HIDE AND SEEK?Mayo’s Jason Doherty has his vision obscured by Derry captain Charlie Kielt during Sunday’s National Football League match in Castlebar.?Pic: Sportsfile
Room to improve
ONE of the hallmarks of this particular group of Mayo footballers is that they’re straight talkers.
They set high standards for themselves and they work damn hard to try and achieve them. So when they don’t perform to the best of their ability, they have no problem admitting it.
A win was the least that Mayo wanted last Sunday.
Facing off against a Derry ‘B’ team meant that a good, consistent performance was of paramount importance too.
However, for some reason it just didn’t happen and the frustration among the Mayo players and James Horan was palpable afterwards.
“It was a win anyway but I wouldn’t be too happy with the performance,” mused Donie Vaughan as he spoke to reporters.
“We were very poor today,” added Horan. “It wasn’t a vintage performance,” offered Alan Freeman. “We’ve got plenty of stuff to work on this week.”
“Any game you go out you’re trying to focus on yourself,” continued Vaughan who was already looking ahead to the rematch.
“They made fourteen changes, they were in the semi-finals already, but next week is a new game.
“We’ll be looking for a much better performance. If we play next Sunday like we did out there today we’ll be beaten.
“It’s as simple as that.”
There is no doubt that next weekend’s semi-final against a full-strength Derry outfit will be a very different ball game.
The fact that the match is being played at Croke Park, a stadium and a field that has become like a home away from home for this Mayo team over the last three seasons should stand them in good stead.
Although one national journalist did suggest that it hadn’t been a ‘happy hunting ground’ for Mayo in recent times.
“I couldn’t agree with you there,” countered Vaughan. ‘Maybe when it comes to the final hurdle. . . But we’ve had some massive results in Croke Park over the last few years. “The pitch plays completely differently to any other pitch. It’s a far faster game up there. I think Croke Park suits our team.”
IT’S a theory that James Horan also subscribes to, that Croke Park brings out the best in his athletic, hard-running side.
However, Mayo need to play at a very high tempo in order to get their game going and the manager conceded that this was a big issue for them last Sunday.
“We dropped our tempo, that’s always something you’re fighting against when you’re in a big lead or the game seems to be comfortable for you,” he reflected.
“We dropped that around the middle of the field and in terms of breaking ball. Derry were dominant for ten or fifteen minutes.
“They came close to us so we had to push ourselves again, and thankfully we did. But you’re always trying to push your standards and play to the highest level you can.”
Donie Vaughan echoed his manager’s sentiments when he was asked if Mayo had sub-consciously eased off during the third quarter after Alan Freeman’s penalty left nine points between the sides.
“Last year when we got ahead we just kept driving on,” said Vaughan. “Sometimes it can be a little bit difficult to do it.
“We set high standards for ourselves so we wouldn’t be happy with the second half.”
Across the corridor, Derry manager Brian McIver was delighted with how his second-string had performed, overall, and was anxious to let it be known that his selection hadn’t been influenced by a possible semi-final meeting with Mayo.
“That’s wasn’t something that we considered. If you don’t give lads an opportunity how do you know how they’re going to perform? Who we’d be playing at a later stage never came into the equation.
“The target is to get ready for next Sunday and we’ll give it a good shot.”
Hopefully Mayo will make the most of their second chance.