Tactical analysis: How Tyrone seized the day

TYRONE delivered a tactical masterless when they claimed victory over Mayo in last weekend’s All-Ireland final. Former Galway player and manager Kevin Walsh, who has set up his own online coaching platform at, has looked at how the Red Hands got it so right, while the Mayo team got it so wrong.

It wasn’t strictly man-to-man

“I felt Tyrone’s game-plan in the semi-final was tailor-made to beat Mayo. You have to question some of the Mayo management’s decision-making on the day, but from a Tyrone perspective, they learnt their lessons from their league defeat to Kerry.

“They play a ‘help’ defence, yes it was man-to-man at the back, but when the game slowed up and when Mayo were outside the zonal area, they were good at minding what coaches call the middle three lanes. That gave less space for the likes of Ryan O’Donoghoe and Tommy Conroy to manoeuvre.”

Magnificent Morgan

“If you look at seven-a-side competitions going back 40 years, the goalie plays outfield and it sometimes seems we’re so slow to modernise. In fairness Niall has been playing this playmaker role in the past, Rory Beggan does it, so does the Laois goalie, and when I was Galway boss we tried to do it with (Ruairí) Lavelle.

“You still have the old supporter mentality that because the goalkeeper wears a different jersey, he can’t go outfield, but why shouldn’t he when it helps the team? In a few years time you could have one of your best players in goals because the amount of time goalies have to make saves these days is actually very limited. The main thing that is required of them is that they’re good kickers and can do the simple things right.”

Route one for Cathal McShane’s goal

“It was old school but you have to look at the Mayo defending. Oisin Mullin needs to see where the man and the ball is, but he hadn’t a clue what was happening. Goalkeeper Rob Hennelly didn’t cover himself in glory either – the ball was in the air for a couple of seconds, he should’ve been out long before he was, and if he felt he couldn’t get there, he should’ve stayed on his line.

“He was in no man’s land. In fairness to Tyrone, you could see McShane put his had up, Mayo had left him isolated and there was a good understanding between Meyler and McShane.”

Mayo leave themselves open at the back

“Mayo are good at pushing up on their opposition, and it takes a lot of concentration, but the problem is it leaves you exposed at the back. You should really be playing a plus one in defence – if you look at Mattie Donnelly’s late intervention where he dispossesed the ball leading to a score in the semi-final, Kerry didn’t leave an extra player at the back and Mayo should’ve learnt lessons from that.

“Mayo are fine when the action is slowed down and they have numbers back, but there’s a window of opportunity where they can get caught out and that happened to their cost against Tyrone.”

A scorching team move for Darren McCurry’s goal

“That was brilliant, and again it came from a long kick-out from Niall Morgan. When Mayo push up, they leave themselves open to being exposed at the back if the opposition are good enough to take advantage of it.

“Tyrone had their home-work done. When you look at Mayo over the years, while they decimated other teams, they have to learn not to high press when they’re facing teams with lethal forwards like Kerry and Tyrone.

“It was a super move and in fairness to Conor McKenna, who didn’t have a great game, his vision was absolutely brilliant and he put it on a plate for McCurry, who did well to avoid a square ball. It looked like it came straight from the training book, and when you have a ‘keeper like Morgan who can kick the ball over the top, Mayo were always going to be exposed at some stage.”

What Tyrone did differently this year

“A big change has been the understanding of the ‘help’ defence. They’ve tweaked it, before they had Colm Cavanagh back as sweeper, but now they put bodies back in defence who pass on their man, so the sweeper isn’t left isolated. It helps block off the middle third and allows a better counter-attack. In fairness they didn’t have Cathal McShane last year and you need a bit of luck.

“Feargal and Brian brought a bit of freshness but Mickey Harte wasn’t too far away either. The Dublin team isn’t what it used to be, they made mistakes that they never made before when they played Mayo in the semi-final, and Kerry haven’t advanced their defensive system. But in saying that Tyrone have been fantastic and fully deserve their success.”

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