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5 talking points as Mayo outlast Tipperary to earn final showdown

We discuss poor refereeing decisions, Mayo’s cuteness in defence and Andy Moran’s huge impact.

1. Mayo are back in familiar territory with September football

Two years have passed since Mayo last made the All-Ireland final, but their loyal band of supporters have a big date in the capital to keep free next month.

Every year since 2012, it took the eventual All-Ireland champions to eject Mayo from the championship. It’ll be the same story for a fifth year, unless they prevent an eighth straight defeat on the biggest day on the football calendar.

Conor O'Shea celebrates after scoring a goal Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

Things are a lot different than they were in 2012 and 2013. Back then Mayo were a little too innocent, a bit too nice. Not any more.

This is a battle-hardened team with Keith Higgins, Lee Keegan, Donal Vaughan, Aidan O’Shea, Andy Moran, Alan Dillon and Cillian O’Connor. They’ve been here, done that and only one thing will satisfy their thirst — Sam.

A time comes in every team’s life cycle where they reach a breaking point. They either make the jump over that last hurdle, or they do again what they’ve always done. Mayo have reached that point now.

It’s easy to say the pressure is off because they’ll be underdogs against either Kerry or Dublin, but the reality is these players will put themselves over enormous pressure to finally get over the line.

They demanded a change in management last winter, and now in his first year in charge Stephen Rochford has led them to back to the pinnacle. They’ve only played in fits and starts this year, but there’s every possibility that’s all been leading up to one glorious 70 minute performance.

That’s what it will take to finally, finally scale the mountain.

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Evan Comerford dejected after the game Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

2. Tipperary’s thrilling journey comes to a halt 

Tipperary’s year has finally come to a close. It hasn’t been a bad journey. After a gallant effort today, they fell short to a far more experienced, and steely outfit.

The hop of the ball went against Tipp today. They were certainly on the wrong side of two big decisions by David Coldrick. They missed Robbie Kiely’s energy after eight minutes, while Bill Maher’s red card extinguished all hopes of a comeback.

There was just three points separating the teams when Conor O’Shea’s fortunate goal put the game to bed. Evan Regan mis-hit rolled perfectly into the path of the youngest O’Shea, who directed it past Evan Comerford.

Mayo would likely have seen the game home either way, but those little things went against Tipp and you always sensed it was Mayo’s to lose.

They weren’t clinical enough in attack, and didn’t get enough purchase for the amount of times they moved the ball into the forward line. The registered just five scores from play and relied heavily on frees to keep them in touch.

After 26 minutes, they found themselves in total control but Mayo stormed back into the game in that ten minute spell before the break.

Tipperary will learn their lessons and hope to back this season up with a strong one next year.

One big prerogative for Liam Kearns would be to bring in a few players to strengthen his bench. Might we see some of those high-profile absentees return in 2017?

***

Aidan O'Shea with Brian Fox Source: Tommy Grealy/INPHO

3. Consistency remains the key for Mayo

Consistency is a big issue for this Mayo team. Stephen Rochford said as much after the game.

They were flat for long periods. Whether it was a case of over-confidence or a lack of belief, Mayo sleep-walked into the first quarter. Jason Doherty’s goal after Keith Higgins’s magical run finally kicked some life into the Westerners and they were six clear by half-time.

The fact they only put up 1-3 in the second half against a Division 3 team must be worrying for Rochford, but just like every game since that harrowing Galway defeat, they’ve done what had to be done.

For 30 minutes at the end of either half they showed real quality, but being so lacklustre for 40 minutes won’t be anywhere nearly good enough the next day out. Tipp managed to get the margin down to two points after half-time, but Mayo should have killed off the game long before then.

They’ve got next weekend to suss out their opponents and another three weeks afterwards to devise a game plan to beat either the All-Ireland champions of 2014 or 2015. The team who beat them in a semi-final replay in ’14 or ’15.

This group will know there’s more in them. They’ll be hoping everything that’s happened this year is leading up to one complete 70-minute performance. That’s the challenge.

***

Bill Maher is sent off by David Coldrick Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

4. Controversial refereeing decisions

There were two big calls for referee David Coldrick to make this afternoon, and he got one of them right.

Robbie Kiely’s black-card after eight minutes was a tight one but it appears he made the right decision. He tripped Doherty who was speeding towards the goal and on the receiving end of a handpass from Andy Moran.

The late dismissal of Bill Maher was wrong. Simple as. Maher received a straight red for a striking offense, but he had clearly just pushed Kevin McLoughlin in the chest. McLoughlin’s reaction hardly helped.

Coldrick’s back was turned to the play so he received bad information from a linesmen or umpire. It’s the sort of call you’d expect the officials to get right between them, especially at this level.

***

Andy Moran with Alan Campbell Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

5. Mayo’s big-name players stand up

Andy Moran rolled back the years with a phenomenal display in Croke Park. He only last 50 minutes, but what a 50 minutes they were. Moran nailed 0-4 from play and was a constant, busy menace in the Tipperary rearguard.

Moran’s appetite to get on the ball and intelligence of movement was outstanding. He created space for himself and his teammates with some great runs.

It was a day where many of Mayo’s leaders stood. They didn’t panic, despite making a desperately poor start to both halves. Jason Doherty, who was back in the starting line-up today, was really positive while Conor O’Shea had a big impact off the bench.

McLoughlin and Patrick Durcan also showed flashes of brilliance, while Aidan O’Shea was really tuned in and got himself on plenty of ball around the middle.

Most importantly, Rochford has instilled a cuteness in this defence that has been absent in the past.

Keegan showed that with his tug on Quinlivan as they contested a high ball on the edge of the square. Colm Boyle was happy to take a yellow card later when he fouled Kevin O’Halloran as Tipp threatened to break away.

That’s the kind of stuff that’ll see them home in September.

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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