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5 key tactical decisions facing Horan and Dooher-Logan

Tomorrow’s All-Ireland final promises to be a fascinating battle on the sidelines.

1. Will Tyrone set-up with a sweeper again?

IN THE WINS over Donegal and Kerry, Tyrone set-up with Michael O’Neill and Frank Burns as rotating sweepers. They backed their six defenders to handle the Monaghan forward line without any extra protection in the Ulster final, so it’s clear Tyrone are flexible and comfortable with either approach. 

pjimage (12) Feargal Logan and Brian Dooher are going up against James Horan tomorrow. Inpho Inpho

Tyrone were so well set-up against Kerry, but this Mayo side present a different challenge and require another approach. The Connacht champions will hurt you with runners from deep, while Kerry’s key weapons David Clifford and Sean O’Shea played closer to goal. 

Because Mayo’s forwards are not as potent as the Kerry front six, Brian Dooher and Feargal Logan will probably go man-on-man with the Mayo attack. They’ll still look to release the centre-back as a ‘plus one’ in front of the full-back line, particularly if Aidan O’Shea is at full-forward.

If Tyrone are defending a lead in the final quarter, they’ll certainly drop bodies back behind the ball. But it’s likely the Red Hand will trust their six defenders to win their individual battles. The midfield war zone is the area Tyrone will flood with white jerseys. 

2. Match-ups

ryan-odonoghue Mayo’s Ryan O’Donoghue enjoyed a fine semi-final. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

This is one of the most difficult areas to predict because both squads have so many players capable of doing a job. Much will depend on how both sets of forwards line out on the day. 

Let’s start with the Tyrone defence. It’s safe to assume Ronan McNamee will take O’Shea for the spells he spends on the edge of the square. Ryan O’Donoghue poses a difficult question. Will Michael McKernan pick him up? Frank Burns is another option. Padraig Hampsey is probably the man who’ll mark Tommy Conroy.

On the half-back line, Conor Meyler could be the man tasked with shutting down Kevin McLoughlin, with Peter Harte another possibility. 

Mayo’s defensive match-ups could see Padraig O’Hora on Mattie Donnelly (if he plays at 14). Oisin Mullin looks like a perfect fit to follow Conor McKenna’s runs outfield, although it would also suit Lee Keegan’s tendency to put the forward on the back foot. 

Mayo’s other corner-back on Darren McCurry could be one of Enda Hession, Michael Plunkett, Brendan Harrison or Keegan. Alternatively, Mayo might feel Keegan on Donnelly and O’Hora on McCurry gives them the best chance of success.

If Cathal McShane is thrown in from the start, Stephen Coen, O’Hora and Keegan are the candidates to pick him up. Paddy Durcan’s energy makes him the best match for Kieran McGeary, Tyrone’s link man on the half-forward line.

 3. The McShane and O’Shea conundrums

cathal-mcshane-celebrates-scoring-his-sides-second-goal Tyrone's Cathal McShane celebrates after scoring his side’s second goal against Kerry. Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

There has been plenty of debate in Mayo over the past month about whether O’Shea should start the final. Realistically, Horan isn’t going to drop his captain for a game of this magnitude. O’Shea was poor in the semi-final, but he had little training done and had his foot in a protective boot in the lead-in to the game. 

The real question is around how they’ll use O’Shea in the final. Will he spend most of his time at full-forward or a floating role in midfield? A combination of the two is most likely. Tyrone will get huge energy from any turnovers they force on O’Shea, so he’ll need to move the ball on quickly to avoid getting bottled up.

Similarly in Tyrone, many feel Cathal McShane should be pitched in from the start. His 1-3 off the bench against Kerry signalled that the Adelaide Crows triallist is returning to form at the right time of the season. 

The four-week gap in between the Ulster final and All-Ireland semi-final clearly benefited McShane. Mayo’s habit of conceding goals early might convince Dooher and Logan to test out the full-back line with Donnelly and McShane inside. Or they could move Donnelly to midfield, dropping Conn Kilpatrick or Brian Kennedy, and use McShane as a target man. 

However, McShane is likely to be held in reserve as Tyrone look to exploit the space in the final quarter. Which leads us to…

4. Bench impact

jordan-flynn-celebrates-after-the-game Mayo's Jordan Flynn celebrates after the win over Dublin. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

Both squads have plenty of players capable of making a difference off the bench tomorrow. McShane, Darragh Canavan and Mark Bradley are all high-quality forwards, while further back they have options like Tiernan McCann, Ben McDonnell, Richie Donnelly and Rory Brennan.

Mayo called upon Enda Hession in the first-half against Dublin and he stands a good chance of starting in the full-back line. Jordan Flynn, Darren Coen, James Carr and Brendan Harrison all offer good options for Horan. Bryan Walsh and Conor O’Shea likewise featured in the second period of the semi-final.

If this game is in the melting pot with 15 minutes to go as expected, then the winning of the game could come down to which substitutes make a decisive impact when called upon.  

5. Who’ll throw a curveball?

mark-bradley Tyrone could pitch in Mark Bradley from the start. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

We’ve already discussed the prospect of McShane starting, but likewise Darragh Canavan and Mark Bradley could be thrown in from the start, particularly if Tyrone go with six forwards.

Bradley’s movement and ability to bring others into the game makes him from the top of the triangle in the full-forward line might be a good foil for Donnelly and McCurry. That would see Conor McKenna moved out to centre-forward, where he’s less likely to be man-marked. 

Tiernan McCann is vastly experienced and his athleticism might be required from the start to give Tyrone an extra punch on the counter-attack.

Mullin appears to be winning his race against a quad injury, while there have been reports that Eoghan McLaughlin has returned to training and stands an outside chance of featuring. Coming four weeks after a double-jaw fracture, might we see a masked McLaughlin marching behind the band tomorrow evening?

Hession would provide pace in McLaughlin’s absence on the half-back line, with Plunkett and Darren McHale the other two players from the semi-final who may not start for Mayo. 

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