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Lost energy cost Mayo in the end

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MAKING A BURST Mayo’s Paddy Durcan tracks Kildare’s Fergal Conway during the recent All-Ireland SFC Qualifier in Newbridge. Pic: Sportsfile

Talking Tactics

Billy Joe Padden

THIS won’t be much fun, and being honest very few of us probably have the stomach for it, but it’s time to take a look back at how and why Mayo bowed out of the championship against Kildare.
Among the main reasons that I can find is that the team was set up in a lop-sided fashion with too many players in the final third on a sweltering hot evening for carrying the ball up the field; there was also an absence of key attributes like energy and line-breakers in the middle third at a crucial stage in the last quarter, two things that this Mayo team have relied on in recent years and we didn’t replace them; plus too many other key players in the half-back line and full-back line had an off day.
Add all of that up and it’s easy to see why energy was an issue when the game was there to be won midway through the second half.
With ten minutes to go up in Newbridge, I honestly felt that Mayo’s level of performance was no different to what it had been against Tipperary a week earlier.
If anything, Mayo had probably played better against Kildare up to that point.
But the key difference when the clock hit the hour mark this time was that Mayo ran out of gas, and not the opposition, like Tipp’ had.
Stephen Rochford had only made two substitutions by that stage against Kildare (the first of them in the 56th minute), and I always feel that a sub’ coming on will not really impact the game for around ten minutes.
Eoin O’Donoghue and Donie Vaughan didn’t have enough time to make too many key plays while the game was effectively over when Conor Loftus and Cian Hanley arrived in.
Mayo’s substitutions had to be made earlier because it was all about energy in that second half, all about sports science, getting energy onto the field.
Cian O’Neill made no bones about it when he was interviewed before the game. He said that he was going to schedule his subs and, unfortunately, Mayo didn’t do that and it backfired.
Because when Mayo found themselves that point down late on they looked dead on their feet when the time came to find the energy to carry the ball downfield and get that equaliser.
Kildare were able to pen them in because they had more subs in at an earlier stage. They had the energy to do it.
Some people might argue that it was a case of Mayo’s tired legs giving out, and maybe there is an element of that, but there is no doubt in my mind that Mayo should have ran the bench sooner.
And that’s something that has let this management team down consistently, their reluctance to make changes earlier.
My hunch is that Stephen Rochford may be over-reacting to previous games in Croke Park where we found ourselves with Alan Dillon or Andy Moran or Colm Boyle or Jason Doherty sitting on the bench at key stages of the game when Mayo needed them on the field.
But what I feel should be learned from that is that sometimes the best option is not to start the player who may kick that late score, maybe he comes on with 30 minutes to go.
Plus, with Mayo in the middle of a hectic schedule that would have brought seven games in nine weeks, resting players was an option.
Not dropping them, resting them to get the best impact from them when they come on.
To use Andy Moran as an example, would he have been better coming off the bench for the last 25 minutes against Kildare?
I also felt that in terms of how Mayo set up, they needed to bring another forward back into the middle third of the field to play-make and help block up that space when Mayo didn’t have that ball.
That would also have helped to create space in the full-forward line where James Durcan, Cillian O’Connor and Andy Moran just weren’t clicking as an attacking trio.

Mayo really missed O’Shea, Parsons and goals

YOU’D have to say that were some positives in an attacking sense in Mayo’s last three games, especially in relation to the sharpness in Mayo’s play. Things tended to happen when Aidan O’Shea, Jason Doherty, Kevin McLoughlin, Cillian O’Connor and Andy Moran got involved with quick handpasses close together, quick movement, and players created space. A lot of scores against Tipp’ and Kildare came from those sort of build-ups.
But there were still problems with creating goalscoring chances, and not hitting the net against both Galway and Kildare proved costly.
When you think back on the goal that James Durcan scored against Tipperary, it was more an accident than design too.
From my recollection, we only really created one or two goalscoring chances against Kildare  — when Paddy Durcan’s shot went over for a point and when Andy Moran took a wrong option in the first half when he turned inside and wasted a chance having had a runner outside.
For me, much of this is down to the shape of the team because having three players in the full-forward line isn’t really opening up the space around the ‘D’ to attack at pace.
You can see how it will happen with the likes of Kevin McLoughlin and Diarmuid O’Connor driving hard at that space with pace and their ball-carrying ability but too often there are too many bodies and not enough runners at different angles.
That’s still a huge problem with our attacking game-plan.
At the other end of the field, the loss of Tom Parsons and Seamie O’Shea was huge in terms of the defensive midfield area.
The game intelligence that was lost when they got injured meant that Mayo looked wide open through the middle of the field, particularly on set-pieces and kick outs, against Tipperary and Kildare.
For me, one of the biggest weaknesses of the team in those games was that area of that field not being protected.
Unfortunately, it was almost inevitable once two players with the experience and understanding of O’Shea and Parsons were missing.

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