It’s not exactly in keeping with the modern game but it’s hard to get away from the idea that the best thing Mayo can do is throw the tactics board out the window and attack Donegal with a manic intensity that leaves their heads spinning on Saturday week!
Frankly it’s been hard to identify much of a game plan in general this year, other than when Andy Moran is on the pitch. The best Plan B in Gaelic football duly turned up once again last Sunday to give the whole show a bit of purpose and structure which was badly needed.
That kind of clarity is exactly what’s required when Mayo are labouring to beat a clearly inferior side in Meath. However, when Donegal come to town I wonder if the best approach might be a complete about-turn.
The worst thing Mayo could do is become embroiled in a cagey, tactical affair where everyone feels too restricted. That kind of contest will surely play into Donegal’s hands and allow them to gradually build a platform where they’ll back the likes of Murphy, McBrearty and Brennan to get them over the line in the second half.
Of the five teams remaining in the Championship, Mayo look to be the least tactically aware right now. That’s a harsh reality and is not something that was true in the period from 2012-2017 when a more nuanced, measured approach was often key to winning so many big games and running Dublin so close on so many occasions. They could also bring the manic approach when they needed it but they had a tactical versatility which allowed them to do different things on different days.
For whatever reason, that tactical awareness has been lacking more recently with a host of disjointed performances pointing to a team in transition.
Then there is the Stephen Rochford angle. Much has already been written about how the Crossmolina native will have the inside track on us tactically and how vital that could be in getting Donegal over the line.
What is the best way to counter that obvious edge? Take tactics – to a large extent – out of the equation.
Nobody does ‘backs-against-the-wall’ football quite like this Mayo team. The fitness of certain individuals will play a big part and only time will tell on that front. If available, Durcan/Keegan/Boyle/Higgins driving forward with that fire and brimstone running power is surely the best way for Mayo to get an early foothold in the game.
Everyone else can be expected to take their lead from that and inject their own brand of individual chaos into different areas of the pitch. James Carr is the perfect example of this – imagine if he is watching senior players taking such a direct, no-nonsense attitude right from the first whistle? On the little evidence we have to go on, he won’t need asking twice to follow suit and head straight towards the Donegal goal.
It’s not the most sophisticated approach, it’s not the most sustainable and it’s certainly no guarantee of winning next Saturday night … but it’s surely the best option for this Mayo team right now!