exclusive Cynical tackle shows Mayo are up for it as sloppy Dubs have plenty to work on
Eoghan McLaughlin won’t be on the Joe Brolly Christmas card list this year after deliberately and blatantly pulling down Sean Kelly deep in injury time when a winning goal looked on the cards for Galway.
The Mayo flyer repeated the now infamous Seán Cavanagh rugby tackle on Conor McManus which prevented the Monaghan man a clear one-on-one chance and probably a winning goal. Cavanagh was vilified by Brolly but unfairly so.
The black card was introduced a season later to curtail cynical play and to be fair it has achieved this to a certain extent but the cynical play is still very much part of our game and no rules will change that.
The game, at senior inter-county level, is ultimately about winning and every manager worth his salt would expect his players to make a tackle if it meant taking one for the team to ensure the win.
McLaughlin is a very talented young player, but that one tackle shows just how clued in he is. The tackle may not be pleasing on the eye from a neutral point of view, but his manager and team-mates will be delighted and from a Mayo point of view that’s all that matters.
Their first provincial title in five years will keep them bubbling along nicely and after playing five weeks on the spin can now recover properly with what will feel like a massive three-week break before a semi-final match against either Cork or Tipperary.
James Horan and his management team have plenty of time to look back at the game tape and will admit that there are plenty of areas of their game that will have to improve if they are to make it to yet another All-Ireland final.
What must be slightly concerning is how they allowed their opponents to stay in the game up until the final moments when really they should have been out of sight. Galway were really awful on the day and perhaps the lack of real championship games worked against them on the day.
The handling errors added up and the sloppy turnovers they conceded hurt them, particularly in the second period. I counted at least three critical turnovers which resulted in Mayo scores and that is criminal at this level.
Pádraic Joyce certainly won’t be judged on this performance and like every other team manager, will reflect on the current year with plenty of positives, but I just think he needs to promote more offensive football when they get back at it in 2021.
Yesterday in the opening half his attacking unit failed to make inroads despite having a lot of opportunities but poor decision-making and poor play allowed Mayo off the hook.
There is still far too much emphasis on defence in our game but hopefully the penny will drop with managers that you cannot win matches without a functioning offensive game. Mayo got away with one yesterday but there is more in the tank and the welcome rest will have them jumping out of their skin in a few weeks’ time. They are the dark horses in this year’s championship.
Donegal looked very impressive on Saturday with an emphatic victory over Armagh and are a serious danger to Dublin winning a sixth title.
The champions had their expected facile victory over Laois yesterday but they have plenty to work on.
They were sloppy at times and their shot selection was not as good as it has been in previous years.
There is no uncertainty surrounding Donegal. They are comfortable with their game plan and have the players to hurt you on the scoreboard.
There is still some football to be played before the two teams meet but it would be a massive shock if that didn’t happen at this stage, although Meath or Cavan will still be hoping that they can spring a surprise.
Last weekend Mickey Harte’s 18-year stint with the Tyrone seniors came to an end and even though the last 12 were not as successful as he would have wanted, he retires as one of the really great managers in the history of the game.
Tyrone footballers were always competitive but he transformed them into winners and his belief to change the game in the process is perhaps more impressive than the actual victories. What stands out for me is the 2003 semi-final victory over Kerry and the ferocious work rate that completely threw their opponents on the day.
That victory gave them the confidence to go on and with that year’s All-Ireland, their first in their history and also the other two that followed in ’05 and ’08.
That Tyrone team came in for some unfair criticism for the way they set up defensively but the three wins in the noughties were also built on some terrific attacking play by some of the greatest forwards of any era.
I do hope that Mickey stays in the game whether that be with some media work or getting back involved in the club scene. His knowledge of the game will always be in demand but for now he can look back on a really outstanding career which started almost three decades ago.