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Mayo make too many bad decisions

Sport

TIME STANDS STILL Mayo’s Kevin McLoughlin watches his late free drift wide during Saturday’s Connacht SFC semi-final defeat to Roscommon. Pic: Sportsfile

Talking Tactics

Billy Joe Padden

HOW about we start with a few questions.
Was I surprised by Roscommon beating Mayo? Yes.
Was I surprised by Mayo’s performance? No, not really.
I saw a lot of things I liked: energy, some really good tackling, some good play around the middle third, where Matthew Ruane and Aidan O’Shea were again excellent.
Paddy Durcan and Lee Keegan were very good, especially in the second half; Chris Barrett did well; and some of the younger players couldn’t have done any more.
If you’d told me all of that before the game, plus that Mayo would hit 0-17, I couldn’t have envisaged a Roscommon win.
But the Rossies were exceptional. They did so many of the things that they knew they would have to do to win the game. They needed to take their chances, score goals, have a high conversion rate, capitalise on Mayo mistakes, and defend well and show discipline.
I thought they did all those things well.
I also liked the way they closed out the last ten minutes.
That was obviously something that was worked on by Anthony Cunningham in the build-up because they were desperate in terms of how they tried to keep Mayo out.
That saw them lose David Murray to a black card, but I can see why he pulled down Paddy Durcan in that play.
Because you have to be desperate sometimes to get you through those situations, and the fact that Mayo didn’t score in the last fifteen minutes tells its own story.
Remember they had an extra man for ten of those minutes!
The reality is that there were too many things in the game that were unacceptable in terms of Mayo from a decision-making point of view.
Mayo were very good around the middle of the field, and that meant that Roscommon had to go longer than they wanted to on their own kick-out.
That obviously suited Mayo down to the ground.
But why then was Rob Hennelly trying to get so many short kick-outs away? Who gave him that instruction?
Because that was at odds with what Mayo did during the National League, and at odds with what worked for Mayo during Saturday night’s game when they went long.
If that was on James Horan’s orders, it was the wrong call.
If it was Rob Hennelly’s call, then it’s arguably an even bigger issue for the management.
In my opinion, it was the wrong decision. Full stop.
The kick-out error for the second goal is what can happen when you try to go short, but I really don’t understand why Mayo were even trying them in the first place.
It’s counter-intuitive to the strength of this team, which is the long kick-out to Ruane and O’Shea.
Going short so much was taking energy out of our man-on-man defenders who ended up trying to carry the ball up the field. It makes absolutely no sense to me.
There were so many other examples too of Mayo players making wrong decisions on the ball all evening.  That suggests to me that there was a lack of focus and clear thinking.
Then there’s the free-taking issue: I have no idea why Cillian O’Connor still isn’t fit to tog out, some six months after he had his knee surgery.
So what was the free-taking plan of action on Saturday?
I know if I was taking off Evan Regan, Jason Doherty and Darren Coen, who kicks the frees for his club, then I’m sending on somebody who is going to be the free-taker or else I’m getting a message on to the player who is taking over that role.
Kevin McLoughlin does not want to be kicking frees for Mayo, so Diarmuid O’Connor’s decision to ask him to take that last free was the wrong one.
Conor Loftus has kicked some frees for Mayo and he looked like he wanted to take it. In that situation, within reason, you give the ball to the man that wants it.
For me, it’s the lack of clarity and bad decision-making, whether it came from the sideline or from the on-field generals, that cost Mayo the game on Saturday — even with how well Roscommon played and how many Mayo lads underperformed.  
That’s really really hard to take.

Coen’s display a reason to be cheerful

POSITIVES? Well for one, Darren Coen played really well.
He snatched at one chance in the first half that he should have laid off, but it’s hard to have too many complaints about his overall performance.
He was brilliant. Everything he did, he did it sharply.
I know he was probably running low on gas, but I would always feel playing against a defensive set-up that you leave the guy out there who can kick a point over that blanket.
If only for the scenario that he might be the guy who steps up and takes that last free.
Mayo were the better team in the physical stakes and in terms of turning over possession. But playing football very often comes to the best decision-makers and Roscommon were much better in that aspect.
Plus, the decisions that Anthony Cunningham made on the line were much more effective than James Horan’s.
There’s no doubt that Mayo missed guys like Seamie O’Shea, Fionn McDonagh and Cillian O’Connor at the weekend. But why was Colm Boyle not brought in for the last 25 minutes? He would have brought experience, energy, dynamism and lifted the whole thing.
Look at what Roscommon got off their bench — Enda Smith and Fintan Cregg kicked big scores and, overall, Cunningham got a huge bounce from his subs.
The bottom line? Mayo were outplayed and outcoached.
But if they convert just one or two of the five or six frees that were missed, they win the game.
We’ll talk about the immediate future and the return to the All-Ireland Qualifiers next week.
At this stage, it’s hard to know exactly what that future holds for this team.