Monday 20 November 2017

O'Neill: 'O'Connor put on an exhibition of freetaking that I don't think has been seen for a long time'

Former Mayo star forward Kevin O’Neill.
Former Mayo star forward Kevin O’Neill.

Behind the the euphoric quality to Mayo's comeback last Sunday lies a truth that hasn't been embraced too often this week.

"I don't think as a playing group that they will be too happy with their own level of performance the last day," says former Mayo and Na Fianna forward, Kevin O'Neill. "If they're honest with themselves, they'll know that but for that last 10 or 15 minute spell when they put their foot on the gas offensively, they really didn't express themselves or play to the level this unit would expect of themselves.

"So if they're to get over the line the next day, they're really going to need to step up their game and change a little bit and probably be a little bit more offensive about it."


O'Neill's point is that for Mayo to be within touching distance of Dublin at half-time last Sunday, they had to be cautious and mindful of their need to sweep.

And when the Dubs found their gear, it looked as though they'd hit the All-Ireland final on September 20 at an alarming speed.

What transpired next is still open to interpretation but prior to Mayo's surge/Dublin's collapse, there was only one team that looked like serious All-Ireland contenders.

That all changed, of course.

"Specifically, I was watching out of the likes of Andy Moran, Keith Higgins … when they were really down and in the horrors at one stage," says O'Neill, who confesses to having watched the match three times since it was over in the hunt for clues as to how today might play out.

"And it was really just two or three of the senior men, the leaders, making big plays and going up through the middle and throwing caution to the wind.

"When you look back at it now - I've watched it three times since - they had chances there to finish the game.

"But Dublin will be kicking themselves too. They had the game basically won. At that stage, they probably should had shut up shop but were defensively all over the place."

Whilst O'Neill points out that "Cillian O'Connor has put on an exhibition of freetaking that I don't think has been seen in Croke Park for a long, long time," he wasn't quite so enthused by the supply or the support offered to O'Connor or Aidan O'Shea.

"They're going to have to be a bit more offensive this time and support and I think Donal Vaughan going off didn't help that.

"A lot of it is in the head now," he reckons.


"A lot of it will be physically. It will be about which team can recover.

"They need to back up their energy levels in six days and there's a fair bit of science about that.

"But I would say moreso mentally. But knowing this squad of players that have been around for the last number of years, no-one can question their mental toughness.

"A lot of about the next day will be which team can recover the better. But you'd have to say that the momentum at the end was swinging towards Mayo.

"If it went on another couple of minutes...

"But getting back to that level the next day isn't an inevitability.

"There might be a sense of them, rather than Dublin, leaving it behind them," concludes O'Neill.

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