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Defeat hurts for Tyrone, but lessons can be learned for future

By Ryan McMenamin

I don't think that I was the only person looking on in Croke Park absolutely astonished with the first 25 minutes.

Tyrone were superb with their tackling, their work-rate and their effort and it seemed like they could almost break Mayo's resolve.

Defensively, they had the match-ups working for them. Conor Clarke pushed up on Keith Higgins and made him almost anonymous in this period, and the deployment of Cathal McCarron on Andy Moran left the Mayo captain scoreless throughout the entire game.

During this period they were also very economical in their scoring. Mayo looked rattled and in those circumstances you just felt they might revert back to their old ways.

What happened next? Was it a question of Mayo lifting everything they did by an extra 5%, did Tyrone drop their effort a little, or was it – as I suspect – that Mayo just settled into the task they had and began playing their own game, rather than meeting Tyrone on their terms?

It may be a coincidence, but on 26 minutes Stephen O'Neill had to be replaced. Ronan O'Neill added a point with his first touch, but it took another 20 minutes of play for Tyrone to get their next score.

Having already lost Peter Harte (right), the loss of O'Neill was too much to bear.

Mayo hit three scores without enough pressure applied and it left them going into half-time – with Tyrone having played all the football and dominated so well – only a point ahead.

I have been in Tyrone changing rooms before when we hadn't played well yet were still only a point behind. It gives you an enormous lift going in because you will have seen what the opposition was about, Mayo will have seen that Tyrone gave everything, and they had survived it.

In the second half, Mayo got some fundamentals right.

They worked the short kickouts well. Colm Boyle got on an ocean of ball in those scenarios, whereas Tyrone were jittery and panicking when they could not get short kickouts to Conor Gormley and Cathal McCarron.

Boyle was able to create overlaps. it has been a feature of his brilliant season.

Keith Higgins came into it, Alan Dillon started to look good again and Alan Freeman was a good target man to make the ball stick.

When Mayo attack they do so at tremendous pace and purpose, forcing defenders to commit themselves. It was something Tyrone never got a handle on and with Joe McMahon also going off, all the leaders were on the sidelines.

Mayo could have won by more and up front there was no spark from the Tyrone attack. But let's be realistic. No-one in Tyrone thought they could get this far, and they did.

They will look at that Mayo team, a side that have been there for two or three years, building and building.

This is the start of a cycle. However, it would be crucial to unearth a forward that might come in and shake the thing up a bit.

Boys like Darren McCurry, Connor McAliskey and Ronan O'Neill have had a good taste of it. Next year will be a big year for Kyle Coney. He has to come strong next year.

As for the likes of Conor Gormley and O'Neill? Those boys can only answer that question themselves.

But they would be worth having on board. No question.

Belfast Telegraph

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