Posted by Ciaran Whelan

Ciaran Whelan takes an in-depth look ahead to the clash of Mayo v Tyrone as he get to the business end of the season.

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Ciaran Whelan takes an in-depth look ahead to the clash of Mayo v Tyrone as he get to the business end of the season.

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“I’m hoping that it’s going to be a very, very good game because I think we need it,” says our GAA ambassador Whelan. “The All-Ireland quarter-final was a bit of a letdown, we expected a lot more from it than it delivered.

“Mayo come in as favourites, though haven’t really been tested, but that’s more down to their ruthless efficiency and great hunger and desire. Tyrone are just a very dogged side, hard to beat, very well organised and can grind teams down.

“The issue for them is that they’re overly reliant on three or four of the marquee players going very well, the likes of Sean Cavanagh and Matthew Donnelly, and they’re going to need to collectively improve.

“Mayo to me come in as favourites because they’re showing a component of hunger, desire and their workrate from one to 15 is amazing. Their front six will press Tyrone very hard and won’t let them out with the ball.”

Many pundits are looking at his game in terms of the Heather County having more of the best individuals on the pitch, while Mickey Harte’s side have a sum greater than the parts.

But Mayo’s teamwork has been exceptional under James Horan too so that may level out the playing field in that sense. In terms of going man on man, we asked Ciaran Whelan how many of the Red Hand 15 would make it onto the Connacht champions’ team.

“It’s probably a good question,” Whelan says. “Mayo have looked so devastating to date, they have so much quality, and the fact that they’ve had injury problems – to bring them back and into such good form is huge.

“It’s a good question, if you break it down on paper in terms of their individual ability, there’s probably only four or five that would break into the Mayo team.

“But having said that, Tyrone have one of the best managers in the game and their strength is negating the strengths of the opposition. Aidan O’Shea will be targeted and they will have studied Mayo in detail to try to find a way to make it difficult.

“For me, the strongest part of Mayo’s team is their half-back line. Colm Boyle and Lee Keegan have been superb throughout the year, the added attacking options they give will be too much for Tyrone.”

What about the possibility of Donal Vaughan man-marking Sean Cavanagh? “I’m not too sure if it will be Vaughan but I don’t think he will mark Aidan O’Shea, because I don’t think he has the ability to track Sean Cavanagh on the ground.

“Aerial-wise, Cavanagh might not be able to compete with O’Shea. I think Joe McMahon could play midfield and mark O’Shea. For Cavanagh, we’ll have to see what James Horan will do but I think he’ll put and out-and-out defender on him.

“We saw him bring Keith Higgins out of the backs into the forwards the last day – you just wouldn’t know, he might be the man to mark him.

“Tyrone will try to keep this game as tight as possible and it won’t be easy but I expect Mayo to come through. They just have too much quality.”

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