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CREST OF A WAVE Mayo captain Ryan O’Donoghue celebrates after scoring a goal against Kildare in last Sunday’s All-Ireland Under-20 Final. Pic: Sportsfile

Talking Tactics
Billy Joe Padden

IF last Sunday’s All-Ireland Under-20 final proved anything it was that it’s very difficult to win trophies at Croke Park when all your big players don’t all bring their ‘A’ games.
Of course very few counties know that better than all of us in Mayo.
On reflection, it was a disappointing performance by Mayo overall, even though they somehow managed to stay in the game for the full 65 minutes.
They were resilient to the bitter end and Michael Solan deserves credit for instilling that in them. To be able to foster that sort of spirit in a team — that they can stay in a game even when they’re not playing well — is something to be commended.
It’s also worth pointing out that he brought a team that doesn’t look to have any players who can go straight into a Mayo senior panel all the way to an All-Ireland Final.
From a tactical point of view, Solan will have real regrets about Mayo’s lack of defensive organisation at key times, especially in the first half.
Once Johnny Maughan went off injured, should Mayo have gone to ‘Plan B’ and put two men on Jimmy Hyland, a man-marker and a sweeper? Would that have made a difference?
That’s a question that management will have to ponder over this week.
I thought it was quite obvious that Kildare had really down their homework on Mayo’s attacking wing-backs, Paul Lambert and Oisin McLaughlin, and really shut down those runners.
That had a major impact on Mayo’s attacking game.
In the first half, in particular, the shape of the Kildare team offered them much more security and structure than Mayo’s set-up did.
They dropped their wing-forwards deep and that really put the Mayo full-back line under serious pressure because there was acres of space in front of them.
Jimmy Hyland, who looks a very special player, and Brian McLoughlin did really well in that first half, winning ball out in front.
Hyland was fantastic, and he’s exactly what you want in a young forward. If there’s an easy score on he takes it, he’s not trying to force a goal.
He makes the right decisions at the right times.
Mayo seemed to be all over the place in defence for about fifteen minutes after Johnny Maughan went off injured.
Nobody seemed exactly sure who was picking up who, and that was the period when Kildare did so much of the damage and stretched out their lead.
Michael Solan did address things at half-time and Mayo got more bodies in the defensive half, plus Cathal Horan coped better with Hyland before being switched out to the half-back line for the closing stages.
Sure, Hyland was still dangerous, but Mayo defended much better as a unit in the second half.
Their attack also created plenty of opportunities but just didn’t take enough of them.
Ross Egan’s goal chance is one missed opportunity that springs to mind where, unfortunately, he telegraphed his intention to go across the goalkeeper. You just can’t afford to miss those sort of chances in big games.
There were three or four other outside shots that were all missed and you’d have expected to get at least 50 percent of them.
That’s 1-2 straight away that went abegging, which will be really frustrating for players and management. It’s worth remembering that three of the starting forwards didn’t score from play either.
Plus, Mayo didn’t get the same impact from their bench as they did against Derry in the semi-final. None of the subs managed to score or really influence the game.
There’s obviously been a lot of talk about Jordan Flynn’s red card for pushing the referee, and getting involved with a Kildare player, in the 60th minute.
It shouldn’t have happened, we all know that, but I don’t think it had a major bearing on the final result to be completely honest.
The incident and suspension that’s coming is going to hurt Jordan as a player and, of course, there are going to be question marks about his discipline in light of what happened.
He certainly has the physique to be a senior inter-county footballer, but he’s going to have to deal with what happened and get a handle on dealing with the red mist when things go wrong. But he’s a very young man, just 19 years of age, and he will learn from this.
This entire Mayo group will have learned a lot from last Sunday’s experience and hopefully that will stand to them in the years ahead.
The bottom line remains though that it’s very difficult to win an All-Ireland when the players that you need and expect to have big games just don’t perform to the best of their ability on the day.

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