Mayo have to go away and dream it all up again

GAA: All Ireland SFC Final

Brothers in arms: Ryan O'Donoghue of Mayo is consoled by team-mate Aidan O'Shea after the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Mayo and Tyrone at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Brothers in arms: Ryan O'Donoghue of Mayo is consoled by team-mate Aidan O'Shea after the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Mayo and Tyrone at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

It was always going to be a game where everything had to go right for Mayo, or at least 90 per cent right. On Saturday they fell well short of that.

Mayo have lost finals before in recent times - but they didn’t leave anything behind them in those. Some dumb luck and probably the greatest team to ever play the game, bested them at the end of those titanic battles.

Tyrone may become a really great team in time to come, but they aren’t there yet; that is why this one will sting for a while longer than some of the others.

Even without playing to the heights that they needed to. Mayo had their chances, they had good goal chances that fell to the players you would want them to.

If you were to want goal chances to fall to players, Tommy Conroy, Ryan O’Donoghue, Aidan O’Shea and Bryan Walsh would be names you’d be happy hearing would be on the end of them beforehand - but none of them managed to convert them.

None of them forced Niall Morgan into a proper save from any of the attempts and that’s not good enough.

It wasn’t just goal chances, there were very good point scoring chances that Mayo left behind them - and these were not efforts arising from outside of the players' ranges, but ones that you would back them on getting 90 per cent of the time.

Just registering 0-7 from 19 shots from play is something that’s not going to win you an All Ireland. Tyrone had slightly less chances from open play and converted 2-7 - and like Mayo, had a couple of bad misses - but they were more clinical and the goals were decisive in the end.

In the lead-up to the game, the thinking was that Mayo would need to see a couple of points each being chipped in by the likes of Kevin McLoughlin, Matthew Ruane, Diarmuid O’Connor and Conor Loftus - just McLoughlin of those four managed to raise a white flag.

On another day, Loftus could have had 1-3 or so to his name, having got himself in the position to take on the shots, but it just wasn’t his day - much like the vast majority of his teammates.

Since Cillian O’Connor grimaced and hobbled off the field in Cusack Park in Ennis, we were waiting to see when would we really miss the Ballintubber man - and last Saturday was the day we really did; not just his scoring but his leadership on the field and the fact that whoever Mayo play, have to come up with a plan to try and curb his influence and what that frees up for the rest of the Mayo attack.

Ryan O’Donoghue can hold his head high after this season, the Belmullet man has ratcheted up his performance levels and left the field having scored eight points in an All Ireland final - the penalty miss was costly, but he kept going right to the end and has a huge future with the team.

Tommy Conroy started like a house on fire, putting Mayo ahead and then being involved in another big play shortly afterwards. He will have better days and will rue his missed goal chance, but in the background he was very effective in playing a part in lot of Mayo scores.

Aidan O’Shea has come in for a fair deal of criticism since the final whistle, some legitimate and some just mean-spirited and uncalled for. He should have converted his goal chance, but in the first half he won a number of balls into him, but the runners coming off him just weren’t there. He also made a number of other good runs for the ball that weren’t sent in. His influence did wane in the second half, but the big question of what role to play him in at the top level remains.

Once again Lee Keegan put in a performance fit to grace any All Ireland final and unfortunately for the Westport man, he once again finished up on the losing team. He drove the team forward from the back, like only he can and was the heartbeat of the team in keeping them going; a man who owes nothing to Mayo football and kept going right to the end.

Stephen Coen continued his upward drive, was good in defence, kicked a point and was involved in a few other scores and turning over Tyrone on a couple of occasions; a leader of men and a potential future captain going forward.

Padraig O’Hora and Oisin Mullin also put in the good fight for Mayo. Mullin’s recovery from the injury that ruled him out of the semi-final was a big boost for Mayo - he will be key to Mayo’s future over the next decade. O’Hora did struggle on Darren McCurry, but he kept plugging away and had a hand in a number of turnovers and it seemed an odd decision to take him off when Mayo did.

As for the management - the benches were always going to be key in the outcome of this game and Mayo just didn’t have the depth of impact off it that Tyrone did and that was always going to be a worry. However, the way they set up the team to play didn’t come off and Tyrone were able to shut Mayo down too easily - it’ll be a winter of contemplation for all concerned there.

It was one that got away, it will hurt and will hurt those involved on the field and sidelines more than most. They know that they didn’t perform as well as they wanted to. Over the next few months they’ll have to go away and dream it all up again - and come back swinging next year.


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