Thursday 19 October 2017

Eoin Liston: The endless list of reasons why Mayo can beat Dublin and lift Sam

Aidan O'Shea of Mayo runs out onto the pitch ahead of the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Dublin and Mayo at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Aidan O'Shea of Mayo runs out onto the pitch ahead of the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Dublin and Mayo at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Mayo manager Stephen Rochford. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Eoin Liston

Eoin Liston

With the hype cranking up ahead of Saturday's replay, GAA folk the length and breadth of the country would give anything to be privy to the thoughts of Stephen Rochford.

After coming so close to fulfilling Mayo's dreams his mind will be awash with methods to finally end their 65-year famine. If I was Rochford this is what I would be preaching to my troops:

'The Dubs are showing signs of panic. We've had four ex-Dublin players making a victim of Diarmuid Connolly and trying to pin all the blame on Lee Keegan, there's absolutely no way we should fear these fellas. You only have to look at the statistics.

'Donegal were within a score of them up until injury time, Kerry were within a score of them, we drew with them. They're riding their luck, it's a bit like a dog chasing cars, you can't keep dodging death forever. If they're the superheroes that everyone says they are they'd be annihilating teams.

'Their confidence is rattled, we rattled them the last day and when we rattle them this time, we'll finish the job. We beat them four years ago, we drew the last two years, we're evenly matched but our grit, determination and want will beat any talent they have. All the pressure is on them.

'Did we handle the big occasion well the last day? Yes. Did they handle the occasion? No. They're going for two-in-a-row, they're trying to prove they're the greatest Dublin team of all time and it's getting to them.

'The reality is they went the first 30 minutes without a score and the opening 15 minutes of the second half, that's 45 minutes without a score by this brilliant forward line lauded by all.

'We matched them for fitness. We fronted up to them physically. We equalled them in every area except for a few of our own simple mistakes which saw 2-8 out of their 2-9 coming from mistakes.

'The temperament of six of their players is questionable to say the least - Stephen Cluxton, Jonny Cooper, Philly McMahon, Michael Darragh Macauley, Eoghan O'Gara and Connolly - and they're all capable of doing anything.

'We showed the last day that Dean Rock isn't invincible from frees but we still shouldn't be giving him chances. We need to maintain our composure in the tackle, be as committed but stay smart. Likewise with possession.

'Let's play the percentages and not hit 50-50 passes. Keep ownership of it, mind it. I'd rather ye kept the ball and passed it around rather than taking the wrong option. They can't score when we have the ball.

'We'll link defence and attack much better. Our backs were outstanding but we must combine more efficiently and Aidan O'Shea is the out ball on the '45 if you're under severe pressure. We'll have that manic aggression at the back but more composure up front and get our kickers like Cillian O'Connor on the ball. The shooters will do the shooting and the workers will do the working.

'And Aidan I know you're being slated but I saw first-hand the work you put in. Everyone has their off days when balls don't bounce right but the ball you punched could easily have been a goal and the pass you gave to Patrick Durcan could've been another goal.

'You made some bad decisions and now everyone is an expert. You are the leader of this team and we have full confidence that you'll empty the tank and things will happen for you.

Irrelevant

'People are saying we've missed our chance but outside talk is irrelevant. We have control of our own destiny, anything that has happened up until now is irrelevant except the positive experiences we bring to the table.

'Dublin have gone 28 games unbeaten because they've a structured kick-out system with Cluxton pulling the strings and we must try to unsettle him. And they're brilliant on opposition kick-outs because they get numbers where the ball is falling.

'Our half-back line will have to gamble more. We have a sweeper covering so take a chance, be side by side with your man and contest every break. Dublin are hoping to get Ciarán Kilkenny going forward than the last day and we need to shut him down.

'If he's marked tightly and denied possession and refused forward momentum then Dublin will struggle because their go-to man is not on the ball.

'We have found answers when our backs were to the wall against Fermanagh, Tyrone and the first day, everything that could be thrown at us was thrown at us and we're still here. With five minutes left we weren't found wanting and we're going to go bald-headed for this, we've everything to gain. Whatever will be will be after that.'

If Mayo heed Rochford's words, the promised land awaits.

Irish Independent

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