It’s time

I wrote two articles earlier this year on how this year was progressing, one after the league (here) and one after the Sligo game (here). I’ve just re-read them and you can see the progression in the team between the two articles.

It amuses me that, in all of the analysis of the national level pundits, they have missed a number of fundamental differences in the Mayo forward play this year even though these differences have been hiding in plain sight since the Sligo game. Maybe the pundits cannot see that it is the transition of bringing these differences into our match strategy that caused us to walk a tightrope through the qualifiers.

We were essentially road-testing a new system while playing in a knock-out qualifier system. It’s bloody obvious that doing this would be a white knuckle ride.

So for the benefit of the national pundits, here is what I’m talking about.

Firstly, we have developed the 30m kick pass to a very high level. I was particularly impressed in the drawn game against Kerry, we dropped only two kick passes all day. The rest were straight into the chest. This is a newly developed aspect to Mayo’s game and it has transformed the way we move the ball into the full-forward line in particular.


Secondly, Kevin McLoughlin is now back at No. 10 and is operating at the level where he used to be called the heartbeat of the team. Allied to this Jason Doherty is having the season of his life patrolling the middle ground between the half and full forward lines.

This in turn means that an opposition sweeper is useless as Doherty and McLoughlin are effectively sweeping in the opposition half. This is a totally new development of the modern game.

Thirdly, the ball going into the forwards is much more often reaching the target man when he is faced towards goal and running. This is a nightmare to mark. Allied to this, Andy is playing much closer to goal than previously, meaning that a much higher percentage of his shots and layoffs are bang on the money.

Fourthly, we have abandoned the “start slow, finish stronger” strategy that gave us heart palpitations during the league, in the Connacht championship and the qualifier match against Derry. We are now employing a “start strong, finish as strong as possible” strategy.

And that’s just the forwards!

Further back the field, we have reverted to a six-man back line, only using a spare defender as a sweeper when an opposition attacker goes out the field foraging. That is why the national pundits say that we are not using a sweeper, only to state a few minutes later that one of the backs seems to have been given the sweeper role.


In addition, one of the spectacular elements of the Horan-era game – the attacking half-back line – has been reborn. An interesting aside on this is that our half-back line attacks better from deep. When Kerry defended high up the field in the first game, our half-backs couldn’t get a decent run at them. When they defended deeper the second day, we cut swathes through them.

We also have two of the best man markers in the game in Harrison and Barrett. Expect Andrews and O’Callaghan to get the up close and personal treatment from these lads on Sunday.

On Sunday, I expect Aidan to drop back to provide a three-man centrefield, thereby pulling McMahon out of position. Aidan, however will rotate into the full-forward line occasionally where our forward “sweepers” will ensure that he is not isolated.

On the basis of all of this, I now firmly believe that we are sending the best prepared team possible out to battle on Sunday. We are considerably better than last year. We are playing as a more cohesive unit and the guys coming off the bench fit much more seamlessly into the system.

Along with that we have supporters like no other county. Supporters who have been there for the hard yards over several seasons. Supporters who have found their voices and provide the 16th man in every game.

Last year our heroes were playing with a developing system and we nearly pulled it off. Last year we carried them out on their shields.

I firmly believe that this is our year. I am very confident that this Sunday, we will carry them out on our shoulders as champions!

Keep the Faith!

61 thoughts on “It’s time

  1. We will always keep the faith Willie Joe and thanks to you and this blog. I am reading at 3 in the morning when I cannot sleep.

    Putting back out there the suggestion for the supporters to stand up and roar the team on around the 60th minute. All of the players have mentioned us and we need to put in one last standout performance for them.

  2. Fantastic insight into Mayo set up. Hope Jim Gavin not reading it as he has not seen Mayo since Feb!

  3. Great article. A breath of fresh air from the same aul recycled tripe that passes in the national media of late. Unfortunately had to spend a night in a hotel in Dublin last night. My God the absolute downright arrogance up there that this is going to be a cake walk is sickening. “How dare these culchies with the smell of cow muck and turf off them think they can come up here and take on our super dubs”

  4. Jesus WJ thats given me the confidence boost I needed. We are gunna do it. Everyones vocal chords to be left in Croker please. We can use a blackboard and chalk around our kneck for the rest of the week to communicate. Hope O’Callaghan and Scully (if he starts) are smashed into next week by Lee and co. Lets just refuse to lose.

  5. Excellent post, informative and spine tingling!

    The army from the west is assembling, we will wage war on Sunday!

  6. That’s a great article Fourgoal. Actual tactical analysis, rather than the tired old cliched shite that the nationals tend to come out with.

    Pretty confident about the game, but just want to get my arse on that flight to Dublin as soon as possible.
    People at work have wondered what the hell has been up with me all week. Never mind not being from Mayo, they’re not even Irish, so have no concept at all about what’s at stake on Sunday!
    Pebblesmeller (I think it was) perfectly summed it up earlier. This final is all about the players. These lads deserve it so much, I’m just desperate for a win for them first and foremost.

  7. I can sleep a bit better tonight now Willie Joe after your article – the heebeejeebies were getting the better of me after reading Magee and Co on the rte website etc!!! Now I really do believe! I just hope nobody from the Dublin set-up is reading your piece now that the secret is out! Lol. This blog has been pure therapy for the pre match nerves and great fun too all season long. A heart felt thank you.

  8. Thank you for that analysis, Fourgoal. You’ve turned my hope into confidence!! And thanks to the entire Mayo GAA blog for providing us Mayo fans with THE go-to information hub. Living in Edinburgh I’m spared most of the Dublin/media love-in (or at least that’s the impression of the media I get from various comments) but I’m still enormously grateful to have articles and comments from likeminded Mayo fans (and fair-minded fans of other counties) available on a site like this. I’ve been eating/drinking/thinking/dreaming of a Mayo victory all summer, now I’m believing! Enjoy the game, enjoy M

  9. Sorry, tablet went haywire there. Was going to finish by saying enjoy Monday (and Sunday night too). Up Mayo!

  10. Got a ticket in the paw this afternoon happy days was worried for a few days….mayoletsfly’s idea needs to be spread an absolute roar of mayo mayo at 60th minute will make world of difference regardless of what score board says cmon the lads!

  11. Great reading and so true ….Hard to listen up here to “The Dubs”
    From :
    Mayo woman married to a Dub living in Dublin

  12. The more I think about the game the more I feel it is necessary that we stop conceding goals, Against the dubs in 2012 there were no goals and we won the match. In the 2013 final they scored 2 to our 1 and we lost by a point. In the 2015 draw and replay, they scored 4 against our 2. And in last years draw and replay they hit 3 as against our 1. Thats 9 goals for them and 4 for us, yet we were as good as them in all those games and could actually have won them all. To make it worse so many of their goals were down to our errors, all 3 last year, Brogans first in 2013 etc. Not only does a goal give a team 3 points, it also gives momentum and confidence and really lifts the crowd. Our backs have been good but they do tend to concede soft goals through self inflicted errors. Even Kerrys 2 in the semi final were down to unforced errors. Lets be fair here. Dublin are an excellent team and justifiable favourites and if anyone thinks otherwise they need to wise up. This idea that they havent been tested is nonsense. They were tested by Mayo last year and won a tight game. They were tested by Mayo and Kerry in 2015 and won tight games. They were tested by Mayo and Kerry in 2013 and won tight games. They have only lost 2 championship games since 2010.But despite all that, next Sunday is a new game and Mayo certainly can win. But to win I really feel we must get more goals than Dublin. Goals win games. We have bagged 8 in our last 3 matches. Another 3 on Sunday would go a long way towards sending Sam west. Come on. Up Mayo.

  13. Great analysis Fourgoal. Always thought that the accurate 30 metre footpass is deadly. Moves the ball faster than hand passing. Counter attacking will be a big feature of Sundays game and the team who can move the ball faster into attack will have a big advantage. What you say about Aidan being a third mid fielder I agree with. Winning the area between the 45 and the 65 is critical. I think we can do this. If we do we will win. The Dublin forwards will be starved of the ball. We must play offense at all times but have a strategy for the Dublin counterattack. We also have to mark up and stay focused for Cluxtons fast kick out. Press up. Do not be afraid. Fortune favours the brave. Can’t wait to hear the joyful sound of Mayo car horns blaring as we go through the toll gates on the way home from Croker after winning Sam.

  14. Route 66:

    Mayo v Sligo
    Mayo v Galway
    Mayo v Derry
    Mayo v Clare
    Mayo v Cork
    Mayo v Roscommon
    Mayo v Roscommon (R)
    Mayo v Kerry
    Mayo v Kerry (R)
    Mayo v Dublin

  15. Dublin have 2 or 3 half forwards who don’t kill themselves in the tackling stakes unless Flynn plays and even though he still contributes well he’s probably a gear or 2 down from his peak over 70 mins. Mannion works harder than their half forwards but he’s picked In FF line. We saw O Callaghan brushed aside by Cavanagh on a run so that’s another weakness. Several pundits have come up with good suggestions to beat Dublin but question is which set of tactics will we use. To top it all off there’s merit to Oisin McConville’s suggestion not to over think it. Best scenario for me is probably if it’s like a hurling game, really frantic with lots of chaos and the team going madder for it gains advantage. But obviously tactics will still play a big part. Mayo have a big statistics team who will no doubt have been crunching Dublin’s numbers. Going by Don’t Foul’s stats there’s not much to separate the teams.

  16. Well put FourGoal. This is the best analysis of our team. Kick passing has been a joy to watch. Aiden as roaming third midfielder will win it for us.

  17. very good point there from liamontherun, loose lips sink ships and all that!!
    to my mind, Mayo have every chance of winning this game if they keep the cool head when the bs is pouring from the dub mouths. No red cards and only black if its to drag a dub down near goal near the end no matter what the score. Thats one big piece of the game we need to be watching out for, the rest is tactical stuff so I ll take my own advice and say no more.

    anyone care to predict the final scoreline?

  18. As a dub I posted several times on this site that Mayo would be in the final .I was more certain Mayo would get to the final than I was about Dublin.
    It upsets me to read pundits saying Mayo will need to start a fight to beat Dublin. Also throwing in comments about dark arts etc . If Mayo win on Sunday it will be because they are the better team.I will shout for Dublin but if we lose I will applaud a superb Mayo team.
    I can assure u the Dublin fans do not believe the rubbish about an easy win . We know this is 50/50.
    I met Aidan when I sponsored the DIT college team and he is a true gent off the field and a colossus on it.
    On Sunday I have several Mayo people In Croke Park as my guests . No matter who wins we will enjoy watching the two best teams in Ireland and celebrate together. Good luck Mayo!

  19. If we get beaten by a better team seeing as everyone has us written off, well so be it no regrets.
    But if it comes down to a refereeing decision or some sort of dirt and loose by a point , well lets hope we don’t have to put up with that crap any more.
    Whatever they say we have been the 2nd best team in Ireland for three of the last four years. The rest of them have the catching up to do.
    And we’re not finished yet.. think you’re right four goal this is our one!!
    Up Mayo

  20. Great article…our kickpassing is a feature of our game that has been overlooked nationally. One thing though…the swift movement improved when Aidan moved back against Kerry which may offer debate as Aidan’s best position against Dublin….but a role interchanging between midfield and FF may be what transpires.

    I have listened to many podcasts and read articles nationally and I will repeat my stance that Mayo are never analysed like other teams…it’s the same aul guff…make no mistake nobody is giving us a chance….I think we are gonna shock the GAA world this Sunday.

    The media can then move onto their new pet project…

  21. Alsomanyome read poor aul Star Donaghy article? “Mayo are masters of the dark arts” – laughable coming from that man.

  22. Great post and very much in line with the way that i have seen the team develop as the year has gone on. I think it is noticeable that this team has turned a corner in terms of development and maturity. I see a belief and steelyness as exemplified by kerry performane.
    We have a truly wonderful bunch of men representing our county that we are all proud of no matter what.
    In line with what was said earlier we will need to get behind the team 100%. We have had a hardcore support of 9000 to 12000 people at most games and who since the derry game have got right behind the team. What other supporters would you expect to hear roar on their team every time their team missed a score in the way the mayo fans did that evening in castlebar. On sunday that support will swell and i would appeal to those additional supporters to shout for the team when we are winning but to shout twice as loud if we are losing. I think that the team now truly believes that they are good enough. I expect to see 1 or 2 changes based on strategy as opposed to poor individual form and i expect further improvement. Looking forward to it now- BELIEVE. Hon Mayo.

  23. Well said PJ. Feel the same.
    Mayoletsfly, you should try and get that 60 min roar out in the fb supporter’s pages. Great idea.

  24. That is a serious piece of analysis Fourgoal. I have read the Mayo News sports edition and I have looked over the columns during week and after to night I am tuning out of GAA talk until after 5pm on Sunday and after I watch Cillian and the lads make their walk up the steps of the Hogan. This our our year lads . BELIEVE BELIEVE BELIEVE !!!!

  25. This is a brilliant article. The best piece of analysis about the all Ireland final I have read. Well done

  26. Hi Ballagh Man….I actually don’t think that sentiment is a common theme with us Dubs. I genuinely wish Mayo all the best on Sunday but no matter what any of us say or comment on its irrelevant..what’s going to happen will happen.

    Kind Regards
    Martin the Dub

  27. It’s amazing the difference in build up to this years final. To be sure, there is an underlying confidence, but it is borne out of an understanding of the unbelievable lengths management and the squad have gone to develop a solid, adaptable and workmanlike system. You have to give Stephen huge credit for working out a system that gets the maximum out of each individual. Ok, we know the defence was, for the most part excellent last year, but those “silly clanger” mistakes are a thing of the past. Parsons is a revelation this year, and the forwards seem to love expressing themselves, playing clever, imaginative football and, putting up huge scores to boot. Great that Castlebar is putting up a large screen in the Mall. Reminds me of Limerick, for Munster Heineken Cup final, and the electric atmosphere the beamed pictures generated throughout the stadium.

  28. Toto it should remain route 66 as that is the famous long road in America.. not only that but it isn’t it 66 years since we last won in 51? Route 66 is perfect.

    As for the score line I had a dream again that we would win by 7/8 I can’t recall. The score line was 1-13 to 1-20/21 or there could have been a goal less or more there but something like that with us winning by a decent margin. Again, I was sad to wake up. I basked in Mayo All-Ireland glory only to awake to the dim morning light of my room. Hopefully Sunday night I won’t have to wait until my dreams

  29. While I agree with everything FourgoalMcGee says I think that the key to winning will be putting pressure on the Dublin kickout.
    When Tyrone tried to pressure his kickout this year Cluxton sent a long ball to the midfield area where Dublin [Scully?] won it. Tyrone then seemed to abandon their tactic and let the Dubs have their kickout. Wherever Cluxton sends his kicks, short or long, they have to come under pressure with Mayo winning a good share of them. Thjat means the Mayo midfield will have to master the Dubs and Aiden will have to put his emphasis on marking his own man. Those short Cluxton kickouts are begging to be intercepted by an alert forwardline. We have also seen in the past that Cluxton gets a bit frazzled when things are not going to plan for him. Mayo Abu agus Abu aris.

  30. Martin the Dub, thanks for the input… But as you say, it doesn’t matter what people on this site says… Same goes for yourself…. And you got it right but, you also got it wrong,…. You have a great team to follow, you also have a very lucky team to follow… You have ran out of luck!

  31. Sporting Dubs Martin and John. This Dublin run was precipitated by a lucky win against Kerry. They were about to be beaten by Kerry in 2013 when MDMA had a massively important intervention stretching his sinews to knock the ball to a Dublin runner for the defining goal and then win by 7or 8. If ever there was a game of inches. Let’s hope it will be a Mayoman to make such an intervention Sunday.

  32. About to make the 20000km trip home. Still can’t believe it. We are global! The whole Mayo international community is on board. We have been from day dot and the hunt for the holy grail is well and truly underway.
    Come on to fcuk Mayo!!!

  33. Safe travels to Mayo folk all over the country and the world. Just to think there are men women and children who are all pouring their hearts out with beating pride. This is our time. Give it all you have whether you are lucky enough to be in Croke Park or on the sacred soil of Mayo or scattered about the telly in some far flung corner. We are together and we will win this together. Route 66 is coming home… see you in Castlebar on Monday. MAYO… I love you!! Maigheo go deo…buiochas le Dia.

  34. Hi all, long time reader here but normally stay quiet. This really is a fantastic platform for debate. Willie Joe, you deserve immense credit for providing this service. Thank you.
    Just wondering if people have any advice for last minute ticket hunting. I’ve been to all the matches this year including the jaunts to Ennis and Limerick but have had no luck for a final ticket. I’ve always managed to get one in previous years but this year it has been impossible. I’ll travel in hope anyway and will be in Dublin the night before and wondering where would be a good place to go looking then or on morning of the game. I want to avoid the lads standing on the corner outside the big tree.
    Thanks folks.

  35. Route 17:
    In the bible the number 17 symbolises “over coming the enemy” and “complete victory”.
    Let’s look at 17 in the context of Mayo. This is the 17th time that Mayo has made the All Ireland final (excludes replays). In the year 2017 on the 17th day of September Mayo will play their 17th game (league and championship) of the year exactly 17 weeks since the championship started on the 21st May.
    Let’s overcome the enemy and complete the victory.

  36. Love that league legends. Il take anything that points to a mayo victory. Our cow had twins last night……surely it’s a sign!!!!
    Hon Mayo!!!!!!

  37. Whilst bringing this name into the discussion may cause some backlash, Brolly did, in the immediate aftermath of the Kerry game reference our kick passing. Granted, he said it was Tony McEntee’s imprint but he said it nonetheless.

  38. System are all great, when the ball goes in games take on lifes of there own, I think we are better equipped to deal with it this year, I still think Dublin will struggle in the early stages and that’s are best hope to make hay

  39. I have always been sure that I would live to see the day Mayo will win the All Ireland. THIS COULD BE IT.
    Good luck to the Team and Management.

  40. Underthehighball, stand on the NCR opposite The Big Tree with a sign confirming you are a genuine Mayo supporter. A Derry fan with a spare ticket will look after you.

  41. great article and fully agree,
    Rochford does not get enough credit for how the team has developed under him. Kick passing and hand-passing of weaker hand have improved so much. With the speed and intensity of championship games, these things make a massive difference.
    When you compare players who played in 2012 final with now they are on a different level completely, stronger, more skillful and more experienced – so, I agree, whatever the outcome, this is the best prepared Mayo team ever to play in an AIF. We are playing a brilliant team, no question, but if we win it only makes the achievement all the greater.

  42. In Portugal and going back tomorrow. Really enjoying the blog and 4goal McGee analysis. As a man (Joe Daly) from my town (Kiltimagh) used to say “don’t keep the faith … spread the faith” …and we should all do that on Sunday and get fully behind the team in the 60th and every other minute. Hon Mayo and all that. See you in Bowes on Saturday night.. Mhaigheo Abu agus aris aris…

  43. Mayo Matt.. If it’s, 2015 that you are referring to and a lucky penalty… Nothing could be further from the truth.. Not only was it a penalty it was a blatant Red Card for Philly Mcmahon, as blatant as ever there was one.

  44. Justoutsideballagh, yes I will probably end up doing something like that. Its tough going, but a man has to keep the faith!

  45. Great analysis fourgoals. We are playing better football now, no doubt about that.
    For many years I have gone to Croker with high expectations, fear, anxiety, hope and a whole concoction of emotions. Always I have come home after our many defeats in a state of utter dejection, sometimes angry, always disappointed.
    This year I am going in a totally different frame of mind. This year it’s not about me anymore and what I want. They owe me nothing.on the contrary, I owe them big time.So on Sunday I am going to Croker simply to support these great lads and show them how much I appreciate everything they have given me over the years by shouting and roaring support for everything they do on the field.
    Afterwards, I will come home satisfied, win lose or draw, that our lads have done us proud.
    Btw I thing fourgoals you have nailed it in your analysis and we are indeed playing far better football now than ever before.

  46. Underthehighball it worked for me before, as desperate as it sounds. There will be loads of people with signs, but if you stand on the NCR, opposite The Big Tree, you get them before anyone else. I think the Derry or Kerry lads going to the Minor are your best bet, or a Mayo lad that has got an extra ticket. You will get one if you stand there with your sign.

  47. Leantimes
    RE 2015 of course you are correct as you usually are but not only that, Flynns penalty in first half occurred a full yard outside the box. Id welcome that any day.
    Having said that though i have to acknowledge that Dublin are a fine team which will make victory all the sweeter. Hon Mayo BELIEVE

  48. Lads and lassies, like underthehighball I’ll be out with my sign, worked last year, picked up a ticket outside Gill’s at 3pm, but for plan B if I don’t pick one up, any recommendations for a pub to watch the game? Not Quinns or Big tree,
    as I’d like to see the football, and not the back of somebody else’s head. Will there be a “Mayo” pub with a few other lads around?

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