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Mayo need to go for it again

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BACK IN THE MIX Trying to find the best way to get Lee Keegan back into the Mayo team is one of the big issues for Stephen Rochford this week. Pic: Conor McKeown

Talking Tactics
Billy Joe Padden

I’VE been thinking a lot about Stephen Rochford as Mayo’s rematch with Kerry starts to come into focus.
How the wider GAA world perceives him as a coach is going to hinge to a large degree on whether Mayo beat Kerry or not; that’s the way it works when you’re over a team like Mayo now.
Not too many managers reach back-to-back All-Ireland Finals, especially through the backdoor, and to beat Kerry as well would add to the sense of achievement.
That’s easier said than done though, of course.
The big question right now is how does he get Lee Keegan back in the team? There are a few ways that he could go, but I think the smart move would be to take either Kevin McLoughlin or Jason Doherty out of the forwardline.
My suggestion would be that Keegan comes into the half-back line and Donie Vaughan goes back to mark Kieran Donaghy. I’d certainly start Vaughan on him anyway because I think he’s got the size, strength and aggression needed to take on the job.
Donie will be physical when he needs to be and that’s a big requirement of the marking job on Donaghy. I’d see Brendan Harrison being the best man for Paul Geaney and I’d put Chris Barrett on James O’Donoghue.
Those match-ups, with Keith Higgins (and Colm Boyle at times) sweeping across in front of the full-back line, means that we would be well set up to defend what Kerry throw at us.
I’ve seen a few people suggesting that Keegan might be an option to put back on Donaghy. Don’t get me started!
This team is trying to develop itself as an attack-minded, dynamic unit, so the last thing we need to do is clip the wings of one of our best attacking threats.
Every member of our defence had a shot at goal against Roscommon, and three of our defensive subs scored points. That’s why it’s so important we keep driving on.
Right now this team is all about having ten or eleven players in the middle third of the field, and when somebody goes on a break, they really go.
That’s how Mayo will do damage.
By taking out a forward and bringing Keegan back in, management will be really commiting to the counter-attacking, hard-running game.
For Mayo to beat Kerry, they’re going to need to score goals. And the only time this team really looks like scoring goals over the years is when they run at teams.
Kick-outs are going to have a big bearing on the outcome too. How they pan out depends to a large extent on what Kerry do.
I think they’re a better team when they go long, so if I was Stephen Rochford I’d be telling my lads to let them give the ball early on to the likes of Mark Griffin and Fionn Fitzgerald in the full-back line.
Let them carry the ball out the field and tire themselves out.
On Mayo’s own kick-out they need to mix it up no matter what. It’s absolutely vital that David Clarke doesn’t end up going short all the time, because then we’ll end up playing into their blanket defence.
Both teams do most of their best work the same way — by winning ball around the middle and driving on from there.
So whether Kerry press up or drop off, Mayo have to mix up the kick-outs and allow Tom Parsons and the O’Sheas to try and impose themselves on David Moran and Jack Barry.
For me, next Sunday is a day when Aidan O’Shea also has to come into play around the middle. At the times when Kerry press, and Clarke has to go long, Aidan has to be an option for a kick-out.
The only way Kerry can deal with Mayo’s three ‘bigs’ around the middle is either bring on Anthony Maher or bring out Kieran Donaghy from full-forward. The latter scenario would be especially good for us.

Discipline will be crucial to Mayo’s chances
YOU’D be forgiven for thinking that taking on Kerry in the championship at Croke Park is all about matching them and beating them when it comes to the football.
In my experience, that’s only half the battle.
Firstly, you have to match them and beat them in the physical stakes because there are very few teams that put it up to you physically, and are as abrasive, as the Kerry lads.
That’s one of many reasons why I think next Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final will be an extremely physical game, and it’s absolutely vital that Mayo keep their discipline and stay cool and calm at all times.
They can’t afford to lose their focus and get caught up in sideshows because Kerry, despite what some people might have you believe, are as cynical as any other team left in the championship.
It’s absolutely vital that Mayo hold their heads because I think some of the senior lads will realise that they lost their cool a bit in Limerick against Kerry three years ago.
They need to be getting that message across in the build-up this time too. Focus on the football, don’t get sidetracked.
We have a chance, of course, but this game won’t bear any sort of resemblance to the Roscommon match the last day.
Mayo had the replay won after 25 minutes and everything was easy after that. The reality is that they could play just as well in the first quarter against Kerry and only be level.
We really don’t know how good Kerry are just yet, but if Mayo can break even around the middle and limit the influence of Geaney, Donaghy and O’Donoghue, then they will give Kerry a run for their money.
But discipline will be crucial, especially with Donie Vaughan and Lee Keegan just one black card away from missing Mayo’s next game.

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