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Mayo wounded as Kerry bite back

Sport

WRAPPED UP Mayo’s Paddy Durcan is held up by Kerry’s Matthew Flaherty during Saturday’s National League match in Castlebar. Pic: Sportsfile

Talking Tactics

Billy Joe Padden

WE should have known that Kerry meant business when they arrived in Claremorris on Friday night to set up base camp before taking on Mayo on Saturday evening.
It was obvious before a ball was kicked that this was a game that Eamon Fitzmaurice would have targetted, especially after what happened in Croke Park last August.
The fact that Kerry outsmarted Mayo when the game was open, and again when it was cagey, will be a source of great satisfaction to the winning manager too.
There are plenty of reasons why Stephen Rochford and his players will be annoyed and disappointed about how things panned out last weekend.
Up near the top of the list though will be the fact that Kerry dominated Mayo in the physical exchanges all evening.
They arrived ready for a battle, and despite being younger, lighter, and less experienced, they won that battle too.
The reality is that their much smaller men were much more aggressive in lots of one-on-one situations. Too many of Mayo’s bigger, stronger, more experienced players didn’t deal with it very well.
That set the tone, and it gave Kerry a platform. It also meant that, in a 15-on-15 game, with no extra defenders back, Kerry were able to give good ball into their forwards.
And those forwards did damage.
At the other end of the field, Gavin Crowley certainly took his man-marking duties on Aidan O’Shea seriously.
But I couldn’t believe that Mayo didn’t put O’Shea in a position where he could use his power and strength to the team’s advantage.
Crowley was happy to compete for 50-50 ball with O’Shea on the ‘40’ but that’s why O’Shea needed to be going deep to compete for kick-outs or else go to full-forward and be a target. That’s how you stop somebody holding and pulling and dragging him.
I know I’m like a broken record on this, but in a game like Saturday night, Aidan O’Shea has to be going and catching kick-outs for Mayo or putting his skills-set to use more, like he did for Diarmuid O’Connor’s goal.
With O’Shea, Jason Gibbons and Barry Moran all on the field, Mayo should have been much more dominant around the middle.
Kerry defended very well though when they went down to 13 men, and the way they switched from their offensive approach to the blanket defence and counter-attacked for the last 20 minutes was impressive.
It was always going to be difficult for Mayo to score from play against the mass Kerry defence.
There were times in that last 20 minutes when all 13 of Kerry’s players were within 35 yards of their own goal.
So unless you were kicking a ball from 45 yards over the bar, there was no space inside to pick out a pass or get a shot off.
That’s what makes the sight of Cillian O’Connor and Jason Doherty missing those frees in the closing stages so frustrating. They were our best chances of getting the scoreboard moving when Mayo had the two extra men.
But on a night when there was so much wrong with the Mayo performance, it almost figures that the free-taking was below-par too.
Over the course of the 70 minutes, Mayo were sub-standard in defence, midfield and up front.
Probably the only Mayo player who played to their optimum was David Clarke.
Although I’m still struggling to understand our kick-out strategy, as going short quite a lot against the Kerry press didn’t make sense to me with three big guys out the field.
Paddy Durcan took responsibility on and drove through a few times, Diarmuid O’Connor showed flashes, Jason Doherty started well, but didn’t get much help.
All in all, there’s plenty of room for improvement in the Mayo ranks heading to Salthill next Sunday.

Galway game now a must-win for Mayo

WHAT Galway have done to Mayo over the last number of years is kind of similar to what Kerry did in the second half on Saturday night.
Last June they physically dominated Mayo, frustrated them, got in their faces, notched big scores at key stages, and were able to see it out. Sound familiar?
Mayo simply have to front up physically to Galway next weekend. They have lost the last two championship matches between the teams and, make no mistake, Sunday will be seen as a chance to put down markers ahead of May.
This Mayo team is all about physically dominating their opponents and if they can’t do that, then they are in trouble.
Galway have beaten Tyrone and Donegal in successive weekends to put them in a very strong position, and if they beat Mayo then they’re practically guaranteed themselves Division 1 football again next year.
Mayo, on the other hand, will be in the relegation zone.
But even if you forget about the league table, this is a huge game from a psychological perspective for Mayo.
They will not want to meet Galway again in May after being bullied and beaten in February. That is not an option.
Stephen Rochford has some decisions to make this week.
Considering how open Mayo were at the back last Saturday, and how well Damien Comer is playing, he needs to decide who marks Comer, and are we going to change our game-plan to accommodate an extra defender and protect the full-back line?
Is Brendan Harrison the man for Comer? Could Stephen Coen do a job on the Galway captain?
What about Aidan O’Shea playing at midfield to do what he does best?
Will Andy Moran or Cillian O’Connor come in for Evan Regan?
Is Conor Loftus fit enough to start? Is it time to give Adam Gallagher his chance?
Questions, questions.
So many people are wondering can Mayo keep coming back, year after year. Maybe this is the start of another test, but much earlier than they would have expected or wanted.

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