Croke Park, here we come
MAYO manager Mickey Moran could not hide his satisfaction last night as he contemplated taking his team to Croke Park on Sunday, August 13 for the Bank of Ireland SFC quarter-final against either Laois or Offaly.
Speaking to The Mayo News from his home in Derry – where he had just finished a training session with his own club team – the Mayo manager said he was “delighted” with Monday’s decision to allow all four quarter-finals to go ahead at HQ.
“It’s a fabulous stadium and when you train so hard, and you have good victories, it’s the place you want to be,” he explained. “There’s no hiding place there. It’s where you find out whether you’re good enough or not.
“We weren’t asking for anything different from anyone else and it would have been an awful downer for us, Laois or Offaly if we had to go down the country and everyone else ended up in Croke Park,“ he added. “That would mean, for us, that if we won our quarter-final then our first match of the year in Croke Park would be an All-Ireland semi-final.
“Having been there before with Derry and Donegal I know that the dimensions of Croke Park are so different to other grounds. The lines, the distances, everything is different. And while people might say Mayo have played there before, this team, as a group, haven’t played there before.”
The Chairman of the Mayo GAA Board, James Waldron also told The Mayo News that he was “delighted” with the news and “confident” that it would not be the last time that the county’s senior footballers would play there this summer.
“If the game had not been played there we would have been at a serious disadvantage ahead of an All-Ireland semi-final. And I’m confident that we will be back there for a semi-final match.”
Mayo’s quarter-final will be part of a triple header on August 13 at Croke Park, sandwiched between the All-Ireland Minor and Senior hurling semi-finals, with Kilkenny taking on Clare in the last four of the SHC on the same day.
The squad trained just once collectively last week but are back on the training ground tonight (Tuesday) and Thursday this week before playing club games next weekend. Mickey Moran was delighted with the mood among the players when they met last week at Breaffy House.
“They’re a very level-headed group,” he said. “If you’d been in the changing rooms after the Galway game you wouldn’t even have thought they’d won a Connacht title. They were happy, content, but there was no roaring or shouting. They came back then on Tuesday and were well-prepared. We had an indoor session because it was so warm outside, worked up a sweat, went into the pool, and went for a bite to eat.
“They’re the type of lads that know we have to focus. I can stand back in amazement and praise their approach and I’m really looking forward to training this week. Once the final whistle sounded in the Connacht Final we were looking ahead to the next game. I was delighted for the supporters and the players but everything else was an anti-climax. The next match was in my head straight away.”
The Mayo boss admitted that he has watched the Connacht Final again during the last ten days, and also conceded that he learned a few things about his players during the course of an absorbing encounter which went right down to the wire.
“The only question the players had to answer in the Galway game was whether they had the grit, the bottle, the guts to want it, to win it. You can’t train that. You can prepare a team and train with an intensity but only the players can give that will-to-win, that never-say-die spirit. They showed they had that against Galway.
“But you wouldn’t want it that close every day,” he chuckled. “Okay, we kicked a lot of wides and it was very frustrating. I felt for the lads. But the one thing we went out to do was win possession. And even though we were missing, we were winning ball. We got into good positions and maybe a bit of tension came into play. We could go out the next day and kick ten points in a row.”
ON the injury front, Louisburgh’s Austin O’Malley did not start for his club against Kiltane due to a persistent ankle injury last weekend. He was introduced during the course of the game but was subsequently withdrawn again 20 minutes later because of a recurrence of the problem.