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Johnny Doyle: Aidan O'Shea sacrificing his game for the good of the team proves Mayo have real character

The42′s columnist Johnny Doyle takes a look back at today’s thrilling All-Ireland semi-final between Kerry and Mayo.

Updated at 12.00 

I DIDN’T GET the chance to catch the Kerry-Mayo game live today.

In their infinite wisdom, the Kildare fixtures committee decided to fix Allenwood’s Kildare SFC game with Castledermot for 3pm, shortly before throw-in at Croke Park. I had an hour of football of my own to get through before I could take in the day’s showpiece game.

Kieran Donaghy with Aidan O’Shea Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Once our match finished I jumped straight into the car and kept the radio switched off as I rushed home. I had the game recorded and didn’t want to know the result before I watched it.

I made it to the midway point of the second-half when my dad walked into the room.

“Jaysus, Mayo and Kerry will have to go at it again,” he said unwittingly.

I wasn’t happy. “Ah you’re after spoiling it on me,” I snapped at him, half-annoyed but half-delighted Mayo and Kerry are heading back to Croke Park for round two next weekend.

It was a game that had everything, including raw honesty from both sides. Mayo have their critics but how anyone can criticise them for the way they go about their business year after year is beyond me. They never know when they are beaten.

Eamonn Fitzmaurice and Stephen Rochford are two shrewd men and their tactical battle was fascinating to watch. I remember reading David Brady’s suggestion that Rochford should put Aidan O’Shea back to mark Kieran Donaghy on Twitter during the week, but I never thought that’s how it would play out.

Stephen Rochford Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

It must be said that it was a bold move by Rochford. If they were beaten, it would undoubtedly have been the stick to beat him with after the game. After dropping David Clarke in favour of Rob Hennelly for last year’s All-Ireland final replay, you’d understand if Rochford shied away from pulling another rabbit out of the hat. He showed bottle to make that call.

There were pros and cons to it as Aidan had been playing really well at centre-forward for the most part of the summer. He sacrificed his game for the good of the team so you have to give him credit for that. The one thing that always strikes me about Mayo is they’re a team with serious character.

I haven’t agreed with every decision they’ve made over the past few years but the easiest thing in the world is to sit in a dressing room and not stick your head above the parapet.

Will Rochford stick with O’Shea at full-back the next day? It’s hard to know. It took a bit away from Mayo from an attacking point of view. Cillian O’Connor scored just one pointed free today when usually he’s good for five or six placed balls. When O’Shea is running at a defence, he’s so big and strong he attracts fouls by the opposition.

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Aidan O’Shea Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

I can’t go any further without mentioning the performance of Andy Moran. He was phenomenal. Moran is such a clever footballer and he makes this team tick.

It’ll be interesting to see how the match-ups will change for the replay. Fitzmaurice’s move to place Paul Murphy on Lee Keegan was a big plus and he kept the Footballer of the Year fairly quiet.

Barry John Keane always seems to get a score for Kerry when he comes off the bench and he did so again today. On the other side, Mayo brought on Paddy Durcan and he showed good composure to level up the game at the finish.

If I put myself in Fitzmaurice’s shoes for a moment, the one thing that he’ll be concerned about is how exposed Kerry looked at the back. They’ll have to tighten up defensively but I do think they have more room to improve than Mayo.

I’ve heard some people say that if Mayo don’t win the big prize this year it’ll be the end for this team but I don’t agree. They’re on the road a long time and guys like Andy Moran aren’t getting any younger, but where else would you want to be as a footballer? It doesn’t get much better than playing in front of 60,000 people in Croke Park at the end of August.

Colm Boyle celebrates scoring his sides second goal Source: James Crombie/INPHO

We spent years in Kildare thinking we’d love to be battling it out with the big boys at the business end of the championship. When you get the phonecall to go back in November, it surely makes it easier to go back knowing that you’re so close to winning an All-Ireland.

Both sets of players deserve huge credit for how they competed out there in dreadful conditions. Those boys just tore into each other like wild animals and I’ve huge respect for the entertainment they provided.

Replays often come down to who learned more from the first day. Whatever about Kerry or Mayo, my big concern is what Allenwood learned about Castledermot ahead of the other big replay of the week.

Our clash finished level today, and we’ll do it all again on Thursday night for a place in the next round. Win or lose, at least I’ll get to catch the Kerry-Mayo replay live this time around without my father spoiling it on me!

- Originally published at 23.07 on 20 August 

Source: The42 Podcasts/SoundCloud

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