Billy Joe Padden
‘PROFESSIONAL’ is the word that springs to mind after watching Mayo beat Cavan last Saturday night.
Once they got on top they stayed there, and the fact that they are now on top of the league table after three matches tells its own story.
Throw in the fact that they have won three games without having to flog a lot of their experienced players, and with seven lads making their first league appearances, it all adds up to a very positive start.
Getting back to playing ‘Horanball’ has suited Mayo so far anyway!
They actually got off to a slow start last weekend and Cavan looked pretty good in the first 10 minutes, opening up a three point lead.
Mayo were quite sloppy during that spell and they butchered a few counter-attacks as well. But they eventually got going, and once they got ahead they were able to keep Cavan at a safe distance.
Evan Regan’s goal just before half-time was the key score.
It looked like Matthew Ruane was going for a point, it dropped short, and Regan was in the right place at the right time.
I think the basis for their dominance of the game was how comfortable they were holding possession around the middle of the field.
Lads like Lee Keegan, Paddy Durcan and Diarmuid O’Connor were particularly important in that aspect of the game and, for me, that was the platform for Mayo to take the initiative.
Those three guys doing that in the months ahead is going to be crucial if Mayo are going to have a successful season.
Horan will be delighted that he was in a position last Saturday night to have the luxury of being able to bring fellas like Donie Vaughan and Kevin McLoughlin off the bench.
Other lads are playing so well that Horan was able to hold back some of the household names, but you can be sure that the likes of Vaughan, McLoughlin, Chris Barrett and Seamie O’Shea will be mad for action later in the month.
Being able to try out lads like Michael Plunkett, Matthew Ruane, Fionn McDonagh, Colm Moran and James McCormack, and getting them some experience, while also winning another game, is a huge positive for Mayo.
They all put in solid shifts, worked hard, and will have learned a lot from the exercise.
I’ve also been impressed with what Diarmuid O’Connor has done at midfield in the first three games. He’s worked hard, got around the field, and kicked a few scores.
And, perhaps most importantly, he’s controlled his discipline. Overall, he’s eased himself into the position and it’s important that a player with his skill level and big engine is comfortable in such an important role already.
Overall, it’s been pretty much the perfect start to the National League for Mayo.
Apart from the three wins, we’ve seen the team playing with control and organisation in all three games.
And I’ve been quite impressed with their conditioning too, considering it’s so early in the season.
Plus, two wins at home in Castlebar is two more than the team managed all last season.
There’s definitely a lot for Mayo to build on now and, in some ways, the Dublin match next Saturday week is nearly a ‘free hit’ now.
A win would be great, but it’s more about the chance to get some crucial Croke Park experience for a lot of the new lads in the squad.
With the exception of the Tyrone game, Mayo haven’t been shooting the lights out but they have been getting the job done.
Mayo have two weeks now to prepare for the challenge of taking on Dublin and you can be sure that management won’t waste a single minute between now and then.