FROZEN IN TIME Tyrone’s Cathal McShane is pictured scoring a goal past Mayo’s Oisín Mullin and Rob Hennelly during the All-Ireland SFC Final. Pic: Sportsfile
1 The rules of engagement
IT was said Mayo needed to start well. They did, scoring from the throw-in and getting the next score too. But, without even appearing to play that well, Tyrone were 0-3 to 0-2 in front in the blink of an eye.
From then on, Mayo never led again.
So from that perspective, the game was being played on Tyrone’s terms from there on.
But you could argue the game was being played on Tyrone’s terms anyway.
With Mayo trying to punch holes from everywhere – recall that both Lee Keegan and Pádraig O’Hora made strong breaks forward from the full-back line in the first half – there was a trade-off.
When Tyrone turned over the ball, too many Mayo players were scampering back, facing their own goal. That’s the cost of turning over possession against Tyrone.
We saw Kerry suffer this way and Mayo fell into similar traps. Perhaps these traps are impossible to avoid, but some of the turnovers were very much of the preventable variety.
Of their total, Tyrone struck 1-7 from turnovers won. They were all turnovers inside the Tyrone ‘45. The turnover for the first goal should have been a Mayo point while several other turnover points for Tyrone came from poor Mayo play.
James Horan appeared to be using Oisín Mullin as a sweeper early on, but not as the first half wore on. In such a scenario, protecting possession and cutting down on mistakes and turnovers was vital.
Turnovers are inevitable, it is the amount of them you have to mitigate.
Mayo had 46 attacks (possessions inside the Tyrone ‘45) but only 30 shots.
By comparison, Tyrone had 35 attacks and 27 shots.
Therefore, Mayo turned over possession inside the Tyrone ‘45 on 16 occasions. Tyrone’s corresponding number was exactly half that.
Too often Mayo hand-passed or kick-passed into the ‘D’ where, if a player did well enough to win it, he was going to do awfully well to do anything productive with it.
Add in the fact that three of Mayo’s key hard runners – Mattie Ruane, Paddy Durcan and Oisín Mullin – were severely curtailed by Tyrone and Mayo’s attacking game-plan was badly impeded.
They did manage to punch some holes in the heart of the Tyrone defence – the goal chances illustrate this.
But if you are running the risks of turnovers by playing it into the high-risk, high-reward area, you have to take the rewards when those chances present themselves.
Tyrone, with admittedly much more space to attack into, made their chances count.
That’s the way they wanted it and they knew if the game was being played on their terms, space would be there to exploit.
2 The kick-outs
WE were somewhat pre-emptive last week in these pages when we said Tyrone would struggle to win primary possession.
They had struggled hugely in this facet against Kerry but teams learn and improve.
Tyrone certainly did that on kick-outs and they also did so in terms of discipline (recall two needless black cards against Kerry).
Niall Morgan was quoted earlier this year as saying it was a big relief to finally have big midfielders to aim for on kick-outs.
Mickey Harte valued mobility around the middle above all else and his Tyrone teams never overly worried about struggles on kick-outs.
Brian Dooher and Feargal Logan took a different approach. They went with a hard-working, physical pair in Brian Kennedy and Conn Kilpatrick.
Their second goal came from a long kick to Kilpatrick and they mined 1-6 from their own kick-outs.
In total they won 78 percent of their own kick-outs (18/23) while Rob Hennelly found a team-mate with 91 percent of his (20/22).
Mayo struck 0-7 from their own kick-outs, a reasonable figure.
But a crucial distinction is that while Hennelly could pick out kickers in space and had the short kick-out on too, Tyrone did very well when Morgan went long.
He can reach the opposition’s ‘45 and with Conor McKenna able to come out and his midfielders able to drift in there, any ball caught clean over a Mayo press was dangerous.
Never more so than for the second goal.
It meant that when Mayo did press and force Tyrone long, it kind of backfired.
Mayo’s high press has been a weapon for longer than this year, but Tyrone turned that gun on Mayo in spectacular style.
DESPITE all the other areas of concern, Mayo still had the chances.
It has to be said that if Tommy Conroy’s goal chance or Ryan O’Donoghue’s penalty go in, the result is not necessarily different but the dynamic of the game certainly changes.
Maybe Tyrone looked better in front of the posts than Mayo because they had more space and time than their opponents were given, but some of the execution of shots by Mayo was terrible — with or without Tyrone pressure.
You can count maybe two or three Tyrone ‘poor’ misses in front of the posts, with a second half Niall Sludden wide being the most obvious one.
You’re easily into double figures with Mayo.
Tyrone’s two missed goal chances were saved but Mayo did not bring a save out of Niall Morgan.
In terms of shots from open play, Mayo had a conversion rate of 37 percent, 0-7 from 19 shots. Tyrone’s was considerably higher at 53 percent, scoring 2-7 from 17 shots.
Overall, including frees and marks, Mayo had a 50 percent conversion rate (15/30) and Tyrone’s was 59 percent (16/27).
What can we take from it?
Tyrone were so much better at decision-making in front of the posts and so much better at executing their chances.
We cannot say the goal chances fell to the wrong people. Tommy Conroy, Ryan O’Donoghue, Conor Loftus and Bryan Walsh are the players you would want in these positions.
Kerry had similar chances in the semi-final and butchered them. Perhaps there’s a trend but it looked like poor execution on Saturday.
Add in where Mayo got their scores from. We would have felt they needed a good few points from midfield and their raiding defenders. Only Lee Keegan, Stephen Coen and Paddy Durcan, with a point apiece, got on the scoreboard.
Kevin McLoughlin was the only half-forward to score.
Tyrone were so much more composed and precise in attack than Mayo, and it told on the scoreboard.
Tyrone are not the best team to ever win an All-Ireland but they are very purposeful in their set-up and their players are very smart on the ball and execute the basic skills of the game consistently well.
There is an awful lot to learn from them.
4 The sideline and substitutes
THERE has been plenty of criticism for how James Horan used his bench on Saturday, but it must be pointed out that the impact we saw off the bench against Dublin may have given a false impression of Mayo’s depth.
Mayo had no-one to rival Cathal McShane on the bench.
Cillian O’Connor, Jason Doherty and Eoghan McLaughlin are significant losses.
So no matter what way you look at it, with players like Darragh Canavan and Tiernan McCann to call on as well, Tyrone were more likely to have the better bench impact.
And so it transpired.
However, worthy of much more reflection is how Mayo set up.
It looked like they wanted to bring the chaos and hope Tyrone could not live with it.
Tyrone were well set-up for that and withdrew a little deeper defensively than they had versus Kerry, knowing Mayo were not going to score many points from long range and had stronger runners than Kerry to break through any initial cover in the middle.
They targeted players with running power like Paddy Durcan and Matthew Ruane and restricted their influence.
Mayo’s alternative plan in attack was targeting Aidan O’Shea at full-forward. It worked reasonably well in the first half when used, but two things stood out – the direct ball was often shunned and too often when it was played, the support runs were not there.
Mayo’s best displays this year were after half-time against Dublin and Galway, when chasing down significant deficits. Both games became chaotic enough and Galway and Dublin creaked at the seams.
Tyrone were ready for that too and made sure Mayo never got momentum going.
They were composed and ready it would appear, more prepared for Mayo than Mayo were prepared for them.
5 Energy levels
THERE was a justified assumption that their Covid crisis would cripple Tyrone against Kerry.
There was also a feeling that a four week build-up for Mayo was better than two weeks.
It is, of course, easy to be wise after the event and say that the two weeks suited Tyrone better than Mayo’s four-week gap.
That could be true but it can also be simplistic.
It was telling to watch Tyrone in the final quarter work the short kick-out and play the ball around comfortably at the back.
Mayo were trying to press but couldn’t put sufficient pressure on.
It was in marked contrast to the final quarter against Dublin.
Were Dublin hitting the wall physically in a bigger way than many imagined?
Is the effort required to take on Tyrone more sapping than many realise?
Remember the Kerry players cramping up near the end of normal time.
That won’t happen Mayo, we were told.
It didn’t — but they were a long way from fifth gear too.
Running into tackle after tackle from a team who tackle like demons has to be draining.
Defending like Tyrone do cannot be easy on them either but there is nothing like forcing turnover after turnover to fuel the body and mind.
Tyrone had, according to Sky Sports’ figures, over three times the tackle count that Mayo clocked up (68 to 21). That tells you all about how much harder Mayo had to work in attack compared to Tyrone.
It is arguably the most telling number of all.