Mayo will have no baggage from previous final defeats insists Tony McEntee
BAGGAGE from previous near-misses won't impact on Mayo's performance in Saturday's All-Ireland final, insists the Connacht champions' former coach and selector Tony McEntee.
Crossmaglen native McEntee was part of Stephen Rochford's management team from 2016 to 2018 and helped guide Mayo to All-Ireland finals in his first two seasons. In both years they lost to Dublin (in 2016 after a replay) and Mayo lost out again to the Dubs in last season's final. However, after Mayo beat the Dubs in last month's semi-final, McEntee insists that they and Tyrone will start Saturday's decider with a clean slate.
“I don't see that (previous final results) as being an issue at all because it's Tyrone they're playing and they haven't had a major loss against Tyrone in recent years,” said McEntee.
“From my experience with Mayo (the baggage of previous losses) was more of a concern for the media than the players. The players weren't overly bogged down by their inability to get over Dublin because, year-in-year-out, they still performed - they got beat because of mistakes or otherwise rather than actually not performing on the big day.
“So I don't agree with the point that the big occasion and previous failures to get over the line had an impact on the subsequent games.”
Saturday's finalists went into their respective semi-finals as underdogs. Mayo were written off when they trailed Dublin by six points at half-time a month ago while Tyrone ripped up their pre-game script against much-vaunted Kerry in the second semi-final.
Mayo needed impressive second half displays to get past Galway (Connacht final) and the Dubs while Tyrone were less than convincing in their wins against Donegal and Monaghan (Ulster final) so McEntee sees room for improvement in both sides.
“The two teams have the opportunity to produce their best performance of the year in the final,” he said.
“Tyrone were impressive against Kerry to a point but in a lot of ways they had shackles on and weren't able to shake then off and now is the opportunity for them to do that. This Tyrone team has developed throughout the year and I don't think we've seen the best of what they have to offer so that creates an exciting opportunity for them.
“Both teams could perform at a much better level than we're seen them this year so far.”
As for where Saturday's game will be won and lost, McEntee sees advantages for Mayo in midfield but adds that Tyrone carry the more potent goal threat.
“Against Kerry, Tyrone conceded a lot of possession in the midfield sector but they were well prepared and well set up in defence and Kerry couldn't retain that possession,” he said.
“So I would see an advantage to Mayo around midfield and if they're able to get that kind of possession on Sunday I would expect them to capitalise on it better than Kerry did.
“People say that Mayo will learn from what Kerry did and not run the ball as much but I don't necessarily agree with that because Kerry caused Tyrone a lot of problems in the second half so Mayo's running game could be very influential on Sunday.
“On the opposite side, clearly Tyrone have goal-scorers. In Conor McKenna, (Cathal) McShane and (Darren) McCurry they have the ability to get goals and that may make a big difference.
“From a bench perspective I think there's nothing in it and both benches have performed really well in the two semi-finals.”