Thursday 19 April 2018

Rossies must get under Mayo skin to stand any chance

Eoin Liston

Eoin Liston

I said some weeks ago that I didn't fancy Mayo to win the All-Ireland and I remain unconvinced by them. To their credit, they went into the Galway game with a lot to lose and came through the test with ease.

Many, including myself, felt that the Tribesmen were primed to give them a real test in Pearse Stadium. The reality was, however, Galway were incredibly poor on the day.

Mayo can only beat what's laid before them, however, and there were a lot of positives in their play. Donie Buckley's influence is evident in the way the forwards work like dogs without possession and really put pressure on the oppositions' attempts at building momentum. The O'Shea brothers were also completely dominant at midfield.

And Mayo did put up a huge score, with 4-16 an excellent return regardless of who they were playing.

There is also little doubt that James Horan has managed to instill belief in his players and they have a steely aggression about them – something that was missing from teams of the past. They have an excellent linkman in Kevin McLoughlin, who really is a top class operator and, physically, they are as impressive as anyone else out there.

But they need to show that this ruthless streak is now a feature of their play and not just a one off. To do that, they will want to put Roscommon away early and really ensure the game doesn't descend into a dogfight, which can often be the case in this type of fixture.

If the Rossies get under their skin early, how will Mayo react? Is the mental strength there to deal with setbacks?

I'm unsure about their defence, too. Going forward they are excellent, with the half-backs given licence to help out the attack. But their primary duty is to stop the concession of scores, and, in that regard, they still have weaknesses that will be exploited by better teams.

When a team runs at them directly and with pace, are they going to resort to fouling and giving away frees?

I would also question whether the two lads in midfield are mobile enough, even though they are experts at winning primary possession. That is an area Roscommon could target.

John Evans is a very shrewd operator. When he was the manager of Kerins O'Rahilly's, it was obvious he had a massive knowledge of the game and his teams are always solid defensively.

He will have Roscommon meticulously prepared and they will be very strong mentally because of his sheer enthusiasm and positive approach to the task at hand. John will break the game down into segments and he will hammer the idea of a good start into the players, bring them in at half-time to regroup, and go again after the break.

From there they will be confident of causing an upset. The county would have received a massive boost from St Brigid's capturing the club All-Ireland. The players involved in successes at minor and U-21 level mean that they will have no inferiority complex and, more importantly, they go into games expecting victory, rather than hoping for it.

They had a poor campaign last year, but in 2011 Mayo only beat them by two points in the Connacht final and they won the province 12 months previously, so there is plenty of quality within their squad.

The forecast is a wet and windy day and that never suits favourites. But the main concern for Roscommon is where the scores will come from. Up to now, there is a lot of reliance on Donie Shine and he has a hamstring problem. Without him, the task gets even tougher.

CERTAINTIES

Ultimately, I expect them to come up short, but – and perhaps they will prove me wrong – I don't believe the bookies can justify having Mayo as 1/6 certainties.

In Munster, my old boss will be parading the sideline yet again. This will be one step too far even for Mick O'Dwyer, though. The simple reality is Cork are a far superior outfit and I would fear for Clare.

Micko himself has had a tough year personally, so that wouldn't have helped. On the playing side of things, Gordon Kelly and Gary Brennan are good enough to play for any team. But they have struggled with injuries for a large part of the season.

Cork are coming in nicely under the radar. For the past number of years they were tipped to win the All-Ireland, but when Colm O'Neill got injured, it was almost as if people forgot about them. They will feel that they left a second Sam Maguire behind them and they are certainly good enough to go all the way again.

Brian Hurley has softened that blow of losing O'Neill and he could be a real find. The Rebels should negotiate this one with little problem and set up another Munster final date with Kerry.

Irish Independent

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