that he turned over the ball himself three times, each the result of inaccurate long kicks but, to give him his due, it was another long kick by him, perfectly weighted, which led to Andy Moran’s goal, arguably erasing the other three errors.
He fouled Kevin McManamon for Dublin’s final score but it was, to be fair, a split second misjudgment when fighting for a loose ball.
SO much has been made about how quiet the number six was in the final and some of the opinion is that he didn’t turn up. That’s unfair.
Dublin put one of their best players, Paul Flynn, on Vaughan with the express command to keep the Ballinrobe man out of the game. That’s how much Dublin feared his runs from deep and, off the ball, you could see Flynn checking his runs, pulling him back and making a pure nuisance of himself. It could, and should, have been noticed by the officials but wasn’t.
When Mayo were defending, Vaughan threw his shoulder to the wheel and was involved in four turnovers of Dublin attacks and he got forward a couple of times to good effect early on, including being fouled for Mayo’s first free in scoring range, which Cillian O’Connor struck wide. However, he was out of the game for most of the game when Mayo attacked.
With him out of the game at wing-back, we wonder if it would have made sense to move him to midfield to get him into the game, a move which would also allow James Horan to move Aidan O’Shea forward.
Ultimately, Vaughan was only in possession of the ball three times inside the Dublin ‘45 which shows how little Dublin, and Flynn, allowed him into the game and he was on the ball only 13 times in total, four of these being turnovers deep in the Mayo defence. As an attacking weapon Vaughan was blunted and Mayo suffered because of it.
ANOTHER player accused of not turning up. We’re not sure that’s fair either.
O’Shea sat in a defensive midfield role, as is his job this year, and probably should have been freed to further forward when the game was slipping from Mayo.
Stephen Cluxton didn’t kick any high ball on top of O’Shea, as expected, but he still did reasonably well off Mayo kick-outs, winning three of them and breaking the ball deliberately to a Mayo colleague for two more. He did turn over two balls at the start of the second half with stray/ambitious footpasses.
His instructions all year were to compete at midfield, offer protection for his defence, and get forward when he could. He didn’t get forward as much as many would have liked but did adopt defensive positions only to see Dublin by-pass him by switching the play away from him.
In all he was on the ball 19 times, including five frees. He was certainly subdued and may have benefitted from a switch forward in the final quarter but he certainly didn’t go missing. No more than Vaughan, Dublin focused on limiting O’Shea’s influence. They succeeded and Mayo, and O’Shea, didn’t respond adequately.
MANY felt the wrong O’Shea brother was taken off when Seamie was called ashore with ten minutes to go. However, we think it wasn’t that controversial a decision.
Seamie O’Shea was solid but there’s an argument to be made that his brother was more influential. Seamie was on the ball 14 times and made two big plays in the first half. One was his point, right after Dublin’s first goal, and the second was when he was fouled for a free 40 metres out which Cillian O’Connor will be disappointed he didn’t convert.
However, he did lose the ball in the first half when trying to make a similar burst and kicked the ball away twice in the second half. He made an incredible turnover of Diarmuid Connolly and fielded one superb ball over Cian O’Sullivan but that was the only kick-out possession he won.
While there was some confusion when Denis Bastick came on as to which of the brothers was picking him up, it appeared to be Seamie who was caught the wrong side of him for the second Dublin goal.
WE’LL start with the positives. Kevin McLoughlin probably assured Cillian O’Connor of the Young Footballer of the Year award with how he exposed Jack McCaffrey’s defensive frailties. The wing-forward put McCaffrey on the back foot time and again in the first half and the wing-back couldn’t live with it. He was taken off at half-time, so concerned were the Dublin management.
However, McLoughlin didn’t get enough of a return off it. While he came deep and carried the ball to good effect in that first half, making four strong runs, and found a Mayo man more often than not, it’s his two wides from kickable positions that stand out.
In the second half, with Darren Daly proving an altogether more difficult proposition, McLoughlin struggled to retain possession. He turned over the ball five times in the game and while two of them are forgiveable as they were speculative kickpasses that were worth the risk, a handpass turnover at the start of the second half and a subsequent turnover where he was caught in the tackle were poor turnovers.
He was on the ball 21 times, which shows how busy and lively he was. Unfortunately his use of the ball let him down too often.
CLEARLY James Horan hadn’t huge confidence in any of his substitute defenders or else he would not have moved Keith Higgins back to corner-back at half-time when Tom Cunniffe went off at the break.
He knows, and said after, that he was robbing Peter to pay Paul. Higgins did turnover the ball to Dublin three times in the first half but he made up for that with a point from play and a wonderful turnover of Jack McCaffrey in the middle of the field.
More than that though, what Higgins did so well was link play, get on the ball, provide overlaps and Dublin were struggling with him with Ger Brennan standing back, sweeping, leaving Higgins to make the most of his freedom.
It certainly solved one problem for Dublin when Higgins went back to corner-back but his excellence was apparent there too. He was on the ball 10 times in the second half and turned over Dublin on four occasions and made two strong runs upfield.
Many question why Higgins was left on the clearly injured Eoghan O’Gara at the end, but we think it is a call Higgins should have made himself and switched with Ger Cafferkey, Mayo’s only non-attacking defender, and give Bernard Brogan something to think about. But Higgins was outstanding for Mayo overall.
ARGUABLY Mayo’s best forward of the last ten years, Dillon had a disappointing day. We may never fully know how much of an impact his ongoing stomach muscle injury problems have had on him this summer but if he has surgery and comes back a better player for it, we might have a decent indication.
Unfortunately, Dillon didn’t function well for Mayo. He was only on the ball fourteen times and was turned over three times, including a bad dispossession which led to Dublin’s first goal. He did win one break but didn’t wield the influence Mayo needed him to. We hope he can get to the bottom of his injury worries and still be a vital part of Mayo’s response to this defeat.
IN total, O’Connor was on the ball 27 times but this includes free kicks which we count as a technical possession for the purpose of our statistics. To give him his due, the young star won six balls out in front of his direct opponent, an area where Mayo inside forwards have struggled but his contribution is nearly always judged in terms of his scoring return.
Eight points is a healthy one, you’ll have to agree, but O’Connor himself will concede that the eight frees he kicked were ones he would have hoped to point. He missed his first two though, at a time when Mayo were dominant and needed to reflect this on the scoreboard.
His first wide was a tricky one in the left corner but his second one, 40 metres out, while no ‘gimme’, was one a kicker of O’Connor’s standard would expect to convert.
He kicked one shot wide from open play in the first half, kicking under some pressure and had another effort at a point blocked by Philip McMahon. To give O’Connor his due he quickly put the pressure on the loose ball and contributed enough to panic McMahon into picking the ball off the ground and conceding a free O’Connor converted.
Much has been made of the long time O’Connor took to kick late frees when Mayo were chasing the game and that’s a valid point. However, he appeared to seek instructions from the sideline as what to do with that last free before opting to put it over. Were instructions forthcoming?
It’s worth remembering though that O’Connor is still only 21. Mayo will depend on him for a decade and he is more than capable of delivering.
ALONG with Richie Feeney, Freeman has become the cause celebre for Mayo fans in the aftermath of the defeat. Why did James Horan take off the semi-final man of the match in the first half of the final?
Only the manager can answer that, and when he was asked in the post-match press conference, he said that Freeman had a flu all week and was feeling lethargic.
Anything after that is speculation; our tuppence worth is Horan wanted to get Michael Conroy on the field as soon as he could as the Davitts forward was reported to be moving very well in training.
We’re not sure Freeman had been out of the game enough to warrant being taken off, and Horan’s decision certainly wasn’t helped by a sub-standard display from Conroy who failed to get going as he would have liked.
Freeman was only involved in five plays in his time on the field and Horan, on the sideline, did seem to be agitated about the lack of movement from the Aghamore man.
This may be the case but he was still a handful for Dublin, as evidenced by when he created a goalscoring chance on 21 minutes only for play to be brought back, and by the fact that Ross O’Carroll, who went on to have a terrific game, was behind Freeman for every ball. The Dubs admitted privately afterwards they were relieved to see Freeman called ashore.
Was it the right decision to take him off? In hindsight, no, and most people didn’t think so at the time either.
HE’S still someway off his best, but the captain was Mayo’s best forward across the full 70 minutes. That, in itself, probably tells you all you need to know about the rest of Mayo’s forward line but it says an awful lot for Andy Moran too.
Consider his form before the final; many wondered, including this writer, if he should start. He appeared to be struggling to get to the pace of games and, in that context, how he played in the final shows the kind of stuff the Ballagh’ man is made of.
He directly scored 1-2, and all but made the goal for himself too. He had an assist for Keith Higgins’ point with a well-taken quick free and was fouled for two second half pointed frees. While he did overturn the ball with his first play of the game, he helped to turn that possession back in Mayo’s favour and get on the end of the subsequent attack to score Mayo’s opener. Overall, Moran was highly impressive.
He will be tagged with a turnover for overcarrying the ball with the last play of the first half but we consider him unlucky not to have been awarded a free in for a high tackle.
We will have to criticise him though for celebrating in the manner he did after the goal when his focus should very much have been on resetting for Stephen Cluxton’s kick-out.
Maybe he hadn’t a full 70 minutes in him but we think Mayo’s attack looked rudderless in the final few minutes after his departure.
With recovery from cruciate injuries sometimes likely to take 18 months, we think we’ll be seeing an even sharper and more central figure next year.
WE cannot be too harsh on him when you consider that often times he received the ball in isolated positions as Mayo’s attacking shape floundered, but Conroy will know he didn’t have his finest hour, well 48 minutes to be precise.
He was on the ball nine times, but not included in that is the fact that he was beaten to four balls played in his direction, twice by Rory O’Carroll. The last one, to be fair, was from a poor ball played in. He turned over one kickpass, kicked one wide and while he did well to set-up Andy Moran’s goal with a perfectly weighted pass, it was his only real important play.
THE hope was that the Crossmolina dynamo would have the legs to make a difference in the game and while he worked hard, he couldn’t get on the ball nearly enough.
Carolan turned over the first two balls he was on, badly, and was successful with the third play, a handpass. He failed to catch a handpass played slightly behind him late on, which doesn’t constitute a play and means he was only on the ball three times, far too low a number for a player who played a full half.
THE Garrymore man had a largely positive contribution. He played one fine kickpass down the Hogan Stand line to Michael Conroy and he was fouled three times when on the field, including Mayo’s last point. If we’re being critical we’ll say he needed to move that ball quickly to work a goal rather than carrying it into the tackle for the inevitable foul that Dublin were more than happy to concede.
TO be fair to Moran, a player who has been unlucky with the lack of game time he’s had this year because the O’Sheas were playing so well, we’re not so sure that the final was the type of game for him either. The exchanges were being fought across the ground and not in the air. Mayo needed ground troops and not fighter pilots and Moran couldn’t get his hands on a high ball for that reason. Did have the ball in his hands at one stage late on but gave a loose pass to Cathal Carolan.
HE didn’t touch the ball but that isn’t a huge criticism of him; he was brought on late and hadn’t played a minute of championship this year before that.
NOT James Horan and company’s finest day on the line. In terms of match-ups at the start, Mayo did alright. One might question placing Alan Dillon on the wing on James McCarthy, who he would struggle to keep with when Dublin had the ball, instead of playing him on the forty against Ger Brennan, a much more suitable face-off for Mayo.
But the tactic seemed to be to use Keith Higgins’ pace to exploit Brennan’s weaknesses and it is an example of the gambles Horan was willing to make. It might well have worked if he didn’t move Higgins back at half-time.
In terms of the sideline switches, the Alan Freeman one has certainly stuck in the craw of most Mayo supporters and we’ve said above that it wasn’t the right call.
To be fair to Horan though, it might have been viewed in a different light if Michael Conroy had the impact many expected him to have and Mayo went on to win, Horan would be praised for his ruthless move. Those are the margins, but based on what we saw in the opening 28 minutes, Alan Freeman didn’t deserve to be called ashore.
There has been criticism of his switch of Keith Higgins back to defence when Tom Cunniffe went off at half-time. Clearly Horan wasn’t confident enough in any of his defensive subs to be brought on for a full half against a fast Dublin forward unit. Would throwing Shane McHale in have been a risk worth taking? We think so but we will never know the answer.
Not bringing on Richie Feeney was the other big call people have questioned. We feel he certainly would have brought something to the half-forward line, but are not certain if he would have been the game-changer either.
Too much was going wrong in the Mayo attack in the second half for one player to remedy. Moving Aidan O’Shea up to centre-half forward, rather than full-forward as many have suggested, might have allowed the Breaffy man more license to drive on from outside the ‘45.
Some have questioned Mayo’s response to Stephen Cluxton’s kickouts. James Horan admitted Mayo could not keep up the high pressure game they started but it probably would have made more sense to drop back in the full-forward line and allow short kick-outs than what happened — Cluxton pinging the ball sixty yards into a Dub in space in an attacking position.
Mayo ‘lost it on the line’ many people feel. That ignores much of what happened on the field and the players must hold their hands up here too. Everything comes back to small margins when you only lose by a point, but was it a typical one point defeat?
No. Dublin were three points up for most of the final quarter and sat back, happy to concede frees so long as they stayed in front. They were arguably a three point better team on the day so we don’t feel the margins are as fine as many feel.
However, when you add up Mayo’s mistakes on the field, where we demonstrated in this week’s paper that Mayo mistakes led to 2-8 out of 2-12 of Dublin’s tally, with the off day management had on the line, then this was definitely a game Mayo left behind.
LIKE we said above, we count free-kicks as a possession as it is possible to turnover the ball in those instances, which would also become a statistic if that were to happen.
When it comes to a turnover committed by a Mayo player (s), we must make a judgment call on who is responsible. This is especially the case when it comes to a pass not sticking. It might be a poor ball that was never on or it might be a poor effort at retaining possession by the player receiving it. We make a call on which it is and, in some cases, both can be blamed. For instance Lee Keegan played a ball to Alan Dillon under the Hogan Stand which Dillon eventually carried over the sideline. It wasn’t a smart ball to play by Keegan yet Dillon should have done more with it. Both players can be tagged as having made turnovers.
When it comes to positive turnovers, sometimes more than one player can be responsible like when Donal Vaughan and Chris Barrett combined to turnover James McCarthy early in the first half on McCarthy’s first break forward. In this case each player is credited with a turnover but in terms of the collective defensive turnovers, it just counts as one.
If a player wins the ball out in front or intercepts a ball, that also equates as a turnover but we don’t credit a turnover for a very loose pass or a ball that merely breaks kindly. Again, these are judgment calls.