Throwing off the blanket

Blanket on MacHale Park

Photo: @ColmGannon

One of the main talking points coming out of MacHale Park on Sunday last was the use of the blanket defence by Tyrone. Those of us who have had the game of Gaelic football in our veins for several decades just can’t warm to the use of the blanket defence, especially when it bursts our bubble like it did on our second league outing.

It is often discussed, derided and denounced but few have come up with a way of counteracting it. It has been said that heavy pitches and early league form can lead to its over use and that it tends to be less effective as the evenings get brighter and the ground firms up, but what is it about the system that makes it so effective? Well, let’s take a look.

The system is comprised of two primary elements. Firstly, it involves slowing our attack, crowding the defence and forcing shots from outside the scoring zone, resulting is a lot of wides. Sounds familiar? It isn’t that Mayo couldn’t shoot last Sunday, it is that we were forced to take shots from outside the normal scoring areas and usually with two opposing defenders in close attention. This throws a player off his game, resulting in frustration and a lowering of confidence in the shot, leading to further wides, many of a galling nature. The second element involves a quick break from the back by the defending team, often with a resulting score. Supporters wonder why they can score so easily when we can’t. Well let’s delve deeper.

In my playing years I generally played as a back and it was drilled into me that I should always follow my man. That sort of advice tends to stay with you. When someone steps up to senior inter-county level or is getting another chance to get established there, such a player will throw themselves into the game, with the advice of many years ringing in their heads. Suddenly corner-backs suddenly find themselves deep in attacking territory, the full-back is trying to break tackles on the opposing ‘45, defenders are taking shots under pressure, the wide count builds, etc. Posters will remember many such examples from last Sunday.

What the opposing team has done is to suck the defensive cover up the field and take their minds off their defensive duties. And to compound this, they ensure that it is their own entire full-forward line that defends deepest, thereby ensuring that our most defensive backs are furthest from our goal when the break starts. As soon as the break begins, the players furthest up the field take off at speed to get into the best attacking positions. Often, such players are half-forwards or wing-backs as their full-forwards are keeping our full-back line occupied in the wrong end of the field. In the match last Sunday, the entire Tyrone full-forward line collectively scored just three points from play. Everything else either was from a free or from the half-forward line.

All very well, you say – but what can be done about it?

The first thing is to prevent them from destroying our defensive game. Our full-back should stay no further forward than the crown of the ‘D’ with an eye on the closest opposition player. Our corner-backs should remain within the ‘45 with eyes on the next closest opponents. Our centre half-back should remain no further forward than the ‘65 with the two wing-backs marking the likely runners who will look for the breaking ball. If any of the backs go forward, one of the half-forwards must drop to fill the gap. Collectively, this forces the opposition to come forward and try to win the ball around the middle, creating gaps for our full-forward line inside.

The second thing to do is to frustrate their breaks. Half-forwards must pressurise the kickers, reducing the quality of passes. If a foul is to be committed, delay the free as long as possible, so that we get our shape. Mark really tightly.

The third thing to do is to create “outs”. What this means is that when “A” gets the ball “B” makes a run, sometimes to get a pass and other times to create a space where someone else can take a pass. Players should work in pairs, e.g. if McLoughlin gets the ball, the objective is to get it to Cillian, etc. Everyone works to the objective. The key is to get the consistently good ball into the scoring zone to the most accurate forwards.

And remember that once you get in front, the opposition must then come out to play. Then they are playing OUR game.

Can this be done? Well, with the experience in the squad, the coaching ability of Donie Buckley, the man-management of our joint managers and the fact that so many senior squad members are smarting from last Sunday, I don’t see why not.

Time to throw off the blanket.

Keep the Faith!

44 thoughts on “Throwing off the blanket

  1. Good post but I feel playing the diagonal ball can beat the blanket too if implemented properly & accurately…. Draw the defence(blanket) towards one area of the field. Leave your best forward ie Cillian on the other side closer to goal and kick it in behind them. The likes of Tyrone as we know, Donegal, Kerry & Ros who are using the blanket now and were successful against down last Saturday can all succumb to the quick & accurate diagonal balls given to our best forwards

  2. Tyrone went into a big lead early on the last day and then they went ultra defensive and counter attacked. Fair play to them it worked but it must be said that we were the architects of our own downfall early on to let them into that position.

    For a start I think not enough respect was given to Tyrone on their ability. This was a team who had just won the McKenna cup. Plus they were already getting serious stick from their own fans becasue fo the nature of the first defeat at home to Monaghan. A serous backlash was going to be coming out from these fellas and unfortunately we were the ones to feel it.

    On the upside it’s better to feel it now than in the Summer. It was no harm maybe for the likes of Ronaldson, Coen, and even a few of the more senior players to met up with the heavy blanket again. The more experience they have on it the better I think as I foresee a lot of teams playing it this year including those in our own province.

    I do agree with Fourgoal McGee above that the blanket suits a smaller pitch and a damper day in February. If you compare the blanket last Sunday to the one the previous night (which both Dublin and Donegal used). I thought that even though both teams used it there were marked differences in that on a better drier, much bigger pitch it is much harder to implement.

  3. New league program on setanta reckons diagonal ball across pitch, ie when ball is on one side of pitch all defender seem to gather on that side of pitch so diagonal ball is usually into space. Also dummy runs to draw defender and create space. A target man would help too.

  4. my eyeballs are rolling wj. its about time the gaa introduced an offside rule – which would mean that fowards cannot come back behind the midfield area, or only one can. this would cut out this blanket game , which to quote a yerra has “bastardised” gaelic football as we know it.

  5. Some good points in the article. As for how to play against it – it’s a tricky one. I reckon the main place we went wrong last week was actually in our own half. The most critical moment in score creation in Gaelic football is the first 2-4 seconds AFTER you win the ball back from the opposition. There’s a perception that Tyrone had 15 men inside their 45 at all times last week. This is not true. On multiple occasions, when Tyrone had possession, they attacked with 3-4 players (often more) inside our half in support of their player in possession. Some good defending from our backs would see us win the ball back. As I said the following few seconds are crucial. When Tyrone’s attack broke down, their defence is out of position. Space exists in the scoring zone for mayo forwards at this exact moment. Of course, as soon as Tyrone lost possession all their team immediately fell back to fill this space. Therefore, the key is the speed at which mayo move the ball. If Higgins win the ball 40 years from the mayo goal, with opposition defence out of position, 2 accurate foot passes will have that ball in the mayo scoring zone within a few seconds. Every solo or hop Higgins takes after he wins the ball in his own half decreases the time and space his forwards will have in the opposition half. Unfortunately mayo just soloed the entire field with overlaps and short passes after winning dispossessions in their own half on Sunday. This was perfect for Tyrone, they had ample time to set the blanket. In this situation by the time you have reached the opposing 45 and started cross crossing looking for an opening into the scoring zone, it’s too late. Inevitably a Hail Mary shot under pressure will be the end result. 3 out if 10 shots like this will be successful. When one of these goes over Most people will turn and say – wow, what a great score. To me these type of scores are almost “by accident”. They are not tactically well worked scores and rely on individual excellence to compensate for a poor tactical approach. I’ll give one perfect example from last Sunday to finish. Remember Morgans (stupid) solo run into mayos half of the field. Mickey Conroy did brilliantly to block the ball, and Morgan immediately turned and sprinted back to his goal – but he was 90 odd yards from home. Ronaldson eventually got a point – but it should have been a goal. It took Morgan about 9 seconds to sprint back to his goal, but a mayo player (think it was Diarmuid o Connor) took an extra solo 70 metres from goal before delivering the footpass to ronaldson. This crucial delay allowed Tyrone to get an extra defender or two in place, and thus only concede a point instead of the goal that should have been scored into an empty net. A perfect example of the importance of moving the ball at pace. Not even Keith Higgins at full tilt can move faster than an accurate footpass. Carrying the ball and short passing is the slowest method of ball movement in Gaelic football.

  6. 2 passes, sound in theory but no forward able to win a ball, aidan Oshea or barry Moran should have been put in ff.

  7. Hi all, nice analysis of the blanket with great insights.
    Tomas O’Se wrote before last years All Ireland Final when Kerry faced Donegals blanket that there are a few things you can and should do when playing against a blanket.
    1. As the author siad do not allow your defensive shape be taken apart by following their forwards, particularly keep your halfback line in shape
    2 When you win the ball back there is a gap of around 10 seconds when the blanket isnt set to get it down into your full forward line and you must kick pass during this to move the ball quicker than defenders running back
    3 You need a strong full forward line who can win tough ball
    Kerry did all 3 in the final and with bita luck too they won out.
    Mayo counter through hands and it means we wont carve teams open for goals which we would do if we kick passed forward on the break and had sturdy fellows to win less than ideal ball.
    Composure with shots is crucial, Vaughan Doc and Mcloughlin missed inside scoring zone on Sunday due to being nervy under pressure.

    Great to debate this stuff out hope Mayo wont repeat same errors again!

  8. The blanket defence usually means that players, esp. defenders are drawn to the ball leaving space in the opposite side of the field. A key to breaking down the blanket is using this space. No player in the past 15 years since the concept of blanket defence was more effective in breaking it down than Stephen McDonnell of Armagh. He always seemed to find himself in space and his fielding ability and accuracy resulted in scores. I believe that Alan Freeman and Cillian O’Connor could both fill this role for Mayo operating in opposite corners. The more I see of Freeman the more I am convinced that he is better suited to a corner forward position.
    We need to be able to adapt our game plan to the opposition we face. Ulster teams by and large go for the blanket defence option [Down an exception so far]. Dublin and Kerry will not normally do so unless facing similar tactics.
    And, Done Deal, I’m afraid I have to disagree that Aiden O’Shea is suited to a full forward role. His tendency to hold the ball, his lack of speed on the turn and his poor shooting skills do not suit the role.

  9. I thought Andy Moran gave a great demonstration in how to unlock the blanket defence when he came on against Roscommon last year. He kicked two long range points and also gave some lovely kick passes into the inside forwards to open up the space in front of the Roscommon full-back line. A number of these passes were played up along the wings too, opening up spaces inside the opposition 45 metre line. He took a couple of quick frees as well, one to Kevin McLoughlin which resulted in a point. He set the tempo, a high one. One position that we really need to get sorted is centre-half forward. We have tried so many players here but have not settled on anyone. I really think that we need a play-maker in this position. Maybe Cillian O’Connor can play this role for us. The Gooch played this role to perfection in 2013 for Kerry. Declan O’Sullivan did the same as well in last year’s Munster final against Cork. We have seen the likes of Brian McGuigan, Greg Blaney, Diarmuid Connolly (for St. Vincents), Alan Brogan and Larry Tompkins in the past. These are all players who can open up the play. The common denominator here is that all of these players were part of All-Ireland winning teams. We need someone like this to help to unlock the blanket defence.

  10. We are carrying the ball into the tackle and holding on to it too long….blanket defense or not by doing this we are creating “mini” blankets around us each time one of our players does this. Just before half time last Sunday we kicked long and direct and it resulted in a 45 and for our “disputed” goal it was a kick pass in.

    I want to see us kick long and and direct and if that means putting big Barry or AOS in on the edge of the square then lets try it out. Our point kicking in the semi in 2012 against Dublin was a joy and was down to much more kick passing. I feel we are out on our feet towards the end of games too often and our over expansive running game (while effective) has alot to do with this. l hope the new management (I am sure they are) are trying out a new approach.

  11. I love these types of debates! Great analysis FourGoal McGee and I agree with a lot of what you said. Likewise Mac’s left boot.
    Firstly, it’s not the end of the world to lose to Tyrone, we did in the last 2 league encounters and it didn’t exactly stunt our growth. Secondly, the main thing for me is that we learn from it and are aware of what to do when we meet that defensive system again. We will get the ideal opportunity against Monaghan. You quite often learn more from a defeat that a victory so we have plenty to digest and look at. It wasn’t all doom and gloom though, and in order to analyise last Sunday objectively we must also recognise that we had enough ball and enough chances to win. 15 wides and 2 missed goal opprotunities allied to the bulk of possession suggest that there were somethings going right for us.
    For me, taking quick short kickouts to our corner backs and handpassing our way up the field, uncontested, into a congested Tyrone half was obviously the wrong tactic to employ (it was especially disappointing that we did this all day and never looked like trying anything different). This was particularly evident after Tyrone went in front. It was taking us too long to get the ball into our attack and we were giving Tyrone plenty of time to organise their defensive shape. They were in effect saying to us “have it in your full back and half back line, have it in midfield, you are not going to score from there”. They protected the scoring zone in shape and numbers and from a tactical point of view it was brilliant to watch. A bit like Mourinhos Inter Milan v Barcelona from a number of years ago in that pundits/supporters/commentators were condemning the tactics used by Inter, but like Tyrone on Sunday, defending is as much a skill and a discipline as kicking points, and Tyrone were terrific at it. Also, they read the incompetence of Kinsella early on and knew exactly what they could get away with. Tyrone are cute.
    How to beat it? There are some commendable suggestions above as to how to beat the blanket but, in the end, we can only work with the players we have. We don’t have a Donaghy or a Marsden or a Stevie McDonald. To suggest that we can play high direct ball, over the blanket, into Freeman and that he will be a threat is to ignore the evidence consistently put before us. Sadly, it seems that Freeman is not that type of player. He got both hands on the first 3 balls played into him last Sunday, but a Tyrone player came away with it!
    For me it is all about Time and Space. That’s what the modern game is all about. Time and Space. An attack is trying to create a couple of seconds and a square yard of grass in front of goal, and the defense is trying to close that space down. Simple. I believe the way you beat a deep-lying counter-attacking team is to create the conditions that sees you counter-attack their counter-attack. You have to draw them out the field to engage you +45m from goal. Draw them out by playing possession football and move their defense over and back the field. If they are set-up to play a deep-lying defensive game then the last place they want to be is moving out from their set-up and coming out the field to engage the ball. Once they do, you have them playing to your game plan, you are dictating the play and you are not playing to their strengths. Patience and discipline are needed but, eventually, space will open up in their defense/your attack and then you play low bouncing ball in front of the forwards who must turn and shoot rapidly. It is ugly and frustrating to watch but so was last Sunday. Think of the Dublin v Donegal all Ireland semi-final from 2011. Puke stuff, but you must do what you need to do to win. Dublin won that game and went on to win the Final. You must be able to adapt to the opposition tactics while also playing to your strengths.
    The blanket is there to smother play, to drag you into a dogfight and a scrap, and, to make it ugly. You will not beat it easily but it can be beaten. I look forward to the Monaghan game to see if we have learned from our lessons. If we have, we will be fine. If we haven’t and we repeat the mistakes from the Tyrone game well then I would worry.
    But tis only February. Hon Mayo.

  12. Off topic……any Caride members hear anything about our so called Jackets and other accessories? I reluctantly renewed this year but the lack of communication since is typical. What is the point getting a jacket when the weather gets warm?

  13. How to beat the blanket? How about Noel and Pat pick up the phone and give James Horan a call. I’m not being smart either by the way.
    We beat Roscommon’s blanket last year, had Kerry’s blanket almost all the way out of the bed and had Tyrone sussed out in the semi the year before.
    I fear all the hard work and homework that Horan did (with the blanket, figuring out Donegal and how to put it up to Cork) has all gone out the window and all this obtained knowledge is gone with Horan’s departure.
    It’s naive I suppose of us to think there was some sort of ‘handover’ with the new management coming in. We can only hope Buckley and the senior players in the squad pass this knowledge on.

  14. A lot of good discussion on how to counter the blanket. Of course it is all about time and space. This is always the essence of both attack and defence – creating it in attack and closing it down when defending.
    You need to draw them out otherwise it is nearly impossible to get enough scores to win. But how do you draw them out? Keeping the ball around the middle and switching the point of attack doesn’t work that well as we have seen. They are always going to protect the scoring zone.
    The only way to do draw them out is to get ahead and stay ahead. The golden rule is not to fall behind if at all possible. This forces them into a more attacking game – OUR game. Do the blanket to them when they are attacking and break at speed, give the ball fast to one or two top class forwards up front who can score freely when they get possession. Use the length AND the width of the field to create time and space.
    And as ever it is easier said than done……..but sure if it was easy any eejit could do it!
    Btw I don’t think Monaghan will play like Tyrone. Expect something different…….right now I reckon they are better footballers than Tyrone and will want to play with the ball rather than defend all day.

  15. diehard has it again. The blanket only works when there’s a sizeable lead to defend. If you get out in front for any reasonable length of time, the blanket is worthless – they have to come out and chase the game, and it all opens up. Contrast the Mayo-Donegal championship games of 2012 and 2013 for further evidence.

    That said, there seems to be a problem developing in the team again with shooting from distance. This is the best way to beat the blanket and it is vital that it is continuously worked on. Someone mentioned above that we ‘sussed out’ Tyrone in the 2013 semi. No we didn’t. We were in all kinds of trouble until Chris Barrett landed two monster points from distance to finally bring us into the game and put doubts in their heads. Good shooting from distance will get you around any system.

  16. Steve, re the Cairde Mhaigheo gear, I spoke to Tommy Goonan about that last Sunday. He confirmed that they would be available at the next home game, i.e. the Monaghan game on March 1st.

  17. Some good points for sure about beating the blanket. Only one of them involves something I like to see in Gaelic Football that being long/quick foot passing. But even that involves dropping smaller skillful players to play bigger usually less skillful players.
    I’v come to the view that Gaelic Football needs a complete rethink of how the rulebook is applied.
    – Soccer (fair shoulder charge is allowed, just not as common anymore)
    – Gaelic Football (fair shoulder charge allowed, less common as players are usually mauling each other in gangs of tackles or striking hard at the players upper body rather than the ball)
    The coming together of bodies naturally is allowed as players have to have a running line to the ball.
    But all of this tackle from behing, arm on the shoulder, forward running straight at the defender, deliberate strong hits at the arms/body. It is all meant to be frees.
    Wrap up tackles and foot trips should really be sending of under rule 3 of sending off offences “Behaving in any way dangerous to an opponent”
    All of those melees we see the third player in is supposed to be sent off under rule 5 of sending off offences “Contributing to a melee”
    Any player who will not give up in a two man tussle should be sent off as well.
    What would we gain?
    – More and better scores in games
    – The return of smaller skillful forwards like Derek Savage
    – The return of not particularly athletic scoring machines like Maurice Fitzgerald and Padraig Joyce
    – The return of agile skillful defenders like Keith Higgins
    – The return of shadowing type defending
    What would we lose from the game?
    – Strong physical contact would be much less (something has to give)
    – Hatchet men 14 stone corner backs/wings backs would not be agile enough to play this game
    – Injury rates would go down significantly in games and training games. Way way less dislocated shoulders for example. In soccer dislocations are quite rare.

    If amount of allowable training sessions allowable was set in stone clearly managers would simply have to develop skillful players who can score/pass/defend with skill.

    For sure the players would be very fit but it would not involve having to undergo numerous hypertrophy sessions in the gym in order to gain the necessary 10 kg (it will soon be 15kg) to play Gaelic Football.

    For proof of the type of physical build we should have in Gaelic Football look at professional soccer. Strong legs for sure, but much lighter upper bodies with an emphasis in training much more on skills.

    There have been some really skillful joy to watch Mayo minor forwards since 2010. By this stage many of them are realizing they have no place at the table of senior inter county football. Not tall enough or far too small that not even protein shakes/gym work can make up the difference.

    It should not be about selecting bigger forwards. Not to be depressing but the game is broken and we have a democractic right/duty if you’re a GAA member (I am) to influence change. Between the current injury crisis (10 Kildare players got surgery this year), the time demands on players, the growing size of the players, the turgid nature of most of the games these days, the physicality of club football that 18 year olds now have to step into.

    To end positive, I believe that change will happen as the game cannot go pro and the GPA will eventually be active in protecting player welfare and the state of the game.

  18. Tyrone targeted the stronger “shooting” foot of our forwards when tackling in the scoring zone on Sunday. It was a tactic that forced a lot pressurised shots taken from the perceived weaker foot.

  19. Good analysis WJ.
    Blanket or no blanket, Mayo need to improve on shot selection and shooting.
    We have the players to dominate possession and create chances; we just need to focus on getting forwards on the pitch who can finish.
    Do we have a quality forwards coach in the county?
    I don’t think Holmes or Connelly are the men to improve our scoring abilities and they may need to bring someone in. (McStay!!!)

  20. Off topic but did anybody hear that mayo play clare in senior football challenge on Sunday in kinvara, Galway at 2pm.

  21. Ah here there is still an agenda I see with some people r,e Connelly/Holmes…give them a chance…even McStay is being mentioned.

    Shot election I would agree needs to be improved but are we accurate enough? Looking at games since 96 (both county and club) we have always fallen short in the forward department. What may have more to do with coaching withing the county then any one manager or management team. Have we the forwards of the class of Kerry and Dublin or Donegal……? I think deep down we all know the answer sadly.

  22. Quick question can anyone james shaughnessy from claremorris in Mayo panel? I see he scored 4 points (2 frees) for sligo it in there sigerson loss v ucc today.sligo it only lost by 5 in that game and they were missing Evan regan and mark and Ryan mchugh who are on holiday with Donegal in Dubai

  23. Its interesting to note that the two most high profile times that the blanket defence was defeated the winning team had to adopt similar tactics. The 2011 semi-final between Dublin and Donegal was won by Dublin when they went ultra defensive as well. While in last year’s semi-final when Dublin tried to beat Donegal by using total football, they failed. Again in last year’s final Kerry mirrored elements of Donegal’s play to achieve victory. While three times against Tyrone, in 03, 05 and 08, Kerry lost by trying to win playing their own style of football against a massed defence. Maybe there is a lesson to be learned here for us.

  24. Just to harp on something again, for a minute. Everyone mentions AOS or Barry Moran for full forward, why cannot Gavin Duffy be TRIED and see what happens. He is a huge man, surely he can catch a ball and give it to someone??? What is there to lose? Kerry threw in Donaghy as a last resort and look what happened. I can’t see how anyone can object to this when nobody, but nobody, knows how he might do. If he flops, he can be replaced, otherwise what is he doing on the panel????

  25. Fourgoal McGee that’s a very fine piece on the blanket defence, and I’m not going to pretend to know enough about it to offer much to the debate on this one. But having read the many contributions on this subject, I’m saddened to know that our beloved Mayo seem to be the only top flight County who are not capable of adapting to, or using this so called puke, but seemingly very effective type of game.

    I watched the game live last Sunday and was pulling my hair out with frustration, as we continued to repeat the same pattern of play over and over again. Even the dogs in the street knew this slow build up wasn’t working and when we did get through our lads were so tightly marked it wasn’t possible to get a kick away with any confidence. How Management could stand there and not see the need to change tact, not to mention the more senior players who have been at the receiving end of this stuff in the past.

    And as been said above already, the Tyrone lads were able to read the incompetence
    of the ref – “they’re cute”, for feck sake what does that say about us, where have we been all those years ?? Still it’s only February – so why should I be worried !!

  26. Steve, I agree with you on our shortcomings in the forward line. This continues to be our biggest problem. Other than Cillian we have no other top class forward in the inside line who has the ability to make and take scores from any angle and turn a tight game on its head. My heart began to sink towards the latter stages of the FBD when it started to become aparrent that small, physically un-imposing & average corner forwards were becoming the preferred type by our new management and were being tried repeatedly. This has continued into the early stages of the national league and the net result is there for everyone to see. If we can’t bring through some lads with height, strength, pace and scoring ability then come championship we will have no other choice but to stick with the same old names up front supporting Cillian….which will see us end up with the same old results as before. So let’s see some up and coming players like Dravins, Kirby, Conor O’Shea and a fully recovered Evan Regan get their chance to make an impact in our forward line as the spring campaign continues.

  27. Erris Head says:
    February 13, 2015 at 11:00 am
    How to beat the blanket? How about Noel and Pat pick up the phone and give James Horan a call. I’m not being smart either by the way.
    We beat Roscommon’s blanket last year,


    A game that Mayo could easily have lost the shot selection especially in the 1st half was as bad as against Tyrone last Sunday and while Andy Moran did kick a few good long distance scores Mayo still had to rely on some soft frees given by the same ref Eddie Kinsella.

  28. @joe mc,
    joe, this is mayo you’re talking about, gavin duffys papers werent even in order to allow him play last year, though he would have stopped donaghy because it needed muscle.
    Meanwhile, we keep kicking ball into lads that have no real physical power in the ff line bar coc and the only other man with the size and power in there is too nice to his opponent. By the time we get this league out of the way we will know for certain if a monumental mistake has been made and if this Mayo team will go down as another one that almost made it, on the plus side we wont have false hope for summer if it pans out the way some are thinking already
    A lot of people are saying that hes not a back and hes not a forward, maybe so, but he is a brutally strong fella that knows what an o neils size 5 is and he wont be pushed around and remember donaghy was a mid fielder until that longford game in 2006 and they threw him in at ff for a shot, only a few months before he flung nallen and heaney to one side and buried us. Of course we wont see Duffy on the field, we ll go for youth all the way, as a way of rebuilding, getting ready for next year.

  29. Look the object of the game is to WIN how you WIN is up to you Tyrone out Foxed Mayo also out paced Mayo
    Now what the Mayo Fans have to do is built a bridge and get over it
    Nothing Worse than a sore looser ( Fans)
    And I Don’t mean the Players

  30. A return to the fundementals of the Gaelic Football game of ‘catch and kick’ would destroy any blanket…………the big but is!…… we have the desire or the skills set of players to to do it ?
    Time and space would then be automatic and the game the better for it.

    MaighEo Abu

  31. A lot of de time I watch Mayo playing, whether against a blanket defence or not, I get very frustrated with de real lack of kicked ball into de forward lines – particularly half forward line.
    It appears we are reluctuntant to do so as there seems to be a serious doubt de ball will stick and will come back out as quick as it went in.
    I honestly think this is because we lack 2/3/4 of these strong ball winners inside and they are not gona suddenly arrive out of nowhere.
    It may take a couple of yrs but we need these type of players big time.
    Andy can get onto and win some great ball and have runners off him waiting for supply..we will miss him when he’s gone and we missed his ball winning abilities last Sunday.
    Movement up front – constant runs from forwards when we garner possession, to give options to half backs on de run and midfielders, thus making it more difficult for defenders.
    And of course, a big fella inside (Ff) wudnt go astray – but he must be able to win most balls, if fed properly into him.
    Other than this, a good “mix-it-up” approach is vital – so at times we attack through de hands (fast) and other times play de kicking game.

  32. Four Goal has put together a solid piece of tactical nous. Don’t know what I am attempting to prove here but I analysed Mayos four final match each season since 2011-2014. Two finals, two semi finals.

    I picked the guys who lined out 10-15 plus those who came on as a sub for a forward in those games. Andy Moran missed the last game of 2012.

    10- McLaughlin. P-4 Scored 0/3
    11-Dillon. P-4 Scored 0/0
    12-A Moran•. P-3 Scored 2/05
    13- Varley. P-2 Sub-2 Score 0/4
    14-Freeman. P-2 Sub-2 Score 0/1
    15- CIllian O C. P-4 Scored 3/21
    16- Doherty. P-2 Sub-2 Score 0/3
    17- Conroy. P-1 Sub-2 Score 0/2
    18- R Feeney. Sub- 1 Score 0/1
    19- Gibbons. Sub- 1 Score 0/1
    20- K Higgins. P-1 Score 0/1
    21- Carolan. Sub- 1 Score 0/0
    22- A O Shea. P-1 Score 0/0
    23-Campell- Sub- 1 Score 0/0

    So that’s the scoring return from 2 Finals and 2 semis . We depend inordinately on CIllian and Andy Moran. We need some new tricks and tactics

  33. Congrats to Corofin and hard luck, Willie Joe. Vins just did not seem to have the hunger for it this year. Corofin’s goal, just after they missed a penalty and Vins scored one was the crucial score and says a lot for Corofin’s spirit. Had they gone in at half time without it I imagine the atmosphere would have been a whole lot different.
    Looking forward to summer it is looking a lot like 1998. Galway with a young team, All Ireland Club champions? and Mayo with a battleworn outfit. Can we ensure a different result?

  34. John Cuffe……..That’s an amazing statistical summary of returns from forwards.

    It really says it ll and you’re 100% correct in your observations there.

    I’d ask just one question……Is part of that imbalance due to the game plan being based on always searching for and feeding Cillian, for scores, at the expense of getting all forwards running and passing with the ball in a practiced set of moves ?

  35. In tullamore today, congrats to all and Mayo man at the helm. We could do with aLundy or even two like him, what a man.

  36. A week on and still puzzled by Mayo tactics against Tyrone. Blanket is old hat now as been in use for years. We did not make any real effort to counter it. It was the duvet version of the blanket. We do not know what C&H were looking for in that game, perhaps a hard weeks training had been done as we did look nearly as sharp as we did in Killarney.
    Also the team did not come out until 5 minutes before throw in so no proper warm up. Probably did one on back pitch but still very strange in my opinion. Fitness should not be an excuse the next day and Monaghan will have a right cut at us. Unlucky not to beat Cork and would have if not for Colm O’ Neill . Same for Kerry in Derry except for Geaney. Can O’Connor do it for us? We have to get better early ball into our forwards to give them a chance to prove themselves. Monaghan now a must win as two losses at home could be fatal.

  37. I have 75 mins of pure 100% Irish handmade Tyrone blanket to study in this spring break. The key point is to neither attack or defend as individuals. A strong defensive shape needs to be in place. The counter attack needs to be coralled where you want it to be and force them to kick long or go backwards to their own goal.
    Around the middle the extra solos that we often take are killer. The ball needs to be goin in two kick passes from our full backline or one long handpass n one long kickpass to within shooting range.
    When we attack there needs to be runners coming immediately focussed on either attacking or defending a zone depending on who wins the ball.

  38. Yes we were beaten by a team using the blanket defence, but did we not create enough chances to win the game?? I think we did. Why didn’t we win…………………….
    Scroll back up and check out John Cuffe’s excellent post.

  39. Beating the blanket defence involves a hell of a lot more than just taking your chances.
    – You could select a higher percent shooter yo partner SOS
    Other than that those wides were down to the defensive pressure. Even Michael Conroys goal attempt that was saved it was the returning cover that forced him to shoot a fraction of a second quicker.
    Too many managers think simply selecting good forwards and practicing shot selection and shooting is enough.
    Thr blankets effectiveness relies on the opposition not responding in kind with prepared teamwork.
    Watch the Tyrone game and see how Tyrones counter attack sailed through ud despite super work rate from our half forwards/midfield/half backs. Problem is it was everyone doing their own thing.
    When you see our defence all pushed up on them you know we were not ready yet.
    You also don’t try n play perfect pass football when attacking. That results in several extra solos/passes outside of scoring range.
    You have to be willing to lose ball inside scoring range and be quickly prepared for any counter.
    The blanket is designed for traditional football.

  40. Think if you take frees out it is more stark 4-18 in 4 games, that’s 1-4.5 per game from play from our forwards on average per game. In fairness to Andy Moran, he has been the man to stand up most consistently

    10- McLaughlin. P-4 Scored 0/3
    11-Dillon. P-4 Scored 0/0
    12-A Moran•. P-3 Scored 2/05
    13- Varley. P-2 Sub-2 Score 0/0
    14-Freeman. P-2 Sub-2 Score 0/0
    15- CIllian O C. P-4 Scored 2/2
    16- Doherty. P-2 Sub-2 Score 0/3
    17- Conroy. P-1 Sub-2 Score 0/2
    18- R Feeney. Sub- 1 Score 0/1
    19- Gibbons. Sub- 1 Score 0/1
    20- K Higgins. P-1 Score 0/1
    21- Carolan. Sub- 1 Score 0/0
    22- A O Shea. P-1 Score 0/0
    23-Campell- Sub- 1 Score 0/0

  41. The real top blanket defense requires six backs marking six forwards, 3 men across midfield and 2-3 forwards (4-5 sometimes) chasing the ball. Tyrone also played with a sweeper making it ultra defensive.

    On average a team will turn 30% of their kickouts into shots and a likely 15% actual scores taken – 1 score from every 7 of your own kickouts. This drops to 20 and 10 from opposition kickouts. Turnovers is where 50% of a teams shots come from.

    Over the past few years Mayo have topped the charts at turnovers in the opposition half and also scores got from these turnovers. But, ff you leave your defenders back (as we are currently doing) you reduce the amount of scores got in this manner.

    To make up for this additional defensive cover, we need to increase our scoring rate from our own kick out. Mayo’s scoring rate from their own kickout is lower than the other top 4 teams.

    This is what Tyrone exploited so effectively. They let us have our own kickout short knowing we don’t get a lot of scores from it. They then kicked their own kickouts long avoiding the risk of Mayo turning them over in their own half.

    Mayo need a tactic to get more scores from their own kickouts when playing against the blanket. Tyrone never contested a Mayo kickout and ran directly back to their own half. As Mayo carried the ball on, they ran into the 3 ball chasers and 3 man midfield, all their forwards marked and no option for low ball in due to the sweeper. High ball wasn’t really used as an option but it did result in a goal and a 45 on the two occasions it was used.

    What are the options to increase our scoring against the blanket:
    1. Direct High Ball
    High ball in requires a big full forward who can take a score. Something we don’t have nor are we trying to develop (Connelly as been running development squads for a few years now and hasn’t developed one from the countless big men in the county). Throwing a midfielder in doesn’t really work as its a specialist position.

    2. Turnover ball
    Mayo are now leaving their defenders back so our 6 forwards are outnumbered when our attack breaks down resulting in less turnover ball. The only way to increase this is to apply the full court press and risk getting caught on the break like Dublin were against Donegal in last years semi and Mayo were against Dublin in the 2013 final.

    3. Sacrifice the full forward line
    Mayo defeat of Donegal in 2012 and to a lesser extend Tyrone in 2013 was based on utilising the 3 halfbacks as attacking weapons. This works well as they are left unmarked. In those games Mayo pulled out the full forward line out 30-40m from goal resulting in a wall of players, 6 Mayo forwards, 6 Donegal/Tyrone defenders, 3-4 Donegal/Tyrone forwards, across the pitch with space in behind. By then running the halfbacks through this body of players and popping the ball over the top into the space, they created goal chances in behind the blanket.

    4. Long range point scoring
    Dublin did this to Donegal for half a match but it gets harder and harder to do as player tire and you end up kicking a world of wides, providing encouragement to the defense and destroying the attacking teams confidence, resulting in more wides. Kerry stuck at it in the All ireland last year and got a bit of luck from a dodgy kickout (turnover) to win.
    Mayo’s stats over the past few years show we are less than average from long range so its not a viable option at present.

    I would suggest option 3 as our best bet. Simply because in Vaughan and Keegan we have the best attacking halfbacks in the country (Boyle is not to shabby either). You have to use your best player effectively. The big fear I have is we have abandoned this altogether for something much less effective.

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