1. An unheralded figure stars at midfield
There was plenty pre-match chat about the role of Mayo and Tyrone midfielders. Would Tyrone’s most influential figure Sean Cavanagh continue to steer them to victories? Or would Aidan O’Shea continue to embellish his Footballer of the Year credentials?
As it transpired Cavanagh was a peripheral figure and O’Shea did put in a storming second-half. But it was another O’Shea who shone and dictated the midfield play.
Aidan’s older brother Seamus is a 26 year-old who only took to the field in last year’s All-Ireland final in the 69th minute. If he stays fit over the next four weeks then Seamus will take to the field from the start in this year’s All-Ireland final and will be a vital presence in Mayo’s hopes of victory.
He was very impressive yesterday, moving around the park efficiently, carrying possession effectively into the heart of the Tyrone defence and becoming extremely prominent in the game.
Alan Freeman may have bagged The Sunday Game’s man-of-the-match award but O’Shea’s nomination was a recognition of his sterling display.
Mayo’s Seamus O’Shea and Joe McMahon of Tyrone
Pic: INPHO/Lorraine O’Sullivan
2. Mayo point the way from the back
It’s been difficult to find fault with Mayo’s backline this summer. Perhaps they have not fronted up against lethal attacks but the forward lines they have faced have been contained impressively.
Colm McFadden is the only player to have struck a goal against them in championship – and that was in the dying embers of their All-Ireland quarter-final – while they have seen an average of 10 white flags raised against them in their four games to date.
Yesterday they showed those characteristics again. Tyrone chalked up 13 points but Mayo overcame an erratic and shaky start to improve at the back.
They had conceded seven points in the first 32 minutes but then held Tyrone scoreless for the next 16 minutes and only shipped four points from play in the second-half. In addition Robert Hennelly kept a clean sheet.
Mayo’s defence also brought a dynamic edge that their team desperately needed in the first-half. Colm Boyle and Donal Vaughan tore forward to try to shake their team from their slumber while Lee Keegan popped over a neat left-foot point.
The unlikely figure of Chris Barrett grabbed a splendid brace before half-time with Tom Cunniffe providing the assist for the second of those points. With Ger Cafferkey imperious back at the edge of the square, it turned out to be a good day at the office for Mayo’s rearguard.
Mayo’s Chris Barrett and Darren McCurry of Tyrone
Pic: INPHO/Ryan Byrne
3. A tough day at the office for Tyrone’s leading lights
Tyrone’s leading lights did not enjoy as satisfactory and productive an afternoon in Croke Park. If Mickey Harte’s side were to spring a surprise, they needed their key men to be the key men in the game.
Their prospects were damaged by the sight of Peter Harte limping off in the 7th minute and further hit by Stephen O’Neill being withdrawn through injury in the 26th minute.
The personnel losses continued with Joe McMahon and Matthew Donnelly both watching on from the bench by the 47th minute, a sign of how they had not been able to impose themselves on the game.
With Sean Cavanagh’s influence negated at midfield and his scoring threat blunted as his only point from play arrived six minutes from time, Tyrone simply had too many of their main men not influencing the match.
Tyrone’s Peter Harte goes off injured
Pic: INPHO/Ryan Byrne
4. The attacking issues that now face Mayo
For all of Mayo’s second-half dominance yesterday, there will be a focus as they plot their All-Ireland final preparations on what happened for the first half hour of this game.
Central to their problems was in attack with a litany of shortcomings like missing straightforward chances from play, skewing frees wide and their shot selection was poor.
Alan Dillon’s 45th minute point and Alan Freeman’s 50th minute point were both wonderful scores but they were the first two from play from Mayo’s starting forwards. Managing to win in spite of that statistic was impressive yet it’s an area they will need to brush up on.
It looks likely they will have to do that without their scoring figurehead in Cillian O’Connor and his absence on September 22nd would also throw up an issue with the sides freetaking.
Kevin McLoughlin, Enda Varley and Freeman, who was superb in a standout display, all were off target with placed balls and Mayo need to sharpen up if they are to lift Sam Maguire.
Mayo’s Alan Freeman celebrates scoring a penalty
Pic: INPHO/Ryan Byrne
5. Persistence serves Mayo well
Their 62 year-wait for Sam Maguire has created much anguish and frustration for Mayo football fans. Their pursuit of glory is something that will be heavily analysed in the coming weeks.
But aside from the lack of silverware, it’s worth commending their capacity to keep getting back to the All-Ireland final stage. Mayo’s appearance in next month’s All-Ireland decider will be their seventh in the past 25 finals.
Only Kerry have surpassed the number of final showings in that period while Cork have matched their record of seven. Mayo’s longing for Sam leads many to have sympathy for them but their persistence in getting back to finals deserves praise.
And there are plenty counties whose players and fans would love to get to the glamour of All-Ireland final day.