Doherty won’t shirk Mayo free-taking responsibilities

Jason Doherty of Mayo celebates with supporters following the Allianz Football League Division 1 Final match between Kerry and Mayo at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Jason Doherty has insisted he won’t shy away from continuing as Mayo’s primary free-taker if called upon for the championship.

The experienced forward was handed the frees throughout the league, as Cillian O’Connor recuperated from injury, starting every game and contributing 0-27 in total and 0-20 from placed balls.

Regular kicker O’Connor underwent knee surgery last winter, but was with the Mayo players at Croke Park for the Allianz League final win and is expected to be available for the championship. It remains to be seen if James Horan reverts to O’Connor for the summer or sticks with Doherty, who acknowledged he slipped up with a couple of pressure kicks during the campaign.

“After missing that one in the first-half against Kerry last weekend, Cillian will be licking his lips,” said a smiling Doherty, who dropped a close-range free short into keeper Shane Ryan’s arms.

I love that pressure of taking the frees, it puts you out of your comfort zone, you’re challenged every game, mentally and physically, to respond.

"I think, overall, my percentages weren’t too bad, so I’ll keep working on it.”

Doherty had a free to level the game against Galway in Castlebar, but the ball hit the post and visitors Galway pushed on to win the game.

“I’d be more disappointed with the one on Sunday, because of the strike,” he said.

“That one against Galway, I was happy with the strike, just the alignment was off. When you put so much effort and detail into the process, what you’re most disappointed with is if you veer off the process. On Sunday, I just didn’t connect with it as I’d like, whereas against Galway it was more alignment, which is definitely fixable; practice would have put that right.”

The Dublin-based Burrishoole man said he found it a mental challenge to retain his focus on the game after missed frees.

“You try to park a miss and go on. I was delighted with the way I responded on Sunday, even just in terms of my possession count and influencing the game afterwards. It was a good rebound to that,” he said. “It wasn’t ideal to miss, but in other years, when I first started playing, I could have ended up being taken off in that game, maybe before half-time. Now, through experience and mental preparation, I have ways to park that and to move on.”

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