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Dublin: 2 °C Sunday 24 February, 2019

The return of Lee Keegan, Durcan's epic battle with Quinlivan and Tipperary wilt in final quarter

5 talking points after Mayo’s 1-18 to 1-11 round 2 qualifier win over Tipperary at Semple Stadium.

Kevin O’Brien reports from Semple Stadium, Thurles

1. Lee Keegan makes his return

THE 2016 FOOTBALLER of the Year made his first competitive start for Mayo since March today and his return was a welcome sight for supporters.

Lee Keegan Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Tipperary dropped half-forward Brian Fox back as a sweeper, so Keegan started out as Mayo’s spare man and operated between the half-back line and midfield.

Keith Higgins was taken for two points by Philip Austin early on and Stephen Rochford opted to move swap him with Keegan. It took the Westport defender a while to get to grips with Austin and he conceded a free that was converted, but in the second-half Keegan looked back to his old self.

He bombed forward to assist James Durcan’s goal, was heavily involved in two further Mayo points before he clipped over a score of his own in the 67th minute. Keegan still looks short on match fitness but with another game coming next weekend it will only benefit him.

Evan Regan with Robbie Kiely Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

2. Tipperary wilt in final quarter

The big turning point in this game was James Durcan’s 52nd-minute goal. Tipperary had scored four of the last five points and were 1-11 to 0-11 in front when Durcan’s point attempt from 13m dropped over Evan Comerford’s head and into the top corner.

It was a fluke, but Mayo took full advantage of it. They pressed right up on Comerford’s restarts and Aidan O’Shea started breaking kick-outs down to his team-mates.

Seven unanswered Mayo points arrived before the close and Tipperary didn’t register a score for the final 20 minutes of the game.

3. Paddy Durcan’s battle with Michael Quinlivan

The highlight of the game was arguably Paddy Durcan’s brilliant battle with Michael Quinlivan at the edge of the square.

Traditionally a wing-back, Durcan was asked to perform man-marking duties on Quinlivan. Tipperary looked to deliver high diagonal ball into Quinlivan and Conor Sweeney at every opportunity and the former had 1-2 on the board at half-time.

Durcan might be disappointed with his positioning for Quinlivan’s goal, a flicked effort into the net in the 10th minute, but he was at his brilliant best in the second-half and won a number of balls out in front.

Durcan even raced upfield away from Quinlivan and kicked a wonderful score off his left foot 11 minutes from the end. In 2016m Rochford deployed Keegan on Quinlivan in the All-Ireland semi-final but Durcan gives him another man-marking option for All-Star calibre forwards.

Eoin O’Donoghue celebrates scoring a point Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

4.  Mayo forwards

Mayo scored 1-18 today and their two highest-profile forwards Andy Moran and Cillian O’Connor posted just a point from play between them.

The presence of Brian Fox as a sweeper in front of his full-back line cut out the option of a kick pass into Mayo’s inside line, so Mayo had to run the ball from deep instead.

That running game greatly benefited wing-forwards Kevin McLoughlin and Jason Doherty, who each scored 0-3 from play, while James Durcan scored 1-2 in only his second senior start for the county.

Aidan O’Shea, Keegan, Paddy Durcan, Seamie O’Shea, Eoin O’Donoghue and Conor Loftus all added points as Mayo shared the scores around – as they usually do.

Stephen Rochford shakes hands with Liam Kearns after the game Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

5. Quick turnaround for Rochford’s men

The games are coming thick and fast for Mayo who have just a week to prepare for the round 3 qualifier which is down for decision next Saturday evening.

They’re safely into Monday’s qualifier draw and could face tricky ties against Tyrone, Monaghan or Armagh in the next stage.

Win that game and they’ll be out again in round 4 a week later, as the schedule gets gruelling ahead of the Super 8s which begin on the weekend of 14/15 July.

The focus for Rochford will be on getting the bodies right over the next couple of days before they prepare to go again.

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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