Mayo v Tyrone
If you are going by the media coverage there is only one team playing this weekend and only one outcome possible, a Mayo win. The thought of a Tyrone win has not entered the equation for pundits, Oisin Mc Conville picking a 10-12 point Mayo win. The form suggests a Mayo win, Mayo have blown apart every team they have played. They have both played Donegal and Roscommon with Tyrone losing to Donegal by 6 points and beating Roscommon by 2 points. Mayo beat Donegal by 16 points and Roscommon by 12. All the evidence would then suggest another easy Mayo win.
But this will surely not be the case on Sunday. Mickey Harte’s Tyrone are always set up to be very difficult to beat. They have a defensive doggedness that defines Harte’s teams and this alone should ensure a competitive game. If Tyrone can keep it competitive going down the stretch then the questions will be asked of Mayo that nobody has been able to ask so far this season. Tyrone will need a big game from Stephen O Neill who has not brought his blistering league form into the championship. Tyrone have relied heavily on Sean Cavanagh for scores, so much so that he is a Player of the Year contender, but they will need some production from their forward line, especially a figure like O Neill if they are to claim a place in the final.
Tyrone will look to curb the scoring prowess of Cillian O Connor in particular. The Ballintubber man has scored two hat-trick’s in this last two games and another similar performance could put him in the running for Player of the Year. Mayo have not relied on any one player to put scores on the board, against Donegal there were 14 different scorers. Mayo have a very attacking half back line who have contributed 2-8 of Mayo’s scores this championship year. Tyrone may have a plan to try and stop Cillian O Connor and reduce the forward division’s scores, but the fact that the scores come from everywhere makes stopping Mayo scoring a very difficult task. Mayo also have the towering colossus that is Aiden O Shea in the middle of the park who could dominate the skies on Sunday. Tyrone will look to swarm O Shea when he lands but he is so powerfully built that he will break through and/or draw fouls a lot of the time. He will have to maintain a cool head as it is likely he will be targeted for some “special treatment”. If the focus is placed on Aiden O Shea by Tyrone then his big brother who is also a big man is more than capable of winning the ball in the air. Sean Cavanagh will be a mobile midfielder for Tyrone but it is more likely that he may have Keith Higgins for company as opposed to one of the O Shea brothers. It was said after last years final defeat to Donegal that the full forward line was just not effective enough. There are now three new players in there with Andy Moran back after injury, Alan Freeman returning to the form of his debut season in 2010 and Cillian O Connor closer to the goal where he has been prolific.
For Tyrone to succeed this will have to become a game similar to Donegal and Dublin’s infamous semi final of two years ago, a low scoring encounter that may have plenty of fouls. Tyrone will look to slow the game down, especially at the start where Mayo have made a habit of starting at a blistering pace with all four games as good as over by half time. They will look to make it a dogfight and hope that Mayo run out of answers or not be able to build up momentum.
Under James Horan this Mayo side have progressed every year. This will be a new type of challenge but one that they are more than capable of negotiating. It will be a tough one but there should be a scramble for tickets in Mayo in September.