After Mayo's superb victory over Tyrone I have to pinch myself to comprehend that Mayo are playing Tipperary in an All-Ireland semifinal on Sunday. It sounds bizarre. If we go back to June 18 and after watching Mayo's poor performance against Galway, we firstly did not see Mayo getting to a semifinal and if they did we certainly did not expect the opposition to be from the premier county. Clare and Tipperary have both been very successful examples of the qualifiers in 2016 but Tipp's trouncing of Connacht champions Galway by nine points has certainly made them the number one success story.
Tipperary’s rise can be thanked in no uncertain terms to Donegal native Mickey McGeehan (a good friend of Mayo football ) who was brought into the set up by then manager Peter Creedon in 2014. McGeehan's main role was to get Tipp scoring more goals, of which they did, and they still use the same kick out strategy introduced by McGeehan back then. Conor Sweeney who scored a double against Galway in the quarter final was the country's leading scorer across all four divisions of the league that year.
Tipperary – A brief analysis
A lot has been made recently about the Tipperary players absent from their panel however some of the circumstances were simply unavoidable. Last year's captain and fullback Paul Codd retired. Colin O'Riordan is playing AFL with the Sydney Swans and both Seamus Kennedy and Stephen O'Brien elected to play with the hurlers. O'Brien's situation is strange, he picked hurling over football despite being on a football scholarship in DCU and now he is not making the hurling squad. Kennedy who was a star for Clonmel Commercials in their run to the All-Ireland club semi final this year is a big loss. He was man of the match in four of his club's championship matches during that run, his absence is somewhat softened by the return of attacking half back Bill Maher.
Match ups will need to be spot on
Tipp’s full back line are not the fastest, Ciaran McDonald (the Tipperary one ) has been troubled by injury and has not trained at the same level as the rest and can be vulnerable if he is run at. Robbie Kiely and Bill Maher attack at will from the half back line but can be exposed if Mayo break up the play. Defensively Tipp are small in stature and can be physically dominated by Andy Moran, Cillian O'Connor and Aidan O Shea (while he is in the full forward line ). Brian Fox played as a first time sweeper against Galway and did well but Galway were not at the races and Fox should have a very different afternoon on Sunday if given the same role.
Whoever Stephen Rochford picks at midfield will have very different but important roles. Peter Acheson is the heartbeat of Tipp and makes them tick, stop Acheson and you go a long way to beating them. Will Seamie O'Shea or Donal Vaughan be given a specific role of negating his effect? Acheson's partner George Hannigan suffered a serious injury last year and missed a lot of pre season training so his fitness and speed are not up to par which could be ideal for the likes of Tom Parsons to wreak havoc in Croke Park. The perseverance of Kevin McLoughlin as a sweeper seems to be bearing fruit as he was very effective against Tyrone, and will need to be again against two very in form full forwards in Conor Sweeney and Michael Quinlivan who scored 3-5 between them from open play against Galway. Whoever Rochford selects to pick up the deadly duo will need ample assistance from Mcloughlin.
The big danger facing Mayo going into this game is the complacency factor, the feeling that the hard work was needed against Tyrone and now it is a matter of turning up. Galway thought the same I am sure. After chatting to Tom Parsons last weekend that will not be an issue as he told me he was nervous about the game and worried about the opposition which can only point to focused minds. In fairness, you cannot be complacent in an All-Ireland semifinal when the prize for the winner is so great. Mayo will need to play well to beat Tipp, that is a certainty, the competitiveness for a place on the team or in the squad for All-Ireland final day should inspire the players. This is Mayo's sixth successive semifinal which is a very impressive statistic, I fully expect them to make it to their third final in that time. Two things need to be noted, Tipperary are a division three team and Kerry beat them by 10 points in the Munster final, surely Mayo's experience will see them through. Mayo are priced at 1/5 to make that happen and the bookmakers see them winning by at least six points but three will do for me.