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Mayo may not be done just yet


A QUICK WORD Mayo’s Aidan O’Shea is pictured with Ruaidhrí O’Connor from Ballintubber (who was working as an Assistant Producer with Sky Sports) after last Saturday’s All-Ireland SFC Qualifier at MacHale Park. Pic: Michael McLaughlin

Talking Tactics
Billy Joe Padden

I’VE got a confession to make.
I thought Mayo’s season was done after losing to Galway because there just weren’t enough guys playing well.
But after last Saturday, I’m not so sure now.
It wasn’t perfect by any means, but it was a start.
For me the goals cracked the game wide open and the whole thing was pretty much done and dusted by half-time.
But make no mistake, if Colm Boyle hadn’t taken down a Kildare forward to prevent a goal being scored with twenty minutes to go, Mayo would have had some serious questions to answer.
But Boyle’s intervention saved us a lot of mental anguish and now Stephen Rochford and his management team have two weeks to get ready for game four.
I think Rochford deserves a lot of credit for Mayo’s improvement against Kildare.
The defensive line was tidied up, there was more pace in Mayo’s game, Keith Higgins playing deeper worked, and there was definitely a progression from the Fermanagh win.
There are also a few lads playing decent football now, guys like Colm Boyle, Kevin McLoughlin, Diarmuid O’Connor and Andy Moran, and two wins on the bounce gives the group something to build on.
There’s also plenty to work on, of course.
Kevin McLoughlin is still sitting too deep as a sweeper for my liking and there’s still some fine-tuning to be done in terms of how the defence and sweeper are working as a unit.
But that’s to be expected when you consider it’s new personnel and a new project.
And with Croke Park looming on the horizon, and the prospect of playing bigger and better teams, the sweeper system is going to be a big part of Mayo’s armoury in the weeks ahead.
I actually thought every other aspect of McLoughlin’s play was excellent on Saturday.
The way he counterattacked was fantastic, he kickpassed accurately and at the right time, and his fast breaks gave Mayo a platform to attack.
It’s impossible to assess any Mayo performance these days without examining the role of Aidan O’Shea in detail.
He came through a very difficult week and did a lot of good things against Kildare. He also stood in the gap at full-back late on when Kevin Keane had to go off, and didn’t put a foot wrong back on the edge of the Mayo square.
But I was surprised that we didn’t see more of him when it came to winning possession from Mayo restarts.
We were struggling so badly for so long around the middle of the field that I felt it was only going to be a matter of time until Aidan put his hand up and said, ‘Put a ball down on top of me’.
It’s just my observation, but it’s almost like Aidan is in a frame of mind at the moment where going to win kick-outs just isn’t on his agenda.
It looked to me like he’s thinking that other guys will compete for restarts, then he’ll get the ball from them and take it from there.
But it doesn’t make sense to not utilise him for our own kick-outs, especially when we’re short of ball-winners out there at the moment. It’s crazy actually, a bit like having Maurice Fitzgerald on the field and him not shooting for some reason!
We were shocking in midfield throughout really, and all of Kildare’s success was based on our ineffectiveness around the middle.
We needed somebody to jump for kick-outs and that wasn’t happening. Seamie O’Shea (who did his usual good work around the field, winning turnovers and setting up scores) isn’t calling kick-outs on himself at the moment because it’s not his strong suit.
Aidan isn’t calling them either so we need to get Tom Parsons back on the field as quickly as possible.
Kildare also won quite a lot of breaks but I think Mayo contributed to their own downfall in that regard too.
If the half-backs and half-forwards aren’t sure where their midfielders want to jump for the ball, then it’s very hard to know where to win the breaks.
The default setting on your own kick-out should be to keep the two midfielders close together, with one jumping and the other in for the breaking ball.
We need somebody to put their hand up the next day. And there’s no reason why that shouldn’t be Aidan O’Shea.

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