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Steven McDonnell: Mayo lacked killer instinct in front of the posts

Mayo's Ryan O'Donoghue misses his second half penalty during the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Between Tyrone and Mayo at Croke Park Dublin 09-11-2021. Pic Philip Walsh.
Steven McDonnell

MAYO have nobody to blame but themselves for losing another All-Ireland final. And the same reason, as has been the case in most of their previous finals, is their lack of killer instinct in front of the posts.

Contrast that to Tyrone and how they thrive in situations like that. To win All-Irelands, you need a forward unit that, under extreme pressure, have the nerve to kick the ball over the bar or to hit the net. You also need a forward unit that has an understanding of one another and I got the sense from watching the game, that this was not always the case with Mayo.

Mayo played the game with more than enough possession to win it but their wastefulness in front of the posts once again was their downfall. They played all year without Cillian O’Connor and didn’t seem to miss him that much but in this game, they badly needed him to be on the field. His natural ability to kick scores from play and dead ball situations simply cannot be underestimated and on top of that, he would have hit the penalty were he on the pitch and has quite a good record of scoring them.

Goals win games though and having the option of taking Cathal McShane from the bench spearheaded Tyrone towards their fourth All-Ireland win. A high ball in towards the square left both Rob Hennelly and Oisín Mullin in no man’s land and McShane’s deft touch found the net. Big players come up with clutch moments in games and this was one of them.

I’ve been really impressed with the form of Darren McCurry all year and as an inside forward, his movement and jinkery creates serious headaches for anyone with the unfortunate task of marking him. He finished the game with 1-4 and a man of the match award and was fully deserving of it and it capped off what was a terrific campaign for him.

I’ve thought about this a lot in the build-up to the game as well as in the aftermath of it and it can be analysed for hours upon end, but when it comes down to it, Tyrone know how to win All-Irelands and they were always going to bring their own intensity to the occasion.

When they get to Croke Park, they become possessed and you simply have to give them the credit they deserve. They are worthy champions and will go from strength to strength over the next couple of years as there is plenty of youth in the team.

Thankfully, league action will start again this weekend in Tyrone club football, and with a seven week lay-off from playing competitive football, there will no doubt be a level of rustiness with most teams.

The most competitive club championship is only around the corner so the next couple of league games will be important for managers to get their players in a competitive frame of mind again. Some players have this naturally while it doesn’t come as easy for others. I’m just glad that it will be back up and running again, so it will be great to get back into the thick of it.

Closer to home, huge congratulations to the Killeavy senior ladies’ team that won the Armagh intermediate title on Saturday afternoon.

Any time I go to watch them play, I am seriously impressed. I’m impressed with the quality of their kick passing, their support runs off the shoulder and the timing of it. It’s a joy to witness this and any men’s team could learn a lot from watching them play and how they never allow a team-mate to be isolated.

On top of this, they have classy players which to win any championship, is always a key ingredient to have. Their trump card though is a young player called Grainne Boylan. I am singling her out because she finished the game with a tally of 4-11, (4-6 in the first half alone) and picked up the player of the match award. Such accolades do not come by accident. This girl spends endless hours practicing in front of the posts, shooting with both her left and her right foot. She works on her movement and the type of runs that she should be making and with that type of attitude, she is a certain star for the future.

In the type of form that she is in, it’s inevitable that she will be an inter-county player for Armagh very soon. The prospect of Armagh ladies having both Aimee Mackin and Grainne Boylan in the same team is a frightening thought as both are absolute scoring machines. Keep a wee look-out for this player as I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

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