Kevin McStay: Mayo likely to regret not putting Kerry away the first day

Dublin’s greater depth and firepower in the front eight can see them edge a tight contest

Andy Moran scores a goal against Kerry. But what happens Mayo if he doesn’s excel and score 1-5 this weekend?  Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Andy Moran scores a goal against Kerry. But what happens Mayo if he doesn’s excel and score 1-5 this weekend? Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

The worry for Mayo is that despite all that, having played pretty decently throughout, going into injury-time they were still a point behind a Kerry team that weren’t playing well.

What else emerged?

As generally accepted, Mayo are better defenders, both man-to-man and as a unit whereas Kerry have the more natural scorers, like Paul Geaney.

What few would have expected was Mayo’s best forward performance for a long time, which of course raises a concern for the replay. What happens if Andy Moran doesn’t score 1-5 this weekend?

Mayo’s Achilles heel remains missing very easy chances in front of goal and I counted five or six last weekend. They are the mistakes that mean Mayo don’t get away from other teams: ball into the goalie’s hands, and misses from around the D.

On the O’Shea-Donaghy issue there is no doubt Kerry were the beneficiaries but that’s irrelevant now. What do they do for the replay?

The key question in man marking is, are you there for the contest? When the ball comes between you and your man are you close enough to put pressure on the ball?

In most of the situations I saw, Aidan wasn’t. He was minding the house or hedging his bets – as happened dramatically for the Stephen O’Brien goal when he was 10 or 15 metres off. I’d be surprised if they do it again.

As an alternative, Mayo can very easily transition to a sweeper. The manner in which they play is very much counterattack, through the hands, off the shoulder. Tactically you could make the point that Aidan O’Shea can slow things down a bit for Mayo and when he was back at full back the transition through the middle was much sharper and quicker.

Also, Lee Keegan had been suffering from cellulitis and been on antibiotics for a nine- or 10-day period. Whether he’s moved to the half-back line or midfield, you’d expect him to improve.

Kerry have to do something though. They can either try to up it dramatically, man for man, which is probably their preference, and come to terms with Andy Moran, Jason Doherty and Cillian O’Connor or else they’re going to have to take a bit of an insurance policy and drop someone back.

Mayo didn’t do well on the kick-outs. Going long is something David Clarke and the back-room team may consider because a lot of the short kick-outs were just about claimed by Mayo defenders but with not much to spare.

Remedial action

Jack Barry will probably start for Kerry in that area. Eamonn Fitzmaurice took very immediate, remedial action in terms of subs whereas Mayo only used four and two were in the closing minutes so it was hardly the substitution policy of a tired team.

There was controversy over one of the earlier ones when Colm Boyle went off. There was a lot spoken about the GPS systems but I’m not sure Mayo have a live GPS. The system mostly used is the one where you download and get the results by Tuesday – which is a bit late if a fella’s in the red zone. There may well be another monitor they’re using but whatever they’re making judgement calls on, they’re not eejits. They know best; we’re the ones looking over the wall.

Underdogs tend not to win replays but that’s not terribly scientific. A better consideration is who has more room for improvement and who has learned the most. Kerry have more room to improve and are market leaders in sizing up and figuring out and generally get things right the second time around.

On Sunday the context for the second semi-final, and one Dublin have been brilliant at keeping a lid on while it’s bubbling away, is the prospect of the three-in-a-row. It’s been well-handled and precautions were taken during the league so that they would be well-rested.

The truth is both teams have arrived in the semi-final without being tested. My sense is both are progressing very nicely. They’re quite similar in that they’re both very mobile and counter-attacking teams. Tyrone have definitely improved their scoring threat. It doesn’t match Dublin’s but it’s up there.

They can counter Dublin with what is in my view the best defensive system in the country. They are edgy, physical, very fast on the counter once they turn you over and they protect their goal.

They are also relentless and don’t get flustered by setbacks.

Where Dublin have the edge is that they are a better counter-attacking team and possess more threats from deeper positions. Then if it’s not working for them, I don’t think anyone would argue they don’t have the best bench in the country as well as the best bench culture.

Tyrone have their own panel depth with David Mulgrew named to start after his explosive contribution as replacement against Armagh.

Mickey Harte has said he’s put an awful lot of thought into this and when you consider his credentials you can really see them putting it up to Dublin. Niall Morgan has a great kick-out and has greatly improved to the point where he’s a key part of the game plan.

Defensively they’re that bit better but I feel Dublin will have an advantage at midfield and up front. Colm Cavanagh’s sweeper duties stretch Tyrone in the middle. He has amazing energy but Dublin’s delivery in the area is that bit more consistent, especially with Brian Fenton coming into his best form and up front they have so many options although I can’t see Diarmuid Connolly starting.

Dublin have the work ethic but they also have the attacking flair in terms of movement, skill and a better kicking game. There’s more threat and variety to what they do.

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