Mayo out­played Kerry all over the pitch with Kerry lead­er­less

The Sligo Champion - - SPORT -

FOR the much- ma­ligned Stephen Rochford this must have been the sweet­est of vic­to­ries. In all my years in­volved in Gaelic foot­ball I have never heard so much tac­ti­cal crit­i­cism of a man­ager, not only that but this topic/ con­dem­na­tion also trumped the build- up of the Dublin and Ty­rone game.

In the build up to this game the pun­dits were of the be­lief that Mayo could not score 2.14 again, but they out­did last week scor­ing 2 points more.

Mayo out­played Kerry all over the pitch with Kerry lead­er­less with the ex­cep­tion of Kieran Don­aghy who at times tried to raise the tempo of his team mates un­til he raised his fist to Ai­dan O’Shea and was sent off in what was prob­a­bly his last game for Kerry.

Also, Stephen Rochford can be proud of the way of not only out­wit­ting Ea­mon Fitz­mau­rice but the dig­ni­fied way he rep­re­sented him­self in the face of huge crit­i­cism.

I have said for years that Mayo are se­rial over­achiev­ers as op­posed to un­der­achiev­ers as while they have lost a num­ber of All- Ire­lands over the last 20 years they never went into any of them games as out and out favourites and blew it, but were mostly over­whelm­ing out­siders.

They once again have qual­i­fied for an­other fi­nal when they weren’t meant to which is a huge achievement and should not be judged if they fail to get over the line against Dublin who will be odds on to win the three in a row af­ter their dev­as­tat­ing per­for­mance against Ty­rone.

I re­mem­ber leav­ing Croke Park af­ter last year’s re­play and think­ing af­ter 153 min­utes of foot­ball and gift­ing 9 points ( 2 own goals and a penalty that should never have hap­pened) they lost by 1 point to a team that many con­sider as the best team of all time in ad­di­tion to los­ing their best player to a dodgy black card early in the re­play.

How­ever, I felt when they went 8 points up in the sec­ond half last Satur­day and con­sid­er­ing the amount of pos­ses­sion they con­trolled, there will be a con­cern that they didn’t shut out the game as they left a ragged Kerry in the game when they re­duced to 4 points and missed a cou­ple of goal op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Hav­ing said that I felt Mayo dis­played a level of calm­ness and com­po­sure that I haven’t seen in a while from them and are cer­tainly play­ing with a swag­ger at the mo­ment.

They have also re­ally al­tered their play­ing style to pos­i­tive ef­fect, as rather than try­ing to run the ball from de­fence into the scor­ing zone they are look­ing for the kick pass into the full for­ward line once they hit the half way line which has proved very suc­cess­ful with Andy Mo­ran un­stop­pable run­ning the lines and win­ning the hard ball.

When the cam­era’s honed in on Andy Mo­ran with his daugh­ter on the Croke Park pitch af­ter last year’s re­play it looked like a farewell but luck­ily for Mayo it wasn’t as they would not be in this All Ire­land fi­nal with­out him.

Dublin will be a dif­fer­ent propo­si­tion in three weeks’ time as they demon­strated that they are as hun­gry for suc­cess as ever with a hu­mil­i­at­ing de­feat of Ty­rone where they made the North­ern sides de­fen­sive sys­tem ir­rel­e­vant stretch­ing the pitch wide and play­ing with a com­po­sure and dis­ci­pline that I haven’t seen be­fore. This is backed up with the statis­tic of only 2 wides in a game over 77 min­utes of foot­ball where they had two thirds of pos­ses­sion.

I al­ways say to teams that I’m in­volved with, that there is two ways the opposition get the ball, from kick outs and turn over ball and if you can con­trol that you are in a strong po­si­tion to win the game.

If there was ever a game that high­lighted that mantra it was this one, Dublin knew they couldn’t be go­ing into the Ty­rone ter­ri­tory and giv­ing the ball back to them so they pro­tected it like it was the crown jew­els wait­ing for their op­por­tu­nity and strik­ing at all the right times. Tac­ti­cally Dublin got every­thing cor­rect and their play­ers im­ple­mented what they set out to do per­fectly which takes huge dis­ci­pline as play­ers like do­ing their own things. But what sets Dublin apart from most teams in this re­gard is the play­ers on the pitch known that if they don’t do on the pitch what was planned off it, there will be some­one on the bench to take your place and do it.

And, it is this strength in depth that is driv­ing Dublin on in every re­gard with no player able to be com­pla­cent and where every train­ing game is like a cham­pi­onship match.

Hav­ing said all that Mayo are a dif­fer­ent team than Ty­rone with bet­ter in­di­vid­ual play­ers and will play in a dif­fer­ent way to Ty­rone where they showed last year there was only a kick of the ball be­tween the two sides over two games.

I feel Mayo at the mo­ment are a bet­ter side than this time last year but un­for­tu­nately so are Dublin who have fresh­ened up their team, so it may all come down to tac­tics or even chang­ing your goal­keeper but a lot more on this in the coming weeks.

Andy Mo­ran of Mayo cel­e­brates with team­mate Ai­dan O’Shea af­ter the GAA Foot­ball All- Ire­land Se­nior Cham­pi­onship Semi- Fi­nal Re­play match be­tween Kerry and Mayo at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Piaras Ó Míd­heach/ SPORTSFILE

Cathal Monds, Kyle Keaney and Ruth Con­lon- Oates rep­re­sent­ing Ire­land in Mace­do­nia.

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