Saturday 23 September 2017

'Mayo are in the best position they've been in in a long time - as long as they don't over-think it'

Armagh ace insists physicality of Westerners will test Dubs

David Clarke, Jason Doherty and Andy Moran of Mayo celebrate
David Clarke, Jason Doherty and Andy Moran of Mayo celebrate
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

When Oisín McConville floats the prospect of going to see Dublin playing football to his five-year-old son, the coat is on and he's out to the car without a response even required.

Put the same offer for a trip to an Ulster Championship match, even one involving an Armagh team featuring his cousin and other Crossmaglen players, and the response is more muted.

"He's only five and football nuts - whenever I say I'm going to a Dublin game he wants to go," said McConville.

"If I tell him I'm going to an Ulster Championship match, maybe even Armagh, he'll take it or leave it. If he wants to see football, he'll go to the Dublin match. How they dispensed with Tyrone in the first 20 minutes - I was just sitting back enjoying it.

Oisin McConville at the launch of the second National Concussion Symposium, which will be hosted by Bon Secours Health System and UPMC in association with the GAA in Croke Park on October 7. Photo by Cody Glenn/Sportsfile
Oisin McConville at the launch of the second National Concussion Symposium, which will be hosted by Bon Secours Health System and UPMC in association with the GAA in Croke Park on October 7. Photo by Cody Glenn/Sportsfile

"That's the way people are. That's why there's a scramble from all over the country to go and see this game," said McConville.

"I think this All-Ireland final can eclipse the hurling for the first year in a long time. Because I can't see how this could be a poor game, I really can't. Mayo are in the best position they've been in in a long time - as long as they don't over-think it.

"If they play with the energy they've been playing with, it should make for an awesome All-Ireland final."

McConville, speaking at the launch of the second National Concussion Symposium hosted by Bon Secours Health System and UPMC in association with the GAA, at which he will be a guest, said Ulster football, in general, got a "rude awakening" with Tyrone's defeat to Dublin in last week's All-Ireland semi-final.

"That style of play, when we seem to get to the bigger games, that's when it's more difficult to play that defensive system in a pitch like Croke Park.

It's easier to play it at provincial venues, where we're used to seeing that, where it's tighter and if both teams are playing the same way, which is normally what happens, both teams match up.

"There's nobody really thinking outside the box in Ulster as regards playing a bit more on the front foot. When Mattie McGleenan took over Cavan last year, he said that he was going to change things and that it was going to be completely different. And it was - for about 35 minutes! And then he realised, 'That's not going to work up here. It's not going to work in Division 1'. He changed things immediately," recalled McConville.

"I was hoping they would have been the team that would turn things around a little bit. Maybe it is time that some other team stepped up.

"The biggest thing from a Donegal point of view, for whoever was to take that job, in refreshing that group of players is to completely play it a different way. I think they looked tired from playing that system.

"When Tyrone come up here against Dublin, everybody was expecting them to put it up to Dublin, even to frustrate them for a while, but they couldn't even manage that. The game was over after 10 or 15 minutes effectively. Ulster football isn't in a great place," he admitted.

McConville believes that Tyrone won't change much from how they currently play despite the defeat and feels Mickey Harte, confirmed for a further three years earlier this week, may seek more assistance. "It's unlikely he's going to change things dramatically. I think he still thinks that's the best way he can win," said McConville.

Read more here:

"Maybe it's time for him to take in somebody alongside himself and Gavin Devlin, a Canavan or a Dooher or a Fergal Logan or somebody who's had a bit of success with that U-21 team.

"I'd love if Tyrone getting beaten in a semi-final meant that they would go away and look at how they play football but I still think the biggest lesson the last day was what it takes to challenge at that level. I don't think they'll go away and say, 'we need to change our system', believe it or not."

McConville is almost certain that the 'big four' will remain intact next year despite the evolution of the round robin All-Ireland quarter-final series and feels Mayo still have the best chance of ending Dublin's three-year unbeaten championship sequence.

"They're the only team that can match Dublin physically and athletically, and that makes a hell of a difference.

"The biggest difference I've seen between the two semi-finalists is the ability of Dublin and Mayo to make up the ground and get the players to close down the space. Tyrone and Kerry could do that, but they couldn't execute the tackle when they got there. Mayo and Dublin have that power, that pace. They can execute those tackles when they get there." The former Armagh player feels Mayo don't have to "pull a rabbit out of the hat.

"They don't need to over-think it, they just need to turn up and play with the energy they've been playing with. They can win it."

McConville is open to an involvement with the Laois hurlers again next season after being invited on to Eamonn Kelly's backroom team prior to this year's championship.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport