Ray Silke: Four tactical talking points for the All-Ireland replay

Cut out needless turnovers and Mayo are on their way, writes Ray Silke.
Ray Silke: Four tactical talking points for the All-Ireland replay

Mayo must not give away possession cheaply

Mayo have named the same team that started the drawn game so it is safe to assume that they will not be making any major tactical adjustments for their second bout with Dublin.

Instead, for Stephen Rochford’s men, it will be a matter of small margins and improved tactical awareness when in possession that can win the replay. They will have spent the last 13 days focusing on working on their tackling and offensive play, along with keeping possession far better and with more proficiency than they did last month.

Rochford and his management team believe that this approach will work and it is far too late to go for a Plan B. And they are correct. If the starting 15 were good enough to start the drawn game, they are good enough to start today.

They are going to do what they did the first day and match the energy levels and intensity in their play that left Dublin rattled and reeling in the last few minutes, when Mayo outscored a leggy looking Dublin by 0-3 to zero.

And let us not forget that Denis Bastick clearly picked the ball off the ground in the last play from a Dublin kick-out and Mayo should have been given a 20-yard free-in that would have sealed the deal for them.

Premeditated tactical support play can reduce turnovers

Kevin McLoughlin will again be back as a sweeper, trying to stop Dublin scoring goals and offering Mayo an option when they break from defence.

It needs to be done. Nevertheless the high price for that tactic is that it leaves Dublin’s Cian O’Sullivan in a free role in the Dublin rearguard.

That is a perilous approach to take in some regards, and O’Sullivan needs to be kept busy or he will be a major influence on the replay.

Mayo had 21 turnovers in the drawn game and that needs to be reduced considerably if they are going to be champions.

Their own Key Performance Indicators will tell them that those turnovers cost them the win the last day — not the two own goals.

Coughing up possession senselessly was their achilles heel in the drawn game, as it has been in the past. It has to stop if they are to break their 65-year duck.

The best way to stop turnovers is for the man in possession to have easy options left and right off him when on the ball. That constant off-the- shoulder support running reduces the chances of losing possession enormously. When this Dublin team are run at with real intent — with power, pace, intensity, and belief — they are fragile enough as Donegal, Kerry and Mayo themselves have proven in the past few years.

The Mayo defenders, especially their half-backs, need to support their midfielders and deep lining half-forwards and run off their shoulder at pace.

If they can create overlaps at speed going into the Dublin half-back line, it reduces O’Sullivan’s influence drastically. Mayo need him on the back foot.

When Tom Parsons or Seamus or Aidan O’Shea hit Dublin traffic in possession, they need the likes of Patrick Durkin, Donal Vaughan, Diarmuid O’Connor and on occasion Keith Higgins or Lee Keegan sailing by them, looking for an easy layoff or offload.

Fast and accurate hands and cool decision-making will be crucial if it is to work. One intercept could be costly.

The points scored by Patrick Durcan and Donal Vaughan highlighted the scope for this to work in the drawn game. Keegan, in particular, also needs to rally the troops with the odd burst up the park. And that should be a definite tactic this evening.

A point from Keegan in light of all the media attention that has been focused on him would be a massive psychological boost for Rochford’s men.

If Keegan could pop one over, it would cement their belief and leave Diarmuid Connolly doubting himself.

When Galway were at their best, Declan Meehan used to bomb up the field and his attitude — as Keegan’s can be — is that it is up to the forward to mark him, and not vice versa. Dragging O’Sullivan out of the middle and moving him around the pitch is vital if Mayo are going to get in for any goals and I expect they will need one or two to win.

Mayo do not want a shoot-out

Mayo would not expect to win a big shoot-out, as Dublin have, in my view, more natural and more prolific shooters. They need to get Keegan and Higgins to try and make two or three big support runs each during the 70 minutes. When they go, either McLoughlin or one of the midfielders or Diarmuid O’Connor will need to race back so as to cover for them. If Mayo can create an overlap and move the ball at high speed, they can play past the Dublin sweeper and create scoring opportunities. Perhaps even a goal.

Apart from one snapshot through Andy Moran’s goal chance two weeks ago, Stephen Cluxton was untroubled. Cooper, Byrne and McMahon were solid in one-to-one combat in the drawn game, especially with O’Sullivan quenching fires too.

Dublin need to shake off the process and be spontaneous

For Dublin, the key thing is to play with more pace and spontaneity and with more fire in their bellies.

They looked very stale, predictable, and ponderous for long periods the last day out. Ciaran Kilkenny epitomised this lack of directness. Jim Gavin needs to get his team to go back to moving the ball with pace, and getting it in early to Connolly, Mannion, Andrews, Rock, or Brogan.

Unless they increase their intensity to match Mayo and move the ball with more purpose, they will be beaten. If the game is in the balance going into the last five or 10 minutes, this Mayo side will not blink this time. If they get their tactics correct, cut out their turnovers, they can be champions.

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