Ray Silke looks at the factors that will decide today’s All-Ireland quarter-final replay
1. Mayo’s possible fatigue — both physical & mental
There is a wonderful Irish Seanfhocail — “Níl in aon rud ach seal” — Nothing lasts forever.
Have a few of this Mayo team seen their time come and go? Have they missed the All-Ireland winning bus — they flagged it down a few times, but never jumped on.
Goalkeeper David Clarke has played in three finals, 2006, 2012, and 2016. Will he see another one?
Seven years ago, in John O’Mahony’s last game as Mayo manager in June 2010, Longford beat Mayo in the first round of the qualifiers.
Ten of the players who saw action for Mayo in their draw with Roscommon last Sunday played in that defeat.
Clarke, a full-back line of Chris Barrett, Ger Cafferkey, and Keith Higgins. Tom Parsons, Donal Vaughan, Kevin McLoughlin, and the two O’Sheas and Andy Moran.
Back in 2010, Roscommon were Connacht champions, then as now, and were beaten by Cork in the All-Ireland quarter-final.
However, only one of that Roscommon outfit is still in-situ in their 26 man panel — corner-back Seán McDermott.
It is clear from those numbers, which is the fresher, newer and younger team.
Those 10 selfless Mayo men have played over 25 times in Croke Park in league and championship since then and despite their valiant efforts, an All-Ireland seems to be getting further away, not nearer to their team.
At stages in the drawn game, some of the Mayo players looked a bit flat and leggy in their movement. The fact Roscommon could open them up so easily at the start and take a 2-2 to 0-1 lead was ominous.
But for Lee Keegan’s quick response for a three-pointer after Ciarán Murtagh’s goal, the game could have run away from Stephen Rochford’s men.
Today will be Mayo’s seventh championship game of 2017 — including extra-time against Derry and Cork. It is only Roscommon’s fourth.
A key factor in deciding today’s outcome will be whether Mayo can rise to the challenge again? Will they be fresh for another battle?
Can they match Roscommon’s enthusiasm and fervour to reach the last-four and have a cut off Kerry?
It will be a bigger challenge for the Mayo players to rise themselves for today’s clash than for Kevin McStay’s young charges, who will believe that the experience of playing in Croke Park will have brought them on hugely. The weight of expectation is still on Mayo to win, and that can be a heavy load to carry.
2. Can Mayo’s forwards be more clinical?
Against Cork, Mayo scored 21 times from 25 chances in the first 70 minutes. That is an exceptional 83% scoring return.
However, in the second half last Sunday, they shot 10 wides.
The fact their attack could only muster 0-4 from play over the 76 minutes of action is a worrying statistic. Were it not for the superb 1-3 from Lee Keegan, 0-2 from Paddy Durcan, and a point from Colm Boyle, Roscommon would already be in the last four.
It has been a criticism of Mayo for as long as I can remember that they have lacked one really marquee forward in the Colm Cooper, Conor McManus, Jamie Clarke, James O’ Donoghue, Bernard Brogan or Michael Murphy category.
Men who will raise a flag when their team needs it most. The mantle of responsibility for Mayo mainly rests with captain Cillian O’Connor.
However, if Cillian is not scoring well, what other Mayo forward steps forward consistently?
3. Who will win the tactical battle? McStay or Rochford
There is a lot of chatter in Mayo about Stephen Rochford.
The goalkeeping decision from last year’s All-Ireland final replay is still background noise in the county.
Rochford and his management team are under pressure to deliver a win today.
To be beaten by the Rossies in Croke Park in championship would be a bitter pill for Mayo supporters to swallow. He needs to get his tactics right and where he assigns Lee Keegan could be decisive.
Does he follow Enda Smith or play his own game?
McStay has less pressure. He has already delivered a Connacht title in style and is building a new promising and exciting team.
Their respective decisions today can have a crucial bearing on the outcome and if McStay can get a panel that was relegated to Division Two of the league just three months ago to the last four, that would represent a superb turnaround in fortunes.
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