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Missed opportunities prove costly

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FORWARD PLANNING Mayo’s Cillian O’Connor holds off Kerry’s Tom O’Sullivan during Sunday’s All-Ireland SFC quarter-final at Croke Park. Pic: Sportsfile

Talking Tactics
Billy Joe Padden

LAST Sunday’s All-Ireland quarter-final played out along expected lines in many ways.
It was a brave, committed performance by Mayo, for the most part. They were competitive around the middle, defended well by and large, and carried the ball forward with reasonable quality in difficult circumstances.
But it played out the way that these games often do; where teams that don’t take their chances, that find it harder to create chances and take them, wilt in the latter stages.
For me, it’s not down to conditioning in this instance.
I certainly won’t be making excuses for Mayo this week, but if your team is missing valuable players due to injuries then that’s going to impact in a big way.
When you’re going out against the very best oppositions, and missing two players that are absolutely key to what you want to do tactically, and how you want to play, then that’s going to be a problem.
And that has an impact of the mindset of the group, no matter how good a manager or motivator you are. Or no matter how much the players buy into what you’re telling them.
Those very facts will eventually have an impact tactically, mentally, and in terms of performance.
It’s important to put it in the context that, if you’re an attacking half-back or midfielder, and you know that you’re short attacking players, and others are having to play out of position to fill those spots, or players that haven’t played much football or are coming back from long-term injuries, then it has an impact.
Take Paddy Durcan or Jordan Flynn or Mattie Ruane; they know they have to get forward and get scores and that puts pressure on their normal duties because they feel they have to go above and beyond.
So they push to get up there, and when they don’t execute as well as they should, it takes energy out of them for their main roles, and it means they find themselves out of position later in the game.
They’re the sort of knock-on effects of losing Tommy Conroy and Ryan O’Donoghue.
Your full-back line might be a little more exposed too because the half-back line has to push on, leaving the lads behind them a little vulnerable.
But what will be at the forefront of a lot of people’s minds coming away from the game, especially non-Mayo people, will be the missed chances.
‘It’s the same old story’ was being heard before the final whistle blew on Sunday.
There is no denying that some of those chances should have been taken. There were balls kicked into the goalkeeper’s hands from positions where it should have been put over the bar. There were shots that were rushed, shots taken from areas they shouldn’t have been.
Mayo’s conversion rate of four points from 15 shots in the second half speaks for itself.
The players who missed those chances have the skill level to execute but they’re under pressure to score, because they know that if they don’t do it, Mayo don’t have the usual suspects there to do it either.
It all knocks into each other and when you come up against somebody like Kerry, you get found out.
But when Mayo needed scores to be put on the board they didn’t have anyone to step up to the mark or enough players in good enough form up that end of the field.
Kerry did and that was the difference.
There will be a temptation now for Mayo supporters to say, ‘There are a bunch of experienced players there who might not come back’. And that may well be the case.
I certainly won’t be saying that anyone should retire, considering what they’ve done.
There is a tendency sometimes to say, ‘Let’s wipe the slate completely clean and let’s start again’. I don’t think that’s ever a completely good thing either.

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