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Mon, May
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Mayo hit by Dublin’s blue wave


COMING THROUGH Dublin’s Brian Fenton drives past Mayo’s Matthew Ruane during Saturday’s All-Ireland SFC semi-final. Pic: Sportsfile

Talking Tactics
Billy Joe Padden

THERE will be plenty of time to reflect on Mayo’s memorable and hugely positive championship run in the weeks ahead.
Right now, last Saturday’s defeat to Dublin seems the obvious place to start given the occasion and game of two halves that unfolded.
The building blocks for establishing Mayo’s half-time lead of two points were James Horan and his management getting the match-ups right and the players retaining possession so well.
For me, it’s the template of how you compete with Dublin and it was the template that worked so well for Mayo against them in the 2016 and 2017 games.
I’d expected Paddy Durcan to pick up Jack McCaffrey and I thought he did a terrific job. He was absolutely outstanding, scored two points, and probably forced a few shots in the second half because he felt he had to take them on.
Colm Boyle was also doing an exceptional job on Ciaran Kilkenny up to half-time, and the same goes for Seamie O’Shea on Brian Fenton who was curtailing his influence.
I’m not so sure though that I like Lee Keegan ever playing in the full-back line. In hindsight, it’s easy to say that the last place you want to be, coming off a bad ankle injury, is marking a guy like Con O’Callaghan, who has brilliant side to side movement, in the full-back line. Was his ankle injury a factor, I wonder?
I’d have to commend Lee though on the way he stuck at it when he moved out the field. He never let his head drop and he scored a fantastic goal that gave Mayo something to cling on to.
Mayo were slightly the better team and did most of the right things, so I felt a two point lead was a fair reflection of where things were at.
Things really took a turn for the worse at the start of the second half, and you have to ask, how did that happen?
In many ways I think Mayo were caught cold after half-time, but we were all expecting a huge reaction from Dublin and they didn’t respond well to that.
The Dubs were able to pin Mayo in their own half and they took their chances during those 12 minutes clinically.
In hindsight, Dublin knew they had to go into fifth gear to beat Mayo on Saturday evening. They took more risks with the shots they were taking on from tight angles and with the type of balls they were playing into Con O’Callaghan. All of those risks paid off in spades.
I think they knew they would have to be at their best to beat Mayo, given the way that Mayo were playing.
There’s no blame to be attached to anyone for this defeat; if anything losing to Roscommon probably caught up with the team on Saturday.
As soon as Dublin went five or six points up, you could see the weariness seeping through the Mayo players.
Dublin were fresher and they really went in for the kill. They knew how to turn the screw and bringing on Cian O’Sullivan, an extra defender for the last 20 minutes, reduced the chance of Mayo creating any goal opportunities.
I liked the look of the Mayo team when they stood for the parade before the match. I remember thinking that was the most athletic team we could have put out.
With a bit more freshness, and a bit more luck with injuries, I really think Mayo could have been closer for longer.
But Dublin were outstanding in the second half, they’re an awesome team, and I think it’s a compliment to Mayo that they had to go into fifth gear.
The frightening thing is that they looked like they can do it any time they need to, and it’s an incredible level to try and get to for all the other All-Ireland contenders.

The game was up after 12-minute blitz
THE biggest disappointment for me from the game would be how Mayo went about trying to counteract that period of Dublin pressure after half-time.
It all comes down to possession, and Mayo’s problems originated from their inability to win the ball from their own kick-outs.
It’s been something that’s been a problem for Mayo all year.
They’ve used two goalkeepers, there’s been a number of injuries to midfielders and half-forwards and there’s been chopping and changing in that area as a result. And then last week the team’s best ball winner, Jason Doherty, got injured too.
Lads like Lee Keegan, Keith Higgins and Paddy Durcan were all missing at various stages so I can understand why there would be a disjointedness to that part of the game-plan.
Because you don’t have the confidence or the rhythm built up due to the number of different combinations around the middle third.
What would my go-to plan have been in the circumstances?
Given that Dublin were pushing up and going for broke, I’d have put two or three of my big men in one area and kick long to them. And got another three or four there as well to pick up the break.
And if you don’t pick up the break, you foul, reset and try and defend.
That just didn’t happen. Nothing happened, to be honest.
Mayo were still trying to get short kick-outs away and I think that’s practically impossible when Dublin have pushed their half-backs up the field and they’re spread out in a zonal system.
You will never have a ‘go-to’ short kick-out in that situation, in my opinion. That’s why you have to base your strategy at times like that on a long kick-out — whether you go over the press or go to an area where you overload it with players.
It was the single biggest reason that Mayo couldn’t break Dublin’s momentum during that 12-minute blitz after half-time.

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