Kevin McStay: Battle of the skies will be crucial if Dubs are to win All Ireland final
NEXT week will provide a better opportunity for an in-depth analysis of the football final so, for now, a short teaser on the never ending challenges a team will face in their quest to overcome the opposition and win the Sam Maguire.
Dublin faced Mayo down two weekends in-a-row and under the sternest possible tests came through to claim a place in the final.
Their most pressing problems arose in the midfield sector where Brian Fenton, Denis Bastick and Michael Darragh Macauley, by common agreement, faced a Mayo centrefield they would struggle to hold.
Size, form and athleticism were cited in favour of the Mayo combinations made up of Barry Moran, Seamus O'Shea and Tom Parsons. And all the time Mayo might also call on their man mountain Aidan O'Shea to provide further leverage. The drawn game, of six days previously, provided the evidence: Dublin won the majority of ball when they went short in the first half but lost the majority when they went long in the second half.
Two immediate, logical and mutually exclusive deductions follow: Dublin must avoid going long (they don't win them!) and really should concentrate on the short option; Mayo must force Dublin to go long.
That's the analysis that should have flowed from the few days video analysis work that each side required.
For some reason Dublin were allowed go short and won the kickout battle hands down (literally) with the statistic of 18 (short) won and one long (lost) underlining Stephen Cluxton's day of excellence off the back tees! Having won that battle, how now will Dublin win the final one and thus the war?
Well, the challenge remains: Anthony Maher and David Moran are a more formidable duo than any pairing Mayo might offer and so the battle of the skies will be won by Kerry. But only if Dublin kick long of course.
And so Dublin must plan for massive pressure on their own kickout because it is a given that Kerry won't give up this source of primary possession from a kickout without a fight for every ball.
Blues gain from O'Shea's foolish black jack gamble
I RECEIVED a few calls and text messages about the Seamus O’Shea black card, which he was flashed just after half-time in last Saturday’s replay.
Most came from the Mayo camp but a few from the Dubs also.
It confirms, I suppose, that I have the odd reader left in the capital who is prepared to take a more panoramic view of a football match other than the narrow partisan scan!
And this can only be good if we are ever to reach reasonable judgements on the many split-second decisions a referee, manager and player makes in any given game.
So, was the referee correct?
Indeed he was but it was a new interpretation, wholly within the strict application of the rule if not the spirit, perhaps, of it. The two questions, perhaps three, if we stretch it, are:
• Was it deliberate? The answer here is unequivocally YES.
• Was it cynical? Hmmm? Perhaps but probably not.
• Was it a ‘pull down’? Hmmm? Kinda, sorta but maybe a ‘throw down’ is a better description?
In hindsight, it was a harsh decision but a correct one.
The fallout from these many incidents in any championship season is interesting to track. T
he team/player affected by the decision immediately blames the referee/pundit who made the call/highlights the incident and they end up, of course, feeling wronged.
Naturally, they will have no sense that they should not have done it in the first place and so, are likely/destined to repeat it in the future.
Of course, if you use the experience and extract from it a ‘lesson learned’ then you can only improve and move on.
The facts are, leaving the referee aside for a moment, the Mayo player left himself open for a card by the gratuitous nature of the foul.
Did he need to get involved? With the game level, playing decently and a semi to be won he put the Mayo management under immediate pressure.
Having calmed matters in the dressing room at half-time checked their tactics and match-ups, Mayo management found themselves having to deal with a major issue within minutes of the restart.
It all could have been avoided if Seamus had smiled at Johnny Cooper, logged his number and waited for a legitimate opportunity to remind him that size does matter!
And of course, as per usual, the instigator got off Scott free. And it was right under the nose of the linesman.
Mayo's hope springs eternal
Aidan O'Shea after the semi-final defeat
EXPERIENCING the cruel pain of defeat should really be enough, especially for amateur footballers, but the GAA environment we live in means the blame game must accompany it.
Let's look at the options available to losing teams, because it seems most supporters just love to hang a defeat on some sort of simple analysis, - the misses, the tracking, the tackling, the management, the goalkeeper, the CCCC/CHC/CAC and/or the DRA, the midfield, the referee, the six-day turnaround. Add your own and that's a lot of sources to explain a defeat. Of course it's not any single item.
In fact, the principle reason, and the one most avoided by the amateur analysts, is that the losing team, overall, was just a bit short. And this is true of Mayo last Saturday. They fought bravely, gave everything they had but ultimately fell short of the line. There is no dishonour in that - Mayo remain in the Top Three teams in the country but because of that ranking, expectation is that a final must be won.
It's not impossible of course, and it is also reasonable to suggest the ball did not bounce for them over the course of the two games with Dublin. London will be first up next June, Connacht will be won for a sixth time in-a-row and Ulster will be faced in 2016 so already there is a promising road map.
Naturally, others will raise their game but the main pressure must be on Mayo to raise theirs. If they do, 'box a bit smarter' (and I don't mean box!) they can make up those agonising inches. Rest, recover, rehab, recharge, relaunch, reimagine …. what else is one to do?