Billy Joe Padden
IF I’m being honest, I half-expected something like what happened on Saturday night to happen.
Okay, I thought Mayo and Dublin would both play better than they actually did, but my heart and my head both felt that this would be a bridge too far for Mayo just now.
I felt worse walking out of Croke Park about the result than I did when I woke up on Sunday morning, but the fact remains that there are now far more questions than answers about Mayo.
The defeat means that there is now a huge spotlight on them against Galway next Saturday night.
The most important question for Mayo to answer next weekend is how are they going to react to what happened last Saturday night? There can only be one way.
For starters, there needs to be much more aggression and intensity, a higher tempo, and much smarter shot selection.
And that’s before we get into the nitty-gritty of how Mayo set up (I wouldn’t be a fan of the man-on-man approach) or what kick-out strategy to go with against Galway.
In terms of tweaks, Chris Barrett putting in a solid shift in his comeback game might mean that Keith Higgins could be released from corner-back to possibly play as a sweeper.
And we can only hope that Diarmuid O’Connor will be fit to start because we saw last Saturday night just how important he has become to Mayo in just a few games at midfield.
Speaking of the O’Connors, is there anybody out there who still thinks that Mayo can manage at the moment without Cillian? No, I didn’t think so.
Aidan O’Shea’s performance is also worth mentioning.
I really don’t know how James Horan is going to get the best out of him consistently, I really don’t.
I felt there were times against Dublin when he was being fouled, but wasn’t getting the benefit of the doubt.
But you can’t use that as a genuine excuse for why he didn’t impact the game more, overall.
To me, Aidan O’Shea’s best attribute is his physicality, and he’s a great tackler.
But one passage of play sticks out from Saturday night — when there was a good ball delivered into him by Andy Moran in the first half, and he and Cian O’Sullivan went for it.
O’Shea was facing it and backpedalling; he’s got to attack that ball and come forward on to it. If he does that, and breaks it rather than catching it, and a Dublin player picks it up, then that’s fine.
But he cannot lose out the way he did, where he’s back pedalling and O’Sullivan flicks it away, and it ends up going out for a wide in the end. That just can’t happen.
I’ve said it before, it’s fine playing Aidan at centre-forward when you’re getting decent ball into his hands. And Mayo might have got decent ball to him on Saturday night if the half-back line had been playing better, but they weren’t.
And when that line doesn’t play well then Mayo have still got to get him into the game, and he’s got to be a factor for kick-outs. But, unfortunately, he wasn’t on Saturday night.
Overall, there was a lethargy throughout the team in terms of tempo, physicality, intensity and aggression.
Maybe that had to do with having three wins in the bag already; maybe it was a subconscious thing, that Mayo didn’t want to show Dublin their hand at the moment, with the possibility of having to beat them again down the track; but maybe it’s that not beating Dublin since August 2012 is now a real issue for a lot of these Mayo players.
Time will tell if it proves to be a problem that can be solved.
Mayo approach played into Dublin’s hands
THERE was too much man-on-man stuff for my liking from Mayo. I know James Horan has done this in the past against Dublin, but I’m not sure it works.
There are too many open spaces out there in Croke Park, you lose one battle, and then the seven or eight battles that have to be fought further back the field are only going one way.
If you look at Cormac Costello’s goal again, Keith Higgins initially delays him pretty well. But he doesn’t get any help from any other Mayo player to ensure that he can defend totally on the inside, and force Costello out.
He couldn’t do that, was caught on an island, and the Dublin forward showed his class to get through and score a great goal.
I felt the man-on-man approach was also an issue in terms of Mayo trying to put pressure on Evan Comerford’s kick-outs.
If I’m being brutally honest, it was pretty pathetic at times; Mayo had lots of bodies high up the field but they weren’t getting any pressure on at all.
It seemed so odd at times to see Mayo players taking the inside shoulder of the Dublin player, when they should have been taking the outside shoulder. Because, more often than not, the space is on the wings.
It sounds like a strange word to use, but it looked lackadaisical to me at times, and that’s a real worry.
If you’re looking for positives from Saturday night, then pretty much all roads lead to Rob Hennelly.
He had a superb game; his kick-outs were good, even though I wasn’t a big fan of our kick-out strategy on the night, and he also kicked two fine long-range points.
But it was the six saves he made that really brought him to everybody’s attention, for the right reasons, on the night he returned to Croke Park with Mayo.
He’s travelled a long road to get back to this position, and he deserves all the credit he gets this week.