FOOTBALL FBD CONNACHT LEAGUE
Horan reflects on game of two halves
THOSE Mayo supporters who describe themselves as ‘long-suffering’ should spare a thought for their Leitrim counterparts this week after a demoralising defeat for the locals in the picturesque setting of Sean O’Heslin Park in Ballinamore on Sunday.
While Mayo strode off into the sunset to prepare for an FBD League final meeting with NUI, Galway, and the fascinating prospect of a televised NFL joust with Down next Saturday, Leitrim were left to sift through the wreckage of this display ahead of the visit of Clare next weekend.
In truth, this game was over as a contest by half-time as an experimental Mayo XV led by 0-8 to 0-1. They then defended their cushion doggedly during the third quarter before slowly putting Leitrim out of their misery in the closing stages.
“I think we knocked the spirit out of Leitrim early on,” observed James Horan afterwards.
“Our work-rate in the first half, our pressure on the ball-carrier, our movement when we did get the ball, was very good, and close to where it needs to be.
“In the second half, we got a bit complacent. The half-time scoreline sank into some player’s heads, and we just dropped our work-rate and our movement. That allowed Leitrim to get back into it so that’s one area we definitely need to work on; to keep that consistently throughout the game.”
Despite the early stage of the season, and the folly of reading anything into the actual result, you couldn’t help but feel that these two groups of players are heading in very different directions this season.
James Horan is building a Mayo panel to compete with the best teams in the country, and has now looked at 35 players over the last three weeks, with the likes of Aidan O’Shea, Donal Vaughan, Tom Parsons and the Mortimer brothers still to return.
Meanwhile, Mickey Moran is attempting to patch together a squad that can keep Leitrim’s head above water in the basement division of the National League and be competitive in the championship. However, he is without half-a-dozen of his most experienced campaigners due to work commitments and, on this evidence, their possible replacements have a long way to go.
To put Mayo’s facile victory into context, Leitrim failed to score from the fifth minute of the first half until the 29th minute of the second. Enough said.
Unfortunately for the local full-back line, Mark Ronaldson was let off the leash by Mayo’s management team when Brian Benson picked up a hand injury during the warm-up.
The Shrule/Glencorrib marksman picked up where he’d left off against Roscommon by drilling six points in the opening half, two from frees, and four sweet scores from play.
The rangy Alan Freeman, busy Aidan Campbell, and impressive Jason Gibbons supplied most of the ammunition to Ronaldson, while one sublime defence-splitting pass from James Burke drew gasps from the small band of loyal Mayo supporters.
A couple of confidently-struck points from Campbell completed Mayo’s first half tally, while their rookie full-back line recovered from a shaky start to hold Leitrim to a solitary score from Brian McDonald.
The third quarter was a non-event; Andy Moran’s 38th minute point and some smart play from Chris Barrett and Ger Cafferkey in the half-back line helping to pass the time as Leitrim huffed and puffed.
James Horan tossed in some substitutes in an effort to shake things up but nobody seemed to be biting, and some of the crowd of approximately 1,000 people had left when the only goal of the game arrived on 53 minutes.
Aidan Kilcoyne is unlikely to score a ‘softer’ one as he deflected Mark Ronaldson’s goalbound shot into the empty Leitrim net after Alan Freeman had unselfishly provided the decisive pass.
A free from Leitrim’s Colm Maguire was sandwiched in between some Mayo target-practice from Andy Moran and Mark Ronaldson (free) as the game petered to an inevitable conclusion.
“We could have done with the game being a bit tighter,” reflected James Horan afterwards.
We couldn’t agree more,
Things should be an awful lot different when John Maughan and Tomás Tierney bring NUI, Galway on to McHale Park, Castlebar for the final on Friday, February 11.
K O’Malley; C Hallinan, A Feeney, R Feeney; C Barrett, G Cafferkey, J Burke; J Gibbons, J Moran; A Campbell (0-2), A O’Malley, A Moran (0-2); A Kilcoyne (1-0), A Freeman, M Ronaldson (0-7, 3fs).
Subs used: C Naughton for K O’Malley; K McLoughlin for Burke (inj); T Cunniffe for A Feeney; J McAndrew for A O’Malley; M Nestor for Barrett.
C McCrann; D Beck, R Gallagher, B McWeeney; G Reynolds, J McKeon, B Prior; T Beirne, D Sweeney; P Brennan, C Clarke, W McKeon; B McDonald (0-1), J Glancy (Glencar-Manor), C Kelly.
Subs used: Subs: C Maguire (0-1) for Brennan; C Sheridan for Clarke; C Egan for J McKeon; P McGowan for Sweeney; J Glancy (St Mary’s) for Egan.
Referee: TJ Keaveney (Sligo)
FOOTBALL FBD CONNACHT LEAGUE