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Mayo will need more energy

Sport

FLASHBACK Mayo manager Stephen Rochford and Kildare manager Cian O"Neill are pictured before the teams met in the National League back in March. Pic: Sportsfile

Talking Tactics

Billy Joe Padden

I CAN’T say that I was surprised with how Saturday evening’s match panned out in Thurles.
I expected Tipperary to test Mayo, and I expected Mayo to come through with something to spare.
In the last 15 minutes we got to see just how well conditioned this Mayo team are as they powered across the finish line, despite the energy-sapping heat and hard ground.
They looked very, very strong down the home straight in comparison to Tipperary.
James Durcan’s ‘flukey’ goal was obviously the game-changing score, but I still think that Mayo would have worn Tipp’ down even without it.
Mayo put some nice moves together up front during their spells on top, especially when they didn’t force the long ball into the attack.
Aside from the first five minutes of the match, the first half was a very different story.
The big thing that let Mayo down during that spell was a lack of energy around the middle third and some disjointed forward play.
One of the main reasons for the lull in Mayo’s play, I think, was that all of David Clarke’s kick-outs were going short. So Mayo were having to work the ball the full length of the field.
Unfortunately, a lot of Mayo players around the middle, for varying reasons, were not as involved in driving Mayo forward as you’d like.
As a unit, the team were missing the power they needed to get the ball up the field effectively.
That led to Mayo taking their foot off the gas at stages in the first half.
Tipp’s goal from Michael Quinlivan was obviously the main talking point at half-time.
It would seem to me that David Clarke should have stayed on his line and that way he probably would have dealt with Quinlivan’s flick.
There isn’t much time for the Mayo coaching team to figure out how they are going to replace Seamie O’Shea for the weeks ahead.
The more I think about it, the more I feel that Mayo are going to have to persist with a running game now that O’Shea and Tom Parsons are both out of the equation.
In the absence of those first-choice midfielders, and against better quality opposition, I don’t think Stephen Rochford has any choice.
He has to play with the cards he’s been dealt.
I’ve always said that this Mayo team are much more formidable when they go with three big men across the middle — namely the O’Shea brothers and Parsons.
But Rochford has no option now but to go with just one ‘big’ — Aidan O’Shea — and fill the rest of that middle space with athletes like Jason Doherty, Kevin McLoughin and Diarmuid O’Connor.
Their job will be to help win primary possession, and run with it.
Diarmuid O’Connor and Lee Keegan will probably end up wearing eight and nine next weekend, but they’re going to need plenty of help around that area to get the running game going.
Overall, in terms of the Mayo shape last weekend, I felt the team was lop-sided.
There were too many guys close to goal and not enough players in the middle third.
That’s only exaggerated by the fact that we were going short with all our kick-outs, so were asking four or five defenders to travel 40 or 50 metres with the ball on a regular basis.
That’s not being efficient with energy, and that’s why we will need more players to share the running load next Saturday.

Possession is key to beating Kildare

SO it’s Mayo against Kildare in Round 3 of the All-Ireland Qualifiers next Saturday evening, more than likely up at Croke Park.
Let’s be honest, Stephen Rochford and his team will be delighted with the venue as this Mayo team play their best football at Croke Park and the wide open spaces and fast surface suits them down to the ground.
It will be ideal for Mayo to play the running game that worked so well for them in the last twenty minutes against Tipperary last weekend.
That Tipp’ game will actually be ideal match practice too for taking on Kildare. Last Saturday will have been like a dry run for Mayo in a lot of ways, especially in relation to the aerial threat in the full-forwardline.
From the Kildare perspective, this is an ideal chance for them to rehabilitate their reputation. Mayo would be a huge scalp for them to take and go a long way towards erasing the memories of losing to Carlow.
Cian O’Neill and his team will see Seamus O'Shea’s injury as a positive and the difficulties Mayo had in the full-back line against Tipp’ in the first half as an opportunity.
Around the middle of the field, Kevin Feely, Tommy Moolick, the Cribbins, Paul and Keith, and Paddy Brophy, are all big strong ball winners.
Kildare will probably try and stop Mayo getting short kick-outs away and really put pressure on the middle third to see if they can win enough clean possession from David Clarke’s long restarts.
That’s what I would do if I was Cian O’Neill.
Aidan O'Shea and Diarmuid O'Connor are both going to have to win some high balls and guys like Colm Boyle, Lee Keegan, Paddy Durcan, Stephen Coen and the rest of them, have to be really really physical on breaks.
Ger Cafferkey, I think, deserves a shot at full-back on Daniel Flynn who he did a good job on in the National League game this year.
If Mayo’s full-back line is tight and well-protected, and they win enough ball around the middle, I think their possession game will be too strong for Kildare.
But it’s probably going to be another rollercoaster ride!

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