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Mayo unable to find a way to win

Sport

BIG CALLS Mayo manager Stephen Rochford shouts instructions to his players during Sunday’s Connacht SFC quarter-final defeat to Galway. Pic: Ray Ryan

Talking Tactics

Billy Joe Padden

I’VE never made any secret of my admiration for the Mayo footballers that have represented the county so brilliantly over the last six or seven years. Their record speaks for itself.
But watching them troop off the field after losing to Galway last Sunday, I couldn’t help but think that it’s going to be very, very difficult for them to bounce back from this latest setback.
It was the manner of the defeat and the performances of both teams, as much as the result, that leaves me wondering.
The really annoying thing for me is that Galway didn’t have to play well or be at their best to beat us. That’s one of the hardest things to take.
Those Mayo players will be sitting at home this week totally frustrated because they weren’t able to play well enough as a unit to beat Galway.
The same story as 2016 and 2017.
Kevin Walsh will be delighted because his team were able to get the result after all the talk and hype about them going into Sunday on the back of their run to the League Final.
The fact that Mayo helped them to escape with the victory won’t be lost on either Walsh or Stephen Rochford either.
Apart from the two big incidents in the game, involving Diarmuid O’Connor and Tom Parsons, the biggest issue that I found myself focussing in on afterwards was Mayo’s poor finishing.
Time and again, unless we got the ball into the hands of either Andy Moran or Kevin McLoughlin in the scoring zone, you never got the sense that a score was possible.
That was a big disappointment for me, and I kept waiting during the first half for some of the other forwards to get some ‘go-forward’ ball by coming off the shoulder at pace.
One guy who showed glimpses of being able to create something early on was Diarmuid O’Connor. But his day ended far too early and, in my opinion, he can have no complaints with Conor Lane’s decision to send him off.
It was a blatant elbow on Paul Conroy and Diarmuid deserved to go. But it was massive blow and cost Mayo dearly as the game went on.
In championship football the buck stops with the manager, and that’s the way it is for Stephen Rochford this week.
He knows that better than anyone.
That’s three years now without making it into a Connacht Final, three years running that Mayo have lost to Galway, and I don’t think management covered themselves in glory on Sunday.
In my opinion the timings of the substitutions were off, given that Mayo were down to 14 men since the 29th minute, they needed replacements earlier.
I’d also question the decision to bring in David Drake to replace Conor Loftus as well.
Something else that I felt cost Mayo more than it paid off was the decision to give Paddy Durcan the man-marking job on Shane Walsh.
Durcan is one of those players that gives Mayo real thrust when he attacks from the half-back line, but far too often last Sunday he was tied up with defensive duties back in the full-back line.
Chris Barrett obviously had his hands full back there with Damien Comer, Lee Keegan wasn’t available, so with Durcan occupied with Walsh, Mayo were short of line-breakers coming out of defence.
That meant that Stephen Coen was left to try and be that player coming out of defence with the ball, and that’s just not his game.
To me, Coen needed to be developed as a man-marker earlier in the year and last Sunday Mayo needed Paddy Durcan to be way more of a threat on the front foot.
But with Durcan otherwise occupied, then Donie Vaughan should have been on the field earlier than the 72nd minute to fill that role.
Those strike runners from deep are one of the biggest strengths of this Mayo team, and without them they aren’t the same animal at all.
The fact that Mayo didn’t create a single goal chance speaks volumes about the set-up of the team on Sunday.

Tom Parsons’ injury casts a shadow

I WAS impressed with how Mayo started the second half. Their energy levels were high, they dominated possession, and were building up a nice head of steam.
Unfortunately, that horrific knee injury to Tom Parsons then happened.
It looked very serious at the time and my heart goes out to Tom. I know he’ll have got the best possible care from the Mayo medical team at the time, and in the hospital since, and I wish him all the best.
When these sort of things happen, you’re not thinking about Mayo football or Tom’s football career with club or county.
You just want Tom to recover as quickly as possible without any permanent damage to his leg. Tom’s health is the most important thing.
I definitely think the injury, and Tom leaving the field the way he did, drained something from his team-mates.
The tempo of the game hadn’t been high from the very start, but I sensed that it dropped back even further after Tom’s injury.
It’s impossible to be critical of it, we’re all only human, but I’d wonder where the Mayo mindset was after that stoppage?
When you see a friend and a team-mate get really serious injury like that, it’s going to have an effect.
But, having said all that, the game was still hanging in the balance heading into injury-time. The only problem for Mayo was that they were having such problems putting scores on the board.
Cillian O’Connor got one from long-range, Andy crafted a nice score from around the ‘D’, but nobody else was stepping up.
James Durcan and Cian Hanley both came on and put themselves in good positions to score, but both of them fluffed their lines a little bit.
It was that sort of day really for Mayo when it come to putting scores on the board.
Unless that problem is fixed, then it could be our shortest summer following this team for years.

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