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Dublin: 11 °C Saturday 17 November, 2018
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Analysis: Mayo's perfect kickout game, improvements in attack and big decisions for Rochford

The42 analyst Sean Murphy takes a closer look at Mayo’s round 2 qualifier victory over Tipperary on Saturday night.

THERE IS SOMETHING special about this bunch of Mayo players. When their backs are against the wall in must-win games, time and time again they come out fighting – Saturday was no different.

Aidan O’Shea and Keith Higgins with Steven O’Brien Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

At 51 minutes gone, three points down and having lost another midfielder in Seamie O’Shea with a shoulder injury, many would have been writing this Mayo team’s obituary but yet again Stephen Rochford’s men had a different idea.

They were fortunate with their goal through James Durcan. However, there were many more factors that contributed to the Mayo team’s victory.

Source: officialgaa/YouTube

Below is a brief summary of all events:

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Kickouts

Two days on from this game and I’m still wondering why Liam Kearns did not instruct his players to push up on the Mayo kickouts. Mayo had 20 kickouts in this game and had a 100% return.

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Another reason that I feel Tipperary should have forced Mayo to go long was that they had reaped the benefits themselves when they won their own kickouts long and went direct with the ball, This was one of the reasons that they were leading at the break. This is a decision the Tipperary will definitely rue.

On the other hand Mayo tried to push up on as many of Evan Comerford as possible and they had a significant return on this winning 33% of Tipperarys 27 restarts. This was of reward to Mayo as they scored three points directly off the back of winning the Tipperary kickouts.

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Entering into this game Mayo were missing Tom Parsons through injury and in the 31st minute of this game lost their other midfielder Seamie O Shea through a shoulder injury, I cannot understand how at half-time Tipperary did not change tack and press up.

Mayo are a team who are strong when running the ball, so giving them possession from the restarts only allowed them to get their runners – Lee Keegan, Keith Higgins, Patrick Durcan and others - on the ball and allowed them to build momentum.

Any team that Mayo play going forward will not allow them to do this. It is not an option if they want to win to the game.

Shooting

In the past, I have been critical of Stephen Rochford's sides' shooting and their decision making up front. On Saturday evening, their shooting efficiency was as good as I've ever seen it.

Mayo finished the game with a 69% efficiency. Another pleasing factor for the Mayo management was the spread of 10 different scorers. One of the key reasons for the increase in Mayo's shooting efficiency is where their players are taking the shot on from.

80% of the Mayo shots were taken from inside 35 metres, just outside the D zone. Even when under pressure, we didn’t see the rush of blood to the head we had seen with Mayo versus Galway and a massive amount of pot shots being taken on.

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They were patient particularly in the second half and ran at Tipperary rather than kicking direct ball in which they had tried in the first half but this was not going to work with Tipperary using Brian Fox as a sweeper.

Tipperary, on the other hand, will be very disappointed with their return of 52% shooting efficiency. What will upset them even more is their inability to score again after the 51st minute and only scoring four points in the second half – this is not good enough to win any game at inter-county level.

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Mayo Leaks

This was by no means an all-round performance, there are many worries for Rochford following this game. Tipperary in the first half produced some excellent direct ball and in particular into full forward Michael Quinlivan who was being tracked by defender Patrick Durcan.

Tipperary continued to pull their half-forward line deep to allow for space in front of marquee forwards Conor Sweeney and Quinlivan. This worked extremely well in the first half. Tipperary looked to exploit the height difference between Quinlivan and Durcan.

Patrick Durcan did get to grips with Michael Quinlivan in the second and only really when he decided to put his own game to the fore and charge forward when possible. He even went on to score a point late in the second half, He continued to beat his opponent to the ball on numerous occasions.

Source: officialgaa/YouTube

Tipperary Wilting

Questions will have to be asked as to how Tipperary hit such a wall in the last 20 minutes of this game. The heat may have been a factor and some may say that they had ran themselves into the ground but get outscored 1-8 to 0-1 in the final 25 minutes is just not acceptable.

Mayo seemed to go from strength to strength as the game went on. They were getting runners from deep and continued to drive at the Tipperary defence. They looked to have Tipp completely pinned in in last ten minutes.

Conclusion

It’s the end of the road for Tipperary in 2018. There is no question that this year has been a failure for them. They failed to gain promotion from Division 2. They have had an equally poor championship showing with a quarter-final win over Waterford followed by a drubbing to Cork in their Munster semi-final and an eight-point defeat by Mayo.

Tipp have spoken about bridging the gap between themselves and the bigger outfits, it would seem now that this could be out of their reach. They are at a crossroads now – are they going to be remembered for getting to one All-Ireland semi-final in 2016 or are they going to exploit the wealth of talent that they have and kick on?

For Mayo, the show goes on but they have to stop doing it the hard way or it will catch up on them. The injury list has another addition in Seamie O Shea and unfortunately it is another midfielder.

They have decisions to make now – Is Lee Keegan a better wing back than midfielder? Can they afford to put Aidan O Shea in midfield for a full game? They do have other options for midfield in Diarmuid O Connor, Patrick Durcan, Barry Moran and the returning Donal Vaughan.

Lee Keegan Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Next up is Kildare, at the time of writing there is still a stand-off regards the venue.

Kildare now feel they are being wronged by GAA headquarters. There is no doubt they will try to tap into this emotion to help Saturday's performance.

Cian O Neill's men now have their backs up after two good wins away from home in Derry and Longford. I think Mayo will have it harder in terms of their own kickouts and expect Kildare to press them and try to force them down on top of Tommy Moolick, Fergal Conway and Paddy Brophy.

Kildare will also be better organised than Tipperary were. Neil Flynn is also a very lively option for Kildare and will provide trouble for Mayo inside. He will be partnered by the giant Daniel Flynn.

Overall though, if Croke Park is the venue it will suit Mayo much more than Kildare. The space will allow for them to run the ball and break down the Kildare defence. I personally think Mayo will beat them wherever they are to play them.

Stephen Rochford and company will be getting on with their job as per usual, the only concern for him will be Kildare and not a venue. Mayo will enjoy going into a game under the radar for a change.

I think that Mayo will be better balanced throughout the pitch and I expect them to get over a stern test. I would then fancy Stephen Rochford's side to get over any of the provincial runner-ups and take their place in the Super 8s and be back to where they feel they should be.

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Sean Murphy

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