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Impact subs save the day for Mayo

Sport

ROARING BACK Mayo’s Conor Loftus celebrates after scoring a goal against Derry in the All-Ireland SFC Qualifiers in Castlebar last Saturday. 
Pic: Sportsfile

Talking Tactics
Billy Joe Padden

AS last Saturday’s game ticked into the 69th minute, we were all thinking the same thing. Mayo were on their way out of this championship and, not only that, but this team was finished.
They were done.
Then Conor Loftus changed the course of history in one split-second with a brilliant goal, and we were back in the game.
We still don’t know what the future holds for us, especially with a tricky trip to Ennis ahead next Saturday, but make no mistake that we’d have been talking about the end of an era this week only for that moment of magic.
Mayo were a different team entirely in extra-time and I was really taken by the performances of Loftus and Jason Doherty when they came in off the bench.
Mayo teams I played on never had someone to do what Doherty did against Derry. In extra-time Mayo looked to be getting the upper hand, but Doherty still came in and put his foot on Derry’s throat with his goal.
To have a back catalogue of experience like he has, and to be able to come in and close a game out like that, shouldn’t be underestimated.
That goal meant that Mayo could finally show what a difference confidence makes to a team. Because we saw in extra-time just how superior they are to Derry.
Unfortunately, the 70 minutes of normal time weren’t like that.
I’ve been banging on all season about Mayo’s tendency to kick balls into the corners, and it happened too much for my liking again in the first half.
Noticeably we didn’t see much of it all in the second half because we changed tack and started driving hard at Derry.
So some of Mayo’s sixteen wides were down to bad attacking play, but seven or eight of them were just horrendous.
You should be nailing nearly all of those shots from 25m to 30m out from goal, around the ‘D’.
But a lot of different guys were guilty of them, and I think it showed the weight, the pressure that was down on top of them.
I expect that to have lifted quite a bit for next weekend so I think you’ll see a much better conversion rate from Mayo.
In terms of individual displays, there’s one player I really want to single out, and I’d have been doing it even if Mayo had lost.
I thought Aidan O’Shea was our most consistent performer throughout the 70 minutes  last weekend and he was really really good, as a midfielder.
He won his battles, contested kick-outs, and didn’t try anything too fancy, which I’ve gone on record about before because he’s got to concentrate on being a ball-winner not a playmaker.
He just got through so much work, and I know he’s struggling with an injury so that makes it even more impressive.
We got goals against Derry because of O’Shea and Tom Parsons. Because Mayo were so dominant in that area of the field, Derry had to go with short kick-outs. That forced McKinless to take risks, and we punished them a few times.
That’s the knock-on effect of O’Shea playing well at midfield, because other teams have to try and avoid him.
As for Conor Loftus, I expect him to start next weekend, but I don’t expect him to have the impact he had against Derry because it just doesn’t work like that. Especially for young players still learning the ropes.
But his impact against Derry gives Stephen Rochford, his old Crossmolina club-mate, a tactical option in terms of not having to start Andy Moran the next day. For me, that’s huge for Mayo.
My preference would be to start guys who showed good form on Saturday, guys like Jason Doherty, Conor Loftus and Diarmuid O’Connor. I’d hold Andy for the last twenty minutes because I think we’re going to need him when the chips are down.

Mayo fans’ faith restored by extra-time effort
DERRY’S late goal, and how it came about, has obviously been the subject of quite a few conversations since Saturday evening.
There’s no doubt that Mayo should have defended that one ball that was delivered into the square better. Because that’s what it was — one long, high ball into the Mayo square.
I think David Clarke would be the first to admit that he should have come and attacked it. He normally does. Maybe Ger Cafferkey or one of the backs called for it but didn’t get there either. Either way, there was a breakdown of some sort there.
There were still a few minutes to play after that but Derry couldn’t hurt Mayo, and there only looked like being one winner.
For me, Mayo’s mindset changed completely when Conor Loftus got his goal. That’s what confidence does when it flows through a team.
Final thoughts
REMEMBER the famous ‘John says ‘Keep The Faith’ banner in 1989? Well, last Saturday proved to me that Mayo fans won’t be found wanting in terms of backing this team either.
Every time I come to Castlebar for a game, and I see the crowd, it makes me incredibly proud of where I’m from.
Mayo football is the big thing in Mayo, and I’m proud that it’s the big thing. It was when I was a boy and it still is now.
As a football person, that makes me very happy. If we lose, it still will be because that’s what we’re into. And that’s great.
It’ about inspiring the next generation. I looked up to the guys in 1996 and 1997, and now the kids are looking up to the current team.
And who knows, when these kids are playing for Mayo maybe Andy will still be there!
Coming off the bench!

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