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Another close miss for Mayo

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THE LAST WORD Mayo manager?tephen Rochford and Dublin manager Jim Gavin shake hands following Saturday’s All-Ireland SFC Final replay. Pic: Sportsfile

Talking Tactics
Billy Joe Padden

NUMB is probably the best word I can think of to describe how I feel about Saturday’s All-Ireland Final replay.
Without hanging our hat on the one selection issue that’s got everybody talking, we still had the opportunities to win it. But we didn’t.
Setting up the way we did gave us the best chance we’ve ever had of winning an All-Ireland, but we needed somebody to put their hand up in the second half. We needed somebody to go and win the game.
That man for Dublin was Cormac Costello, who came on and kicked three points from play.
We didn’t have anybody who took it on like that.
There were two key moments that stood out for me as an example of what I’m talking about.
I remember Cillian O’Connor getting the ball on the edge of the ‘D’ and shipping it off to a runner instead of shooting. That’s not like Cillian, and it didn’t look right to me.
Was he 100 percent fit?
There was also a miss from Aidan O’Shea around the sixty-minute mark when he kicked a wide from a good angle on the right side into the Hill.
Three points from frees in the last twenty minutes from Mayo wasn’t going to be enough.
The bottom line? We just weren’t quite good enough to beat Dublin.
I thought we really improved from the first game on tracking their runners, but the goal we gave them was an unforced error.
As a coach, I can empathise with Stephen Rochford and company on that. So much work was done over the two weeks to improve us defensively, but there is no planning for some things.
Like the fact that two black cards for Lee Keegan and Robbie Hennelly, plus an injury to Donie Vaughan, robbed us of three tactical substitutions.
Losing Keegan and Vaughan out of the middle third meant that we lost two of the best line-breakers in the game and that blunted our attack.
Late on when we had Aidan O’Shea and Barry Moran and Cillian O’Connor in around the Dublin goal, I couldn’t help but think they were too similar. There was no change of pace player in the scoring zone.
As our old coach John Morrison used to say, ‘You need cats as well as dogs.’
Overall, the attack just didn’t function well enough.
Cormac Costello showed what a fella with pace will do in the last twenty minutes.
I was told last week that Mayo made over 100 tackles to Dublin’s 70 in the drawn match, so it figured that Dublin’s forwards were going to tackle harder second time around.
They were going to apply more pressure to our kick-out and try and pin us in early and often.
I thought Mayo weathered the storm really well and showed great resilience to recover from a terrible start.
Then we had Lee Keegan’s brilliant goal to go ahead, but we needed two or three of those sort of moves in the second half if we were going to win the All-Ireland.
You have to admire these Mayo footballers.
This year they’ve evolved as a team, they’ve changed and tweaked the way they play, and they’ve cut down the concession of goals.
There’s still some work to be done on the attacking side of their game and finding some change-of-pace forwards is still a priority.
This panel of players has set the standard if we’re going to be successful in the future.
Think of their commitment to physical preparation, dedication and unity, commitment to each other and to improvement, and their drive to achieve the team goal of winning an All-Ireland. All these things make them stand apart.
It wasn’t always that way with Mayo teams, and we have to respect them for their resilience.
If we’re to demand anything as supporters, it should be that they maintain the good habits they’ve learned over the last six years. 

Selection mistake overshadows everything
RIGHTLY or wrongly, in terms of public opinion, this All-Ireland Final will be defined by the goalkeeping decision.
Stephen Rochford and his selectors have done so much right this year, but I don’t know how four men went into a room together and came out feeling that the best course of action going into an All-Ireland Final was changing the goalkeeper.
In my opinion it did a disservice to both Robbie Hennelly and David Clarke. They were both let down by what was the wrong decision.
It’s difficult for a goalkeeper coming into a team for any game on foot of a tactical change, especially when it’s an All-Ireland Final. And that heaps more pressure on the player.
We’ll never know if things would have turned out differently if Clarke had been left in goal.
But one decision has now put Stephen Rochford on the backfoot, and all of the good things that this management team have done over the last nine months will be overshadowed by this call.
It’s the biggest mistake we’ve made in three All-Ireland Finals, but the same deficiencies are still there that tripped us up in big games over the last five years.
The inability to create enough scoring chances despite having lots of possession, and losing out on the big moments.
In 2012 it was Michael Murphy’s early goal, in 2013 it was Bernard Brogan’s goal, and on Saturday it was things like Diarmuid Connolly’s penalty and Cillian O’Connor’s missed free.
We just weren’t able to create and take the scoring chances on either of the two days against Dublin.
Over 160 minutes of football, how many minutes were we ahead for? Fifteen at most?
Irrespective of whether you agreed with it or not, this All-Ireland replay will be remembered for Mayo’s goalkeeping episode.
But when you set that to one side, we still weren’t able to go and beat Dublin over the course of two games. That’s the bottom line.

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