Billy Joe Padden
WELL, that was a pleasant surprise.
Mayo weren’t afraid to try things, they were proactive, and that’s what you want to see in a serious football team. So they now go into the Cavan match next Saturday night under no real pressure.
Once I saw the team that James Horan had picked I thought that he was experimenting, and maybe he was.
But maybe he saw the selection as being based on merit.
Because you can only really come into a game and play that well when you’ve been showing it in training.
The first thing that stood out to me was the tempo that Mayo played at. Last Sunday you saw what Horan teams are all about — athletes, young lads, running hard, playing the game at a high tempo.
It was an all-action middle third selection.
Donie Vaughan and Diarmuid O’Connor are such a mobile midfield partnership, and Fionn McDonagh and Ciaran Treacy are both to be congratulated on their excellent first league starts.
I didn’t know what to expect from both of them, to be honest, but I had heard that both of them were good athletes.
It’s still very early days, but they both showed they have a lot to offer.
The tempo that Mayo played at — between the midfielders, the wing-forwards and the likes of Lee Keegan and Paddy Durcan — took Tyrone completely by surprise.
I think that was one of the biggest factors in Mayo getting such a foothold in the game from an early stage.
They were moving the ball so quickly, right from the get-go, and if there was space in front of them, guys like Diarmuid O’Connor and Fionn McDonagh were just striding into it.
They weren’t thinking about going sideways, they just wanted to eat up the ground in front of them.
You can’t talk about how Mayo went about setting the tone and the tempo last Sunday without talking about Keith Higgins. In the first half, he was absolutely outstanding.
The way he read Tyrone deliveries and accelerated on to the ball and away from would-be tacklers, was something else.
I said it last week that James Horan likes his defenders to get forward, and there was no doubt that Keith Higgins was given that licence in Omagh.
The goal he got was all down to his acceleration; it’s really not fair that somebody of Keith’s age (34 at the end of this month!) still has the speed in his legs where he can drive through a gap, glide past a few defenders so close to goal, and then crack the ball into the net.
It’s a huge positive for Mayo that Higgins is still looking so sharp, and that he not only can survive in the full-back line, but thrive there.
The inclusion of Andy Moran from the start was interesting, and it was important for the younger players in the Mayo attack. His movement is so good, and you can be sure that when Andy tells you to move out of the space he wants to get into, you move! But that keeps you motoring as well, of course.
We spoke last week about the need for people to show patience, and it’s crucial now that Mayo supporters don’t go losing the run of themselves.
There are very few teams who will defend as poorly and naively as Tyrone did last Sunday. They were very, very poor, just like they were a week earlier against Kerry.
It would be huge for Mayo to have six points after next Saturday night by beating Cavan, and having ran the rule over a group of young players at the same time.
Cavan are going to get a lot of players behind the ball so Mayo are going to have to be patient.
The thing about the National League is that you can feel great one week and be down in the dumps the next.
So it’s all about next Saturday night now.
McDonagh makes most of opportunity
MAYBE James Horan will try out some other new faces next weekend or maybe he goes back to guys like Fionn McDonagh and Ciaran Treacy and asks them to replicate last Sunday’s performance.
The only thing about that is it’s going to be harder for those lads now because their cover is blown — opposition teams now know all about them.
They both played well, but I thought Fionn McDonagh’s performance was exceptional.
For a lad making his first league start, his running, use of the ball, and the way he took his scores was very impressive.
And even when he got landed on his backside by Mattie Donnelly at one stage, he didn’t sit and think about it. He just got up, chased back and hassled and harried a Tyrone fella.
His approach said to me: ‘I’m young, I’m not as strong as I’m going to be, I’m going to get pushed over at times, but I’m going to keep going. I’m not going to give up’.
You could say maybe McDonagh played too well, because now his name is out there. But James Horan is a good man to separate what’s real from what isn’t, and I think he will make sure that Fionn focuses on what’s important this week.
I know from bitter experience that not every day of your inter-county career will go like last Sunday, so he should enjoy it and savour it.
And at the same time look to improve on it.
One thing that really encourages me about the young lads who showed up so well last Sunday was that they’re footballers to the backbone. And it looks like they can develop into serious athletes over the next few years.
This was a big positive step in their development.