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Mayo’s season at a crossroads

Sport

BLOCKBUSTER Mayo’s Jason Doherty is tackled by Galway’s Johnny Heaney during Sunday’s Connacht SFC quarter-final at Hastings Insurance MacHale Park in Castlebar. Pic: Sportsfile


Talking Tactics
Billy Joe Padden

BEFORE I’d seen any stats or delved into the finer details of last Sunday’s match, my ‘eye test’ had told me that Galway’s conversion rate was much better than Mayo’s.
They were clinical, took their chances, kicked their frees, didn’t have many wides and made the best use of the possession they had.
In contrast, Mayo seemed to have lots of possession but didn’t make good use of it.
They didn’t even create all that many chances to miss. There were some bad wides — one from Mattie Ruane springs to mind and Cillian O’Connor missed some frees — but the big worry for me throughout the National League was the team’s inability to create enough genuine scoring chances.
I’d have preferred if Mayo had been missing lots of chances than not creating them in the first place. On Sunday that trend was as evident as ever.
Padraic Joyce used the Kevin Walsh blueprint in terms of how he set Galway up defensively. It had worked very successfully for Walsh against Mayo in the past so Joyce went back to that playbook, which shouldn’t have been a surprise for James Horan and his players.
But the same old problems arose in terms of Mayo’s inability to break down a deep-lying defence and create and convert enough scoring chances.
I felt that Mayo were the better team going in at half-time with the teams level.
They’d recovered from a bad start and looked to have hit their stride.
But 30 minutes out of the 39 in the second half were absolutely terrible, all over the field.
Mayo didn’t move the ball quick enough, couldn’t break Galway down, and gave them too any great counter-attacking opportunities and frees they could convert.
What made it even more frustrating then was seeing the intensity levels lift in the last few minutes due to sheer desperation from Mayo.
And they nearly managed to find a way to get back and get a draw out of it.
Being honest, I think those last few minutes were probably as much to do with Galway’s lack of know-how in terms of seeing out games. That was evident from the way they butchered the end of their last league match against Monaghan last season too, and is still an issue for them obviously.
If Sunday’s match had ended in a draw then the story of it might have been their inability to close out the match as opposed to Mayo’s poor shot conversion.
But that’s the difference with a one point victory.
Going back to the start, Mayo have to find a way — when they’re not dominating or on the front foot — that they’re not on the rack and not conceding.
They started badly, were five points down, and were on the rack for those ten minutes.
Mayo have to be more defensively solid. They were way too open in the first half.
They have to be able to bring bodies back, even if it means bringing everybody back in order to frustrate the opposition.
James Horan just seems to have a lack of desire to do that and it cost Mayo again.
At the other end of the field, it’s obvious that Mayo have got no better at playing against a blanket defence. There were a few opportunities where there could have been counter-attacks, because there were some really good turnovers, especially in the second quarter.
But there just wasn’t enough support for the ball-carrier a lot of the time.
And in terms of the ball circulation and the spacing of players, it just wasn’t good enough.
Too often the likes of Cillian O’Connor and Jason Doherty were being isolated after they were bottled up in the full-forwardline. The support wasn’t close enough to help them to move the ball somewhere else.
Just eleven points in total in the first 68 minutes — and just one point from play in the first 33 minutes of the second half — underlines Mayo’s attacking issues at the moment.

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