GAA Football

Mayo down Donegal to seal semi spot - all the analysis from a dramatic night in Castlebar

Ryan McHugh, so impressive against Kerry a fortnight earlier, was unable to get a foothold in Saturday's Super 8 defeat to Mayo. Picture by Philip Walsh
Neil Loughran

KEY BATTLE

Paddy Durcan (Mayo) v Ryan McHugh (Donegal)

RYAN McHugh came into this game on the back of a wonderful performance against Kerry, and James Horan was clearly determined his form wouldn’t continue in Castlebar. Mayo opted to push the athletic Durcan up on the Kilcar dynamo,and it worked a treat.

Not only was McHugh unable to find any space to burst into, it was Durcan who drove forward to impressive effect as he finished the game with three points from play.

TOP SCORE

IT was a night when neither side will be too happy with their scoring return. Andy Moran’s two late scores generated the biggest cheers, but the best score came early in the first half when full-back Chris Barrett rounded off a flowing move with a stylish finish on the run.

REF WATCH

David Gough (Meath)

PROBABLY got the penalty call right in terms of what he could see in that split second, though its award probably owed as much to a bit of cuteness on Michael Murphy’s part as it did to Lee Keegan’s hand on the jersey. Gough had no choice with the early black card shown to Keith Higgins and, in the main, kept a lid on an unsurprisingly feisty encounter.

TURNING POINT

WHEN Michael Murphy stroked the ball into the corner of the net, it looked as though that would be the turning point – and it was, because Donegal completely failed to build on that momentum, kicking five wides in-a-row.

At one stage there was only a point in it after the Tir Chonaill men had started the second half like a house on fire, but failing to make their dominance pay on the scoreboard during that purple patch cost them as Mayo regrouped and saw out the game.

TACTICAL TAKE

Mayo

THERE were questions over whether, after a long summer already, Mayo would have the energy to push Donegal back and curb their attacking threat. All those questions were answered in the most emphatic fashion on Saturday night.

Mayo pressed up on Patton, forcing an early chance for Darren Coen, and forcing the goalkeeper to go long. That left the two O’Sheas and Jason Doherty to swallow up so much that came their way, with Fionn McDonagh and Colm Boyle in the mix to hoover up breaks.

The inclusion of Rob Hennelly paid off for James Horan, so too did the decisions to put Keegan on Murphy and, in particular, Durcan on McHugh. With Barrett doing well on McBrearty, Donegal’s key three were largely negated, barring a purple patch early in the second half.

Horan acted decisively to bring Andy Moran into the fold before half-time, replacing the ineffective Darren Coen, and his ball-winning ability and quickness of thought proved invaluable.

Donegal

SET up as they have all summer but were overwhelmed by the intensity Mayo brought from the off. Struggled to get any primary possession off Patton’s kick-outs in the first half, with Mayo dominating the middle.

When they went short against Kerry, Donegal were allowed to work their way through the lines and punish the Kingdom, the pace of Ryan McHugh doing damage all day. He didn’t get a look in on Saturday night, and he wasn’t the only one as the Tir Chonaill men ran into thunderous challenges from green bodies all night.

Michael Murphy wasn’t allowed the space to dictate proceedings, meaning the supply into Jamie Brennan and Patrick McBrearty was limited. When it did go in, they needed to make Mayo pay, and they didn’t, a series of handling errors and poor shot selection contributing to their downfall.

Got some joy initially when Murphy went into the square but Mayo soon sorted that out too.

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