Thursday 29 September 2016

Comment: Mayo cuteness works a charm against rookies

Published 22/08/2016 | 02:30

Mayo’s Jason Doherty fires his team’s first goal against Tipperary. Photo: Sportsfile
Mayo’s Jason Doherty fires his team’s first goal against Tipperary. Photo: Sportsfile

You can't buy cuteness in Gaelic football. Many county teams have tried it by bluffing their way into believing that they have acquired that quality but yesterday showed once again that this does not work.

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Not that Tipperary were bluffing about anything, of course, but the cuteness acquired by Mayo in reaching six All-Ireland semi-finals in a row was always going to be Tipperary's biggest problem, and so it proved.

Cute teams do not go bald-headed at the opposition but wait to watch how the opposition is performing and then take the necessary options, if they are capable of doing that.

In Croke Park yesterday Tipperary took the game by the scruff of the neck which is the only way for a team not accustomed to the highest level to operate and it paid off when they led Mayo by 0-6 to 0-3 after 25 minutes. In that period Mayo had only managed to score one point from play. Dominant at midfield and running like hares all over the field, Tipperary looked impressive.

Mayo's Aidan O'Shea. Photo: Sportsfile
Mayo's Aidan O'Shea. Photo: Sportsfile

But cute teams are able to avail of simple mistakes that inevitably are made by those not used to the big time and the Mayo goal in the 26th minute was proof of that.

Tipperary fumbled a short pass and Keith Higgins nipped in to steam-roll his way upfield and Jason Doherty was there to take the final pass and score a badly needed goal for Mayo.

A barrage of seven points in a row seemed to have wrapped up this game when Mayo led by 1-10 to 0-7 but if Mayo were poor in the first quarter they were even worse in the third. They only managed one point in the opening 20 minutes of the second half and a magnificent rearguard barrage by Tipperary left only two points between the teams.

Mayo were rattled at this stage as was shown by selector Tony McEntee, who had been standing alone on the sideline from the start up to that point, being joined by manager Stephen Rochford.

Sub Conor O'Shea's goal in the 63rd minute, when he doubled on a loose ball, finished this as a contest but Tipperary never gave up and scored two more points before the end despite only having 14 men owing to Bill Maher's sending off.

They may have been defeated but this was a wonderful day for Tipperary football and they should have a bright future despite the presence of Kerry and Cork in Munster.

Jason Doherty of Mayo celebrate's after scoring his side's first goal. Photo: Sportsfile
Jason Doherty of Mayo celebrate's after scoring his side's first goal. Photo: Sportsfile

Their exploits with the bigger ball may get some of the panellists who opted for hurling back into the fold. If Tipp had a little more strength in depth in their panel yesterday, they would have been closer at the finish. There is a lot of talent in that panel now and if they could get two or three of those key players back, it would allow them to go toe to toe with the best.

It is important that the GAA realises that it will do no one any good if Tipp disappear like Fermanagh and Wexford have largely done since their days in the sun at All Ireland semi-finals.

The GAA needs this Tipp team to progress and become a force, just as it needs Clare's footballers to advance. The pity for those counties is they are in Munster and if they were in Leinster or Connacht, they would be making finals at least.

With only so much talent available I presume it was by necessity that they opted for a more conservative, defensive type of game than they have all year and it probably cost them scores, but they will learn from this game.

As I had expected, Lee Keegan was again dispatched to mark the most dangerous forward on the opposite team in Michael Quinlivan and once again, as with Sean Cavanagh against Tyrone in the quarter-final, it worked in greatly curtailing him. But as often happens nowadays with outstanding full-forwards, the outfield Tipperary players too often did not direct the ball to Quinlivan and it cost his team. Now, who will Keegan mark in the All-Ireland final?

Contrast

Lee Kegan of Mayo in action against Philip Austin of Tipperary. Photo: Sportsfile
Lee Kegan of Mayo in action against Philip Austin of Tipperary. Photo: Sportsfile

By contrast, Aidan O'Shea was let loose much further out the field and it paid off as he made a substantial use of his distribution skills for which other Mayo forwards should be thankful.

Mayo will be satisfied with this performance as it moved them further along to their life-long ambition but they will need to greatly up their game against their final opponents and they certainly did enough to dispel the notion that they are past their best.

They also showed the killer streak at times, but only at times. They will need to up their performance to beat Kerry or Dublin but that is possible and we will know more after next Sunday's semi-final.

Tipperary’s Michael Quinlivan under pressure from Barry Moran, Lee Keegan and Colm Boyle in Croke Park yesterday. Photo: Sportsfile
Tipperary’s Michael Quinlivan under pressure from Barry Moran, Lee Keegan and Colm Boyle in Croke Park yesterday. Photo: Sportsfile

Their build-ups yesterday to attacking moves were far too slow for an All-Ireland final but if, as we are led to believe, Mayo were confident they would reach the 2016 decider and their planning all year was based on that, then maybe we could see a vastly better Mayo team next month.

Irish Independent

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