Pressure the half-backs
This game got off at furious pace in terms of chances, albeit not scores. With just 5 minutes on the clock there had already been 7 shots. This put the game on an early pace for 98 shots, where the average is 54. Naturally this slowed considerably, there were 60 shots in the game, but it’s an indication of the heavy movement by both sides to open the game. Tyrone and Mayo were each trying to go end to end from the off but it was the former who made the most of it. Mickey Harte’s charges sought to bring pressure to the Mayo half-back line. This unit is pivotal to Mayo’s forward movement and Tyrone overloaded on them to hinder the distribution game. On top of this Tyrone dropped men back at speed to create 5-on-3 and 4-on-2 match-ups at the back. Defensively this was an energy-sapping approach for Tyrone, with players asked to go full tilt in multiple roles, but one necessary to get an early leg up on the Connacht champions.
In attack, Tyrone were able to use this pressure, which differed substantially from the more progressive pressing game they used in the spring, to open up holes for Conor McAliskey and Darren McCurry. This gave Mayo cover problems and they became more conservative in committing numbers forward. This eased the burden on Tyrone’s defence somewhat as it required less work to create numerical advantages.
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Barrett sets the tone before the break
Tyrone had 9 of the game’s opening 13 shots but ended up with one fewer scoring chance than Mayo by the break. The difference came in Mayo’s more expansive approach to attack. Tyrone’s pressure on the half back line subsided after the opening 20 minutes and backs were getting forward from deep to break down the defensive cover. Chris Barrett had the most notable impact with two scores down the stretch. The first, on 33 minutes, was a lovely stop and pop. Barrett was driving forward with the cover trying to anticipate his movement to the right. Instead the defender stopped, steadied himself, and slotted over from an uncovered position. Barrett’s pair of points sandwiched a score by Lee Keegan. Mayo had woken from their slumber by the break but it would take the second half to see the machine run smoothly.
Overload and open up
Tyrone’s pressure held Mayo to 38 per cent shooting in the first half. Mayo’s ability to create overlaps and, with these, vary the point of attack saw returns of 61 per cent after the break. James Horan’s side established their core game after the break despite the absence of Cillian O’Connor and the underwhelming performance of Andy Moran. Mayo focussed heavily on the left side early, using Alan Freeman and Enda Varley as shooting options, to create lanes to move through the middle and on the right flank. Where Colm Boyle was fouled may be controversial, how he got into position for it to be a question is anything but. Boyle moving up the middle looked to be taking a shift to the right but stepped inside to the left. This left Dermie Carlin, who was positioned to close down supporting attackers, needing to run Boyle down instead. The penalty was awarded and Freeman converted.
Alan Dillon made use of the space on the right on 46 minutes to add to Mayo’s lead and, having been trailing by the minimum at the break, Horan’s side was en route to opening up a 6 point lead before Harte’s side had a score in the second half. This gap set the stage for Mayo to use their bench to press home. Cathal Carolan scored on the hour and within a minute Michael Conroy fed Aidan O’Shea for another score.
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Tyrone struggle for shots
Tyrone missed their first three shots after the break but their accuracy actually improved slightly from the first half. Their real issue was getting possession up front to create chances. With just 11 shots after the break, Tyrone were caught in the wrong side of a shootout. Mayo’s pressure played a big role here as Horan’s switches allowed his side to keep the foot down and continually mix attacks. Depth was an issue for Harte going into this game and the losses of Peter Harte and Stephen O’Neill before the break didn’t help matters. Joe McMahon joined them within 9 minutes of the re-start. All three play big roles in creating chances from play and drawing fouls while O’Neill and McMahon can usually be relied upon for 5 efforts between them over 70 minutes. The replacements simply couldn’t deliver in the same volume. Mayo by contrast recorded shots at a faster rate after losing O’Connor.
Mayo may have shot more after they lost O’Connor but their free-taking was disturbing. O’Connor’s lone score was a 42m free in the 4th minute. After that Mayo went 5 of 9 including the penalty. Normally this would be reasonable but it includes a couple of big outliers. There were wides from one free barely to the right of the posts 13m out and another from in front of the uprights from 20m. With O’Connor’s status for the final highly doubtful at the time of writing, Mayo need to have their free-taking game locked down. The ease with which Tyrone took over Mayo’s half back line early will hardly cause encouragement either. Credit is due to Harte for choosing this point of attack but the complete disorder it caused to Mayo’s passing game was as much down to Horan’s charges making poor decisions.
It was however a game plan that relied on everything breaking Tyrone’s way. Injuries happen and Harte rolled the dice, which was the right call, and paid a big price. Losing three key pieces so early left the Tyrone boss with few options. He gambled, his players were gassed, they lost. It was the right call. The alternative options all came with a greater probability of defeat. This was just the hardest to patch. Mayo’s pressure eventually proved telling. Both sides shot 50 per cent but Mayo’s 17 of 34 return gave them 8 more attempts to score than Tyrone. It was that limitation in scoring that has held Tyrone back this summer and it was too much to overcome on Sunday.
Twitter trivia answer: Dublin have won 8 All-Irelands between Hurling and Football during the reigns of Taoisigh from Dublin. They should only have 7 but the 1922 Football final was delayed and ended up being during WT Cosgrave’s time in office.
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