THE BEST OF ENEMIES Mayo and Dublin players shake hands before the start of last year's All-Ireland SFC Final replay at Croke Park.
Billy Joe Padden
SOMEBODY asked me the other day what my biggest worry was about next Sunday from a Mayo perspective. It’s a good question.
For me, getting off to a slow start and finding themselves in a hole early on would be a serious issue for Mayo because there’s little or no chance of recovering from it against Dublin right now.
Mayo have got to be right on the ‘b’ of bang; they can’t be waiting to get warmed up. They have to be on it right from the throw-in.
Mayo can bend, but they can’t break.
I knew after four minutes of the Dublin/Tyrone game that Tyrone were beaten. They broke.
If Mayo go four points down early on the next day it could take them 40 minutes to get back on terms.
So they need to start as they mean to go on.
The way I see it Mayo have to approach the first quarter of Sunday’s match with a few bullet-points in mind.
They have to go as hard as they can from the very first whistle and bring absolutely physical craziness. They know they have it in the tank, so they can’t spare anything in terms of intensity and running.
Keeping a cool head is absolutely crucial. When a Mayo player has the ball he has to guard it like his life depends on it. Tyrone didn’t do that.
There’s been a fair bit of talk this summer about GPS stats, and a lot of it has been way off the mark.
But I think individual player stats are the kind of thing that management may use with certain players to set the rules of engagement for Sunday.
Maybe the likes of Colm Boyle or Diarmuid O’Connor will be told that they covered X amount of kilometres against Dublin in last year’s final, but they only managed Y in the drawn quarter-final last month against Roscommon.
That’s one way how players can be challenged to up their outputs for next Sunday.
The training camp in Limerick the weekend before last will have been about mentally fine-tuning the roles of each player in terms of the game-plan.
The key areas as I see them are:
> Kick-outs — Mayo’s and Dublin’s.
> How do Mayo break Dublin down?
> What do Mayo do on counter-attacks?
There would have been a lot of info to get through so it’s absolutely vital that everything is clear and concise. And management have to make sure that everything is focussed.
Stephen Rochford and co will have gone into the fine detail about the match-ups, got some detailed video analysis work done, and that will have fed into the subsequent sessions on the training field.
Management will have identified a number of key areas where they feel they can exploit Dublin weaknesses, and a number of key areas where they feel Mayo need to improve on for the final.
Then it will have been all about repetition, repetition, repetition to make sure that everyone knows their roles.
A training camp environment is also an ideal setting to work on the mental side of a team’s preparation for an All-Ireland Final.
I’m sure Mayo had their sports psychologist in attendance at some stage, and a strategy for the whole All-Ireland build-up, weekend and match itself would have been laid out.
In my experience, group sessions with the sports psych’ bring a certain benefit but it’s the individual sessions that are even more vital. They’re the ones that are really focussed and concentrate the mind.
I’d imagine that it would be a chance for somebody like Cillian O’Connor to address any issues around his free-taking, for example, and deal with any scar tissue that may be there from last year’s All-Ireland defeat.
For the newer lads, it’s a chance for them to develop a technique to make sure that the day doesn’t pass them by.