David pleased to have slain Goliath
THE twenty yard walk from the door of the dressing room complex at McHale Park to the waiting Mayo bus would ordinarily take less than ten seconds.On Sunday it took Mayo captain David Heaney over ten minutes to navigate the small stretch of gravel. Carrying the JJ Nestor Cup, and with his Swinford team mate Damien Geraghty carrying his gear bag, Heaney was met by a wall of supporters. Shirts were signed with ease, he stood for countless pictures and for supporters who wanted more mementos he dug deep into his bag and emptied it of any Mayo socks he had. It would test some people’s patience but not David Heaney. He had time and a word for everyone; it was hard not to be in good form after leading your county to their 41st Connacht title.“I’ll have to get rid of the cup,” he laughs. “It’s brilliant. It’s always nice to win. We hadn’t performed well so far in the championship. The performance is the main thing, even if we hadn’t maybe won and still played well it would have been satisfying. It’s brilliant altogether to play well and win the cup.”
Mayo walked down the tunnel before this game like men on a mission. They didn’t run but you could see in their eyes that the focus was there. The first half performance, shooting apart, backed this up.
“We possibly should have been three or four points up at half-time,” he admits. “We knew we had them on the rack but we just didn’t put the scores away. We knew that if we kept playing as well as we had that the scores would come.
“At half-time the management were delighted. They just said, ‘Ye’ve done what we’ve asked so far. You’re playing well, showing a bit of heart and battling. If you keep doing that for the second half the scores will come’. That’s exactly what happened.”
Defensively Mayo operated a man marking system which led to Heaney picking up Padraig Joyce, primarily at centre-half forward. The man marking tactic was something he was extremely happy with.
“I’ve always been on Padraig Joyce and Dermot Geraghty has always been on Michael Meehan. What happened in the league confused us a bit because they were changing and swopping all the time. Today we decided that we would stick with the man no matter. All our six backs are fairly versatile and we knew we would do a job wherever.”
And then there was the winner. Heaney recalled Conor Mortimer’s high profile miss against Galway four years ago and how, regardless, he coped with the pressure of this moment.
“It was a great kick. He got a lot of stick there four years ago when he missed a crucial free against Galway, an easier kick some might say. I was delighted for him that he put it over. He showed the cool head he has and how much he has improved in the past couple of years, that he can take that pressure and deliver.
A quarter-final awaits against Laois or Offaly. Where can we expect this Mayo team to go? “Who knows?” is Heaney’s answer.
“We have to get more consistent in our play. That’s probably a problem we’ve had over the past few years where we’d have a good performance and fail to maintain it. I think we’re getting there slowly but surely. In 2004 we probably peaked too soon. We beat Galway well, beat Tyrone and then we just faded. This time we’re starting slowly and building and building.
“We listed a few stepping stones for the year. The first was obviously to maintain Division 1 status for the league and we did that. The next step was a Connacht title and the next one was all the way so we’ve two out of three so far.”
For now though a more primal goal - get to the bus ASAP.