Billy Joe Padden
WHO’D have thought that Mayo and Tipperary would meet in two All-Ireland football semi-finals in the space of five seasons? But that’s how things have panned out after last Sunday’s historic Munster Final.
I’m sure James Horan was busy making notes during Tipp’s win over Cork and you can be sure that the names of Michael Quinlivan and Conor Sweeney featured prominently.
Mayo will just have to shut them down the next day. That is an absolute requirement when the game-plan for semi-final is being put together.
Make the other 13 Tipperary players beat them.
Horan will have to set out man-markers and maybe even ‘double -team’ them. Paddy Durcan seems the obvious choice for Quinlivan and Chris Barrett looks ideal for Sweeney, with Stephen Coen in around him too.
Quinlivan and Sweeney are really good footballers, I love watching them. They’re good in the air and on the ground, can play off both feet, are long-range shooters, and are good team players who would walk into any county team in Ireland.
They’re going to take watching and keeping them quiet is going to be a difficult job.
Tipperary’s strength around the middle of the field is also something that you can be sure will feature prominently when Mayo’s training sessions are being planned over the next few weeks.
Liam Casey played well and Colin O’Riordan, the Australian Rules player, was really good late on when Tipp’ needed him. He showed his fitness and caught a couple of great kick-outs.
So Mayo are going to have to be physical in that area of the field to deal with that threat, because you can be sure that David Power is going to try and force Mayo to go long with David Clarke’s kick-outs. He will have his players pressing Clarke’s restarts because he will feel that Tipperary have an advantage around the middle. And they probably do.
That will be a test for Mayo, and that’s a good thing.
Because the way this championship is playing out, I don’t James Horan is in a position to put a plan in for Tipperary and then another plan in for Dublin or Cavan in an All-Ireland Final, if Mayo were to get there.
He has to find a way of playing and then just tweak it in between matches. I imagine he’s going to plan for all the teams to press David Clarke’s kick-outs.
Another thing I noticed about Colin O’Riordan on Sunday was that he really was looking to deliver balls in for ‘offensive marks’ to the Tipperary forwards.
That’s going to have to be something that Mayo need to plan for because a ‘mark’ for Michael Quinlivan or Conor Sweeney anywhere from 40 yards out is going to be a point.
Cork’s forwards got so little change out of Tipperary’s backs that it’s going to be interesting to see how Mayo’s forwards fare out. Was that because Cork’s forwards were poor or because Tipp’s backs played well?
I would expect Mayo’s attack, considering how well fellas like Cillian O’Connor and Tommy Conroy are playing, to have some success. But Aidan O’Shea is going to have to spend more time around the middle of the field because of how strong Tipperary are there.
Mayo will be bolstered by the fact that they have a lot more running power around that sector than Cork did. Paddy Durcan, Conor Loftus, Matthew Ruane, in particular, they’re going to be on top of any Tipp’ mistakes and will be driving through that area.
So I’d expect Mayo to have an advantage in that area, and be able to run harder for longer through the middle third. That’s where I see the winning of the game for Mayo.
But the key thing will be keeping Tipp’s dynamic duo of Quinlivan and Sweeney quiet.
Condensed season creates magical moments
LAST Sunday was a great day for the GAA. I really enjoyed watching the Munster and Ulster football finals and I want to see more days like that into the future.
It brought into focus something that we all love about the GAA — the history and the heritage of our clubs and our counties. It was a pity supporters weren’t in the grounds to share in the wins, but you can be sure it lifted spirits in houses in both counties.
We shouldn’t have been surprised that Tipperary put in such a good performance given the 100-year anniversary of Bloody Sunday, and wearing the commemorative jersey would really have focussed their minds.
This has been such a unique GAA championship for all the obvious reasons.
But the thought struck me on Sunday evening that if we want more days like Sunday, where the likes of Cavan and Tipperary win provincial titles, then we have to think about changing the system.
On the evidence of last weekend in Munster and Ulster, you probably have to retain the provincial championships in some shape or form. But I think there’s a few key reasons why Sunday was made possible.
One was the knock-out system and the other was the condensed season, which means that teams like Cavan can hit a hot streak and get a run of games.
Tipperary have also benefitted from their big players playing well on the big day and being in good form. And obviously Colin O’Riordan coming back from Australia.
Things like that can only happen in a shortened season. When you’re asking teams — as we have been for years now — to be good from January to September then the likes of Tipperary and Cavan just can’t compete at that level.
That’s the difficulty the GAA have to contend with.