John O’Keeffe: Mayo defence gave an exhibition
Mayo players were superb in the tackle and the block and have a strong chance in replay
Dublin’s James McCarthy battles with Aidan O’Shea of Mayo during the All-Ireland senior football championship final at Croke Park. Photograph: Inpho
Mayo needed a game like this much more than Dublin. Mayo will have the advantage in the replay now, and they will have gained great confidence. If it was ever in doubt for them before, they will now know that they can go and beat this Dublin team. They now know how to go about it.
I think Mayo will have to be a lot smarter though. When you look at their final ball, that pass in the final third. If a score isn’t on recycle it. They had a lot of kicks in and shots, just hit and hope efforts. Their decision making with shot selection was poor, and I think they’ll be more aware of that the next day but I don’t expect any big tactical change. I think they’ll keep the shape that they’re working on all year.
They came in a bit under the radar here, they were not fancied anywhere really. But they really believed in themselves this time, they really believed - everything in their preparation, they seemed ready for it. They had a steely determination about not going out without putting everything into it. They will really be looking forward to the replay now - with that bit of extra confidence - maybe even more so than Dublin.
It’s really not easy to defend the title, and go back-to-back. There’s so many different things that come into it, and it’s very difficult to keep that run going. They are such a formidable team though, Dublin, that you’ll still have to be at your best to beat them
I think Dublin will still be hungry. They’ve a lovely blend of youth and experience there. Young players like John Small, David Byrne in the full back line, Ciaran Kilkenny, Brian Fenton of course at midfield.
He was excellent - he was confident, he was constantly a threat. I was so impressed with his athletic ability to make runs and get inside the defence - he created two goal scoring chances early in the first half but he was influential throughout the game.
There’s no questioning that those young players are going to be as hungry as ever in the replay.
But you can look at some of the older Dublin players and say maybe not? Like Bernard Brogan is really struggling for form. Both yesterday and against Kerry. He has a great reputation for being Dublin’s finisher but Brendan Harrison did very well on him there and he did very little. When you look at Dublin and how they have been putting up these big scores in previous games - it just wasn’t there. Collectively, the Mayo defence was outstanding and they gave an exhibition of clean tackling, blocking.
Dublin are used to just getting a man off the shoulder and popping it into the space for him to finish off their scores. But that didn’t happen because Mayo closed down all of that space. And then they had tight markers on Brogan, Diarmuid Connolly, all the key players. Connolly just couldn’t get into it, he got a point in the second half but did little else otherwise.
If you look at the Dublin forwards they had to rely on two own goals to keep them in the game.
There’s still a fear factor there with Mayo though. That if they commit too many players forward that they will be left too open because Dublin will attack at pace. And they were constantly aware of leaving players back but at times you have to make up your mind to go for it and go forward and support - and then make sure that the ball goes dead.
I think Andy Moran’s efforts were admirable - normally he wouldn’t stay on the field for that long but he was offering them so much. But he needs more support. I think the likes of Diarmuid O’Connor or Jason Doherty they need to get forward and support the inside line.
And I think Mayo need to get a lot more out of Aidan O’Shea. It’s all right getting a big ball, or looking brilliant in the first 10 minutes, but the game is over 70 minutes. He’s an excellent go-to player but it didn’t happen for him today.
Mayo made a lot of poor decisions, I mean that effort near the end of the game by O’Shea was unforgivable. Mayo are lucky they have another day out after stuff like that. It was a day to make sure of it. And he needs to have more composure. His brother Séamus was another culprit for bad decision making, he gave the ball away on four occasions and those instances summed up Mayo’s wastefulness in possession.
In all fairness it was very hard to play football there though, the conditions, they dictated the game so much. It was a day for backs. It was very difficult for forwards to gather possession with good handling, to just turn and shoot. You could see that even with Dean Rock, he struggled with his free taking. He missed more in this game than he did all year.
Weather conditions had such a bearing on this game, and who knows what will happen now on October 1st.
The big question coming into it was how would Mayo start the game and they brought it straight to Dublin, while still holding their defensive shape. They also showed that they now have subs off the bench to match Dublin, and the players who came on were comfortable in their role. And I think they’ll do the exact same things the next day.
These Mayo players have been around so long, they have this experienced guard and at this stage you have to give them a great chance in a replay.
I can’t call it I think it’s 50:50. Mayo with that little bit of extra confidence now, it might make the difference. They’ve gotten themselves in this situation again - if they can be that bit more smarter, less wasteful, less turnovers in possession, they may finally do it.