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Mayo fail to close the deal again

Sport

IN THE SPOTLIGHT Mayo manager James Horan and goalkeeper Rob Hennelly are pictured before the start of the recent Connacht SFC semi-final match between Mayo and Roscommon in Castlebar. Pic: Sportsfile

Talking Tactics
Billy Joe Padden

IN many respects this latest Mayo defeat is different to a lot of the ones that have come before. There’s no doubt that there will be a huge sense of frustration among the players because, ultimately, they only have themselves to blame for it.
I would see it as being different to the Kildare game last year because Mayo were the better team that day. But this time Roscommon were the better team in terms of decision-making.
So when the Mayo players got back into the dressing-room after the match, you can be sure there was a collective feeling that they’d made a right mess of things.
It won’t have been the sort of devastation that goes with losing to Kildare last summer, more a huge sense of frustration at how they had failed to make key decisions at key times.
I always found that the disappointment was greatest right after you’d lost a game.
For me, the frustration and anger came in the 48 hours afterwards. It takes most players a few training sessions before they start to focus on what comes next.
In Mayo’s case, last week different players will have dealt with losing to Roscommon in different ways. Guys who were injured and didn’t play, the likes of Donie Vaughan, Seamie O’Shea and Cillian O’Connor, will feel very different to the lads who were on the field.
I’ve said all along this year that I felt winning the Connacht championship was the best way to go for this group of players. That way, Mayo were in control of their own destiny en route to the Super 8s and winning the Nestor Cup would build the sort of confidence and momentum that money can’t buy.
Instead, now James Horan and his players have to deal with some uncomfortable truths.
In another big championship game match at home, Mayo went a point up, and they couldn’t close it out. Beating Roscommon the last day in a tight finish would have given the group affirmation. They don’t have that now.
And they won’t get it this summer unless (or until) they beat the likes of Tyrone, Donegal, Galway, Kerry or Dublin in the Super 8s or beyond.
Remember it’s two years this August since Mayo were able to see a championship game out in the closing stages. That day against Kerry in the All-Ireland semi-final replay seems a long time ago now.
There’s enough evidence now to suggest that there is a psychological side to it, and that Mayo do struggle to close games out down the home straight.
I’m sure there was a meeting of some sort last week where people would have had a chance to say their piece. You can be sure there were a few hard, home truths told.
Starting in Mayo’s first All-Ireland SFC Qualifier on June 22, I’m interested to see what we lads like Matthew Ruane, Michael Plunkett, James Carr, Fionn McDonagh and Ciaran Treacy can deliver. Can they step up and add weight to the squad as other players get ready to step out in the months and years ahead.
Darren Coen shot the lights out against Roscommon, but if has a quieter game the next day can Fionn McDonagh maybe step in? Is there fifteen minutes in Seamie O’Shea? Can Cillian O’Connor get back on the field?
We, and everyone in the Mayo camp, have to start living in the moment now. Loose talk about the Super 8s and All-Ireland semi-finals is just nonsense. The next game is all that matters.
Mayo need experienced players to start doing their stuff and the younger lads to step up to the mark quickly. But, for all we know right now, this group may not be able to recover from this latest knock. All we can do is wait and see.

Number one question must be answered

MAYO lost a frantic sort of a game by a point and, of course, it would be tempting to write it off as ‘one of those things’ and quickly move on. But there were so many small issues that we’ve seen before that also contributed to this latest defeat.
And they need to be analysed in some detail.
If we go back to the National League, overall, it was generally satisfying.
But there was uncertainty over the goalkeeping position all through that campaign. Who was Mayo’s number one? Both Rob Hennelly and David Clarke played four games each.
Would James Horan have been better in hindsight to pick one of them and go with it?
The goalkeeping situation is very nuanced, and there’s no doubt that a team’s kick-out strategy and very often long-range place-kicking are factored into a manager’s decision.
They’re both fine goalkeepers with different strengths and weaknesses.
But Horan will have to look at the attributes of each goalkeeper, decide, and be clear on the strategy for kick-outs and long-range frees, and then decide what’s best for the team.
Then there’s the issue of the substitutions.
Because of the style of football that Horan wants the team to play, I believe that you need to have scripted in four substitutions by the 60th minute of most matches.
In the 61st minute against Roscommon, Conor Diskin came on as Mayo’s second sub.
I don’t know how Colm Boyle was going in training, but we all know he can do a job and unless there was a very good reason, he should have been on for the last 15 or 20 minutes.
Looking at the bench that Mayo had, the type of game that panned out, and the way conditions were, I would have felt that management needed to make more changes earlier.
These are all things that Mayo need to learn from before the next day out.

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