Friday 9 December 2016

Experience the key as Mayo march on

Mayo 2-13 Tipperary 0-14

Published 22/08/2016 | 02:30

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

Those who believe that winning a semi-final without playing particularly well is the best preparation for the big day can begin making their case for why Mayo will electrify Croke Park on September 18.

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Mayo played like a team with genuine All-Ireland possibilities for ten minutes before half-time yesterday but otherwise it was fairly moderate stuff against opposition who were brand new to this level.

Tipperary did all they could to mark the county's return to the semi-final for the first time in 81 years with a stunning victory but it was always unlikely to be enough against a Mayo team which had reached the last four for a sixth successive year.

Add in their Division 1 status throughout all of that period and you have one of the most seasoned squads in the game against opposition that finished in the bottom half of Division 3 last spring.

Tipperary's rate of improvement since then has been sensational but they were always going to reach a stage where their lack of big-time experience would leave them facing serious problems.

It happened in the run-up to half-time yesterday when they were hit for 1-7 in 10 minutes, while countering with a single point. Mayo's 26th-minute goal followed a breakdown for Tipperary as they worked forward around the halfway line.

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

Mayo exploited it ruthlessly, with slick inter-passing between Keith Higgins and Aidan O'Shea unlocking the defence before presenting Jason Doherty with a goal chance which he finished expertly.

Kevin McLoughlin could have added another goal shortly afterwards but opted for a point, while Andy Moran took his first-half return to 0-4 just before the break.

Mayo looked really good in that period, moving with pace and precision through the gears at a rate which mesmerised Liam Kearns' men.

Tipperary badly missed the dogged presence of centre-back Robbie Kiely as they struggled to cope with that particular storm - the Carbery Rangers man was sitting in the stand, having been dismissed on a black card in the eighth minute after dragging down Doherty.

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

The look of misery on his face as he left the field said it all, having had the biggest day of his career cut short so early. It was deeply disappointing for Kiely on a personal level and also very damaging for Tipperary.

Shane Leahy was sent in to replace him but was himself withdrawn in favour of Alan Moloney before half-time.

It was a disastrous period for Tipperary, who had looked so good in the opening 25 minutes, during which they outscored Mayo 0-6 to 0-3. Fears that they might freeze on the big occasion were quickly dispelled as they picked up where they had left off against Galway in the quarter-final.

They won an adequate supply of possession around midfield and while the attack found Mayo's resistance much more stubborn than Galway's, they still did well enough.

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

Michael Quinlivan, mostly from frees this time, and Conor Sweeney kept the scoreboard ticking along and it was all going very nicely for Tipperary prior to Doherty's goal.

Mayo were playing Barry Moran as a sweeper and while there was nothing particularly wrong with their shape or structure, they weren't - with a few exceptions - playing well on an individual level.

Andy Moran was their main man in attack, showing repeatedly for the ball and finishing confidently on four occasions. He did well enough in the second half too before being replaced late on.

Higgins and Aidan O'Shea also discharged with responsibilities most efficiently, especially in the second half.

Still, Mayo will be very concerned by their slow start, which would have been far more costly against Dublin or Kerry.

There was a distinct lack of energy to their game in that period, certainly by comparison with Tipperary, who were dancing on to breaking ball with great enthusiasm and using it quite well.

Meanwhile, Mayo were looking very much like a side who were waiting for something to happen, as opposed to making it happen. Doherty's goal changed that and when they powered six points clear, Tipperary were left facing a major test of their character.

The response was most encouraging, not just in the context of yesterday's game but also as pointer to the future. They regained control in the third quarter, outscoring Mayo by 0-5 to 0-1.

They were unlucky with a few other efforts too, notably a Quinlivan shot for a point which required Hawk-Eye to make a decision. Unfortunately for Tipperary, the call went against them and as their scoring rate dropped off, Mayo moved three points clear when Colm Boyle pointed in the 55th minute.

They were still guarding that lead nine minutes later when they enjoyed a lucky break, involving two subs, which effectively settled the game.

Evan Regan miscued a shot for a point, only for the ball to run into the Tipperary goal area where Conor O'Shea skilfully angled it into the net.

Tipperary had wing-back Bill Maher sent off on a straight red card following an off-the-ball incident shortly afterwards, leaving Mayo with all the advantages on the home stretch.

Tipperary scored the last two points but there was no way through for the goal they so desperately needed to have any chance of rescuing the situation.

And so ended Tipp's great adventure, during which they beat Waterford, Cork, Derry and Galway, hitting the latter three for an average of 2-17.

Curbing Tipp's prolific attack was always going to be high on the Mayo agenda and they managed it quite well, albeit with some scary moments.

However, manager Stephen Rochford will not be happy with the overall performance, which was far too patchy for a team with such vast experience.

Why, for instance, did Mayo have such sloppy first and third quarters? Certainly, it's difficult to understand why they started the second half so casually, having signed off on a high with that late scoring burst.

Obviously, credit has to go to Tipperary but one would have expected Mayo to close the game out in the third quarter. Instead, Tipperary were very much in contention right up until Mayo scored their second goal.

SCORERS - Mayo: A Moran 0-4, C O'Connor 0-3 (3fs), J Doherty, C O'Shea 1-0 each, D O'Connor 0-2, K McLoughlin, L Keegan, A O'Shea, C Boyle 0-1 each. Tipperary: M Quinlivan 0-7 (7f), C Sweeney 0-3 (1f), K O'Halloran 0-2 (1f), P Austin, B Maher 0-1 each.

Mayo - D Clarke; B Harrison, B Moran, K Higgins; C Boyle, L Keegan, P Durcan; S O'Shea, D Vaughan; D O'Connor, A O'Shea, K McLoughlin; J Doherty, A Moran, C O'Connor.

Subs: T Parsons 6 for S O'Shea (52), C O'Shea 7 for Doherty (58); E Regan 6 for A Moran (63); C Barrett for Boyle (62), A Dillon for McLoughlin (69), C Loftus for C O'Connor (71).

Tipperary - E Comerford; C O'Shaughnessy, A Campbell, C McDonald; B Maher, R Kiely, J Feehan; P Acheson, G Hannigan; J Keane, M Quinlivan, B Fox; K O'Halloran, C Sweeney, P Austin. Subs: S Leahy 5 for Kiely (9 b/c); A Moloney for Leahy (32); S O'Connell for O'Shaughnessy); I Fahey for O'Halloran (66), M Dunne for Keane (72).

REf - D Coldrick (Meath)

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