BIG UNIT Dublin’s Conor McHugh punches the ball over David Clarke to score a point during the team's National League clash last month. Pic: Sportsfile
THE statistics speak for themselves: seven games played, three clean sheets kept, four goals conceded.
It’s easy to see why there is such a consensus that David Clarke was Mayo’s standout player of the National League.
The Sligo-based Garda was the only Mayo representative to make the Irish Independent’s ‘Team of the League’ last week, and he was also voted Mayo’s ‘Player of the League’ by fans on the Mayo GAA Blog.
A string of commanding displays, which featured a mixture of spectacular saves, solid stops, and general overall efficiency meant his reputation was enhanced after almost every match.
The only day the All Star ’keeper really struggled was when Dublin pressed up on his kick-outs in Croke Park and exposed a few chinks in his restart game.
And that would seem to be his ‘kryptonite’, his ability to vary and distribute his kick-outs when the opposition put the squeeze on quickly and aggressively.
However, there is no doubt now about who Stephen Rochford sees as his first-choice goalkeeper.
Clarke started all of Mayo’s league games with neither Rob Hennelly nor Rory Byrne (who was released from the panel recently) getting any minutes.
Assuming he’s fit, Clarke will start this summer in the number one jersey, twelve years after making his championship debut against Roscommon.
BASED on the evidence of the National League, we think it’s safe to assume that Kirby has started to win Stephen Rochford over.
The big Mitchels man started four of the six games that he was available for, and came on in the other two.
So with the exception of his unfortunate suspension for the Dublin defeat, Kirby can reflect on the most satisfactory league campaign of his fledgling inter-county career.
The fact that both O’Shea brothers were sidelined with injuries for practically the entire spring certainly opened the window of opportunity for Kirby.
But, credit where it’s due, he grabbed the chance with both hands by showing the right attitude and application when the going got tough in places like Castlebar, Tralee and Omagh.
He also kicked five eye-catching points and is now very much in the frame to make his championship debut.
AFTER four successive and impressive cameos off the bench in the early rounds of the National League, the Garrymore Garda ended the competition as a regular in the first XV.
Nally’s ability to convert from a compact and competent wing-back into a counter-attacking wing-forward who could link play and kick a score could well change the course of his Mayo career.
Against Tyrone and Donegal, the stylish left-footer slotted into Stephen Rochford’s system seamlessly and showed that there is much more to his game than just being cover for the half-back line.
Nally also swung over a superb point from play in each of Mayo’s last three games and has given management plenty to think about ahead of Sunday, May 21.