Mayo get their game plan right

GAA: All Ireland SFC Quarter Final

Zipping through: Keith Higgins was in exceptional form for Mayo on Monday against Roscommon. Photo: Sportsfile.

Zipping through: Keith Higgins was in exceptional form for Mayo on Monday against Roscommon. Photo: Sportsfile.

A week is a long time in politics, bu it seems that eight days in football can be even longer. Having struggled to impose themselves for long enough periods to win the first day against Roscommon, Mayo hit their neighbours with everything they had on Monday and ran out more than convincing winners. Right from the throw-in four days ago, you could see that this Mayo team were a very different animal to the one that that had turned up eight days previously.

Mayo reverted to the past, by bringing into play a high-tempo running game that saw them attack from all corners of the field at pace, doing so without one of their best strike runners in the shape of Lee Keegan who was not risked by the management. There was no real let up as defenders carried the ball at pace into attack, with Keith Higgins' performance both as a sweeper and an attacking option the stand out display on the day.

Mayo went for goals on Monday, and they ended up with four to their name, they really could have had at least two more with Brendan Harrison and Conor Loftus both having chances to rattle the net that they will feel they should have taken. Mayo's goals were clinically taken, Kevin McLoughlin could have passed the ball off a few times before he found the net, but the Knockmore man saw the gap and went for it. Higgins' performance was capped by Mayo's second and third goals, offloading to Andy Moran for the second, and driving on to finish himself for the third.

The Ballyhaunis man played as a sweeper and he did this role excellently, covering in front of Chris Barrett and Brendan Harrision in the full back line - intercepting a number of probing balls played in by the Roscommon attack and pushing up on the Roscommon kick-outs as part of Mayo's press on that proved so crucial in their win.

Getting off to a good start was a necessity for Mayo, they managed to come from 2-2 to 0-1 down early in the first game, but they were in no mood for anything of the like to happen this time. They attacked Roscommon physically from the throw in and totally dominated them, during the game Mayo turned over a  Roscommon man in possession of the ball 24 times.

That carried through to the Roscommon restarts with Mayo winning more than their far share of Colm Lavin's kick-outs, they made him drive the ball long where they were dominating the middle third battle, and even at one stage Lavin directed one over the sideline while trying to avoid this sector and find one of his own players. Mayo totally dominated their own restart with David Clarke finding a Mayo player with 16 of his 17 restarts.

Mayo's defensive game plan worked to a tee and they did not let Roscommon in for a single goal chance on David Clarke, having conceded two goals in the previous outing this will have been a very satisfying outcome for the Mayo coaching ticket. But keeping Kerry at bay will be a much tougher task, and one that will require plenty of thinking and consideration over the next number of days. With Keegan sure to come back into the side, it leaves a tough call for Stephen Rochford as to who will make way and who will be given the task of keeping tabs on Kerry's man-mountain Kieran Donaghy in their full forward line.

It is kind of hard to knock a side that scored 4-19, won the game by 22 points, were up by 13 points at half-time, and had 13 different players get on the scoreboard, but Mayo were wasteful at times last Monday. They managed to score 3-8 in the opening 35 minutes of the game, but they also were not able to register a score with 12 other efforts they had in the first half, putting seven of those efforts wide. They created 37 scoring chances from play, registering 18 scores from play over the 70 minutes, failing to get a score from 19 other scoring chances in open play. But over all, you cannot crib with a return of 4-19 in any game, it is a serious scoring return.


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