Sunday 23 October 2016

Paul Curran: Dubs must be on their guard for a vibrant Mayo duel

Mayo’s Cillian O’Connor gets to the ball ahead of Donegal’s Éamonn McGee in Saturday’s All-Ireland SFC quarter-final
Mayo’s Cillian O’Connor gets to the ball ahead of Donegal’s Éamonn McGee in Saturday’s All-Ireland SFC quarter-final

Two mouth-watering semi-finals to look forward to with Dublin playing Mayo and defending champions Kerry against their favourite team Tyrone.

Three teams are provincial winners while Tyrone have made their way quietly through the qualifiers after suffering defeat to Donegal as far back as May.

While Kerry, Dublin and Mayo are rightly ranked one, two and three we should not be at all surprised that Mickey Harte's Tyrone find themselves in the last-four of the competition again.

They more than any other team have made hay in the qualifiers since its introduction 14 years ago and their ability to put a provincial defeat out of their system and move on has brought a level of consistency unmatched by any other team.

For most teams defeat is inevitable but it is what they do in the qualifiers that matters most and it is still a very good way to get to the last four as it gives a team a chance to build momentum and confidence.

Tyrone are somewhat of an unknown quantity and that makes them dangerous.

They will be licking their lips at the thought of getting at Kerry again and their record against the All-Ireland champions over the years is an impressive one.

No surprise

It is no surprise that they are back in another semi-final having made it this far two seasons ago and also reached the league final that year only to lose out to Dublin in a high point-scoring affair.

On Saturday they bossed their opponents, Monaghan, from the opening bell and in the end fully deserved the victory.

While Tyrone had most of their top players in fine form and none more than Seán Cavanagh, Monaghan just couldn't get anything going.

They couldn't get enough scores to get close enough and in the end became frustrated and ultimately lost their discipline and the match.

It was a disappointing end for the Ulster champions who went into the game with a clear goal to make it to the last four for the first time this century.

Monaghan are a very good team and have a good manager looking after them but the game-plan for me is far too defensive and as Tyrone showed they need to come back with a more offensive plan in 2016.

Tyrone would have talked all week about the importance of getting ahead on the scoreboard and force their opponents to play a game that is unfamiliar to them.

Even though Monaghan have won two of the last three Ulster titles and played all their football in that time in Division One of the league it was Tyrone who looked the more experienced side.

This defeat will hurt Monaghan more than any other over the last few seasons and with some of the older players probably calling it a day they will have to come back next year with a new injection of youth.

Guys like Paul Finlay and Dick Clerkin have been outstanding servants to Monaghan football over a long period of time but it is hard to see either of them pulling on the white or blue jerseys again.

There is life after football and Clerkin definitely has a future in media having listened to him talk about the game over the last year or so.

I look forward to hearing his views on the game in the not too distant future.

Tyrone are in good form and despite losing a few players mid-season they have regrouped and they will not fear anyone.

You have to hand it to Mickey Harte and his backroom team for consistently finding a way to get to the business end of the competition.

In the last of the quarter-finals on Saturday Mayo proved beyond doubt that they are a serious team and like Tyrone they fully deserved their win over Donegal.


Every game has a defining moment or a turning point and Saturday's came on the stroke of half-time.

The game was finely balanced but a three-pointer from Aidan O'Shea put daylight between the teams and gave them a huge boost before the restart.

Donegal were still in the game but Lee Keegan scored another goal early in the second half and those two scores allowed Mayo to control the game to the end.

Donegal, like Monaghan, have a very good defensive system which has brought both counties success over the last three or four years and when they get control of games they are difficult to breakdown.

Any of the games they lost over that time were against teams who managed to get ahead on the scoreboard and both Monaghan and Donegal are heavily dependent on Plan A and when that doesn't work there is no back-up plan.

Like Monaghan, Donegal have a few players who will probably call it a day after this defeat.

The players have worked incredibly hard over the last four years and with a medal in their back pocket it can be hard to go back at it again with the necessary hunger required.

Mayo are in a different situation having not tasted All-Ireland success and until that is achieved they will attack every year like it is their last.

This is a terrific group of players and are well capable of ending a famine.

On their day they are very good to watch and they do play a very attractive attacking brand of football.

The defence is sound, a good midfield and up front there are match-winners and score-getters.

Dublin will know the challenge ahead and will be on their guard.

It is a game to look forward too and should ensure the first full house at headquarters this year.

The pressure on all four teams left is going to increase over the coming weeks and it will be interesting to see who handles it better on the day.

A couple of mouth-watering weekends coming soon.

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