Mayo have the necessary resources to defeat Tyrone and return to the final stage
Tyrone’s defensive focus will distract from the need to put up a challenging score
That will be one of the areas where Donie Buckley will be influential. I know him well enough to believe that he’ll have theories on how to crack the swarm defence. The way Mayo attack teams at pace, punching holes in the cover with support runners playing off the shoulder and finding at the end of the move the unmarked forward to get off the kick for a score is built on the speed and most importantly the precision of their passing.
It’s not by accident that Cillian O’Connor gets on the end of so many scoring moves. He’s a clinical finisher but the strategy is from the training field.
James Horan appears to have realised that O’Connor’s more suited to playing inside because he’s a finisher more than a play maker and doesn’t have the real athletic ability to do the hard running out the field. But he’s served his apprenticeship and is now up there with any forward in the game.
How do Mayo cope with Seán Cavanagh? I think they’re likely to put a man marker on him and Keith Higgins is the most obvious candidate for that. Cavanagh’s the key figure for Tyrone, not an orthodox midfielder in that he covers the pitch, picks up great forward positions and is often unmarked.
Obviously Mayo aren’t going to tie up Aidan O’Shea by asking him to follow around the pitch as a marker. Higgins is familiar with the man-marking role and would be well able to do it even if it means curtailing his current job as a sweeper.
I think Tyrone will go to break the ball because the O’Sheas are such good fielders that I can’t see the Cavanaghs trying to contest high ball but the Mayo forwards are so effective at man-marking themselves that Pascal McConnell may not be risking too many short kick-outs. But if that’s the strategy Tyrone will have to break even on the loose ball in that area.
The biggest problem for Tyrone is to get Stephen O’Neill on the ball. He seems to be easily marked on the full forward line so may have to drop out to get possession but with ball in hand his vision and ability to use it are second to none.
This has been a good year for Tyrone and their championship run has left them battle-hardened but Mayo are too much of a step up. There’s a gap between the teams: in the quality of the players, strength off the bench, where the teams are on the development curve and their motivation based on the past two years. Under all these headings Mayo are ready.