TAKING AIM?Mayo’s Cillian O’Connor tries to get away from Roscommon’s Neil Collins during Sunday’s Connacht SFC semi-final.?Pic: Sportsfile
“We knew that was going to be a battle”
Cillian O’Connor and Kevin McLoughlin both kept their composure
FOR weeks and months the Mayo squad had been steeling themselves for a battle last Sunday. Preparing for war.
That’s why so many players roared and fist-pumped furiously when the final whistle sounded at Hyde Park.
This was more than just a passage to a fourth successive provincial final. This was about grinding out a result.
Mayo came through their first serious test in the Connacht Championship for almost two years last weekend.
They knew Roscommon would hit them with everything they had, especially after last year’s whipping in Castlebar, and they knew they had to be ready for it.
Their satisfaction was palpable afterwards.
“I’d say a lot of spectators were on edge there for the last ten [minutes] but, to tell you the truth, we knew that was going to be a dogfight, we knew that was going to be a battle,” explained Cillian O’Connor afterwards.
“And then, just to confirm it, there was that thunderstorm before the throw-in. That was exactly what we expected. To come out on the right side of it is a great feeling.
“To show the grit and character that maybe was questioned before is good.”
The Mayo stats team will already have cut up the clips from Sunday’s game and crunched the relevant numbers in terms of turnovers, scoring chances, possessions, etc.
James Horan will have pored over them in detail and will know that there is plenty of room for improvement ahead of the Connacht Final on July 13.
The first half, in particular, saw Mayo’s forwards struggle to win possession cleanly, and two points from play (four in total) told its own story.
“Roscommon were pressing hard, it was hard to hold on to the ball because the tackles were coming so fast, and the referee was letting a lot go. That probably didn’t suit us,” mused Kevin McLoughlin. “But we got enough scores to get over the line.”
O’Connor, who shot five points from frees and was chosen as RTE’s man of the match, was keen to focus on the positives from an attacking perspective.
“We knew we were creating chances and 13 wides, on top of what we scored, shows we’re creating a lot of chances.
It’s great to have some things to work on, and shooting is one them.”
Mayo’s resident sports psychologist, Kieran Shannon, was part of the backroom team on duty in Roscommon on Sunday and he will have been pleased with how the players triumphed over adversity.
Cillian O’Connor gave an insight into Mayo’s mentality afterwards when asked what he was thinking when Ciaran Cafferkey scored Roscommon’s goal on 43 minutes.
“My first thought was the next ball, I had to get in position for the kick-out to be honest. I couldn’t dwell on it, couldn’t worry about it.
“I knew we’d do our stuff if we got the ball in quickly, we’d get the scores.”
Kevin McLoughlin continued the theme when asked about the half-time message from Mayo’s management.
“Just keep calm. They probably frustrated us a small bit in the first half so we just had to keep calm, hold on to the ball, and the opportunities would come. And they did.”