Stevie McDonnell: Tyrone must take belief from Mayo's performance
GAELIC football has had some fascinating rivalries down through the years.
Kerry v Dublin during the 70’s, Dublin v Meath in the early 90’s, Armagh v Tyrone and Kerry v Tyrone in the noughties and over the last 10 years, the biggest rivalry has been Dublin v Mayo.
That rivalry continued with another epic battle between both counties on Saturday evening in the All-Ireland semi-final but the outcome was different from the eight previous occasions. Mayo held their nerve and came through in extra-time.
The truth is, after an emphatic first-half performance from Dublin, Mayo took control and played like a team with no pressure on them whatsoever.
The key for them is to play in the same manner in the final, and to do this they should look at or try to find out how Limerick have prepared themselves for the hurling finals over the last couple of years.
They have found a way to perform and to win finals.
In every match there are key moments and one of the biggest calls was the decision by James Horan to replace Aidan O’Shea early in the second half.
Aidan is the team captain and not too many managers would have made this big call, particularly when they were without their chief scorer, Cillian O’Connor.
But it was a decision that worked for them and the balance of their play and how they attacked Dublin with more pace worked in their favour.
Tactically, this was a major call and James Horan got it spot on.
We often encourage a never-say-die attitude and chasing down lost causes. At 0-12 to 0-7 down, Diarmuid O’Connor’s volley to keep the ball from going out over the end-line and to find his teammate Kevin McLoughlin that led to a point.
It was a huge psychological boost for Mayo at a stage in the game where they badly needed a score.
This really lifted the spirit of the team and their momentum was gaining.
Another key moment in the game was the 45-metre kick that Rob Hennelly had to equalise the match and to bring it into extra time.
His first kick went away off target but the extra Mayo player and indiscipline by Philly McMahon afforded him an opportunity of redemption, and one that he took.
Under severe pressure, this was an excellent kick.
Remember, Hennelly was the fall guy back in the 2016 final when both of these sides met, so it took great character for him to come up and take the shot, and also to put in the level of display that he did. His kickouts were top class throughout.
Dublin’s run was always going to come to an end at some point and it is fitting that Mayo are the team that eventually got the better of them.
Over the past six years, Dublin have proved to be the greatest team ever.
They will take this defeat on the chin and they will learn from it. That’s what great champions do.
To think they won’t bounce back would be very foolish, but looking at their performance from the second half onwards - they didn’t look themselves.
They kicked ball away that we haven’t seen in a long time and for over 50 minutes or so, Mayo held them to just four points.
Their bench often makes the difference but on Saturday, Mayo had all the answers.
There might just be a few more retirees from the squad, but what a journey they have had, and I for one have enjoyed watching the levels they have played at since 2011.
The on/off saga between Tyrone and Kerry has finally had a positive outcome, and while it’s difficult at the minute managing a club team in Tyrone with no league fixtures being played, the sensible decision was made by the GAA to afford Tyrone an extra week to recover from their COVID breakout.
Kerry would not have wanted to go straight into an All-Ireland final without have a tough semi-final under their belt, and no team would because the best preparation for any big match is a competitive game.
At this stage of the competition too, I think it would have made a mockery of the championship if the game was not rescheduled, given the unique circumstances of the situation.
There will be a bit of added pressure on Tyrone now to put in a big performance and if any team can raise the tempo to face Kerry, they can.
They will take belief from Mayo’s performance against Dublin and while that guarantees nothing, it will give them a fighting chance.