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Some more final thoughts

Sport

GOLDEN MOMENTTyrone’s Darren McCurry (13) scores a goal during the second half of the All-Ireland SFC Final. Pic: Sportsfile

We look at some relevant issues in the fall-out from Mayo’s All-Ireland Final defeat

Analysis
Edwin McGreal

Alternative game plans
THERE has been much criticism of Mayo’s management for what some see as a one-dimensional approach against Tyrone – their running game.
It might have been different if Mayo had converted even half of their goal chances, but it does raise issues we’ve mentioned in the past.
When Mayo are slowed down in attack and have to build up play patiently, they do not look comfortable or confident doing so.
At their very best, Dublin could go to fifth gear or could slow it right down, depending on what the opposition tried to do.
Whatever way you wanted to play, they could find a way to beat you.
Many of the Ulster teams are very confident with patient build-up play. Mayo have undoubtedly improved in this facet of play in recent years, but they’ve a way to go yet.
The same can be said of Aidan O’Shea at full-forward. We’ve said repeatedly here that he is not a natural full-forward, but he could be a better full-forward than he looks at the moment with a bit more planning and preparation.
Maybe that has been explored on the training ground, but we’re not seeing enough signs of it.
Tyrone went out with a plan that was to restrict Mayo’s strong runners and it meant the likes of Matthew Ruane and Paddy Durcan were tied down while Oisín Mullin did not look quite fully fit.
Without that running power, Mayo’s patient build-up play or use of Aidan O’Shea as a target was simply not refined enough.

Goals at either end
IT can be unfair sometimes to aggregate all the final defeats when analysing Mayo’s latest setback.
After all, eleven of those who played against Tyrone were only appearing in either their first or second final.
However, when you look at the issue of goals scored and conceded in All-Ireland deciders, the pattern is, at best, unfortunate.
In the seven finals (including the 2016 draw and replay) Mayo have played this past decade, they have, as Frank Roche pointed out in Saturday’s Irish Independent, actually scored more points than their opponents.
In those seven games, Mayo have scored 102 points and conceded 92.
The problem, of course, is goals.
Mayo have scored just three goals in those seven finals and conceded 12.
Lee Keegan has struck two of them with Andy Moran getting the other.
This latest All-Ireland was no different. Mayo scored none but conceded two. They scored more points than Tyrone but goals, as cliched as it sounds, win games.
In previous finals, it was an inability to create goalscoring chances. This one was different – it was converting any one of four goal chances that was the problem.
Conceding goals remains a problem.
It wasn’t first half goals this time. Eight of the previous ten goals were conceded in the opening half. This year, it was in the second half and the cold reality is Mayo always look exposed to goals at the back and it seems to be a problem that becomes especially pronounced in finals.

The bench
THERE has been much consternation about the fact that All Star defenders Brendan Harrison and Colm Boyle were left on the bench during the defeat to Tyrone.
We speculated in advance that Harrison might be an ideal man to spring to shadow Cathal McShane as soon as he arrived on the field, while Boyle is a crowd favourite and would have relished the arena and the type of game it was.
Of course what we do not know is how fit and sharp either man was. Boyle has been an unused substitute in all of Mayo’s championship games with the exception of the Leitrim semi-final where he came on for Paddy Durcan. He also came on in three of Mayo’s four league games.
Boyle tore his cruciate in February 2020 and had worked his way back to fitness.
Brendan Harrison has been dogged with injury problems for the past year too and was a surprise inclusion in the 26 for the semi-final. He came on in extra time against Dublin and there were hopes the four weeks gap might make him a more viable option off the bench for the final.
Both men ended up kicking their heels on September 11. Perhaps both were only options for cover if defenders got injured. We simply don’t know and it is one area where a bit more information could bring a lot of clarity.

Scoring forwards
ONE of the practicalities for Mayo’s running game is to augment the scoring efforts of the forward line.
As much as we might not like to admit it, Mayo are not as well served in the forward line as other counties.
Look at the All Stars Mayo have won this past decade – 17 have been in defence but only seven in attack.
Tommy Conroy and Ryan O’Donoghue have been great finds and we can justifiably lament the loss of Cillian O’Connor.
However, we must also acknowledge that scores from the rest of the forward line have been problematic.
While it has become almost fashionable to cite Aidan O’Shea not scoring in All-Ireland finals, the reality is that forward colleagues like Diarmuid O’Connor and Kevin McLoughlin have not been electric on the scoreboard either, striking 0-7 between them across 12 final displays, with McLoughlin kicking 0-6 in seven finals and O’Connor 0-1 in five finals.
It is reasonable to point out that both, like O’Shea, contribute a lot in other ways but it is also very reasonable to say Mayo do have a deficit in scoring forwards and that often explains their tactical approach, the need for so many defenders to come up in support and, perhaps, leaving their full-back line exposed for killer goals.

Lee Keegan for POY?
WE will finish on a positive note.
Could Lee Keegan be in the running for Player of the Year? The 2016 winner is Mayo’s only absolute nailed on All Star following immense displays in the semi-final and final.
We’re not sure if any player from the four semi-finalists bettered his semi-final display, with David Clifford being a possible exception.
In the final, it was Darren McCurry who left with the man of the match award. We felt Niall Morgan was Tyrone’s best player and certainly their most influential.
However, you could make a very strong argument for Keegan too. He was, for us, a nine out of ten in both games. That is very definitely ‘Player of the Year’ form although there are good arguments to be made for Morgan, Conor Meyler and Kieran McGeary.
We think, at the very least, Keegan has earned a nomination.

 

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