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Mayo never say never


A QUESTION OF TIME Donegal captain Michael Murphy queries the amount of additional time played with referee David Coldrick after the final whistle last Saturday night. Mayo’s Stephen Coen is also in the photo.  Pic: Sportsfile

Talking Tactics

Billy Joe Padden

IT’S hard to know where to start…
The more I think about last Saturday night’s draw in Ballybofey the more I think Mayo came back into that game on willpower alone.
Donegal really should have been further ahead at half-time, but they missed so many chances and left so many scores behind them in the first half. And they didn’t play as well in the second half, they were nowhere near the same number of attacks and fast breaks out of the middle third. Between their half-time lead and the wind behind them, plus the way Mayo had laboured during the second quarter, maybe Donegal got a little complacent.
Maybe they felt it was just going to happen for them and they ended up paying the price.
A few players deserve credit for the part they played in fashioning the equalising goal; Padraig O’Hora who showed great persistence, Jordan Flynn who was still trying to do the right thing after more than 80 minutes on his debut and, of course, James Durcan for the way he went at the defenders, broke the line, and had the skill and ability to hit the net.
But that goal, ultimately, was fashioned from pure and utter desire. The sort of desire to stay in a game and summon up energy from somewhere to keep going when all seems lost.
That’s been the recipe for so much of Mayo’s success over the last ten years.
Bringing in the likes of Kevin McLoughlin and Aidan O’Shea, in particular, who both brought their experience to bear in the second half. At the other end of the scale, Tommy Conroy from The Neale came in at half-time and showed no fear in the way he went at Neil McGee and kicked a great point off his first possession.
And what about James Durcan’s contribution! He was incredible, scoring 1-3 in a matter of minutes and, to be honest, was probably in the frame to be Mayo’s man of the match.
Remember, he accounted for Mayo’s last four scores of the game. He just went for it.
As soon as he came in he tried to make something happen, using his pace and positivity.
Equally as impressive as his first point though, for me, was the nonchalant way he kicked two frees at a time when the game was hanging in the balance.
Diarmuid O’Connor had converted two frees off the ground in the second half that reminded me of Maurice Sheridan in his pomp. But when two late frees had to be taken, James Durcan had the confidence to step up and pop them over like it was a training match.
His cameo wasn’t just confined to scoring either; he chased back in injury-time and gave away a bad free when he fouled Donegal sub’ Conor Morrison. Considering that Donegal scored from it, and Morrison wasn’t shy about letting Durcan know that he was responsible, it would have been easy for Durcan to let his head drop.
Instead he made sure that he got one last chance to influence the outcome.
Once he got past Morrison, he did the right thing. It wasn’t the time to pass, it was the time to shoot. It was an excellent strike, deflection or no deflection.
James Horan’s three substitutions before the start of the second half proved vital too. Why? Because, as I’ve written often enough on these pages, energy levels in the third quarter can be the difference between winning and losing. Or drawing!
Mayo got the impetus back during the 15 minutes after half-time before Donegal started to run their bench. So Horan deserves credit for being proactive.
This could turn out to be such a valuable point when the dust settles at the end of the league.

Forward moves now a priority

WHEN you look at the Mayo forwards who made an impact against Donegal, all of them are much more comfortable running at the opposition goal than they are with their backs to goal.
With the new kick-out rule, your full-forward line are going to be further from goal than before so it’s up to the coaching team to try and figure out a way to get Mayo’s running game going when they win possession out the field.
Maybe this is going to be the new identity of Mayo’s attack given the skills-set of so many of the new forwards. Next Saturday evening could be a chance to explore this a little more and get them running directly.
At the other end of the field, I think teams are going to put a lot of pressure on the Mayo kick-out. Against the likes of Dublin you don’t want to find yourself in a situation where David Clarke is being asked to clip the ball 30 or 35 yards to Padraig O’Hora or Colm Boyle. Because if there’s a mistake made — like when Jamie Brennan let Mayo off the hook on Saturday night — Dublin aren’t likely to be as forgiving.
The Dubs have cleaned Mayo out on breaks a few times in the league over the years so I think it’s vital next weekend that Mayo focus on traditional things like winning breaks and going long with restarts. It’s not going to be a night for taking risks on their own kick-outs.
As for the Dublin restarts, Mayo’s full-forwardline needs to do much more than they did against Shaun Patton to try and put the goalkeeper out of his comfort zone.
If Mayo hand possession to Dublin easily off their own kick-out it could be a long night.
The more 50-50 battles for possession around the middle the better it will be for Mayo.
That’s where Aidan O’Shea, Jordan Flynn and Diarmuid O’Connor need to step up.
Resilience and mental strength will be the name of the game again next weekend.

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