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A show of strength from Mayo

Sport

Talking Tactics
Billy Joe Padden

IT’S hard not to sound wise after the event, but Mayo did exactly what I hoped they’d do last Sunday.
The conditions suited the bigger and stronger team, and Mayo went out to dominate possession, inflict their game on to Roscommon, and use their physical strength and conditioning to take control right from the start.
They dominated around the middle, kept possession, and for the first time I can remember, showed great patience when they were on the ball.
There were long spells when Mayo kept possession for the sake of keeping it, moved it from side to side, and Roscommon just couldn’t take it off them.
That’s what you have to do at times in big games.
I was very impressed with how Mayo went about their business. They put Roscommon under serious pressure on their own kick-out, and when there wasn’t an obvious pass forward or target to hit, they kept possession of the ball very comfortably.
That kept Roscommon pinned in.
Mayo probably did get a bit anxious towards the end of the first half, tried to force a few things, and that allowed Roscommon to get a few scores and close the gap.
But credit where it’s due to Stephen Rochford and his management. They got the players into the dressing-room and reorganised things, and they proceeded to put the game away during the third quarter.
I’ve always said that Mayo are better with three big men around the middle, especially when Seamus O’Shea and Tom Parsons are firing on all cylinders like they were on Sunday.
The two of them, and Colm Boyle at six, form a triangle at the heart of Mayo’s defence and when the three of them play close together they’re hard to break down.
Parsons has been consistency personified all spring.
He’s completely changed his game over the last twelve months, and gone from a ‘flash’ flair player to an honest-to-goodness grafter. He puts in tackles, gives simple passes, takes the ball from team-mates in trouble.
He makes us tick in the middle of the field now.
I thought Seamie was our stand-out performer overall though. He just did the right things all day. Took belts, gave hits, used the ball sensibly, and didn’t try to force things.
It looked like he was weighing things up more, picking his moments better to try and break the line.
Sometimes you need to see a gap to go through, rather than always trying to punch a hole in the defensive line yourself.
Seamie picked his moments better against Roscommon.
And Aidan O’Shea had patches in the second half too where he was as good as he’s been all year.
Another guy who caught my eye was Evan Regan.
The more I think back on it, the more I feel that his performance was married to how the game panned out.
His second half display, in particular, will give him huge confidence going into the Down game next weekend.
He took his goal well (even though a free against him for overcarrying wouldn’t have been a huge shock!), kicked a few points, and looked dangerous in possession.
In the second half when Mayo started to pull away, Roscommon couldn’t sit back and that left Regan in quite a few ‘one-on-one’ situations with his marker.  
That’s something he loves because he’s all about taking his man on, and he’s good in those situations.
But the reality is that it’s very hard to create one-on-one scenarios with defenders in inter-county football. At the top level teams’ systems are just too organised to allow you time and space alone with your man.
Regan still needs to learn to adapt his game to playing at this level, and has to improve mentally and tactically to playing against blanket defences and in crowded areas.
But Sunday certainly won’t do him any harm.
His game is progressing every week and let’s hope that trend continues against Down.

Same approach is the way to upset Down

IF I was involved in the Mayo management I would be setting the team up next Sunday to do exactly what they did against Roscommon.
Mayo can’t drop their guard just because Down are on a terrible run of results.
I’ve seen quite a bit of Down this season and I would regard them as dangerous opponents. Sure, they’re not winning matches but they’re not a demoralised and hopeless bunch either because very little was expected of them in the first place. Eamonn Burns has got a very young panel that’s in transition, just back in Division 1, and because they’re already relegated, they have nothing to lose against us.
Like last weekend, the start is crucial for Mayo.
They need to get on top early, dominate Down physically, and put themselves in control of the football.
Down are going to get men back to try and frustrate Mayo, make them anxious, force turnovers, and try to break at pace.
So Stephen Rochford needs to refocus his players, remind them that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being two or three points up after twenty minutes next Sunday.
Mayo don’t need to be ten points up at that stage, they don’t need to force things and start kicking ball away.
That’s what has got us into trouble in the past.
For me, the same approach, mixed with a similar style to last Sunday, is the way to go.
For the record, I’d hold Cillian O’Connor in reserve again next weekend and maybe bring him in again for thirty minutes.
I thought he played well in The Hyde and used his experience to run down the clock at times late on.
The free he scored underlined his All Star quality.
It was his first free of the year, on the ‘wrong’ side of the goal for him, but he showed mental strength and amazing technical ability to go and nail it.
To walk straight up to that ball, put it on the laces, and drive it over the bar took ability, confidence and serious technical skill. Not just anyone could have done it!

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