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Mayo get a tough Qualifier question

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THEY MEET AGAIN Mayo manager James Horan is welcomed to Clones by Monaghan GAA Board chairman Michael Eoin McMahon prior to a National League match in 2020. Pic: Sportsfile

Talking Tactics
Billy Joe Padden

ALL anybody wanted to talk about yesterday (Monday) at work was the draw for the All-Ireland Qualifiers. It made a pleasant change from talking about Covid or fuel prices!
Like most other Mayo supporters, I was glued to the radio for the draw and my initial reaction was that Monaghan are going to be very tough opponents.
As it happens I was at both of their Ulster championship matches this season.
If they play the way they did in both those games, I think it will a much easier task for Mayo because I think it will be a very open game of football.
It will go end to end and that’s the sort of game that suits Mayo.
But I suspect after Monaghan’s defeat to Derry that they’ll revert to type and go back to what they know they can do, and what they know does not suit Mayo.
So I expect they will play more defensively, protect their full-back line, alter the make-up of their full-forward line, and not play three guys inside for the full game, and try to frustrate Mayo and counter-attack them.
That’s where the difficulties will arise for Mayo because they have proven themselves to be not very effective at breaking that sort of a team down in recent times.
I have no doubt that most people felt that Mayo were better off avoiding an Ulster team, especially considering some of the difficulties we’ve had with so many northern opponents over the years.
The fact that the game is in Castlebar looks to be a good thing on paper. But travelling for Qualifier matches always seems to galvanise Mayo teams too, so there’s a part of me that would nearly feel more confident if we were on the road!
The reality is though, that when you want to get the thing back on the right track, sometimes you’re better off being thrown in at the deep end against a good team like Monaghan.
And make no mistake, they are a good team, who will be really well-drilled and organised and coached by ‘Banty’ McEneaney, Donie Buckley and Vinny Corey.
Monaghan also have Tipperary’s All-Ireland winning manager, Liam Sheedy, in their backroom team.
So they won’t want for expertise or big game experience.
Monaghan have been really consistent over the last ten years. They won two Ulster titles and have managed to stay in Division 1 since they were promoted in 2014.
Considering their small population, they’ve a lot of very capable footballers and good athletes. You take the middle third of their team where now they have Ryan McAnespie, Karl O’Connell and Conor McCarthy, a converted forward, all really good athletes, who can move quickly and get through that area.
I think the more traditional way Monaghan would have played when they were winning Ulster titles in 2013 and 2015 was more physical around the middle and getting lots of bodies behind the ball, relying on their free-taking, relying on Conor McManus.
That’s the type of game plan that would traditionally cause Mayo more problems.
So that’s how I think ‘Banty’ and company will go about their business on Saturday week.
And that’s what makes this such a difficult proposition for Mayo.
Especially with all the injury issues that James Horan is having to deal with.
It’s not easy having to cope with one after another over the last few months and you could understand if people inside the camp were a bit exasperated by the whole thing.
Mayo supporters everywhere were rocked when we heard that news about Tommy Conroy earlier in the season, but little did we know that was only the start of it.
But whoever gets a jersey on Saturday week will have to deliver a performance because there is going to be nothing easy against Monaghan.
That’s about all we can certain about just now.

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