Billy Joe Padden
OVER a week on from Mayo’s defeat to Galway and the disappointment and frustration shows little sign of easing any time soon. Between the red card, Tom Parsons’ injury, and the result itself this one really hurt.
The general consensus around the country, and certainly around Meath and Armagh where I spend most of my days, is that this Mayo team is nearly at the end of the road.
I think one of the reasons that so many people are coming to that conclusion is because we didn’t learn anything new about Mayo against Galway.
Kevin Walsh has either figured them out or his game-plan is just pure kryptonite for them.
At this stage teams know that if you defend well enough against Mayo, frustrate them, and take your chances, then you’ll beat them. Galway and Dublin have certainly shown that they can do that, again and again.
This summer I think Galway will go further in the championship than Mayo. But at the same time I don’t think they’re capable of reaching the level yet that Mayo got to in last year’s All-Ireland Final.
Yes, Galway have improved from last year, yes, they’ve beaten Mayo again, but what else can they do? That’s the big question they have to answer now.
Mayo can’t go into the Qualifiers this time as stale as they were last year.
They’re going to live and die by their defence — which is still really good. But they have to improve their forward play, and that’s where the likes of Cian Hanley and James Durcan come in. I think Stephen Rochford will have to roll the dice with those lads now.
In the meantime, all we can do is wait for next Monday morning’s draw for Round One of the All-Ireland Qualifiers.
Here we go again!
3 talking points from last Sunday’s game
1 THE RED CARD
THE issue of Mayo’s discipline has cropped up in a lot of conversations since the game, and with good reason.
This Mayo team were very physical under James Horan, they were never pushed around, but they didn’t go over the edge too often either.
In three big games in the last 12 months, Mayo players have crossed that line between controlled aggression and costly indiscipline.
That’s what I would call a trend.
Having played in plenty of championship matches like last Sunday’s, here’s what I imagine happened when Diarmuid O’Connor got possession in the 29th minute.
He’d been fouled, the referee was playing an advantage, so Diarmuid would have felt that he wasn’t going to give a free away. It was ‘a free shot’ almost as Paul Conroy moved in to tackle him.
The same Paul Conroy who was in the midst of a lot of the nonsense that went on in Salthill in the league against Mayo. The same Paul Conroy who dragged Aidan O’Shea along the ground, ridiculously, in that league game.
In that split-second in Castlebar, all of that probably flashed through O’Connor’s mind as Conroy came in hard from his right. This was a chance to put down a marker with one of Galway’s team leaders.
But once Conroy hesitated, and O’Connor decided to go in with a high arm to defend himself from the hit that he thought was coming, it was always going to end badly for both of them.
Diarmuid landed a high, dangerous elbow on Conroy, leaving him with a busted mouth and ending his afternoon.
O’Connor was rightly shown a red card.
I have serious respect for Diarmuid O’Connor as a footballer, as an intelligent footballer. He has shown in the past that he’s cool and calm in pressurised situations, and he has delivered some fantastic performances for Mayo.
The one thing he needs to do now is to focus on playing football, put all of his energy into his performances, and come back after his suspension to score goals and points like we know he can.
In my opinion, of all the incidents that happened in the game, the sending-off was what hurt Mayo most.
Tom Parsons’ injury had an emotional and footballing impact on the team, and there were mistakes made on the line, but going down to 14 men was the game-changer.
2 MAYO’S TACTICS
I HAD absolutely no issue with how Mayo set up and played for the first 29 minutes of the match. Or how they dealt with the last 10 minutes of that first half either after going down to 14 men.
I know a lot of people, me included, were very frustrated with the scoring chances that Mayo missed in the first ten minutes.
But I believe that if they had 15 players for the whole game, and continued to dominate possession and create chances, I think Mayo would have won.
You also have to accept though that Galway’s forwards showed a higher skill level than Mayo’s, and kicked better scores throughout.
I hear some people now saying, ‘Why didn’t we play a more expansive game and kick the ball into the forwards more?’ That doesn’t stack up for me, especially in relation to the first half. Playing against the breeze, into double sweepers, with one natural inside forward playing close to goal, it would have been crazy to lamp ball in.
Mayo didn’t have the elements or the players to do that, and you can’t just give the ball away to a team like Galway.
But there’s no doubt that late on in the second half, it could have been a consideration, especially after Johnny Heaney scored the Galway goal.
Aidan O’Shea was surely worth a few minutes in on the edge of the square at the death, or Barry Moran could have been a target in there for the last ten minutes.
But for some reason it just didn’t happen.
3 MAYO’S CHANGES
THERE were 13 minutes between Mayo’s first substitution and their second one against Galway.
Cillian O’Connor came on for Tom Parsons in the 47th minute and David Drake replaced Conor Loftus in the 60th minute.
In my opinion, that was far too long without a change for a team that had been playing with 14 men since the 29th minute.
Plus, for every second that Mayo were without Parsons they were losing energy out of Seamie O’Shea. It was absolutely crucial that legs came in around the middle as soon as possible after Parsons went off.
Cillian O’Connor had to come on when he did, I have no issue with that, but he wasn’t the player who was going to take over Tom Parsons’ job. For me that man was Donie Vaughan, who should have been in much earlier than the 72nd minute.
I know a lot of Mayo supporters are wondering what the logic was behind David Drake being brought on for Loftus.
My take on it is that Stephen Rochford believed that Drake was going to give you legs and energy around the middle.
I actually think that change was made 13 minutes too late because Mayo needed somebody like Vaughan to come in soon after Tom Parsons got hurt.
For me, Drake is a continuity footballer who keeps the ball moving, passes it sideways, gives and goes. He’s not somebody who takes a risk or is a playmaker.
Sometimes in those tight games you need somebody to ‘make a play for you’ and make something happen. David hasn’t shown for Mayo that he’s that type of player.
Mayo made three substitutions in the last 11 minutes of the game. When you’re down to 14 men for the last 52 minutes, and three guys come in that late, then their impact is going to be very limited.