Aidan O’Shea spent Sunday’s All-Ireland SFC semi-final at fullback where he was tasked with dealing with the threat of Kieran Donaghy.
It must be said O’Shea did well to nullify the high ball into Donaghy but the Tralee man was able to adapt and had an outstanding game on the ground. Joe Brolly described Donaghy’s performance as ‘magnificent’ on RTE, and highlighted his role in both goals.
'Magnificent' Donaghy saved Kerry today, according to Joe Brolly #RTEgaa #KerryvMayo pic.twitter.com/BbqQuJVqJS
— The Sunday Game (@TheSundayGame) August 20, 2017
If Rochford failed to address the overwhelming presence of Donaghy and didn’t seem to have any specific plan in place then he probably would have been criticized for that too but throwing a player into a new position because he’s physically big was not the answer.
Donaghy to O'Brien…GOAL! Watch this piece of @Kerry_Official class from Stephen O'Brien #KERvMAY pic.twitter.com/6cDjpRjR9a
— The GAA (@officialgaa) August 20, 2017
The fact that O’Shea was deployed at full back probably gave Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s charges a mental edge going into the game as well, knowing that Mayo were willing to disrupt their own attacking play and structure for the sake of man marking one player.
Gragham Geraghty echos this sentiment in his piece for the Irish Sun, and also suggests that Donal Vaughan would have done a better job on marking Kerry’s big target man.
“I thought it was very unfair on Aidan to ask him to play there.
Mayo manager Stephen Rochford was trying to nullify Kieran Donaghy — but he nullified one of his own best players in the process.
It came as a big shock, and even more so that Aidan stayed there for the full match. It didn’t really work and Rochford should have reacted and changed it as early as possible.
Full-back is a specialised position and there were times in the first half when Donaghy was gone five yards with the ball before Aidan even reacted. That wouldn’t have happened if Donal Vaughan was in there.”
Kerry did look there for the taking early on and were at sixes and sevens defensively. However, Mayo would have had a better chance to put considerable distance between themselves and Kerry, had Aidan O’Shea been in a more advanced and natural role.
It will be interesting to see if Rochford will change things up in the replay but the fact that he did not make the change at some point in Sunday’s game shows that he is possibly willing to live or die by his decision and we may see O’Shea at fullback again on Saturday.