News Sinead Kissane

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Kingdom will be prepared for everything - you must be too

Some dos and don'ts for Mayo on how to beat my native county

Published 22/08/2014 | 02:30

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One thing Mayo do need on Sunday is a big performance from Aidan O'Shea such as the one he gave against Cork in the All-Ireland quarter-final. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
One thing Mayo do need on Sunday is a big performance from Aidan O'Shea such as the one he gave against Cork in the All-Ireland quarter-final. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
Dublin's Michael Darragh Macauley, celebrates with the Delaney cup after the Leinster Final. Picture credit: Piaras O Midheach / SPORTSFILE
Dublin's Michael Darragh Macauley, celebrates with the Delaney cup after the Leinster Final. Picture credit: Piaras O Midheach / SPORTSFILE
Michael Fennelly seems perplexed by all the hype about a 'new order' in hurling. Picture credit: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE
Michael Fennelly seems perplexed by all the hype about a 'new order' in hurling. Picture credit: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE

Firstly, no collusion took place in the writing of this article. I did not secretly consult with any player from the Kerry team or management about this. For one article only, I'm completely sidelining the fact that I'm from Kerry. And underlining to you, the Mayo team, a few basic dos and don'ts on how to beat Kerry in Sunday's All-Ireland semi-final...

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How DO you solve a problem like James O'Donoghue? With synapses that register fight not flight, the Kerry forward has yet to leave 'stop him and you stop the team' skid-marks on the pitch. When I interviewed him last week, he said: "We have a lot of options that maybe haven't been seen yet this year."

You know this though. Like you know O'Donoghue needs to be double-marked when the temperature rises. And don't think Kerry boss Eamonn Fitzmaurice hasn't planned for your obvious need to contain and stifle O'Donoghue. Naturally, Kerry's other points of attack need to be well marshalled too.

DO you know how many of the 15 players who finished the quarter-final win over Galway have won All-Ireland medals? Five. Obviously, the starting players raise the count. So strip back any presumptions about Kerry, All-Irelands and the actual team you will play at Croke Park on Sunday.

DO dump the slump. James Horan said after the quarter-final win over Cork that "maybe we pulled up the handbrake a little bit". You were accused of not being ruthless enough after squandering a seven-point lead in the second half. Switching to cruise-control in a quarter-final is an alibi. And your mental toughness got a good road-test with Cork's rally later in the second half. Obviously different ball game this weekend - foot, throttle etc.

DON'T swallow what some Mayo supporters are saying about Sunday. They are loyal fans with great confidence. But some may try to sweeten you into a misplaced sense of security. On one Mayo fans' forum, a supporter wrote: "I can say, with honesty, in 30 years of going to Croke Park that it's the first time I haven't been afraid of Kerry and look forward to playing them. We owe them a good beating, god knows they've given us a few over the years."

These fans have your back for sure. But experience has taught you that this kind of sentiment is not what you need seeping into your mind - subsciously or otherwise - leading up to game day.

DO - where feasible - run hard and fast at the Kerry defence. Look at the damage Kevin McManamon did for Dublin with those knock-em-dead goals against Kerry in the 2011 All-Ireland final and in last year's semi-final.

SCORCHED

Fitzmaurice will have a scramble defence plan on alert to avoid a repeat of Galway midfielder Thomas Flynn's goal in the quarter-final. Route-one running can cause panic. Fitzmaurice knows you know how Flynn scorched his way through. Fitzmaurice knows you know you're going to try it anyway.

DO-minate midfield. Hardly revolutionary but completely non-negotiable. The O'Shea brothers must have their reach perfectly primed for this game. Seamie was superb in the win over Cork. Aidan needs to show off his strength and physicality and produce an updated version of his form in last summer's All-Ireland quarter-final win over Donegal.

He showed his tenacity when he swatted Eoin Cadogan aside in the 47th minute against Cork. Not only that, but when he kicked the ball in, Cillian O'Connor showed his strength to hold off the backs and toe-poke the ball to Alan Dillon who kicked over for a point.

DO unto them what they hope to do unto you. Sniper-in-chief O'Donoghue and his cohorts will go in with a plan to kill you off as soon as possible. By banging the ball into the back of the net early, Kerry will hope to resurrect any self-doubt you have long locked away.

A few times against Cork, you had goal-scoring opportunities but didn't connect with a hardcore threat. Until O'Shea's buster. But going for goal early and, importantly, showing Kerry that you're going for goal early, will tell everyone you have no intention of hanging around.

You've been tagged as streetwise. Tag on some more menace.

DON'T be as generous when it comes to conceding goals. In the previous 12 games (including championship and league), Mayo have let in 19 goals and scored 23 (including four against New York). After Cork racked up a tally of 2-15 in defeat, RTE analyst Joe Brolly reckoned Mayo have a "jittery full-back line". Don't expect this to have gone unnoticed in Kerry.

DO take note that I went through this article without referring to the All-Ireland final defeats in 2004 and '06. Because those losses don't matter here. No mention of Kerry's perceived psychological edge. Because that shouldn't matter here. No mention of bogeymen. Because they don't exist.

DON'T play circumstance, reputation, occasion or history. Just play the opposition on Sunday. And see where that takes you.

One cliche doesn't make a summer for the Dubs

The frontrunner for GAA cliche of the year is that the All-Ireland is Dublin's to lose. So whoever wins between Mayo and Kerry on Sunday should soak up that semi-final success because it seems there won't be much else coming your way. Great.

But, realistically speaking, it is hard to look beyond Dublin this September. Not that you would hear a whiff of this from anyone in the Dublin camp.

Michael Darragh Macauley easily deals with questions about handling the hype as he does with actually dealing with the hype. Perhaps it's his laid-back personality but he seemed to be totally unaffected by the white noise around him when I spoke to him this week.

No fault lines appearing so far. Of course, the man who is happiest about all this Dublin and All-Ireland cliche is up in Donegal.

Kilkenny's gas men continue to have last laugh in hurling

New order in hurling? If you bought the talk last summer, having a Kilkenny v Tipperary All-Ireland final must feel pretty retro to you.

Kilkenny got their media evening for the final out of the way a good two and a half weeks before the September showpiece. When I interviewed Michael Fennelly at it on Wednesday night, he seemed quite perplexed by all that hype about a new order in hurling - and even the style.

"Funnily enough, you've all these experts talking about hurling and saying that it's a new game and that it's transformed into a speedier, faster game. And look at it now. It's gas the way hurling can go."

It is gas the way hurling can go. But with KK's record, it's gas the way it can stay the same.

Irish Independent

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