What do you do with a problem like….?

After the Galway game, I stayed away from blogs and podcasts for a week or so. It was like when you would like a swim in the sea but the water just looked too cold.

At half-time in the Galway game, it looked like we had got to grips with them and that the early jitters had been overcome. The first 30 minutes of the second half showed that we could start both halves poorly and this was frustrating to watch. When I wrote my last post here, I was fairly critical but I really wanted to be proven wrong. Regrettably, Galway proved I was not and it was not a nice feeling.

You see, the thing is, we have an excellent squad. Individually, they are some of the finest footballers in the country. We also have a management that keeps developing new talent and keeps bringing us to national finals. Supporters of most other counties would take your hand off if they were offered this.

Listening to the John Maughan interview on the podcast, I was greatly taken with his passionate appreciation of the efforts of players like Niall McNamee. Niall has played senior inter-county for Offaly for nearly 19 years since he first togged out as a 17-year-old. He and his fellow warriors continue to give everything to the cause of their county, in the full knowledge that he will never walk out to a full house in Croke Park on All-Ireland final day.

We in Mayo are blessed with these riches. But when the All-Ireland title is the benchmark by which we continue to measure success, we are always likely to be one of the 31 disappointed counties in any one year.

So, should we just get over ourselves and accept our lot? I don’t think we can. We have been within touching distance so many times. The waft of success has been so close that we imagine that we could smell it. But we have not been able to get that success and so must continue to suffer.

And that is what the aftermath of the game against Galway felt like. Suffering! We are like addicts that need a fix. We get a bit of it every now and then, but never enough, thereby keeping us in its addictive grip. Give me ONE, just ONE!

Ironically, getting to the final so often in the last ten years is now working against us as we have been one of the most watched teams in the last decade. We have been coached by several men from other counties, Cian O’Niall, Donie Buckley and Tony McEntee in the last decade alone. Our systems are well known and widely studied.

At this stage, aspiring inter-county managers could search the internet and be fairly sure to find a virtual ‘How To Set Up Against Mayo’ manual. Consequently, teams know how to stop us from scoring. Crucially, teams also know the defensive weaknesses that can be exploited to develop goal scoring opportunities against us. Conversely, we seem to set out a very similar stall regardless of who we are playing and the recent results show that this is not working.

After the Galway game, I spent some time reading Mike Collins’ book Carrying the Fire. Mike was the third Apollo 11 astronaut, the one that stayed in orbit while Armstrong and Aldrin made history by getting their boots dirty on the moon. In one of the chapters, he wrote of the hundreds of “what if” scenarios that they had to develop in planning for the Apollo programme. 

All of the what if scenarios they could dream up were documented and were there if ever they were needed in the future. Some of them were useful, such as the time that the oxygen tank blew out on Apollo 13 – there were several scenarios that helped solve that one – however, most of the what if scenarios were never used and just gathered dust. 

On reading this, I have since been wondering how much of this “what if” type of thinking could be used in game planning at inter-county level. This brings us into the area of strategy and tactics.

Photo: Mayo News

Strategy is an overall approach – and I’ll come to it in a minute – tactics are the actions that enact the strategy or the actions that maximise the reaction to a threat or an opportunity that occurs during the game. This is the core of what people have been calling Plan B in terms of how the team attacks the game.

Examples of “what if” scenarios that would require a tactical response are as follows:

  • What if one of our key players gets injured? 
  • What if one of our players is sent off? 
  • What if one of THEIR players is sent off? 
  • What if our man-on-man strategy isn’t working and is resulting in the likes of David Clifford shooting the lights out? 
  • What if we can’t develop scoring opportunities with our running game? 
  • What if we give away a soft goal? 
  • What if we are six points up with 10 minutes to go but we have already emptied our bench?

Of course, there are other things that can happen, but we need to have response to whatever happens. 

In the Galway game I saw some really good tactical stuff that swung the game temporarily in our favour. Towards the end on the first half, when Ó Laoi got the black card, they lost their ability to play an out and out sweeper. Mayo pushed up a bit more and the balls going in stuck a bit more. The scores followed.

Joyce and his generals reset their tactics at half-time and it worked for Galway for most of the second half.

The second really noticeable tactical move from Mayo came with about ten minutes to go when Jack Carney came on and Aidan O’Shea was relocated to the edge the square. Putting Aidan in there is a much-maligned tactic, but it causes havoc for opposition full back lines.

Their sweeper dropped back further to negate Aidan, thereby creating space in front of the D. Aidan didn’t get a ball, but his presence in there was telling because the extra space gave more scoring opportunities. Again, the scores came, but regrettably we just ran out of road.

This tells me that James Horan and his merry men are looking at, at least some, what ifs. What we need to see now is more of this. In particular, we need to bring tactics that cause panic in the opposition ranks. To date, particularly in this year, such shock and awe has been absent. Maybe we saw green shoots in Castlebar?

Which brings me to strategy. This is where I am really scratching my head.

Ryan O’Donoghue was the only man that started all eight league games for us. He started every game in the full forward line, he was our highest scorer and was in the shake-up for Man of the Match in every game.

So when Cillian O’Connor was fit, what did we do? Move our biggest threat out of the area in which he is most dangerous! Really? When we needed men who could win their own ball in the full forward line? I just didn’t get it.

Also, Diarmuid O’Connor has played some absolutely brilliant football every time he has played at 11 this year, but he too was moved, lining out at wing-forward at MacHale Park.

Going further back the field, Mayo has been known for breaking half-backs, but against Galway three of the four best line breakers on the field were in our full-back line. Our power in breaking forward is needed on the opposition 45 metre line. It is too much to expect full-backs to do the line breaking when they are also expected to do man on man marking jobs close to goal with no sweeper cover. So, what was the line breaking strategy? I couldn’t see one.

So, to summarise. The Galway game had a bit of the curate’s egg about it. The overall strategy seemed to be man on man at the back, get the ball to centrefield, look for the killer pass inside and play it laterally until the pass opportunity arises. That gave us 19 minutes of the first half and nearly 30 minutes of the second half without scores from play.

Am I missing something? If I’m correct, then surely this is an area of real concern.

The evidence on tactics is that there are things being worked on to maximise in-game opportunities. More of this would be very welcome.

29 thoughts on “What do you do with a problem like….?

  1. Excellent article but I would disagree that Ryan was actually playing no 11, he was inside for most of the game and that brings up another issue. We have Jason, Carr, Ryan and Cillian who are all inside players. We do not seem to have integrated Cillian back into the lineup. I think Ryan is good at 11. Kerry for example leave either Brosnan or Geaney [ and before that O donoghue] on the bench because they do not want to congest their full forward line.
    We started 2 slow half backs and still tried to play the same running game as we did with real pace in the line.
    Our tackling was also sub par , for example Comer broke down a high ball, ran forward to collect the break, turned and moved on goal and kicked an uncontested point. There were 4 Mayo players around him but nobody laid a glove on him. Same with Shane Walshe, nowhere to go, plenty of Mayo players there and a lazy foul and an easy free. Conroy got uncontested shots as did most of the Galway scorers. Contrast that with Jason swarmed when he got the ball.
    We moved Aiden to full forward and then mostly ignored him, i do not think he got one good ball sent his way.
    We have done the same in the past, moved Aiden in but made no adjustments to our play.
    Our lack of energy and aggression for large periods of games this year and last year is concerning. Is it something to do with our training and preparation? Against Galway players returning from injuries was a factor in the second half.
    Carr, Doherty, and the 2 O Connors seemed to tire and Mullen went off and we were slow to introduce subs. Of course with all the injuries our bench is weakened but Kevin at least should be in sooner

  2. In fairness, though I wouldn’t be Horan’s biggest fan at this stage, the switches were probably forced by missing so many key players and also having a few who were playing their first competitive game for some time. ROD has played well at centre-forward quite a bit in the past couple of years, whereas Cillian can probably only play in the full-forward line, given his relative lack of pace.

    My feeling is that although JH’s team has probably become a bit predictable (and he doesn’t help himself with the rather childish attitude to supporters and the media), a lot of the failings in the senior side are also on show in the underage set-ups in recent years and probably harks back to some coaching issues within the county generally.

    For instance, why do we produce so many ball-playing backs but relatively few tight man markers? How come Mayo tend to produce so many one-footed players? Why are we so prone to coughing up big leads? Why have we failed to score more than one goal in most of our All-Ireland finals since 1989? Why do we generally struggle to score from distance? Why are we so reluctant to utilize a sweeper, when we know that if properly implemented, it dramatically reduces the chances of conceding multiple goals?

    I think if we can get to the bottom of some of these questions (and maybe a few more) we can start to correct some of the repeated issues that have cropped up with Mayo sides over the years.

  3. I think this is a really good level headed assessment of Mayo’s game plan and strategy.
    And it’s more polite than it should be. Our plan/ strategy at times looks all over the place.
    One comment that grates with me and it’s said a lot about Horan is his ability to develop young players. I don’t see it that way at all. The young players that come into the Mayo setup are already developed through 5 or 6 yrs of academy, schools and underage football. The dogs in the street knew the potential of Tommy conroy, Hession, Mullin etc and then they’re added to the senior squad. I would question do they actually improve once they join or are they shoe horned into a system that inhibits them.

  4. Very good article. Im not convinced moving ROD to CHF was a bad move. He is the one player more than any other capable of finding that killer pass. No doubt he was earmarked by Galway as Mayos likely matchwinner and received special attention accordingly.
    To return to finding that killer pass, we keep shooting ourselves in the foot imo. Lateral and backward passing is mostly uncontested by opposition. They are too busy dragging players back into defensive positions. By the time Mayo are ready to find that killer pass, the D area is congested. Have we shooters who can take scores under pressure? 14 wides v Galway is what lost us that game.
    I wasnt overimpressed with the way kerry dealt with Cork, but one statistic stood out, 8 players got on the scoresheet.

  5. @Puckout, one thing you’ll notice about the comments on James bringing young talent through is that it’s often coming from former or current inter-county players. Lads that know the difficulty of making the step from club to county.

    It was noticeable to hear Paddy Andrews, commenting in relation to the Eugene Branagan interview, that a club All Ireland Final doesn’t even come close to the level of an inter-county training session. He namechecked Jack McCaffrey and Ciarán Kilkenny as the only two Dublin lads, out of their decade or so of non stop generational talents, that were making an impact on the squad in year 1 of coming through. Yet, whatever systems have been put in place down here at academy/school/underage/development squads, we’ve seen the likes of Oisín, Tommy, Eoghan, Ryan, Enda, Matthew, Paddy, Brendan and others all manage to do it, with high hopes for the likes of Jack Carney, Sam Callinane and Frank Irwin doing it in the near future (and a few of the minor lads not too far away from potentially doing it in a little more time).

    I’ve no idea what specifically we’re doing differently to help achieve it. I wouldn’t be shocked if it was part of the S&C setup Ed Coughlan, Barry Solan and Conor Finn have put so much work into and their bespoke programmes. It could also be part of the extended panel work where we’ve a few lads training away with the panel yet not featuring at all so far this year (Conor McStay this year following his ankle injury comes to mind just as Luke Doherty was involved last year) who might appear to explode ‘from nowhere’ on the county scene next year. It could also be an improvement to higher levels of club coaching, especially at underage, being achieved throughout the county (from the outside the likes of Declan O’Reilly as coaching officer and Kieran Kilkenny as the Performance Game Development Officer seem to be doing great work).

    Whatever is behind it people with far more experience and knowledge of the game than I single James out for praise for his ability to bring through those young lads so quickly so he’s clearly doing something very, very right there.

  6. Puckout – Whatever else is said about James Horan he has radically improved the way in which young players are both identified and developed to an intercounty standard. The number of players from Mayo that have reached a high intercounty standard over the last 10 years is way out ahead of any other county apart from the traditional powers of Kerry, Dublin and arguably Tyrone.

    People are inclined to treat the present as having been inevitable when it is anything but. Before Horan arrived Mayo had a habit of producing a team once in a while with long hopeless spells of failure in between. Horan changed all of that radically and it is churlish not to give him credit for his obvious achievements on that front.

  7. Good article and I agree with most of it.

    The “what ifs” is what Bill Walsh (legendary 3 time Super Bowl winning coach of the San Francisco 49’ers) called Game Scripting. A day or so leading into a game, Bill would sit down, alone, and write out all the possible permutations and situations that could arise in the upcoming game. What if this happened…. what if that happened…. and so on. There could be 20 or 30 situations addressed and pre-planned for. Then if and when a situation arose in the game he just consulted his Game Script, made the call and that was it.
    The advantage to Game Scripting is that in the day or so leading up to the game, you can think through your response and reaction to each and every situation, in a cool and calm manner. In the peace and quiet of an office. Pressure free. No shouting or roaring fans behind you. No clock ticking down. No second guessing. Anyone that has stood on a sideline and tried to manage a game, at any level, will know that having to respond and react to multiple situations going off in front of you, in game time, is pretty difficult. In that situation you are not thinking clearly, and so your decision making process is limited.
    By Game Scripting, you’ve already put yourself in that situation and thought it through, but, without all the muck and bullets flying around you.

    As for Horans use of certain players in certain positions and their development? I believe that for all the image that Horan has of being a progressive and attacking manager, his tactics would suggest otherwise. In offense he plays a very cautious, risk free, possession based style, where it looks like his players are terrified to play off-the-cuff or take a risk in case the possession stats and turnover stats look bad. In defense, he plays a ludicrous, open expansive, style where his defenders are left 1-on-1. That defensive structure was OK when we had generational man-to-man markers like Barrett, Higgins and Boyle. But we don’t have them anymore. McLaughlin, Coen and Plunkett aren’t even in the same dressing room as those other three. In that case, we need a defensive structure that shuts off that middle channel completely.
    But, it’s not today or yesterday we’ve known that, but it seems that the man that counts doesn’t agree.

  8. I think amongst the understandable frustration at us not being able to get over the line in at least one of the AI finals many have forgotten that in the last few years we have lost some of the best players we have ever had. Multiple all star winners like Higgins and Boyle. Footballer of the year in Andy Moran and not forgetting the likes of Vaughan,Barrett,SOS,Clarke and Parsons.
    I think it was some achievement that we reached AI finals in the last 2 years given that we lost so many established players.
    I will continue to look on the bright side. The defeat to Galway was avoidable. For all the talk about systems and sweepers we missed too many chances. 15 points out of 32 attempts killed us on the day and yet we still almost pulled it out of the fire.
    The positive is that we are still in the competition and live to fight another day.

  9. Not so sure on the inclusion of McLaughlin there @Pebblesmeller.

    Eoghan is 22, already has an All Star Nomination and has only been playing football properly a few years after a misspent youth on two wheels. For context at that age Colm Boyle had been destroyed in an U21 final against Cork, destroyed on his debut against Galway and was early on his four years being dropped entirely from the Mayo panel for being too small (seems silly now typing that now given how he turned out).

    When it comes to potential I’d not be the least bit surprised if he eclipsed the exploits of Chris, Keith and Colm in time. Saying that as someone who considers the 3 lads absolute legends of the game so not to undermine their successes in the slightest. I’d also imagine, though this is entirely hypothetical obviously enough, he’d do better on some match ups than the lads in their prime given he’d have a lot more pace than Chris or Colm and the athleticism to stick with any of them.

    Not sure I’ve ever seen Eoghan taken badly 1v1?
    His markers are normally too exhausted from chasing him around the pitch, given his usual role as a line breaker rather than as a defensive marker, to have the ability to try and burn him down our end.

  10. @TsuDhoNim: I’d say Niall Scully gave him the runaround in the All-Ireland final of 2020. Eoghan is promising to my mind, but his distribution is a little bit sloppy at times.

  11. @It Means Nothing to Me, that surprised me enough (I’d no memory of Eoghan being taken like that) I went back and just watched it back at double speed. Couldn’t remember much of the match ups or performances off the top of my head. (FYI: It still hurts)

    Eoghan had a poor one (very poor by his standards) going forward. Fumbled one when potential goal chance opened up, a couple of telegraphed shots well blocked and a silly fisted turnover around the middle. So yeah, still work to do on the ball handling and distribution. The years peddling costing us there.

    That said, he was very solid defensively. He wasn’t doing a man to man job on Scully, the system was set up on the 40 and take the man coming in your zone, but ended up tagging him quite often with that. Scully responsible for one point off him when he got the turn on him after an amazing field and ball by Con O’Callahan and Eoghan (correctly, given the context) fouled for a Dean Rock tap over. Was noticeable Scully’s score and best moments came when McLoughlin had been occupied with other runners.

    Scully really broke into the game in the later stages when Eoghan had been moved out to pick up James McCarthy (didn’t get much joy off him) and then Brian Howard. Howard got as much joy as anyone off him but as that stage we were chasing the game and Eoghan, like everyone else on both sides, was popping up closing down at either end of the pitch.

  12. Eoghan would certainly argue with you about a miss spent youth. Still learning the game but loads of potential. Clumsy tackler, gives away needless frees at time but definitely a work in progress.

  13. @Louis, it wasn’t really man-on-man, Galway played two defenders in the central channel behind their half backline, this forced Mayo to keep passing across the pitch all to no avail, Mayo only really attacked with purpose in the last minutes, and time went against them.

  14. Michael Plunkett has for quite awhile now been playing as the extra man in defense.

    It’s been quite effective at keeping goals out

  15. There’s no doubt Horan deserves huge credit for bringing through so many players and getting them performing to a high level. Padraig O’Hora wasn’t even on the panel during Rochford’s term, Mattie Ruane wasn’t getting a look in at all but was 1st choice midfielder within a few months of JH taking over. Eoghan McLaughlin played very little football during his teenage years. Mullin, Conroy and ROD were promising underage players but there’s never a guarantee of young lads stepping up to the higher level. It wasn’t like they were pulling up trees at minor level, like a David Clifford or even Aidan O’Shea, where the whole country knew about them.

    I remember the u20 final in 2018 where Jimmy Hyland and the midfielder Masterson looked a cut above anyone on the Mayo team. Yet Conroy and ROD have arguably taken to senior level better than Hyland while Jordan Flynn now looks a better midfielder than Masterson.

  16. @TsuDhoNim,
    McLaughlin isn’t even in the same parish as the three I mentioned above, when it comes to man-to-man marking. Also, I’m not comparing a 22 year old Boyle to a 22 year old McLaughlin, I’m highlighting the obvious flaw in Horans tactics that he is just subbing one player for another and expecting him to be able to replicate the previous player, irrespective of the players ACTUAL ability. Indeed this further strengthens my argument that Horan has only one style of play and the players must suit it, as opposed to designing a defensive structure around the players at his disposal.
    As for your point about McLaughlin tearing down the other end of the field and his marker having to follow him? That’s all fine and dandy but a half back is a defensive player first and foremost. If he can’t do that then he shouldn’t be a half back, he should be a half forward. Also, as pointed out above, he is a very sloppy tackler and is constantly pulled up by refs for that, e.g. reaching in with his wrong hand, over the shoulder, pulling players back etc. In time he may prove to be as good as the 3 mentioned, but at the minute he isn’t and therefore he shouldn’t be asked to do the same job as them.

    @Wideball, O’Hora was out with a badly busted shoulder during much of Rochfords time. He actually played under Rochford in the FBD in 2016 but picked up a bad injury that ruled him out for a very long time. He actually stopped playing football altogether because of it and that’s when he got into the martial arts stuff. After a number of operations and rehab the shoulder eventually came good and he returned to football.
    A sidenote too on another player that Horan gets wrongly credited for bringing in, James Carr was on the fringes of Rochfords squads but could never clear up the niggly injuries that continued to hold him back. Unfortunately for Carr, Rochford and us he didn’t clear those injuries up in time to play under Rochford, as I firmly believe he would have flourished under Rochfords football. Receiving quick ball, in space, one-on-one v his marker, Carr would have been lethal under Rochford.

  17. I may add some context there with regards Padraig O’Hora and Matty, Wideball. Padraig played only one game at Minor and under 21 for Mayo, so he didn’t appear to be shining too brightly at underage. He did feature at the start of Rochford’s tenure, playing the 3 2016 FBD games and coming on as a Sub for Lee Keegan against Cork in the league, first game of 2016. Notably he didn’t feature after that but he would have had to displace the likes of Keith Higgins, Ger Caff, Colm Boyle, Brendan Harrison and others to be getting a look in. I also believe Padraig took a year or 2 out from football (Club and County if I’m not mistaken) altogether to concentrate on MMA but I can’t say as to when that was exactly. By the same token, I recall when he did start to feature more regularly at senior he would certainly appear to have been a bit “raw”, sometimes too aggressive in the challenge and a bit or a risk of being a card magnet. That’s something that Eoghan McLaughlin seems to be guilty of too going by discussions on this thread. Padraig has certainly developed into an excellent defender now, and would be undoubtedly one of the first picked when the starting 15 is being selected. Personally I reckon Eoghan has enough talent to be close enough to the same priority in terms of selection.
    Similarly for Mattie Ruane who if I recall was injured a lot post his under 20’s and 21’s days, he would have had to displace the likes of Seamie O’Shea and Tom Parsons, a tall order for any midfielder. He was Rochford also had him on the development squad a the time, and by the time Rochford’s tenure had come to an end, Matty was still only 21 years of age.
    That’s not to intended to remove the credit from Horan for the job he’s done of integrating younger players into the squad. Horan has done so largely from necessity but to his credit has done so successfully.
    The addition of younger players is something that Rochford was often accused of not doing despite giving game time to almost all of the 2016 under 21 team, which seems to have gone largely unnoticed. Personally I think that in a number of cases those younger players were not ready to displace the established ones in the Rochford era, but that’s a discussion for another day, and as you say, players can be promising at underage and not make it at senior. In other cases a player may hardly feature at underage and yet turn out to be one of the best in the business.
    Your points on Mullin, ROD, Conroy and Flynn when compared to Hyland and Masterson are bang on the money, though I’m fairly sure Mullin ROD and Conroy were all being touted as ones to watch from the early days, particularly Mullin, but as you say not in the same level as AOS or Clifford. Jordan certainly was not included in that bracket, probably because of how the 2018 under 20 final ended for him. That said I always had a bit of a shine for him, he always struck me as being similar to Seamie O’Shea in terms of his distribution and physical stature, and I figured he needed a few years to develop. I could be rightly accused of some personal bias when it comes to Jordan mind, though there was a period there following the FBD league defeat to Galway when I felt he may not have been up to the challenge . Thankfully he dispelled those doubts during the League, when he was absolutely outstanding.

  18. Pebblesmeller – I would compare McLaughlin to Donie Vaughan rather than the 3 lads you mentioned. A bit rough around the edges defending and with general ball skills, but his pace/athleticism is a serious threat. Most teams have 1 wing back who’s not an out and out man marker so I wouldn’t worry about Eoghan.

    Horan gave James Carr his debut so does take a lot of the credit for bringing him through. Injuries will always happen. Horan may have moulded David McBrien into a top class full back and Mark Moran into a ball playing number 11 by now if it wasn’t for injury. We’ll never know, but some of the early signs from those 2 were encouraging.

    You can praise Rochford for the way Mayo played during his reign but it’s also clear he had no success bringing new players through compared to Horan. That was made clear in 2018 after we suffered a few injuries.

  19. @Pebblesmeller, your point on square pegs for round holes is a perfect description for where Stephen often finds himself at the moment. He’s being asked to play in an expansive hard running system where he has the stamina but lacks killer pace for (which hurts line breaking ability going forward or the defensive cover speed the other direction when we’re left 2 on 2 or 3 on 3 as is often our strategy) or as a man marker on people too fast for him to be successful on (more than one game this year he’s been bounced from man to man trying to find a suitable match up before being swapped out for Enda to bring more pace and cover the gaps) or, worst case, he’s just left exposed in the league final where we didn’t have the defensive options to switch out.

    Throwing Eoghan into the same conversation doesn’t fit for me. He has a different skill set to the lads mentioned where man marking isn’t his primary role where it was for those 3 for the majority of their careers (despite the memories of us trying Boyler as a sweeper or midfielder and Keith as a forward) and where his pace means he would have done a better job on some matchups than Chris or Colm could have even in their prime. To be fair those are the exact matchups that Chris or Colm would never be given as Lee, Keith or Paddy (Eoghan is playing a very similar role to what Paddy did early in his career before he bulked up significantly and started taking man marking roles) at various times would have been doing them, playing to players strengths, just as you wouldn’t ask Eoghan to go out and do a Chris Barrett job on someone.

    When I asked for an example of where Eoghan has been badly beaten 1v1 the 2020 final was mentioned. He had a poor game going forward with 2 handling errors giving turnovers, one in a promising position, but defensively was immense that day. Once Scully managed to get a turn on him, due in a large part to a sublime ball by Con O’Callaghan, and Eoghan correctly fouled him to prevent a potential goal chance. Otherwise he didn’t give away a free, didn’t leave a runner loose in his zone and was our tightest defender on the day (obvious caveat here that the lads asked to man mark Con O’Callahan or Ciarán Kilkenny were obviously and always going to have a rough day). Watching it back last night it was very clear how much joy Dublin got in attack when Eoghan was pulled out of our back line to do a man marking job on James McCarthy, one where McCarthy barely touched the ball in that period and was completely shut down by a tight man marking McLoughlin.

    He still has huge improvements to make on decision making, tackling execution, positioning, game management, handling, distribution and finishing (be it shortish range points or goal chances) but he has all the potential in the world to carry those to a whole other level. Where he stands today, or even where he was back in the ’20 final, he’s already on the same page as those lads for me and while he’d do worse in some match ups he’d do better in others (except Keith, probably. They’d be so close on pace and stamina that the only advantage he might have on Keith would be height and as Keith was so tigerish that never seemed an issue you’d pick Keith for pretty much every scenario alright).

    I fully agree on your point about slotting players in lacking the required skill for the specific role. We’ve seen Stephen Coen and Rory Brickenden suffer badly from it at times and Michael suffer from it defensively more than once (the game this year against Dublin was the perfect example. First half he struggled on McGarry who was Dublin’s best player. McGarry got pulled at half time and Plunkett was one of our stars in the second half). I’d just disagree with Eoghan being mentioned. He’s pretty much exactly the type of player we want, who can do a specific role brilliantly right now and in time will be able to slot into every role in that defensive system Lee Keegan style. He’s in the same dressing room, on the same page and in time has the potential to rewrite that book for me.

  20. Its time enough to be making judgements on Eoghan imo. His youth spent in highly competitive cycling gave him the legs to burn off any chaser and the confidence to be a winner. He came into Gaelic fresh having avoided the negative possesion at all costs coaching that is stifling our game. Hopefully playing with mayo will not blunt his confidence and unshakeable belief that he is a winner!!

  21. Whoever comes after Horan will have the same problems with young players as Rochford had, simply because Horan has already involved the best of them already.

    I feel the criticism of Rochford in this regard is quite unfair. While he may not have given them debuts, he was incredibly important in the development of key players like Paddy Durcan, Stephen Coen and loftus.

    Stephen’s fingerprints are still all over the team and our style of play. Donegal are probably the team that plays most similarly to Mayo.

    Stephen’s structured approach is less suited to bringing youngsters through. Horan is all about empowering players, giving them the confidence to perform. Once you are up to a certain level of S&C you can play in a Horan team. Whereas, with Rochford, there’s a bit more learning your role, so it can take a year or two for youngsters to adjust. I think you can see this in Donegal’s recent championships

    Both in my opinion are excellent managers, and I firmly believe Rochford will manage Mayo again. The key for me is identifying where the team is in it’s lifecycle and appointing the correct manager for that point in time. In fairness I think the county board has gotten this right over the last decade, with the obvious exception of Holmes/Connelly.

    I’d agree with Colm Keys when he said we’re approaching the end of JHs time in charge. Not forever though, I expect he’ll get a third term at some point in the future. I do though think that it’s a few years too early in this team’s lifecycle for Stephen’s return at the moment, and should JH finish up after this year I would prefer someone else to come in for two to three years.

  22. @FrosTHammer I do not agree that James Horan is approaching the end of his time in charge. I think he will be appointed for another two years because of all the injuries and bad luck he seems to be having this year. The only way James will finish up this year is if he lands the Sam MAGUIRE CUP (and I am not ruling it out).

  23. @Jimbo … he may decide to go himself if unsuccessful this year…
    Lots pointing out problems but not offering much solutions. Seems to be alot of sly digs heading towards James on this blog and within the Mayo media in general…Pity they just wouldn’t just write that they don’t think he’s good enough rather than the highlighting mistakes or problems that need to be solved. He deserved better than that…

  24. I must admit that some of the topics on this blog are ridiculous and the primary purpose seems to stir up the shite amongst the bloggers.
    I think it’s unfair that the current management are being written off by some posters when there is games to play in the next month or two.

  25. @jimbo I hope your right

    I should have been more clear in my comment, I didn’t really mean it would be this year, but we’re almost certainly over half way through his spell this time around

  26. To be clear, just in case my comments are being misinterpreted.

    I am in full support of James Horan and his management team.

    I firmly believe that there’s not a single manager out there who would have achieved what he has with this team over this term and I’d include reaching this year’s league final.

    I’ve been telling everyone I’ve met since February that we’d win a national title this year, I had also though been predicting we’d lose to Galway. I’ll stand by that statement, although I am less confident now due to the injuries.

  27. Our last few managers have been a credit to our country, and I include them all. With a bit of luck we could have won a few Sams

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