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5 talking points as Mayo and Tipperary clash for a place in the All-Ireland final

Tipperary have a shot at immortality while Mayo appear to be timing their run to perfection under Stephen Rochford.
Aug 20th 2016, 8:00 PM 8,674 5

Seamus O'Shea and Alan Campbell Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

1. Mayo must guard against complacency 

THEY TOOK A different path this year but the destination is the same. Mayo find themselves in a sixth straight All-Ireland semi-final. There’s plenty to admire about that achievement, but they know it will count for little unless they take that final step in September.

They thrived in the role of underdogs for the quarter-final win over Tyrone, but now Mayo face the test of being overwhelming favourites to extend their season for one more game. Tipperary have upset the odds all year and Liam Kearns has kept his squad motivated throughout the championship by constantly referring to the fact they are being written off in the media.

Mayo will need to use all their experience to make it to a third final in five years.

Conor Sweeney and Martin Dunne celebrate at the end of the match Source: Tommy Grealy/INPHO

2. Fearless Tipperary get a shot at immortality

Tipperary are a confident, vibrant bunch. And why wouldn’t they be? A squad peppered with All-Ireland minor winners and plenty more who played a role in their journey to the All-Ireland U21 decider in 2015.

They play a free-wheeling, fearless brand of football that has been a breath of fresh air to the football championship. And, most importantly, they thrive on the big occasion.

They don’t come much bigger than an All-Ireland semi-final against such seasoned campaigners. Win this game and these players would go into Tipperary folklore.

Alan Dillon Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

3. Mayo’s tactical flexibility under Rochford

What’s been notably different about Mayo under Stephen Rochford is their tactical flexibility. They came through tricky qualifier games against Fermanagh, Kildare and Westmeath by showing only brief glimpses of quality. Then the Mayo boss picked a team and rolled a system specifically designed to beat Tyrone. He become the first man in 2016 to successfully plot the downfall of Mickey Harte’s side.

Rochford trusted experienced lieutenants Alan Dillon and Andy Moran to carry out the game plan against the Ulster champions. Dillon delivered early, quick kick passes into Moran and O’Shea inside before the Red Hand had time to set up the blanket.

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Keith Higgins returned to his natural home in the full-back line, Lee Keegan was excellent in his man-marking role on Sean Cavanagh and Kevin McLoughlin is settling into the sweeper position.

Rochford will jig things around once again in a bid to take out Tipperary’s key men, most notably the the twin aerial threat of Conor Sweeney and Michael Quinlivan in the full-forward line.

Niall Morgan misses an injury time free to draw the game Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

4. Tipperary must learn from Tyrone’s mistakes

As good Mayo were against Tyrone, they coughed up a number of chances for the Ulster champions to kick an equalising score. Had Tyrone’s talisman Sean Cavanagh still been on the field the result might have been different, but we’ll never know.

Tipperary won’t get anywhere near as many chances as they did last time out against Galway and they’re going to have to be clinical in front of goals. Quinlivan and Sweeney will be key but the rest of the Premier’s forward unit must continue to chip in with scores.

Aidan O’Shea celebrates Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

5. Are Mayo timing their run to perfection this time around?

They were kingpins in Connacht for five years running, but Mayo were never quite able to double up as All-Ireland champions under the Noel Connolly-Pat Holmes ticket or James Horan before that.

The Westerners rode their luck on occasions in the backdoor, but they wouldn’t be the first team to take home Sam after struggling in the qualifiers.

Tomas Ó Sé questioned their mentality after witnessing a laid back warm-up in the opening league game against Cork. But that was January and this is August. Mayo, more than anyone, know that this is the time of year that counts. They appear to be only beginning to hit their peak as a team. That’s pretty promising.

The most pleasing part of their win over Tyrone was how the main men delivered big performances. A similar display from Aidan O’Shea, Cillian O’Connor, Colm Boyle and Lee Keegan should leave them 70 minutes from the crowning glory.

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Kevin O'Brien


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