A missed opportunity
Wides cost Mayo dearly as unbeaten run is ended
THE consequences of Mayo’s first defeat of the season will become clearer in time. It may turn out to be an aberration or it might be a sign of things to come. The important thing is that lessons are learned.
Last Sunday’s narrow defeat to Dublin (the Metropolitans first win at McHale Park since 1992) was as disappointing as it was avoidable. Alas, having approximately 60% of possession and kicking 18 wides is not a recipe for success.
In mitigation, the loss of Peadar Gardiner (broken bone in his arm) and Ronan McGarrity (tight hamstring) during the first half didn’t help Mayo’s cause, but neither did their inability to find a way through Dublin’s blanket defence and some very poor shot-selection.
A miserly total of 1-2 from play in seventy minutes underlines Mayo’s attacking malaise. Only three forwards scored from play, and neither the midfielders, raiding half-backs, or the substitutes managed to hit the target either.
Too much of Mayo’s attacking game-plan seemed ‘off the cuff’ and far too many of their players tried to barge their way through a physically-imposing Dublin rearguard that contained up to a dozen players on most occasions.
And yet, Mayo could have snatched a dramatic victory in injury-time had Andy Moran’s drop-kicked free not been deflected over the bar by a Dublin hand. However, maybe that outcome would have papered over the cracks.
To his credit, Dublin manager Pat Gilroy wasn’t getting carried away afterwards but his decision to bring in the cavalry (Bernard Brogan, Darren Magee and Conal Keaney) during the second half proved decisive in a dour, low-scoring, war of attrition.
Dublin led by 0-5 to 0-4 after a poor, ragged, shapeless, first half ended. Kevin McManamon took a couple of scores off Keith Higgins with Kevin Bonner, Eamonn Fennell and the influential Paul Flynn also on the mark.
In contrast, Mayo scored once from play (Seamus O’Shea landing a fine point inside the first minute) but they seemed genuinely uncertain about how to bypass Dublin’s well-organised mass defence. Unfortunately, Alan Freeman, Enda Varley and Aidan O’Shea also had problems with their free-taking in that first half and the wides racked up.
However, a few frees from Varley (2) and Freeman were Mayo’s only tangible reward for their territorial dominance (they also endured 27 minutes without a score) as Dublin kept them at bay despite being pinned back inside their own half for long spells.
The second half was eleven minutes old when Mayo finally unlocked the visitor’s defence as a Tom Parsons ‘mark’ allowed Keith Higgins to deliver a telling pass.
The homeside’s most menacing forward, Enda Varley, took care of the rest, racing through before cracking a ferocious shot past Stephen Cluxton. Mayo led by 1-5 to 0-5 but, instead of pushing on, they allowed Dublin to get a run on them.
A point from man of the match Ross McConnell was followed by a well-taken goal by impact sub Bernard Brogan as Dublin went back in front. The arrival of Conal Keaney saw the screw turned as three points in four minutes from McConnell, Michael McAuley and Keaney opened up some daylight.
Although they didn’t score in the last ten minutes, Dublin kept an enthusiastic, but disjointed, Mayo at bay and some late missed chances proved costly.
Conor Mortimer was pitched in for his first appearance since last August’s All-Ireland quarter-final and fluffed a good scoring opportunity from a free while the timing of Aidan O’Shea’s departure (and Mikie Sweeney’s arrival) seemed strange as Mayo chased a late goal.
Next Saturday night’s away match against Derry now takes on extra significance as we wait to see how Mayo respond to this setback. This month was always going to define their league campaign but this defeat has shed a slightly different light on things.
D Clarke; D Vaughan, G Cafferkey, K Higgins; P Gardiner, T Howley, K McLoughlin; T Parsons, R McGarrity; A Moran (0-2, 1f), S O'Shea (0-1), T Mortimer; E Varley (1-3, 3fs), A O'Shea, A Freeman (0-2, 2fs).
Subs used: C Barrett for Gardiner (inj); N Douglas for McGarrity (inj); B Kelly for T Mortimer; C Mortimer for Freeman; M Sweeney for A O’Shea.
S Cluxton; P Conlon, M Fitzsimons, P McMahon; P Griffin, C O'Sullivan, G Brennan; E Fennell (0-1), R McConnell (0-2); A Hubbard, P Flynn (0-1), K Bonner (0-1); D Henry, M MacAuley (0-1), K McManamon (0-2).
Subs used: K Nolan for Conlon (inj); B Brogan (1-0) for McManamon; D Magee for Fennell; C Keaney (0-1) for D Henry; B McManamon for Hubbard.
Referee P Fox (Westmeath)
More on the match
Mayo need to get smarter, says Andy Moran
A Mayo man’s day with the Dubs
Dublin force Mayo backwards, and Seán Rice picks his best goalkeeper
AUDIO Moran admits Mayo must learn to think on their feet