Updated at 21.30
NO MATTER WHAT way you look at this game, the choice of Mayo goalkeeper played a very significant part in the match.
Stephen Rochford has been willing to do things differently. Alan Dillon and Barry Moran were the beneficiaries of those calls earlier in the year and Rochford was lauded. The difficulty is that when it all goes wrong, you look worse than if you just left things the way they were.
Gavin wasn’t shy in making changes either and if a couple of scores went the other way, would he be under the microscope for not starting Brogan and only having one recognised midfielder for most of the game?
Rochford said after the game:
We did our analysis on Dublin. They pushed with a formation in the first game, pushing four guys inside, they were probably trying to cut off our short kickouts. And as the game developed in the drawn game, they were getting more comfort or more reward. It was probably something they were going to try and maximize further.
Rather than simply criticize the decision now that we know the outcome, let’s look at what Rochford’s analysis would have looked like from that drawn game.
Overall Mayo won 16 of 22 (73%) kickouts. Rochford in the quote above mentions how Dublin were getting more and more comfortable and were probably going to push up more and limit the short option.
In the first game, Clarke kicked five kickouts past his own 45; Mayo won just one (a deflection that went over the sideline).
Part of the problem here is that the trajectory of Clarke’s long kickouts hang in the air, much like a Garryowen, hanging in the air and giving Dublin a chance to both press the short kickout and then attack the break.
Here we can see Eoghan O’Gara can mark Kevin McLoughlin, who is just out of shot, and can still make it to the longer ball for the break.
By the time Tom Parsons is going for this ball, it’s dropping almost straight from the sky and as such gives the defender a chance to break it straight into O’Gara’s hands.
Rochford was concerned by this. If Dublin pressed, could Mayo win enough long range kickouts?
So what did Dublin bring on the Mayo kickouts? Here is the very first kickout in the replay and we can see Dublin’s set-up clearly.
The ball hasn’t even hit the ground from a poor wide yet and Hennelly has another one in his hands and is ready to go. Speed is not an issue here — Hennelly has the ball down as quick as is possible.
Dublin have a sweeper in place and a spare man at left half-back.
Moments later O’Sullivan joins that midfield line and Dublin leave it two v two inside. They gamble that if they don’t win the kickout, they will at least being able to slow the attack and cover back.
Hennelly has a chance to go short to Keegan but decides against it and looks left. While he is looking away, Kevin McLoughlin finds a lovely bit of space.
But by the time Hennelly turns, Connolly has spotted the danger and the break goes Dublin’s way.
Mayo lost the next two kickouts before Hennelly steadied the ship with a short kickout and then a really nice long quick ball that probably summed up the exact reason he was given the nod.
After Dublin kicked their fourth point, again Dublin look to squeeze Mayo with Flynn and Connolly pressing up.
Hennelly manages to find the space quickly to prevent Dublin getting in around the contest and Mayo launch their first attack. This is what Rochford and Mayo would have been hoping for more often. Unfortunately, it didn’t pan out like that.
When Clarke came in, Mayo won seven from seven kickouts (the same amount as Hennelly had won in the previous 13 attempts).
You can see some sort of logic to the decision making and perhaps if we had seen more of Hennelly in recent games, it wouldn’t have felt like such a big decision. Ultimately whatever Mayo felt they gained in the long kickouts, they lost in other areas and the plan backfired, but it’s easy to say that when you have seen the outcome. We don’t know how Clarke might have fared if Dublin had put a real squeeze on early and caused him to kick long.
The Mayo goal was a thing of real beauty. Teams and pundits have been crying out for someone to ask more questions of Cian O’Sullivan. Throughout the championship we have highlighted here time and again how few questions teams have been able to ask of him. The goal on Saturday was a great example of the sort of movement required.
Mayo have the ball (won from their own long kickout) on the half-way line. Dublin had pressed but now have their defensive shape in place.
O’Sullivan has filtered back and is occupying the D.
Seamus O’Shea looks up and can see the run Aidan O’Shea is going to make across O’Sullivan.
Lee Keegan and Diarmuid Connolly are highlighted. This is exactly the sort of endeavor Keegan brings you. Not only can he mark one of the best forwards in the game but he gives you something going forward as well. And the advantage when he breaks forward is that his marker isn’t always as ready to go with him.
Aidan O’Shea does really well to not just win the ball but he manages to turn O’Sullivan and leave him behind. Philly McMahon has to fill the space and Keegan’s run now has Mayo in a two v one.
It was a wonderful finish by Keegan but that space is created by occupying O’Sullivan and forcing him to make a decision. Credit must also go to the width Mayo maintained here.
Jason Doherty and Diarmuid O’Connor keep their width at all times and are never tempted to bring their Dublin markers into the D and hence close all the space for O’Shea and Andy Moran inside.
Mayo Pressing & Dublin Movement
Anybody who tuned into Jurgen Klopp on MNF last week will have seen him discussing the gegenpressing system he has become synonymous with. Although some of the intricate details might be different across sports, there are a lot of similarities: the need not just to press the man on the ball, the importance of timing that run, and what options you want to allow the player on the ball to have. Get the timing or the angle of run wrong and you have very little effect.
It was one of the most impressive aspects of Mayo’s play in the drawn game. Their ability to tackle, harass and press Dublin was excellent. You always felt that if that dropped even a small bit they would struggle. Unfortunately for much of the game that same execution just wasn’t there. They didn’t affect the man on the ball enough and at times, some players pressed while others dropped.
When defending, you want to reduce time and space. A lot of teams do this by simply retreating and crowding their own 45. Others, like Mayo and Dublin, like to press you high up the pitch when the time is right.
Early on we could see how easy it was for Dublin to transfer the ball from one end to the other.
Stephen Cluxton catches the ball from a short shot. Cillian O’Connor and Aidan O’Shea are close but neither get close enough to disturb Cluxton with a simple forward kick pass.
Paul Flynn picks the ball up and immediately looks to switch the play.
For me, the three Mayo players here should be offering some sort of protection. They either should have pressed or dropped but instead do neither.
By the time Andy Moran organises what’s in front of him and turns around, O’Sullivan is already releasing the ball. Parsons is caught a bit in no man’s land but for me shouldn’t even consider pressing now. His only concern should be what is behind him. He can’t affect the ball so needs to drop.
O’Sullivan’s pass takes six Mayo players out of the game.
When the ball drops to Ciaran Kilkenny, there is an opportunity for Donal Vaughan to go and help Kevin McLaughlin. Dublin have moved the ball quickly so Kilkenny doesn’t have a lot of support if Mayo can get at him. Instead Vaughan drops off as sweeper.
This is a few seconds later from a different angle.
Dean Rock’s movement is excellent considering where he ends up, but McLaughlin is the first (and only) Mayo player to get even close to a Dub in this full-pitch move.
You can see Rock pointing here. I’m not sure who exactly he is signaling to here but it confused Donal Vaughan. Vaughan has his back to the play now and instead of dropping into the D where a sweeper should be, he is dragged to the sideline, thinking Andrews is the danger.
Keith Higgins gets caught on the wrong side of Rock but there is absolutely no pressure on Kilkenny when delivering the pass. Rock kicks a nice score to finish the move.
The example below is from the dying minutes of the game. Perhaps Mayo were out on their feet at this stage, but it was a pattern repeated throughout the game.
Cluxton finds Kilkenny in between the lines.
But Mayo have bodies, seven in total.
Kilkenny lays it off to Philly McMahon. It should be up to Mayo to dictate terms here. Mayo should be deciding what option they want McMahon to take. Moran, Dillon and O’Connor need to communicate, pick a side, and limit what Dublin can do.
With no pressure on the ball McMahon looks left put then opts to spread the ball to his corner back.
Again from this scenario Mayo have a chance to put some pressure on. Cillian O’Connor and Aidan O’Shea need to decide what options Dublin have. If O’Connor can stop the ball coming back inside, it means Dublin only have the line and the rest of the Mayo team can squeeze those options.
When McCarthy catches the ball, he has time to look around. Instead of O’Connor trying to step in and help O’Shea, who should be much tighter, he runs around the back of him and between them, McCarthy has acres of space.
The next men in are Seamus O’Shea and Diarmuid O’Connor. They have pressed this far, no doubt aware of the space they have left behind them, But Fenton picks the ball up and again he has plenty of time. They should be in his face; it’s the last minute of an All Ireland final.
When Kilkenny passes to Michael Darragh MacAuley we can see the six Mayo players (plus McLaughlin out of shot on the left) are going to be bypassed. They were all close to the action.
Dublin made seven passes in this sequence and not once do Mayo get a hand on them.
Dublin’s movement was excellent. Mayo did allow them the sort of time and space they didn’t the last day and if you let this Dublin team play, they can look awesome.
Mayo won’t have left Croke Park on either day feeling they gave a 10 out of 10 performance. Kerry felt they had given it everything against Dublin and were just beaten by a better team. I don’t think Mayo will feel that way. If O’Connor points that free at the end, it is Dublin who have coughed up a lead two games running.
The narrative can change so quickly with these tight games. Dublin are deserved champions and have a record to match anybody in history but Mayo were close.
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