Monday 20 May 2019

Plenty for Mayo to think about - on and off the pitch

Horan's men paid ultimate price for failure to carry out orders when it mattered most

Eugene McGee

Compared to the drama attached to the two recent hurling finals, most neutrals in Croke Park for the football final seemed to be disappointed at the end.

Despite the fact that the closing stages were very tense, there still seemed to be an inevitability about the result from a long way out.

The fact that the two teams who had provided the most attractive football all through 2013 managed to play their worst football of the year seemed to upset a lot of people.

But that is not really a valid opinion because, when you cut to the chase, winning is all that matters in an All-Ireland final.

The method of the victory or defeat matters little because it is the last game of the season and therefore cannot have any relevance to the next championship game almost nine months away. So people should be considerate when assessing the performances of both teams.

Sure, Dublin did not play with the flamboyance and devil-may-care approach they showed all year, but one of the main reasons for that was the performance of Mayo in the opening quarter.

They upset a lot of Dublin's plans at that stage, most notably in their ability to frustrate Stephen Cluxton's kick-outs, so in those scenarios Dublin were more concerned with survival than putting on an exhibition.

When Dublin trailed by 0-4 to 0-1 after just 11 minutes there must have been real concern, but when you grab a good goal against the run of play, as Bernard Brogan did, it is a massive boost -- they suddenly trailed by just one point when it should have been at least six. Everything changed. Dublin could relax, knowing that Mayo's temporary supremacy had been wiped out at a stroke, or in this case a fist.

Dublin were a point behind at the break when that margin should have been much greater. But this is where Mayo began to look rattled.

They did not stick to their previous style of play, but kicked several aimless high balls to the Dublin full-back line.

Maybe it was the failure of Aidan O'Shea to make the expected impact at midfield that allowed this panic to seep in, but it proved costly.

The rot set had actually set in for both teams early on. Eoghan O'Gara was seen warming up in the 14th minute to replace Paul Mannion. Mayo 'keeper Robert Hennelly and Stephen Cluxton both hit wides from placed balls.

Kevin McLoughlin had a bad wide for Mayo in the 19th minute and Ciaran Kilkenny was guilty of the same soon afterwards.

Cillian O'Connor hit Mayo's seventh wide, Cluxton hit another free wide and soon it became obvious that this final would not take a lot of winning.

So it was proven in the second half, when Dublin got nine scores and Mayo seven -- with Dublin getting seven scores from play to Mayo's one, Andy Moran's brilliant goal. That statistic will haunt Mayo, and they'll know it was their failure to avail of easy chances from play that cost them glory.

And even though Dublin were fouling to beat the band, you cannot hope to win an All-Ireland final when only four of your team are able to score sparsely from play.

Everybody knew Dublin's trump card this year was the quality of their subs, particularly as most of them were forwards.

How Mayo would have loved to have two or three of the Dublin substitute attackers in the last quarter.

It was the disparity of substitute material that finally wrapped up the game for Dublin, even though Mayo nearly snatched it. But one of the many things that went wrong for them, and not for the first time in finals, was their serious lack of concentration when the game was in the balance.

On at least five occasions in the closing minutes, Cluxton was allowed to direct long kick-outs to the left wing to unmarked Dublin players and of course Ger Brennan really rubbed that in when scoring a fine point from such a kick-out.

I am certain that a lot of work went into curbing Cluxton's kick-outs and Mayo certainly did that early on. But at the crunch period near the finish, when the game was there to be won, the players forgot what they had been told and paid a very high price.

It is this and similar matters that should most concern James Horan and his back-room team.

If players cannot carry out a pre-arranged gameplan, then how can he ever depend on some of them again? Yes, Mayo have some serious thinking to do over the winter, on and off the field.

Indo Sport

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