Billy Joe Padden
‘FRUSTRATED’ is the first word that springs to mind after Mayo’s latest defeat to Galway.
Frustrated with Mayo’s performance, frustrated with the result, and frustrated with the way the team was set up to try and break down Galway’s mass defence.
Thankfully, there are three months until the teams meet again in the Connacht Championship, by which time Mayo’s heavy-hitters will be back in action.
Sunday proved beyond all reasonable doubt that Mayo are distinctly average without Higgins, Keegan, Barrett, Parsons and the other absentees.
This was another bad day for Stephen Rochford, his management team, and the players against our neighbours.
They didn’t seem ready for what Galway threw at them.
The players didn’t seem able to switch from one game-plan to another, to play what was in front of them, and management have to take their share of the blame for that.
I was annoyed watching Mayo chasing the game after conceding a bad goal, and I was annoyed watching Galway pushing Mayo around again.
Mayo let Galway set the rules of engagement, again.
Despite having so much of the ball, Mayo never looked like winning the game.
One of the big areas to focus on in the build-up should have been on every single set-piece, every kick-out, every free.
Mayo did well on Galway’s kick-out, by and large, but it was their own kick-out strategy that absolutely killed them.
Sunday’s game reminded me so much of the 2015 National League game against Tyrone in Castlebar.
That was the day that Tyrone had everyone behind the ball, and Mayo kept hitting short kick-outs, and soloing the ball up the field without ever looking like they knew how to create a scoring chance.
All I could think watching Sunday’s game was: ‘Have we learnt nothing at all?’
Mayo should have been expecting Galway to set up that way.
But nearly every Mayo kick-out went short, despite the fact that they were pulverizing Galway on their own kick-out for long spells. Aidan O’Shea was Mayo’s best player by a country mile, yet David Clarke went left and right, short, every time.
It was the wrong tactic, but was compounded by the fact that players who weren’t comfortable on the ball ended up trying to bring it upfield.
By continuing to go short while chasing Galway’s lead made the strategy even more high-risk for Mayo, because it was playing into Galway’s hands for a counter-attack.
They were sitting back, waiting to break, and Mayo made it easy for them.
From an attacking point of view in that first half, watching Mayo trying to kick the ball into a blanket defence when patience was required was so frustrating.
Cillian O’Connor needed to be brought out to the ’45, get Aidan O’Shea into that area too, and try to work some combinations, some one-twos, to try and open Galway up. Take a chance while running the ball.
O’Shea did that a few times in the first half, and Diarmuid O’Connor did too. But Mayo needed players to work in twos and threes, taking chances, especially when they were behind.
But kicking the ball into the Galway sweeper was not the way to go because, before Mayo know it, the ball is intercepted and Galway were gone twenty yards up the field.
The build-up to the Galway goal won’t make for pretty viewing for Mayo this week either.
Jason Gibbons just wasn’t strong enough in the air when he spilled the ball initially in the middle of the field, and Ger Cafferkey completely sold himself when he went for the ball with Barry McHugh. It was a goal that could have been prevented but, like a lot of things on Sunday, was down to basic errors in a team where too many players were off the pace.
Mayo will get better over the next few months as their conditioning improves, and the missing regulars are eased back into the team.
But this was a wake-up call.
Time-out may do O’Connor no harm
NOBODY will need to tell Cillian O’Connor that he’s still a long way off his best form just now.
He never looked like himself last Sunday, snatched at a few shots, hit some poor wides, and was deservedly sent off for hitting Eoghan Kerin. The red mist came down and a red card was always going to be the outcome.
Mayo will miss him against Dublin, but maybe it’s a good thing that he won’t be playing in that game because he would have got more of the same that evening.
From Philly McMahon or Jonny Cooper or somebody.
No, what Cillian needs to do now is to get his head straight, reconfigure his game, and get some help from the coaches to do that.
When he comes back I think he needs to spend some time out the field and get his hands on the ball, because he’s just not dealing very well with the physical abuse that you get in the full-forwardline at the moment.
I felt that the only Mayo player who looked to have the right mentality, and the right approach to what was unfolding around him, was Aidan O’Shea.
He had a key contribution to each of Mayo’s five points in the first half.
The first 20 minutes for Mayo were better than anything that happened after that.
It’s no coincidence to me that that period coincided with when O’Shea was stationed around the middle of the field.
So it made no sense to me that he was then moved in to play as a targetman against an ultra-defensive team like Galway.
That tactic is practically impossible to execute against the blanket defence.
A number of Mayo players were given opportunities in the first three games, and we wondered if they’d be able to step up and contribute.
I think you’d have to say that there are auditions being failed all around the field, and time is running out for some of them to come good.
The litmus test will be against Dublin.