Cork started well, getting good pressure on Mayo leading to the ball been lost in the tackle or poor execution of passes.
Mayo had six early turnovers and this led to Cork’s first four points. Donnacha O’Connor was the main man here converting two excellent points from play plus two frees.
Mayo showed their experience though and didn’t panic. As Cork had started well defensively getting extra men back, Mayo’s initial success came from winning their long kick-outs.
This didn’t allow Cork time to get bodies back and lead to excellent scores from Tom Parsons and Lee Keegan. Mayo looked porous against Clare when ran at and it was the same again this time.
Building on his Kerry performance, Sean Powter made some great attacking plays, one which led to his brilliant goal when Cork were down six points midway through the second half.
To be honest, at this point, Cork looked in serious trouble, but as we have seen many times the difference a goal can make and it was anyone’s game from here on. Mayo looked particularly vulnerable once Colm Boyle was surprisingly substituted and Lee Keegan was black carded.
Ruairí Deane had a major impact also when introduced with his direct play leading to many scores. The key was he attacking space rather than trying to break through tackles.
When the opposition team, have men behind the ball, you must engage them, play with pace but composure and get your head up.
Along with this the player in possession needs at least one support runner. Cork did this well very well at times and forced the Mayo defence into poor making decisions.
Defenders either rushed to man when they should have delayed a fraction longer or players stayed wide marking their direct opponent when they should have picked up the most dangerous man.
Cork will particularly regret the two goal chances they missed directly after Powter’s goal along with the missed chances when looking to level the game late in extra time.
It had been acknowledged by many that Mayo’s shooting is inconsistent and that they rely too much on Cillian O’Connor.
Well, Saturday’s game proved yet again how important O’Connor is to Mayo, while also Mayo’s shooting was much improved with only seven wides over the course of the whole game.
A key factor was Mayo’s ability to work the ball into the high percentage scoring areas. This then enabled O’Connor, Moran, and O’Shea to convert chances with their non-dominant foot.
Cillian O’Connor and Diarmuid, O’Connor had longer range efforts but the rest of the scores were 25 yards and closer to the Cork goal.
Donie Buckley’s coaching was all over Mayo’s attacking play as 13 of Mayo’s 20 scores in normal time started from medium to long range kick passes into the Mayo forwards. In contrast 12 of Cork’s 17 scores resulted from running the ball through. Showing well and then getting good ball delivered in, the Mayo inside forwards showed composure then to either pop the ball off to another forward sitting in the pocket or to a wing-back, midfielder who had read the play.
This use of the kick-pass didn’t allow Cork time the set up the defensive wall. This situation was aided further by the variety in Aidan O’Shea’s play.
Sometime he went deep and sucked Eoin Cadogan out from centre-back, which left a big hole in the Cork defence. The game proved yet again that age is irrelevant, it’s all about ability and form. Andy Moran led the Mayo forward line very well.
Two or three years ago Moran was been used as an impact sub and his days as s starter appeared to be over. He might not have the lightning speed as other top forwards but what a brain, self-less work-rate and movement. You see how he play’s close to the end-line a lot, leaving space for the ball to be played in but then in possession showing great awareness under intense pressure to evade tackles to score or pop a pass to a teammate in a better position.
On the Cork side, Donnacha O’Connor once again showed his class. Similar to Moran, Donnacha has a great football brain and more than justified his starting spot.
While Mayo did many good things, they had two restarts in extra-time, which baffled me.
On both occasions they were a point up so you would expect players to keep things simple. Firstly, Cillian O’Connor tried to a shot from the sideline and then Alan Dillon who wasn’t long on, attempted a risky pass. Maybe luck was on Mayo’s side this time as O’Connor’s shot ended up going out for a 45 which he duly converted while from Dillon’s turnover, Michael missed a great chance at the other hand.
No player is expected to be perfect but those players should know better with the experience they have.
Looking forward for Cork it’s important some patience is shown with the young talent coming through. Too much cannot be expected of the likes of Sean Powter and Michael Hurley and more importantly, it’s about a team putting in consistent performances in Division 2 next year, getting promoted to Division 1 and then build from there again.
Tipperary were the exception last year and you can see it is the Division 1 teams who are regularly contesting the latter stages of the All-Ireland.
Mayo going on present form don’t seem good enough to win the All-Ireland this year, but there hanging in there and getting the results which they’ll be happy with for now. I remember back to 2010, after scraping past Limerick after extra-time in the qualifier’s, Cork wouldn’t have been tipped for the All-Ireland, but we all know how that that turned out.
Mayo seem to be getting that bit of luck that is needed this year, so you never know.