AGONY AND ECSTACY Tyrone goalkeeper Niall Morgan reacts after Ryan O’Donoghue’s penalty hit the post and went wide last Saturday evening. Pic: Sportsfile
Billy Joe Padden
THERE can be no complaints about this latest All-Ireland Final defeat.
Tyrone deserve great credit, they were outstanding, and Mayo were well beaten by a better team. I actually think Mayo can learn a lot from Tyrone, especially the way they mapped out their game-plan and substitutions and allocated resources to the full-forward line.
Their tackling ability is also something that Mayo can learn from.
It’s an area where Mayo were very strong four and five seasons ago, but on the evidence of Saturday it’s something that needs more work again.
Mayo can also learn from the way that Tyrone changed their approach really quickly this season and turned things around rapidly.
That opportunity is there for Mayo.
In the meantime, all the things that have been said about Mayo teams in the past — that we’re bottlers, that we don’t take chances when we get them in big games, that we don’t have the mentality to win big games, we don’t have the forwards to win big games...
All those things that will be said by people inside and outside the county, and in the media, we have to accept it. We we have to take it on the chin. Because it’s totally understandable when you look at Mayo’s performance on Saturday from the outside.
Mayo people have to accept it, get on with it, and use it.
It’s been thrown at us for years and years on the back of different losing performances in All-Ireland Finals. And there is a semblance of truth in some of it.
It’s clear that in some of those big moments in big games, Mayo teams haven’t delivered.
I felt we lost all the big moments against Tyrone.
That’s not to say that can’t change, or that’s not to say that there’s something missing in terms of the character of Mayo footballers that can’t be addressed, I don’t believe that.
It’s something that can be addressed in terms of what you do as a team and as individual footballers and what you focus on.
And while it might be difficult for many of the players to accept what’s being said about their performance, and the reasons for the defeat, they need to.
I’d also say that while all Mayo supporters are disappointed with what happened, and some will be annoyed, we have to show respect and loyalty to our own players.
In terms of the game-plan, I felt Mayo didn’t move the ball quickly enough and found themselves isolated against the sidelines at times, and trying passes that were too risky. Recycling the ball on those occasions would have been more useful.
In fact, the story of the first half for me, from a Mayo perspective, was that lack of patience.
There was a tendency to try and play a risky pass just too soon and get runners up the field. In fairness to Tyrone, they tracked the second Mayo runner, the support runner, very well and interrupted their progress.
I thought some of Mayo’s more experienced players, when they were in the attacking half of the field, looked muddled in terms of what they were trying to do.
That’s not just as a result of the game-plan for Saturday but it comes down to things like definition of roles. Take Aidan O’Shea, he didn’t look like a player who was playing with a huge degree of confidence in the role he was being asked to fill.
I can completely understand that, his role and position has been changed and I think he’s suffered for his versatility.
There are other players in the team that’s happened to as well and that’s something for the management team to work on during the off-season.
Forward thinking needed
THERE’S no doubt that we’ve seen progression again this season from the young players and their careers are on an upward trajectory.
The likes of Oisin Mullin, Tommy Conroy, Ryan O’Donoghue and Enda Hession are all getting better and better.
A lot of responsibility was put on Tommy and Ryan’s shoulders in the absence of Cillian, and they responded to that very well, for the most part.
It’s too much to expect that they would carry the load in the full-forwardline all on their own, considering their lack of experience and the lack of impact Mayo got off the bench in comparison to Tyrone.
They brought on Cathal McShane, Darragh Canavan and Paul Donaghy up front, had McCurry already there, and Mattie Donnelly did a shift up there too. Whereas Mayo were left with two young talented players to carry the can, and that’s where Cillian’s loss was really felt.
I think when we look at all of this in the cold light of day, in terms of the season as a whole, we will find that the young players’ career development are on the right path.
Missing the goal chance and the penalty were big moments in the game in terms of how momentum can shift. But I think Ryan will deal with this setback in his stride and will move on and learn from it. I’m sure Tommy will too.
It’s important for people to keep in perspective what they were asked to do and how it went for them. I thought they both did some good work and they both kept trying.
When you talk about Mayo not being able to take chances, it’s about how you address that area of the field. As I’ve said, I thought Tommy and Ryan did some really good things, but I don’t think we commit enough players to that area of the field over the whole of the Mayo game-plan.
We need to have a real think about how we do that; Tyrone used five over the course of the game the last day, Dublin often do the same. That might mean re-positioning Diarmuid O’Connor to the full-forwardline or starting an experienced player on the bench to bring in.
That’s one of the key differences for me between Mayo teams losing All-Ireland Finals and some of the teams that have beaten us in the finals.