Mayo outplayed Kerry all over the pitch with Kerry leaderless
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.