Friday 24 November 2017

Tomás Ó Sé: Mayo's forward failings come back to haunt them once again

Cormac Costello kicks Dublin’s final point of the game under pressure from Kevin McLoughlin (left) and Brendan Harrison in last year's All-Ireland final replay. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Tomás Ó Se

Tomás Ó Se

The thing about a one-point game is it tends to push you towards looking at the minutiae of things. You can examine even the smallest incidents and make a case for that being the decisive moment.

But sometimes it pushes you away from the thing that's right under your nose.

Mayo's problem on Saturday night was obvious. And its the same problem they've had for years and has dogged their All-Ireland crusade. They are missing something in the final third. 

Now I don't say that to have a go. My admiration for this Mayo team only went up on Saturday night. If you could win All-Irelands by sheer force of will they'd be one of the all time great teams.

There is no end to those boys. No matter what you throw at them the come back for more. They are great ambassadors for the game and their county, and if Sam Maguire was sitting down in Castlebar this morning I don't think too many outside Dublin would be unhappy with that. 

But they know better than anyone that All-Irelands aren't won on sentiment. The goodwill of the neutral doesn't kick the ball over the bar.

A disappointed Aidan O'Shea of Mayo. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile
A disappointed Aidan O'Shea of Mayo. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile

The agonising thing for them is that they have everything else down. Their defence is the best in the country in my book, even better than Dublin's. At midfield they have enough to cope with most teams, but it's up front where they are missing something.

They've tried various things, tried moving the parts of the jigsaw to make it all fit, but you always felt like no matter what way they move the deckchairs around, they are always going to be one short.

They had the possession to win that game but when the chances came they were let go. Andy Moran missed when on his good foot. You'd have expected him to nail that in the form he is in. The wide from Aidan O'Shea into the Hill just should have been going over for a player of his potential. Conor O'Shea dropped one short too. When the moment was there they didn't deliver.

Cillian O'Connor's free at the end was difficult. But if you started naming names to kick a pressure free from all the players in the country, O'Connor would be at the very top of the list. He's a good footballer, gutsy as hell but I want my free-taker nailing that in an All-Ireland final.

And the problem with Mayo's struggles up front is that it can't be trained. Putting the ball over the bar is the hardest thing to do in the game and a certain amount of it is natural. It's innate. Those guys are born with that ability and they live and die on the amount of flags they raise. They nearly aren't interested in anything else.

Cormac Costello was the perfect example of that for Dublin. Three points in the blink of an eye. Mayo just didn't have someone to come on and do that for them. They have a great running game but don't have a plan B if that's struggling to make inroads.

They need to find two young lads over the winter who have that confidence and fearlessness and put them in the team and let them find their feet.

I suppose they won't want any sympathy but it will be a difficult few months for Mayo and Stephen Rochford.

I still haven't figured out what they were trying to do by bringing in Rob Hennelly, but it backfired. There's no point in going into it too much because it was plain for all to see.

The build-up to the penalty was a disaster. Hennelly had time to take it on his chest but it all went awry. And the kickouts went wrong too and led to Keegan's black card.

I'm not sure it was a black as I don't think it was an intentional pull down but he should never been put in that position where he was pulling at Connolly to get back goal-side. And when he went, Mayo lost a huge part of their attacking game.

I just don't see how the risk/reward stacked up for Mayo by putting Hennelly in there.

And now the question will always be asked if David Clarke had played would Mayo have won the All-Ireland?

I think Rochford and his team will learn from it because they seemed to get a lot right. At the start of the year Kevin McLoughlin looked lost playing as a sweeper. On Saturday, he was playing the role perfectly, so they got that call spot on - and it was decision they would have got a lot of grief for.

I suppose its unusual for a piece on the All-Ireland final to go this far without mentioning the winners. Dublin got the little things right.

Jim Gavin made some huge calls and he got them right. Dropping Brogan was brave. They got a huge response out of Michael Darragh Macauley too.

Dean Rock was under pressure going into the game but he didn't wilt. I was watching him to see how he'd react but he came back hard.

James McCarthy made a huge difference too. I thought he was brilliant.

All in all, Dublin's intensity was doubled. They worked like dogs and did whatever it took to get the job done. That's what great teams do. And Dublin are definitely in that bracket now. You just can't argue with their numbers.

And they won't go away. Apart from maybe Denis Bastick I don't see a whole pile of them walking away. Some of those lads have four All-Ireland medals now and the age profile of the squad is good. They'll be around for a few years to come.

It's up to the rest to try and knock them off their perch.

But if you were Mayo you'd still feel like Dublin were there for the taking. You still felt Mayo had punched enough holes in their bow to sink them but they couldn't deliver the final bow.

We were asked on TV if that team would ever win an All-Ireland. My gut instinct was no but who knows?

All you can be sure of is they'll be back again next year. What else can they do?

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport