Billy Joe Padden
IT’S a massive week for this Mayo squad and an even bigger week for Stephen Rochford.
Defeat to Derry next Saturday is unthinkable at this stage, so every waking hour for players and team management will be accounted for between now and the game.
I wrote after last year’s All-Ireland Final defeat to Dublin that I felt Mayo just needed to make marginal gains to find the extra percentages required to get what they wanted.
But looking at the team’s displays this season, especially against Sligo and Galway, I don’t think that’s the case any longer. In fact, I think Mayo have gone back considerably since last October. So nothing less than a run of good performances and wins, starting next Saturday, will show that we’re moving in the right direction again.
I can only assume that management sat down together the week after the Galway match to reflect on the defeat, and to sketch out the revised plan of action for the All-Ireland Qualifiers ahead.
One of the first things they would have had to do was separate the physical and mental preparation ahead of next Saturday. With Mayo’s players only returning to collective county training last Tuesday evening, after being back with their clubs, pitch sessions with Rochford, Donie Buckley and company were off the agenda for nine days.
So that means the psychological work would need to have taken precedent, and that’s where a manager really earns his corn after a championship defeat.
I’m not privy to how Mayo’s management team divide up their duties, but I would be presuming that the one-on-one work would probably be split up between them.
Maybe Stephen Rochford had coffee with some players, Peter Burke or Donie Buckley put a call into other guys, and Tony McEntee may have had a chat with the guys he’s built up relationships with.
Those conversations will be crucial to where Mayo go from here.
There are things that need to be discussed, like why certain players are underperforming? Is everybody clear on their role within the team and the group? Is there clarity about the gameplan?
After losing to Galway, it should be crystal clear to everyone that Mayo need every player we have playing well. We just can’t afford to have anybody underperforming.
So that means management have to talk to Keith Higgins about why he did what he did and got sent off. With Diarmuid O’Connor about how they can help to get him back to his best. With Aidan O’Shea about how best to deploy him considering his groin injury.
Most of the other 28 lads in the squad will have needed talking to as well.
I’d love to have been sitting beside Rochford when he watched the Galway game back. Considering we had a man sent off so early, played so well in the first half, and missed chances to win the game in the last ten minutes, I’d say he would be taking more positives than negatives away from the second viewing.
Plus, some of the mistakes that the players made and the management made on the day can be corrected. There was very little wrong with the first half performance; we defended well and controlled possession. I felt the tactics were spot-on against the wind.
But for some reason we went about things all wrong in the second half.
Moving on, I think there needs to be a realisation that we just can’t be this team that relies on short kick-outs most of the game and is obsessed with retaining possession. If Mayo persist with that mindset, and don’t mix things up more, this summer is going to be over sooner rather than later.
Stephen Rochford needs to take control of the situation and if a game is going a certain way, change things up. He needs to get these players back to doing what they do so well.
Derry don’t fear us, but they won’t dictate the terms
EVERYONE will be watching closely to see how Mayo line out on Saturday evening.
With Keith Higgins suspended and Lee Keegan doubtful, I’m guessing Brendan Harrison and Colm Boyle are in line to come into the defence. And Aidan O’Shea’s groin injury means he’ll have to be content with ‘impact sub’ again.
That’s a big blow for him personally, but a massive blow for the team as well. We’re a better team when O’Shea is on the field and I don’t think any logical football man could say we’re not. He’s a ball winner, and he attracts so much attention that it frees up space for others.
But with the injury, I think full-forward is probably the only realistic place for him when he comes into a game at the moment.
On a week like this you want everyone in the Mayo camp to have loads of energy and to be totally focussed and engaged in what’s being done. Players want a clear message from management in terms of what the plan is, and everyone needs to be on the same page.
Derry won’t fear Mayo, and that makes them dangerous opponents.
But this is one of those games that will be dictated by Mayo. If they bring huge energy, and set the intensity levels and the tempo, then there will only be one outcome.
Personally, I think they will, because a lot of that was there in the first half against Galway.
Now they need to add in even more physicality, play off the shoulder, get the big, strong men asserting themselves around the middle, and create a platform for our runners from deep.
Effort alone is going to go a long way against Derry, but with the hurt of losing to Galway, I think they can really lay down a marker if they play to their strengths.
It’s now or never.