FALLING DOWN Mayo’s Colm Boyle goes to ground under pressure from Galway’s Shane Walsh during last Sunday’s National League clash in Salthill. Pic: Ray Ryan
MAYO football fans better hope ‘it’s only the league’.
Successive defeats to Kerry and Galway were not just notable for the results but the poor performances that went with them.
In those two games, Mayo have only scored 1-6 from play. In the victory over Monaghan, Mayo still only managed two points from play from their forwards.
Worse still, the only Mayo attacker to score from play in the last two games has been Diarmuid O’Connor.
But it might not be that curious stat that he will be remembered for from Sunday, after he joined his older brother Cillian in being sent off late on in Salthill.
Galway’s Paul Conroy had already had been dismissed by referee Anthony Nolan as the game finished in acrimony and farce.
The two teams clearly do not like each other, but it’s true more of Galway than Mayo. Six points up late on, Galway ended the game by laying down as many physical markers as possible.
Cillian O’Connor and Aidan O’Shea were targets for a lot of Galway hostility. O’Connor’s red card for a forearm to the face of Eoghan Kerin was entirely justified and headless, but it was easy to see just how he was losing his cool.
What impact Sunday has on Mayo remains to be seen, but they certainly need to summon the same passion and edge that their opponents had for them.
It won’t be just as simple as that either. Mayo were very laboured in their approach.
With Galway often getting all bar one of their players inside their own half, Mayo’s slow build-up play saw them play right into Galway’s hands.
Galway duly counter-attacked with verve, with oceans of space for their speedsters to break forward against a Mayo team who had too many players who did not want to find themselves in one-on-one races.
The goal Mayo conceded in the first half was preventable. It started with Jason Gibbons and Colm Boyle colliding going for a kick-out. Paul Conroy secured possession and his direct ball inside was poorly defended by Ger Cafferkey.
He was spun far too easily by Barry McHugh and slipped while McHugh raced in on goal and fired a brilliant shot past David Clarke.
Galway frequently had 14 men in their own half and were happy to play on the counter attack. The fact that Mayo had 120 handpasses in the first half compared to Galway’s 35 tells you a lot.
Galway led from once Damien Comer kicked over the game’s first two points and staying in front helped their counter-attack strategy immensely.
Always chasing the game, Mayo were slow and ponderous in possession, struggling to break Galway down while the Tribesmen broke at speed when they had the ball.
Mayo dominated kick-outs in the first half, winning 76 percent of all restarts, but they did not translate this great platform into enough scores on the board, devoid of ideas in attack and missing the thrust from deep many of their missing defenders provide.
Still, playing into the wind, Cillian O’Connor’s free in injury time left the gap at two points at half-time, 1-4 to 0-5. That was as good as it got though as Galway picked Mayo apart with consummate ease in the second period.
It might be a different story in May with Mayo at full strength. It will need to be.
R Lavelle; E Kerin, S A Ó Ceallaigh, D Kyne; C Sweeney, G Bradshaw, S Kelly; P Conroy (0-2), P Cooke; J Heaney (0-1), S Walsh (0-2, 1f), E Brannigan (0-3); B McHugh (1-3, 2fs), D Comer (0-2), P Sweeney.
Subs used: S Armstrong for P Sweeney (h/t); T Flynn for Cooke (60mins); A Varley for McHugh (72mins); G O’Donnell for Kelly (77mins); C D’Arcy for Comer, J Duane for Bradshaw (both 78mins).
D Clarke; G Cafferkey, C Crowe, E O’Donoghue (0-1); C Boyle (0-1), P Durcan (0-1), M Hall; J Gibbons, S Coen; J Doherty (0-1, f), A O’Shea, D O’Connor (0-1); C Loftus, C O’Connor (0-5, fs), K McLoughlin (0-1, f).
Subs used: G McDonagh and D Newcombe for Crowe and Cafferkey (temp 39mins); Crowe and Cafferkey for McDonagh and Newcombe (temp reversal 52mins); A Gallagher for Loftus (57mins); F Boland for McLoughlin (59mins); G McDonagh for Gibbons (60mins); J Stretton for Boyle (73mins); S Nally for Durcan (79mins).
Referee: A Nolan (Wicklow)