Aidan O’Shea question looms large in Mayo postmortem

Mayo manager won’t say if O’Shea will again mark Kieran Donaghy in replay

How to make sense of a game where a high-risk tactic might well have denied Mayo another All-Ireland final – and yet still they find themselves in with another shout.

There are few certainties going into next Saturday's replay at Croke Park, but can – or will – Mayo risk playing Aidan O'Shea on Kieran Donaghy again?

Not even Mayo manager Stephen Rochford seemed sure of the answer. In the aftermath of the latest hurricane showdown between these teams, Rochford was asked if he thought moving O'Shea back on Donaghy was such a good idea.

By the end, Donaghy’s hands were involved in 2-6 of Kerry’s scores. At the same time the tactic deprived Mayo of their most inspirational forward. We know when O’Shea and Donaghy will meet again, but do we know where?


“It’s a bit early to be sort of too clinical in the analysis of it,” said Rochford, defiant, if not a little stubborn, in how he viewed the his move. Indeed, as surprising as it was, his persistence with it raised even further questions.

‘Go back on the video’

“We need to go back on the video and just sort of see what benefits we got out of it, what worked well and what needs to improve. But look, we’re halfway through, we haven’t lost anything from it, we haven’t gained anything from it.

"And Aidan has played full back for us in a couple of instances. Earlier this year he played full back for a while against Donegal, and Michael Murphy. Last year he played full back against Kildare on Kevin Feely.

"He's one of our best tacklers. Obviously his physical presence versus the physical and aerial threat that Kerry might bring in that area. We'll look back on it and we'll see if things worked from it or did we lose something from it."

The point is then laboured: did playing O’Shea at full back give Kerry a psychological edge? Did it deprive Mayo of something in attack?

“I don’t care what’s thought in the Kerry dressing room – I don’t mean that out of disrespect. But you know, we’re not a one-man team. No more than Lee Keegan missing the Roscommon game, we don’t want to be seen as a one-man team, I don’t believe we’re a one-man team. Aidan was effective in some aspects. We’ll take closer attention before being definitive on that.

“We would have felt that, in 2006, 2014, there was lessons to be learned from there. Was it the right decision? Look, we’re halfway through. You win the game, you lose the game, people decide you’re right or wrong. We’ll see what happens next week.”

Rochford has other worries too. The replay will be their ninth game this championship season, and if they make the All-Ireland final, they will match the record 10 games Tyrone played to win outright in 2005. Only Tyrone didn't play extra-time, like Mayo did against Derry and Cork.


Surely fatigue must be a worry?

“I’m sure at some stage I’ll say yes to that question but it’s not going to be this week. I thought we were doing the running there at the end. These guys, I’ve said this before, these guys are in great physical shape. We probably trained once this week and our recovery started 15 minutes ago.

“And we’re still in the competition. Probably would have felt that we had good momentum at one or two stages in the game. Obviously [we] conceded goals that we’d be a bit disappointed with. We’ll need to review them and see what was the source of them. We’ve been down this track a couple of times. Six-day turnaround isn’t the biggest deal to us.”

What kept them in it wasn't energy but character, especially the way Paddy Durcan hit the equalising score with one minute remaining, having missed a chance just moments earlier.

“I think that comes more from experience, obviously, being able to edge out the chance. Got a fresh player on to the ball in the end. Couple of those things were good. We still had to wait on Bryan Sheehan’s free. We could have been having a different chat.”

One difference Rochford wants for the replay is “tightening the things at maybe seven out of 10, to eight or nine out of 10”.

No mention of O’Shea, however.

“Replays in many ways are won from what you learn, what you can take and improve on. I’ve no doubt it will be a fine margin come next week as well. We did some things well, but watching it live, I would be disappointed at the concession of the two goals. Again, we created a good few chances that we didn’t score, and need to improve on that. So I wouldn’t think that was anywhere near our top performance, and I think there is a lot more in us.”

And in Aidan O’Shea, surely.

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics