IT felt like we were gone back in time. Back to the mid 1990s when John Maughan got Mayo to an All-Ireland final despite kicking nearly 20 wides a game.
Frees from Maurice Sheridan were our main supply of scores and if we had him today, we’d have taken the Dubs too. But our problems with frees were symbolic of our overall difficulties in scoring today.
Eighteen wides. Think about it. Frightening. Add in the amount of shots that hit the post or dropped short (I counted eight) and you realise how wasteful we were. We had over twice the amount of chances as Dublin and lost. That is not meant to happen in Gaelic football.
Just one of those days? If only. Sure, you can have days where shots go a yard outside rather than inside the upright. But what was frustrating today about Mayo was our naiveity. We had achieved results against Galway and Tyrone by using a strong running game.
Dublin were always going to set up with version of the blanket defence, cutting off space for such a running game. So we would look for another style of football. Wouldn’t we?
Ah, no, we wouldn’t.
Time after time Mayo players ran into the tackle and hadn’t the physical strength to brush off a single Dublin player, not to mind the two or three that they actually ran into, more often than not.
And where did Mayo try to run? Through the middle time and time again, where the space was most congested.
We played with no brains. It must be pointed out that there are two alternative ways to play the blanket defence. One is to spread the play wide and stretch the opposition. We didn’t do that.
In fairness the players did try to utilise the other option which is a high ball into a big full-forward. But Aidan O’Shea is a long way off his best at the moment and that tactic bore little fruit for us.
What was most frustrating about today though was our frees. Alan Freeman was having one of those where nothing would go right for him. It was clear midway through the first half that he wasn’t striking the ball confidently and considering that he is only new to the side – John O’Mahony hadn’t the confidence in him to pick him in the team earlier in the week – he should be relieved of freetaking duties at such a stage. It would be different if he was an Alan Dillon, someone whose confidence wouldn’t be in bother from a couple of misses.
But Mayo didn’t make any switch, even though Neil Douglas, a very reliable freetaker, was on the field midway through the first half. And then Enda Varley, who was doing okay on the right side with the frees, saw Conor Mortimer come in and take a free off him. Are we making it up as we go along on the sideline?
Defensively we were decent with Keith Higgins outstanding for three quarters of the game. However he did struggle somewhat with Bernard Brogan. More worryingly was how much trouble Conal Keaney caused Ger Cafferkey.
At midfield it was noticeable how light Tom Parsons and Ronan McGarrity, while on the field, were against Eamonn Fennell and Ross McConnell. Seamie O’Shea did help matters though and seemed to be the only Mayo player capable of breaking the tackle regularly.
So a game that leaves more questions than answers. Its probably as well we lost though or else these questions might not be posed at all.