Billy Joe Padden
I’M going to start this week with the good news.
I think Mayo are going to win next Monday’s replay against Roscommon because I firmly believe that we’re going to see another positive reaction from a wonderful bunch of footballers. They’ll go to the well one more time to get the result and it will probably be guts as much as anything that gets them over the line this time.
It won’t be easy to shake Roscommon off of course, but I think both Stephen Rochford and the players will have learned from the mistakes they made last weekend.
Both management and the Mayo lads on the field left room for improvement in terms of how they went about their business, but we can’t argue with the courage, character and resilence shown by the players again on Sunday.
They’re warriors who never know when to quit.
But they really don’t make life easy for themselves!
Like most of you, I felt disappointed and frustrated when the final whistle blew last Sunday.
Imagine how the Mayo players must have been feeling on the bus journey home later that night?
I would say they were tired, disappointed with how they played, and coming to terms with the fact that, even if they manage to beat Roscommon in next Monday’s replay, that extra game will impact on their chances of taking down Kerry in the All-Ireland semi-final.
Mayo are in the ‘red zone’ now in terms of energy, stamina, and physical and mental reserves so the real test is about to come.
Sunday’s game reminded me a lot of the Galway defeat.
The Tribesmen didn’t play well that day but we couldn’t beat them, and it was the same way with Roscommon.
They didn’t hit the high notes either but we weren’t able to close it out.
It was so disappointing to see so many players out of form just a week after they had played so well against Cork.
As has become the norm these days for some reason, we didn’t start well either against the Rossies.
In fact we made a terrible start.
Like against Clare, when we had the ball we kicked it away and that allowed Roscommon to break downfield and cut us open.
I didn’t think there was a lot of finesse in what they did during that early blitz, but the two goals gave them the opportunity to put us under real pressure.
I have no doubt that fatigue from the 90-minute marathon against Cork led to a lack of concentration that was a huge factor in Mayo shipping 2-2 early on.
Plus, we also abandoned so many of the good things that we’d done against Cork for so long in those first 20 minutes.
Lee Keegan’s goal was an example of this Mayo team doing things ‘the right way’ as I see it. He ran hard at the opposition backline and took the chance when it presented itself.
To be honest, his goal was a lifeline for Mayo who were seven points down at the time. And for a brief moment or two I think most of us thought that the game was up.
I felt we should have passed the ball around as well early on to take the sting out of Roscommon’s efforts to hit the ground running.
Why not move it from side to side, hold possession like a good soccer team, and frustrate them and help us to get our second wind after the exertions against Cork.
But we didn’t do that, we had guys breaking hard out of defence, trying to force kick passes into the attack, and Cillian O’Connor’s early effort that ballooned up into the air was a prime example of us trying to force the issue.
I didn’t think that we went about our business the right way when we were in possession.
MANAGEMENT will be scrutinised this week in that regard, but the players have to take some responsibility too.
I think a combination of fatigue and being seduced by the wide open spaces of Croke Park meant that they wanted to kick the ball more often than they should have. It didn’t work out for us, especially in the wet and greasy conditions.
I thought we were flat for long spells in the second half too. We didn’t get our hands on enough ball and we didn’t play enough of the game in the Roscommon half.
To get the best out of themselves this Mayo team needs to physically impose itself in the middle third, go long off some kick-outs, win ball and breaks, and drive on from there.
But apart from Paddy Durcan there was no change of pace coming from the half-back line with Lee so deep, Chris Barrett man-marking and Colm Boyle off.
Looking ahead to the replay, I get the sense that Kevin McStay and Liam McHale put a big emphasis on the psychology of playing Mayo ahead of the drawn game.
I admire the way Roscommon kept plugging away right to the finish line, and I think the message from McStay would probably have been: ‘This Mayo team are resilient but they’re coming to the end of their run, they might play well for 15 or 20 minute spells, but they can’t go for 70 minutes, so just keep plugging away and you’ll get your chances’.
We thought Roscommon would need Enda Smith and the Murtagh brothers all having stormers to beat us, but those guys didn’t have their best days and the Rossies still nearly got the result.
The reality is that while Mayo may still be the best team in Connacht, they’re not able to show it any more. Finding those extra gears is getting harder and harder for them.
So there are a few fundamental things that Mayo need to address before the trip back up to Croke Park.
They have to put more pressure on the Roscommon kick-out and pin them inside their own half when the time is right.
Mayo need to impose themselves much more on the Rossies because for me the tone of any game is set on things like kick-outs and restarts.
So if Mayo are crashing into tackles and marking territory from the get-go then we know they’re imposing themselves.
If Mayo want to play the game on their terms, they’re going to need a platform around the middle and that wasn’t there for long enough on Sunday.
Aidan O’Shea needs to be played at midfield, where David Clarke can hit him, and we need to get away from the short kick-outs every so often.
It almost goes without saying, of course, that they have to run the ball more than they kick it.
This Mayo team is raging against the dying of the light right now, but they’re not ready to admit defeat just yet.
So all we can do is salute their best efforts, support them, and trust that they will find a way to get the job done at the second time of asking.