Mid-term report

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It doesn’t seem long since the FBD league started in January but it’s nearly as far back in the past as a potential trip to Croker on 18th September would be in the future, thereby leaving us at mid-term of the footballing season. So what’s going well, what’s unclear and what’s on the “could do better” list?

Back in December last, Stephen Rochford pointed out that the style would develop during the year, and there is clear evidence that this is the case. The style that has emerged is one where the kick-pass is used much more, there is less running/carrying from the half-back line, a new defensive structure creates a semi-circle no-shot zone from the 45 in and extra hands come back to pick up runners that came into the zone. Caff was given a man-marking role, rather than an out-and-out full-back role, Lee spent most of the league in a deep man marking role, Boyler was in the No. 6 position, Nally took up the sweeper role with both Tom Parsons and Diarmuid O’Connor falling back to pick up the runners that came into the scoring zone.

To me, there was a clear defensive plan, although it was unpicked on a few occasions (such as with Kerry’s two goals). However, as the man said in December, it won’t stay the same as we look to the latter end of the year. I expect Leroy to be unleashed a bit more, I expect Paddy Durcan and Zippy to have some roles (though I haven’t figured out what). Of the positions nailed down, I’d say Harrison, Caff, Leroy and Boyler would now be in any starting Mayo fifteen, with several others available to undertake other roles if different defending options are required to be rolled out.

At midfield, Parsons and Sheamie must be considered the front runners at this stage for the 8 and 9 shirts. Aido, Big Bird, Coen and Gibbons are also there, but I expect the latter three will be part of whatever Plans B/C or D are being cooked up. I do however expect that Aido will spend a lot more of this summer between the Mayo 65 and the opposition 20 metre lines, providing us with a central diamond of Boyler, Parsons, Sheamie and Aido. Very few counties would relish taking on that quartet.

How the forwards will shape up is very unclear. The league has shown a lot of rotation and a lot more quick foot passing, but otherwise no discernibly new attacking formation was road tested.

As to the likely line up, it’s hard to imagine a half-forward line without McLoughlin and DoC, as they are as important to the defence as they are to the attack. Add Aido to that duo and you have your 10, 11 and 12. As captain this year and top championship scorer for the last three years, Cillian must be a forward starter, but can we expect BOTH Freezer and Cillian in the same line? And what of Evan Regan and Jason Doherty, to say nothing of the six others recently named in the panel?

In my view, the new additions to the panel certainly give new options for fireworks as the summer progresses, but would they be ready for a heat of battle joust in August or even September? With that in mind, I’d expect a few of them to get a bit of game time in the second half of the London game and maybe the next game as well.

So, compared to other years, where are we now and where are the banana skins?

One of the things that was obvious in the league was that each half started well but old habits crept in as the half progressed leading to leads being lost in both halves. This happened in a good few games. This is a new system phenomenon and, as the year progresses, that fade-out should go too as the newer way of playing continues longer into each half of every game.

I think that our lads will be in better physical shape than other years. There is a new training regime that mixes the heavy training with the speed training which gets a longer peak, presumably aimed at the August/September period. The new defensive system will have come on a lot from the league. I am nervous that we haven’t seen a forward strategy, but I’d be shocked if one is not being worked on behind the scenes. And speaking of behind the scenes, the loyalty to the squad objectives has been exemplary. There isn’t a squeak of what’s being worked on, there are no rumours of any type and there are NO dissenting views being expressed on any aspect of the training. All of which suggests that the heads are in the right place.

The banana skins are there in every game, but seriously, do any of us really expect to trip up in Connacht? An All-Ireland quarter-final could bring Cork or Kerry. With Kerry having so many first fifteen starters over 30, they will sooner or later get a serious hosing. Don’t rule out the possibility that such a hosing could come from Cork!

Whoever wins the quarter-final will most likely face one of Tyrone/Donegal/Monaghan in a semi-final. Of these, Tyrone are the hardest to beat, simply because they can shut down opposition forward lines, but I couldn’t see them staying with us physically. Donegal are the most physical of the three, but we have had the August hex on them. Monaghan have found a few more forwards and could come to the top in Ulster, but are they a top four outfit yet?

Which could leave us heading for Croker on 18th September! Up against the unbeatable Dubs. The same unbeatable Dubs that we stretched all the way last year. The same unbeatable Dubs that seem to be even more unbeatable because they walloped a seriously ageing Kerry outfit in the league final last month. Are they as good as last year? Are we better than last year? Could we force our game on them early in the first half and force them to empty the bench early to shore up their defences? Could we unleash OUR new talent with ten minutes to go?

For one year, could we just refuse to be beaten?

Mid-term. Halfway there and it hasn’t really started yet. Could this be the year? Could it really, finally be the year?

It’s all there to be played for.

Keep the Faith!

93 thoughts on “Mid-term report

  1. A very sharp piece of work Fourgoal. Thank you! I would like to think that we are or have the likelihood of being a couple of % points more capable of doing the job this year. We will know more as the games come by!

  2. A great bit of writing there Fourgoal.after the league final this year I was convinced that Dublin would walk the championship and today I still think they will be hard to stop. But not unstoppable, there’s no way that the same players can keep the level of physical performance at the level necessary to best the teams closest to them so often, unless they know something we don’t, and I doubt that because Rochford and co aren’t here for the crack or to be in the papers. The day will come when brogan will not win his battle no matter how hard he tries, same goes for Connolly who has been shut down by a player wearing a mayo jersey and the likes of macmenemin will be stopped by a fresher young fella out to make a point. When it all happens I don’t know but it will happen, if Mayo are the opposition against them in September ( big if) I think we will be assured that the dubs will not be handed anything easy , if they want to keep Sam they’ll have to fight for him. For me there’s nobody in Leinster remotely capable, due to bad organization in Kildare and Meath, they have the populations to beat Dublin 1 in 3 times if they got their stuff together, but no sign of it happening. The only teams at present with the ability are Kerry on s given day, mayo if they defend the goal and Tyrone once they finally arrive. Donegal are gone and cork? 4-25 allowed against Roscommon says a lot at any time of year.
    Bottom line is that mayo need to be preparing their defense to stop goals so that they can win the AllIreland in 2016 or the following years.

  3. Jim McGuinness wrote an article in the times 2 years ago that leaking goals was what was killing Mayo.

    two semi final exits to the eventual all ireland winners shows that he was right , its time to tighten up and win the cup!

    enjoyed that piece fourgoal , you have a great insight.

  4. Rodger, I agree, I have been saying that for ages. Its not lack of forwards that has been our downfall, it is a defensive issue. Conceeded 22 goals in 2014, 22 goals in 2015. That is maddness. Our half back line do carry a potent attacking threat but for the good of the team overall they must curtail their attacks and lie much deeper cutting off the space between the back lines. This will cut out those diagonal balls into space that killed us v Dublin and offer much needed protection to the fullback line.
    If we sort out these issues, and I expect Rochford and McEntee to do so, then the pressure will be off the forwards to rack up huge scores to win games.

  5. There is some crazy talk at this stage of the year. Lets take one game at a time or we will end up like Dublin did when they played Donegal a few years ago. No one outside Donegal saw that result even at half time. As far as Dublin were concerned they had already won the Final. Some Mayo fans are a bit the same this year already cocky that we will be playing Dublin in this years Final.We must take each game seriously as they come, and stop all this talk about the AIF in September. Kevin Walsh and Kevin Mc Stay must be delighted with this type of crazy talk. Galway will be very dangerous and we have been tested by Roscommon of late in Championship and they will be better this year if we beat Galway and meet them in the Connaught Final.

  6. Ah come on lads, how can you not know who zippy is! Get it together, championship is almost here 🙂

  7. o sullivan, notice how i use (big if) in my post? i know that on a given day the likes of galway, roscommon, tyrone, cork, donegal, tyrone etc can dash our dreams. it happens. The point I was making is that if we tighten up and stop leaking killer goals we are capable of anything with the forwards we have and the new forwards will only add to it. i can see any of these u 21 winners doing something like what kevin mcloughlin did against cork in 2011, remember the run he took to score that goal? he had no fear and knew what was needed

  8. You need to get out more often, John! Sure, even my young lad being reared up here knows who Zippy and Freezer are. And Big Bird too.

    Don’t get me going on the club scene in Dublin, Mayomad. Just one more stat to show how crazy it is: back in 2013 Vincents had to play four club championship matches – three in Dublin and a first round Leinster tie – in twelve days.

    Don’t be worried, O’Sullivan, about September talk. It’s just a clever double-bluff. We’re really concentrating 100% on the next match, taking each one as they come but putting out signals that we think we’re in the final already. You heard it here first.

  9. Does anyone have any idea where Keith Higgins is going to start this year? There’s a lot of talk of him being used in a more attacking role but I can’t see mcloughlin, aido or Diarmuid being dropped from the half forward line. There’s already so much competition in the half back line.

  10. It’s possible he could start in the HB line with Boyle and Keegan. However my guess would be that in potential big games in Croke Park, either Durcan or Vaughan will play with Higgins being given a free role. That would mean we’d have a 2 man FF line, probably Cillian and Evan.

  11. The main thing that worries me still is our gap even to Kerry in terms of teamwork.
    We have a strong panel, but its rare you see 70mins of teamwork from this panel.
    Of course this is being worked on. But in attack especially and defense would love if we could improve.

  12. WJ, at this stage there really is a need for a national body along the lines of the GPA(before they sold their soul) to represent the ordinary club player. It is a joke how they are being treated.

  13. dead right mayo mad , as bad as we the supporters get shafted by the GAA we are only in the haypenny place to the club player , treated like utter dirt.

  14. I’m not going to venture beyond predictions for Connscht. I’m very hopeful of putting London to bed and then we set our sights on Galway. Should not and cannot look beyond that game at the moment.

    One thing seems certain – we definitely have a couple of more options on last years squad. Some of the younger lads have really come on a tonne and hopefully the likes of COC can get up a head of steam [injury free] during the provincial rounds. COC was never fully fit last year and Regan lost out on his breakout season. If we can get our inside line purring [mixing Aido in and out as required] we should put up a few decent scores.

    I do agree with many of the earlier posters though – our defence is crucial. We have plenty of capable defenders but we badly need to bed in a system that we trust. Durcan, Higgins and Vaughan are super players but will they suit the necessary defensive shape? Maybe these guys should be unleashed [ala Dublin] after 45 mins when the opposition are flaked?

  15. all this talk about Roscommon the closet to catch Mayo I would be more wary of Galway than Rossies to be honest they would love to talk down big gun like Mayo.

  16. I had thought of another problem since 2012 which has been our poor final 15 minutes.
    If we had subs coming in of:
    – Keith Higgins 3rd midfielder with pace
    – Conor OShea driving runs and a point or two
    – Kevin Keane to mark likes of a McManoman type impact forward
    – Conor Loftus goalscoring and pace
    – Patrick Durcan defensive pace
    – Andy Moran good for a point or two
    Conor OShea’s style will be more effective later in games when defences are on yellows/tired. He can run hard at the defender and has pace for a big man. He can kick points on the run.
    Our bench has usually been reactive rather than planned.

  17. For me the most important thing is that we can field our best 15 players from an injury-free panel in as many games as possible. And it’s not looking great so far with Tom Parsons, Seamie o shea, Conor Loftus and Andy Moran not playing for their clubs and Alan Dilon not starting. And unfortunately that may not be all. Hopefully, none of these injuries are too bad.

  18. Very good analysis there Fourgoal McGee, thanks for that info.

    I’d still be a bit worried about our corner back positions. Especially now that Chris Barrett is injured at the moment. Brendan Harrison is still relatively new. He is playing great stuff so far this year and I am looking forward to seeing how he will play for the rest of the season. Tom Cunniffe is gone as well. Jonny Cooper and Philly McMahon are probably now the prototype defenders. We don’t have anyone like that in our team.

    I would have liked to have seen a bit more of O’Hora as he looks like a game lad. O’Donoghue from the U21 team looks like a good prospect too. We probably do have a few lads that could do a job there if needed like Hall, Coen or even Boyler but he never looks 100% comfortable back there. I’d just love to see some out and out corner backs in there but maybe we don’t have too many of those type of players. I always thought that Kenneth Mortimer was the best of the Mortimer brothers and a super corner back. It’ll be very interesting to see what role Keith Higgins will play this year.

  19. Word to the wise……best to focus right now on beating London and earning a semi place against a very quiet and, by extension, very dangerous Galway side.

  20. Hard to know with our left corner back spot. It’s Harrison – Cafferkey + No. 4
    Stephen Coen had some time at corner back, at least he has some size. But he strikes me as something new at centre back.
    Barrett/Higgins have not been dominant defensively at August/September level.
    You can think maybe about Kevin Keane? If Caff needs to go off he simply moves across.
    We lack a bit of size in defense. Think on Paul Flynn catching that ball to win penalty, Brogan in along endline, Kilkemny knocking defender off a loose ball, Andrews/McManamon making yards. You cant have only Cafferkey six foot. Needs to be at least one/two more of the six with some height.

  21. Higgins will play at corner back this year, partly beacuse of our lack of cover in this area but mainly beacuse I cant see a place for him anywhere else. It sounds good having him at hf due to his pace and intelligence on the ball, but who makes way? DOC is undroppable, centre half is AOS best position where he gets on the ball most and KMc just needs to be there for his workrate alone.

  22. Very good piece of analysis Four Goals. It has always grated with me when people talk about Mayo’s lack of a star forward, we have always scored plenty to win games, it’s our leaking of goals that has cost us the big ones. I wouldn’t sweat about too many of the injured players, in fact I’d expect most to be available in London.
    I would sweat one thing though, while I’m an eternal optimist and always see the glass as half full, I would be afraid that people seem to be buying into the narrative that it’s a forgone conclusion that we’ll be playing the Dubs in September. It suits a narrative within the media and certain counties to build a credible alternative to Dublin when the whole country have already handed them Sam and if anyone thinks Tomàs O’Shea, Kevin Walsh or anyone else isn’t damning us with faint praise and setting us up to be knocked, then I’ve a bag of beans to sell you.
    Sunday is game 1 of 6 hopefully and let’s look no further than London for now.

  23. I actually thought in general Chris Barrett did well last year at no. 4, as long as he can stay fit I’d have him as the first choice no. 4 along with Harrison at no. 2. I remember back to the 2013 league semi-final against Dublin when Kevin Keane played no. 4 and Paul Mannion’s pace really showed him up. He skinned him a couple of times that day. He’d probably do well against players that he can use his strength against like Paddy McBrearty or Damien Comer. I think Caolan Crowe was played at corner back in one of the challenge games so maybe he might be an option there as well.

    I’d like to see Keith played at no. 7 as that would give you the best of both worlds. He could be used as a sweeper at times or as an extra attacker at other times. Kevin Mc, Parsons and Seamie could be used as cover when Keith would make forward runs. In saying that we have loads of options on the half-back line already. We’ll see how it goes anyway!

  24. I know it’s over a week away, but looking ahead to the London game the team i would pick would be;
    Hennelly
    Harrisson Caff Higgins
    Keegan Boyle Durcan
    S o’Shea Parsons
    McLoughlin Aido Doc
    C o’Connor Freeman Regan

    Would like to see Nally, Coen, Loftus and possibly Reape given game time. Hope Freeman can stay consistent, he’s playing great club football. Cant believe Kirby wasn’t keep in the panel could of had a huge year in the full forward line, but he is on 24/25 still young and can only get better

  25. Was just thinking the same thing HSE about Barrett.. if he’s in form he’s hard beat. Great piece four goal and it does raise the conundrum of how to get the best out of zippy and Aido and to do that I still think they need to be placed close to each other between our 45 and 50 simply because their skills complement each other. Aido is animal strong and some of the best parts I’ve seen of his game is turning over possession.. when it’s tight in defence you won’t get past him and when a player gets bottled up Aido will come out with the ball.. and when he has possession he draws immediate attention because he’s dangerous..the opposition converge on him and that’s when he needs to get the timing right for the quick off-load to Higgins who will put on the after burners, break through the defensive line. So if all the players named are currently playing to the potential we know they are capable of then my team for London would be..

    …………………Hennelly…………..
    …..Harrison….Caff….Barrett….
    ………………….Boyler………………
    Durcan………………………..Keegan
    ……………………Aido………………..
    S O’Sea………Higgins………Parsons
    …McLoughlin…………….Regan…..
    ……….C O’Connor….Freeman……..

  26. Oops.. that’s what comes of having too many players to choose from.. back to the drawing board I guess.. now who’s for the bench.. Durcan?

  27. Think we’re getting a bit ahead of ourselves here. Can’t really see, after our league campaign where all this September talk is coming from. Are we not ‘only as good as our last game’………. Remember that one??? Did we look like a team improving???
    In the piece above, you discount Kerry as having too many over 30 players, yet 2 of your central diamond of Aido sheamie boyler and Tom P are over 30. Also our one and only full back is over 30 which is the most worrying aspect going forward to the championship for me.
    Still haven’t found the couple of forwards needed. Because they are not there. Don’t anyone go mentioning the U-21’s cozy if we’re being honest outside of Doc Cork had forwards with more potential than ours.
    Yes we are still a top team but Galway or Roscommon could beat us, whether we like to believe it or not.
    Some people may think I’m being pessimistic, of course I think I’m being realistic, but sure that’s opinions for you.

  28. @ Ah now.
    Ger Caff and Seamus Oshea are U29 age group. i.e. 28-29 this year.
    Tom Parsons is U28 i.e. 27-28 this year.
    Cafferkey and Seamus OShea were only 19 when on the U21 team in 2006. Making them U29’s this year. Tom Parsons was last year of U21 2009 making him an U28 this year.
    The only panellists over 30 are Andy Moran, Keith Higgins and Alan Dillon.

  29. Great to see the last few posts discussing the potential team to play London, rather than this silly talk of waltzing into an All Ireland final!!. Now, I know anything ever posted here never won or lost any game, but dont fall into the trap set by the media who are hyping us up as AI finalists, we’ve done nothing this year to prove same, so lets quit the September talk and concentrate on London! One game at a time.

    My first 15 for Championship would be:
    1. Clarke

    2. Harrison. 3. Caff. 4. Barrett

    5. Keegan. 6. Boyle. 7.Durcan/Kmc

    8. Tom P. 9. Seamie

    10. Diarmuid. 11. Aido. 12. Higgins

    13. Regan. 14. Cillian. 15. Freeman

    Durcan or Mcgloughlin to start wing back, with other been used as an impact sub with 20 mins to go. Time we started keeping a speedster or two in reserve to pounce on a tiring defence.

  30. Interesting piece, Four goal. It’s worth remarking that Mayo, Donegal and Dublin teams are all about the same vintage, having hit the high road first in 2011. Donegal have probably shown the most changes since and are showing the most signs of wear and tear since and seem to have slipped a bit in the race. Question is: which Mayo or Dublin will first show signs of exhaustion? I would rule Kerry out of the reckoning as a bit long in the tooth. Earlier I was watching a replay of last year’s final on TG4 and it struck me that Dublin put far more pressure on the Kerry kickout than Kerry put on their’s. Also Dublin were far better at getting back to set up a defensive wall in the area of 40 – 60 m from their goal. Which I think may be partly due to the lack of capacity in the Kerry legs and a tendency for Kerry to slow play by soloing. A kicked ball will move faster than any player yet born.

  31. Lads theres no problem with talking about September and games down the road. If supporters cant speculate about what might happen down the road on a message board before the start of a championship then we’re in bad shape. Does anyone seriously think that has some sort of impact on the players? I can see it now, lose to London God forbid Stephen Rochford being interviewed “well we just got carried away, we were reading about it on mayogaablog on the way into the ground and we forgot about this match and started focusing on Dublin, it was a mistake”. Lets not flatter ourselves, our collective wittering’s here are an outlet so that we can stop boring the arses off the wives and kids about all things mayo football, but you might as well be roaring into the briars at the side of a field for all of the impact its going to have on any actual game of ball.

  32. My thoughts exactly, East Cork Exile! I like your wife and kids/roaring into the briars analogies – I think that sums up pretty well the import of a lot of what we have to say here. But sure it keeps us amused if nothing else.

  33. I think you underestimate the power of the blog WJ. It’s obvious that one punctuation hating poster in particular had a huge influence on Cillian being made captain.

  34. I dont see the problem with looking at the season ahead with optimism. There is a fine line between confidence and arrogance, our close neighbors who have done nothing at senior level cross this line with amusing regularity. Mayo on the other hand have been there on the big days in the big matches, it hasnt gone our way but we keep coming back. We should be confident that we can go far into the summer. We should be walking into stadiums confident of a win beacuse we are good enough. We should be embracing the favorites tag at this stage, not fearing it. The team will be prepare in their own way and will not let the whole hype get to them. As Jurgen Klopp said as he joined Liverpool, “its time to stop doubting and start believing”

  35. Well said east cork exile. Wives and kids (and husbands!) all over the country should be giving thanks to WJ.

    Liam, nearly snorted the tae all over the screen here, thanks for that!

  36. If our team plays to their full potential then anything is possible. That is all that we can ask of these players and management team. Our U21 team and management got the absolute maximum out of what they had available to them. This led to glory. If our Senior team plays to their best, then they have as good a chance as any team of doing well and a better chance than most.

    Reading in The Mayo News, Stephen Rochford is leaving nothing to chance for the London game:

    (MAYO manager Stephen Rochford is taking no chances with his team’s logistical plans for their upcoming Connacht championship quarter-final and training camp in London.
    Rochford and some of his backroom team spent a number of days in the English capital recently tying down their schedule for their week-long stay in the city.

    Rochford said: You need to have the players concentrating on football, and being focused on a 70 minute game at Ruislip. We have put a nice bit of work into it, going back to January. Myself and part of the management team were over there a couple of weeks ago to get a feel for what those plans will look like. We are happy enough that we have a lot of the boxes ticked at this stage.)

    Thats what you love to hear. Best of luck to all involved for the season ahead.

  37. I like to read ‘one game at a time’!But of course you don’t have to be anything of a connoisseur to hold that view.The minds here on the site as so keen that you could have a lock of them in charge and they de do us proud without any doubt. It’s just that they wouldn’t have the time or commitment to devote to this convolution of a job given all it entails. Fair dues to all those who take up these reins.
    It’s fast coming to game time and the steeds are being trotted out onto the fresh green flush.We ll be expecting this that and the other by the time we get to London but at the same time we all know that what we get doesnt always match up with what we expect.However there ll be a couple of points of interest.
    1. Was K Higgin’s placement in the forwards in Ballybo when he got injured a needs must move then or was there more intent meant?
    2. What’s going on in training in that regard I wonder?
    3. Are Barrett/Crowe deemed cover enough for there in the presence of a rejuvenated defence strategy?
    4. Will we see a more conventional defence policy with our backs carrying out their prime function and being more selective / organised about any advancing from the back?
    5. Will we witness anything that looks like a pattern emerging up front,the purpose of which would be to get the ball into scoring positions and scoring hands….often enough and with confidence.
    6. Will there be more emphasis on the kicked ball or will we have a combination of both kick and run?The two require a v high level of skill and malexecution here is usually detrimental!
    Each game will bring its own challenges,it’s own revelations disappointments and confirmations and on the back of these the team will move onto its next appointment.
    7. And this is a v major point.What attitude will be shown to the short kickouts as practiced by some teams? Surely it’s time for our backs to be ratty and get stuck in there.It looks like we have the presence in midfield to collect more than a fair share.
    Ceding the kickout only allows these teams that use it to gain easy possession but it also increasingly embellishes their practice of the art.What they need is deprivation of ball! Bottle them up and upset their tried and tested modus!
    So even though we talk about The Dubs K Tyrone etc.this is not to be thinking we ll be waltzing our way into the night. We are merely giving vent to our imaginations in prep for what might appear on the horizon!

  38. The zippy to the forwards notion seems to be gathering some momentum but I just cant see it happening for a number of reasons. He was injured for most of the league so SR didn’t get to experiment with it. Zippy is one of the top corner backs in the country, has won several all stars from this position and moving him from the corner will weaken the team in this position. If he were to move to the hf line who will he replace as I cant see DOC, AOS or KMc being moved. Finally he played there in 2013 and with mixed results, the game seemed to pass him by at times and there were plenty of people begging for him to be moved back to the corner.
    Im not a fan of moving players around or playing someone in a position beacuse he can “do a job there” you have to play your best players in their best positions to maximise their potential. Zippy is still one of the top corner backs and probably our best man marker, for me he needs to start at corner back.

  39. Not to many picking Doherty in their preferred 15. He seems undroppable. Every manager over the last few years has persisted with him

  40. Robinbanks, I agree Jason is an important player for mayo and its hard to pick a team without him, he still has a big role to play for me. There are some tough calls to be made regarding the forward unit as for once there is serious competition for places there. Bodes well as we can now potentially end games with a very strong forward six on the field. In previous seasons there was a noticeable drop off in this area after injuries/ substitutions.

  41. Good piece 4 Goal. Speculating about the team selection is always the fun part. For what it’s worth – I would go with Juan’s selection with Zippy in the half-forwards but let’s see what happens.

    Interesting article by Daragh O’Se in the IT today. They can be hit and miss, but his exposure today of that extent of Kerry’s fundraising was eye-opening (for me anyway). 4 recent fundraisers in NY alone, Others planned in Boston, Chicago and London. This on top of the very generous Kerry sponsorship

    Whatever about winning Sam, we are being annihilated in the fundraising arms race.

  42. Kerry shouldn’t need to fundraise, their main sponsor is one of the biggest food companies on the planet that had turnover of over half a billion in 2015 if I read correctly. Mayo are in the hapenny place compared to Dublin and Kerry, our sponsors are very good but don’t even scratch the surface of what we could be getting if we were out there pushing for money from the likes of shell etc. that’ll annoy a few people but that’s the reality. On the big scale sponsoring any county team is not on the radar of any company unless there’s a tie to the county, who do we have in Mayo? Baxter, allergan, shell, hollister and not much more that have the money to back a team consistently even when times are tough. I wonder if any of those firms have been approached about sponsorship?

    I was reading about how Galway and others have had players walk away from the game, others turning down the chance of playing inter county, not sure what to think about it, should we be happy that we beat Sligo by 35 points? Or that Galway are no longer even competitive nationally?

  43. I have been a big fan of Jason Doc, but I feel he regressed during the league, or possibly, the role he has been given – not sure what it is – doesn’t suit his play. This would be a pity.

  44. I see where Colm Keyes has said that Tyrone are next in line to Dublin in the race for Sam.

    For sure they have a very good young team and an astute seasoned manager.

    It will be interesting to see if we meet them this year and how we’ll get on if we do though we usually are able to handle them in the White Heat of battle.

  45. Re: Kerry fundraising;

    “You go where the money is. You could be talking to a big construction guy over there and all the men working for him would be from Tyrone and Meath and Galway and all over the place. That’s fine by us – we’d never be too proud to insult a man by not taking his money just because he isn’t from Kerry.”

    Darragh O’Shea

  46. Very good article Fourgoal and like you I just hope we refuse to be beaten.
    You also hit on potential banana skins and I think the phenomenon that is Leicester in the epl could have an influence on (with all due respects) ‘lesser’ counties ambitions over the next few months…………….if Laois got their deserved OMoore Park home match against the Dubs instead of Mowlem is one of those cases imo and Galway against ourselves is another though if the Leicester thing has any impact, I think it will be more so in the qualifiers.I can see a lot of managers using it as an example to instill some confidence.
    On the Jason Doc issue, I have always liked him and is second only to D O’Connor in his work rate, he is everywhere and hassles the life out of the opposition, seems he’s never played as an out and out forward.

    Liam that line on the ‘puncuation bandit’s’ pushing for and getting Cillian to captain level is a true gem

  47. Mayo to beat Dublin by 4 points in the 2016 AIF. Chalk it down.

    Interesting thoughts on a possible starting 15 but for me, we’re going nowhere with Doc AND Kev Mc in the same starting 15. Neither, especially Doc, contribute enough to the scoreboard and Kev can do what Doc does, only better, and is a better carrier and distributor of the ball than Doc, especially by foot. I’d drop Doc and have Higgins as a free-roaming half forward that can get back and cover his wing back, and, create overlaps in attack by using his shear pace. He’s as accurate as Doc, has better evasion technique (body swerve/side step) and will always play the ball to the better placed player. Higgins won’t go for unrealistic shots as Doc sometimes does (left footed effort from too far out on the right wing v Dublin last year!) and would be better for winning breaking ball and applying pressure to defenders coming out of defense. Add in that defenders hate pace and Higgins still has it in bucketfuls and it’s a no-brainer to me.
    As regards scoring forwards I believe It’s time to unleash the young lads and let them show the senior players how to win tight games, by going out with unshakeable belief and spirit, and taking the goal chances that come along. Look at the way the U21’s finished for their goals this year, all precision and placement. Compare that to how our seniors finish, e.g. v Kerry this year in the league, we try to make a hero out of the keeper by striking the ball at him as opposed to past him. Look at Loftus’ finish in the league, he skulled the top of the ball placing it low along the ground and away from the keeper. Contrast that to Docs effort v Kerry where he got full power through the laces and hit the keeper at his NEAR post!!! Some of our more senior forwards lack composure when presented with goal chances. This isn’t the case with Loftus and Diarmuid.

  48. Pebblesmeller, who would you drop at hf to accommodate Higgins? DOC, AOS or KMc. Same with Loftus, which of COC, Freeman or Regan Looses out?

  49. 1. Hennelly
    2. Harrison
    3. Cafferkey
    4. Barrett/Durcan
    5. Keegan
    6. Coen/Boyle – if adopting a sweeper system, Boyle at 6 to counter attack at pace
    7. Boyle/Nally – if adopting a sweeper system, drop Nally back and Higgins goes to 7
    8. S O’Shea
    9. Parsons
    10. D O’Connor
    11. A O’Shea
    12. Higgins – if adopting a sweeper system, Higgins goes to 7
    13. Regan
    14. Cillian
    15. Loftus – if adopting a sweeper system, Loftus drops to h/f line leaving 2 man f/f line

    Freeman, Kev Mc and Doc to make big impact from the bench.

  50. I have to say that I am heartened with the debate that this post has generated. Thanks to all for your comments. One of the common themes in the comments is the starting 15 and who could NOT be excluded. However, rather than speculate on who would not make the starting 15, it might be better to look at the total number of personnel that might be used over the course of a match.

    Looking at Dublin’s normal use of subs, they usually replace two backs, one late in the first half and the other around the middle of the second half. McCauley is usually introduced to replace Bastick at midfield at around the 45 min mark. Costello comes on into the forwards midway into the 2nd half and McManamon comes in during the last 10 mins. All three increase the pace of the game. The sixth sub has been used at different times, wherever the greatest need occurs.

    All other counties – ourselves included – tend to primarily use subs as a reaction to what is happening in the game rather than as a development of the game plan. We need to use our subs to bring about the changes that we need to close out games. There was some evidence in the last two games that we were beginning to think like this, but the moves weren’t working for us. For example, in the Down game, Aido was moved into full forward after Alan Freeman and Cillian came off, but the replacements (Andy Moran and Alan Dillon) couldn’t get the ball into him. As a result, Aido began to drift back out looking for the ball, leaving us with an overcrowded half forward line and just Evan inside.

    With the attacking plan malfunctioning, the scores dried up and Down pushed forward with greater urgency, resulting in a near meltdown.

    So if we look at the subs who would be the two backs, the midfielder and the two forwards that would push it on? Who would they be? In addition, we would also need 4 others (a goalkeeper, a back, a midfielder and a forward) one of whom would be used as the sixth sub. So we are now looking at 24 players. I’m fairly sure that all of the names mentioned in the comments above could get on that 24, but it would be interesting to hear any views on potential tactical changes that could be affected when substitutions are made.

  51. Pebblesmeller, I would agree mostly with your selection, however I just can see us going into battle without kevin McLoughlin starting. He offers so much in attack and in Defence, can carry at pace and can kick pass with accuracy(something we are short of). Usually pops up with a score or two every game, just keep him away from frees.

    I wouldnt get too hung up on sweepers as I dont think we will us one very often if at all. McEntee is not a fan and when at Crossmaglen he loved opposition using a sweeper, he called it an invitation to score.

  52. Agree Mayomad re Kevin McLoughlin. If we could afford to leave him on the bench then our forwards have improved spectacularly since I saw them last. He would be one of the first names on my team sheet.

  53. Great post (and follow-up) Fourgoal McGee – you have great insight. Couldn’t agree more with you on the use of the 21 (or the 24).

    We need to become more tactical in the use of our extra players – when it is needed – and while I am reluctant to criticise the Horan era because it brought us to such great heights, I felt at times that we didn’t get the best use out of our bench, particularly when we found ourselves in tight spots. Dublin, on the other hand have it down to a tee.

  54. I’m weary of going into the area of singling players out due to house rules and the high level of personal respect I have for everyone who sacrifices so much to wear the green and red, however, madness is classed as continually doing the same thing and expecting different results. A number of players have operated very well within Connacht and at quarter final stages, but when the pressure really comes on in late August and September, they have been found wanting. Its fantastic that we can now actually have a discussion about most positions due to the depth of our panel, but I think one or two established forwards over the last few years could well be starting on the bench this year.

  55. @ballaghman, I actually meant to correct that, I started looking at the team from #2 onwards and presumed Hennelly was in goals. Hennelly is my preferred starting keeper.

  56. I will be interested to see if we use a sweeper considering mcentee’s stance on it. In my view playing a sweeper is not a simple task and needs to practises and honed. It’s not something we can pull at semi final or final stage against a top side for the first time and expect it to be perfect.

  57. Folks have those of you who watch club games seen any other panellist who can kick a long range free off the ground ? were there any attempts in the league by anyone other than Hennelly ?

  58. Evan Regan is well able to kick 45’s off the ground and frees off the deck on the right from further out. While he is not as accurate as Cillian he would certainly have a better hit rate than Hennelly on average( probably about 6 out of 10 most days). He has plenty of leg in terms of distance but can have a tendency to pull them to the right on occasion.

    Alan Freeman is another man who is well able to kick a long free off the deck , he belted a couple of monster frees into the wind against the Stephenites in Ballina a couple of years ago.

    Andy Moran is decent on 45’s (about the same as Hennelly) for Ballagh and Jason Doc would be about the same as Andy.I haven’t seen either of them attempt a long range free off the deck though.

  59. Freeman for me would be the best long range free taker on the panel. I would think he would be taking 45s if on the field.
    I really dislike the idea of keepers taking frees, not that they cant take them but its the length if time it takes for them to actually take the kick. That slow amble up the field is so annoying. A time limit really should be inforced. Is Cillian the only player in the history of GAA to get a yellow for taking a slow free and if memory serves that was well under a minute.

  60. Sorry Roger and others, correction there. I misread your post and thought it was a long range kicker you wanted – which O’Shea is.

    Agree with Mayomad that Freezer is very good on long range ones, Jason used to be good, but had a terrible league, Cillian is excellent. Conor Loftus hit a couple of beauties from the sideline in the U21 and indeed in that category Irwin is a dead-eye-Dick, nearly unerring.

  61. If a spot becomes available in the panel I would bring Irwin in without question, if he is available. He has that X factor that cannot be bought or learned , the punched goal at the end of the u21 final was all the evidence we need that we have a real poacher on our side.I know Rochford knows what’s best but it would be a shame to not have Irwin involved with the senior setup in some manner. Henelly is a fella that had the power to drive the ball and even the ones he misses are never that far off, I think it must be technique tweaking that’s needed to make him a real option. Cluxton the God of Dublin has missed a few himself so it’s no shame on any player to miss a free, but when it’s a tied game and Mayo win a free out on the 45 line we need to have someone that can deliver. Irwin would be my choice to take that free.
    Anyways, I won’t be there to say it in person but to any Mayo panel member that reads this blog or is told about it, Thank You for all your hard work, it will pay off and be worth it in the end. a party to beat all parties guaranteed.

  62. Hello,

    By chance i read an excerpt from McGuinness’s book on how Donegal bt Dublin. He started work on a plan before they played their next opponents. This was a game v Armagh i think which they barely won but he was happy becsuse he had not shown his ‘Hand’.

    I would have found it difficult to believe that you could plot a game pf football like a Chess game, with so much strategy. As they won i have to belueve it. He watched hours and hours on video of how Dublin play. Now i cold become an expert and say what Mayo should do?

    Most of the commentating and team picking is based on what others have said. Now if Mayo v Galway as i expect, everyone wil be an ecpert and know what they should now do to improve v Roscommon. Yet, will not Ros be already plotting to counteract what Mayo did well? and so on.

    Each action will cause a reaction from the next opposing team as well as the predictable calls for improvement from the regular contributors here depending on what they have heard in the past e.g. tighten up defence, score more, . better calls from the sideline etc. Then of course they will add that they always said that despite the fact that they also said alot of other things as well.

    I always found it so refresing to hear what James Horan had to say. He looked a little deeper.

    Now that everyone seems agreed that we have such great defensive players and strong in the Centre can we not go man to man with the Dubs? We know what to do with Cluxton’s kickouts. With the 2 O'”Connors, 2 O ‘Sheas, Messi, Freeman, backed up by Kev Mc, Jason, Loftus, Dillon. Moran, Reape for the FINAL.
    Maybe a Sweeper for the Northern teams. Why let teams know how you are going to set up. We are Mayo.
    I am more than happy to leave the team selection to the Management from what i can see this year and am absolutely delighted that last year’s team is still around. Maybe Tom Cunniffe will return. Injuries and the 2nd Castlebar defeat probably necessitated a break.

    Man to Man against the Dubs. Ciaran 2.

  63. Very interesting question four goal re the subs who would come off the bench to drive the game on. There are certain players which was rightly pointed out to me simply cannot be left off the starting 15, Diarmuid O’Connor being case and point. At the same time the players chosen to sit on the bench have to be good enough so that when they do come on that they lift the intensity of the game. I would have greater belief that SO’S would drive the game on better than lets say Jason Gibbons so should we then start with Gibbons in midfield? And what about Vaughan.. maybe there is merit in starting with him in defense to run the legs of the opposition so that the game might open up more for the likes of Durcan and Nally in the second half. And finally our U21’s could easily be intimidated by older more experienced opposition but in the last 10 -15 minutes of a game tired legs could make an opportunity for a game winner who has nothing on his mind but going for goal. Its all very risky but sure isn’t that what it’s all about.

  64. I thought the most interesting thing in Jim McGuinness’s book in relation to us was what he said to his players prior to the 2012 final. He said that they would score goals and that their scoring efficiency would win them the game. Their scoring rate was something like 70%, while ours was closer to 60% or something like that, we scored less of our chances created anyway. Thats the way things panned out, we conceded two goals and took less of our scoring chances.

    Its the story of our football life really. Even talking about scores from frees, we missed more of our scorable frees than they did that day. You could say that we were still in the same boat in this year’s league, not taking enough of our chances and allowing easy goals to be scored against us. That is where we are at, solve those two issues and we will be going places!

  65. As regards the goalie…in a carte blanch
    situation Clarke would be my choice but the favour has always to be with the man in the jersey in the case of goalies,unless the encumbent comes up with some inforgivable bloomers. Hennelly hasn’t done this and so he remains the man for me. But how well off we are to have such a ready stand in.
    There’s a lot of cobbling and quibbling about what will be the starting fifteen and mostly concerning just a few players.I think it’s immaterial what 15 go out. We have a strong bunch of players which this time around has the potential to go the whole way…..that’s including stronger and more tested subs than heretofore who can be brought on strategically as games progress. However, and I can’t keep it out of my mind, but if our new regime does not impart a proper and effective method of building the scores then I’m afraid we ll be good enough to win games but not the lot.Much of our scoring has been hit and miss due to this lack of a convincing use of the ball in forward areas. Our efforts are always too individual and it’s been a feature of our game for a long time. For the amount of possession we usually can generate our scoring totals have been invariably dismal and this further wears away at the teams spirit…..insidiously! I constantly recall that ould man saying’ they need to be ten points the better team to win by a point!’
    Our forwards have to be able to outsmart defences on a regular basis to make the bit of space to ensure a realistic chance of a score.
    It would seem to me that to achieve this state of preparedness cannot be beyond this team and as is stated in some of the pieces above we need to be noticing some plus signs v soon …..like Sunday week!
    And I wonder too about the lack of emphasis on our wayward ways up front from bloggers or am I not seeing what I’ve been seeing?
    Wouldnt it be just grand to see some advance in this regard? I’ll be one happy man if it happens.
    Good luck to Leitrim on Sunday.

  66. @Ballaghman, I think Clarke is a better organiser of the defence, more vocal, he’s a couple of inches taller than robbie and imo has a better presence under the high ball. Also, he’s bullet fast with the restarts, very much Cluxton-esque.

    Robbie is an excellent keeper aswell, and im sure Rochford will start with him as he has done all league, but for me, id start Clarke. Hope if answered your question.

  67. Inbetweener, I agree that we are very wasteful in attack, we generate so much possession in the middle and have a average at best return. It isnt just the senior players, the all conquering U21 for all their many deserved atributes, put on the worst display of point kicking I have seen in years in the final.

    For me a big factor for this is rooted in our defense. Beacuse we are so porous and naive at the back, giving away soft points and goals, there is an enormous pressure on the forward unit to put up big scores. it seems that our forwards are under so much more pressure than those from dub or Kerry to score. as a result snap shots are taken, shots from poor angles, even players shirking responsibility to shoot due to pressure.

    For me we need to really tighten up at the back, keep the opposition score down. This will take some of the pressure off the forwards, allowing them to work better shooting opportunities.

  68. @ mayomad, do you ever think that maybe it works the other way around. You often notice in the really big games like the All-Ireland final against Dublin in 2013, that we start off games winning plenty of possession but its not been converted into scores on the board so then it ends up that our defenders have to come forward to pop over a few points to make up for this. This then in turn leaves gaps at the back and we end up conceding goals. In that particular final Lee Keegan scored two points in the first half, so maybe if our forwards had been getting those scores, there would have been no need for Lee to venture forward to take up the slack.

    It was the same in the semi-final game against Tyrone that year, it was Chris Barrett our corner back who had to come forward and kick two points in the closing stages of the first half to turn that game in our favour. Lee Keegan also scored a point in that first half as well, in fact in that particular game none of our forwards scored from play in that first half. The same thing happened in the drawn game against Dublin last year, Lee Keegan scored our only point from play in the first half, again no scores from play came from our forwards, you just won’t win All-Ireland titles with those kinds of returns from your six forwards.

    How many times in big games have we seen it been left to Keith Higgins, Lee Keegan, Chris Barrett or especially Colm Boyle to come forward and create or take scores for us. Colm has won a number of penalties for us. So I suppose the point I am making is that if it was one of our forwards winning these penalties and kicking points from play, which it should be, then Boyler etc. would be able to do their primary jobs, defending, rather than having to drag us back into games at the other end of the field. Its hard to know really but at the end of the day we need our forwards to be scoring more and for our defenders to be defending more, it sounds simple when you say it like that!

  69. “Some say it borders on naked hatred. To me, hate is too strong a word, but no question, it is full of spite”.

    Peter Canavan makes a compelling case for the Tyrone v Derry rivalry, which has plenty of food for thought for those of us expecting a stroll in the park against Galway.

    http://ow.ly/yJtn300oKfZ

  70. I see what you say there MayoMad but I still have the endemicity of misuse of the ball up front scratching at my head.
    Contrary to what is widely recommended how about the forwards stepping up to bolster and inspire and give an uplift to the whole company’s performances? What gives more of a gee up to a team generally than some well taken points ….esp from distance or a well worked goal the design of which has been obviously hatched in home work sessions. How often have we been aware of long periods of dominance in games and yet not on the board and to hear the statement” we de want to be scoring’?!
    This extravagant failure to score iwhat our possession would suggest seems to me to be deeply set in our psyche for whatever reason and it’s a defect that should call for an immediate emergency operation of some sort …a commission of enquiry if you want heading into a solution. Was not Martin Carmey entrusted with such a role years ago ….but to no avail? I think it was said at the time that he was doing a bit! with the forwards! We need to do much more than a bit….a major transformation…inside and out.

  71. Thanks Inbetweener! You make some very valid points there yourself too. Along with the personnel used, the key to success this year will be the methods employed both defensively and offensively. It’ll be up to the management to have this in place and you get the feeling that we have the right people in charge to do this. We’ll see how it goes.

  72. Spot on folks. The those penalties won by Boyler often come to my mind when I reflect on his importance to us. In many ways, the one in the league semi in 2011 against Kerry (I think it was) for me was the first real sign that we have a special player here but also a special team on the beginning of a journey. I really was seeing something different from a Mayo team. However, it should not be left to Boyler or any other defender to constantly save our bacon like this. But, unfortunately, in big matches our forwards fall spectacularly short time and time again and until this is rectified it’s madness expecting us to win the championship. The majority (4 out of 6) of the same personnel are still there and will probably line out in the front 6 this summer.
    Blaming our defence for our losses does not sit well with me, it doesn’t feel right, and the evidence backs this up. Take 2014 down in Limerick even – We had glaring goal chances to bury Kerry and we couldn’t take them. More often than not, the reason our defenders push forward is to try desperately to make something happen. They can’t be blamed for this.
    It’s correct to point out our lack of scores from play in big matches…that tells the whole story. Shocking. Until these deficiencies are rectified, I don’t see how we can go in as second favourites.

  73. I think Zippy should be used in forwards at least in London game which gives a chance to try someone out corner back. Kevin Mc and J Doc are very similar and their scoring rate is curtailed by all the donkey work they do. I think Mc is nailed on starter normally but could give e.g. Conor OS a run against London. I prefer Zippy option to J Doc but agree we could need him corner back or definitely if any injuries occur. Some of our forward problems caused by those 2 worker lads having to run themselves to the ground but now we have young DOC and one of them can now be used as sub. We were operating with 4 forwards meaning backs had to run up to surprise the opposition. Most teams operate this way but we need to make up for shortcomings with improved teamwork. That’s a very good reason to move Zippy up but his role could be attacking sweeper. Plugging any defensive gaps when we’re on the back foot. Hard to think we’re so inch close without the team fully clicking apart from to Donegal QF games. Kerry clicked a lot late in the league and Dublin have a very good system albeit with a huge ammount of talent to implement it.

  74. Ps Zippy looked very good as centre forward before injury in Donegal game. Ditto 2013 final before having to come back for injured TC .

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