Mayo must learn from this
THE scoreline pretty accurately reflects the difference between them. In winning the league title for the third successive year Cork demonstrated the enviable force they have become . . . while Kerry lie temporarily in decline.
In losing their third title in six years Mayo simply confirmed the extent of the gap they have still to close.
Welcome to Siberia was how one official informally greeted us to the press box in Croke Park on a day when the harsh, northern wind penetrated our bones, and the result did little to warm our hearts.
But there have been worse days, and while Mayo are still a long way from the finished product the result, unlike other desolate days, will not tumble the few thousand hardy supporters who braved the Siberian elements back into customary pits of despair.
We’ll hold on to the memory of the first half when Mayo moved with flair and no little assurance and hope that enough will have been learnt from what transpired after the break to work on before their championship date with Leitrim or London in June.
They will need especially to dwell on their vigilance for the type of goal with which Cork finished off Mayo hopes fifteen minutes from the end when the ball bounced back off an upright . . . only for Aidan Walsh to pick his spot and finish it off.
That came just as Mayo were recovering from Cork’s first goal, when Kevin McLoughlin had cut through half a dozen flaking fists to slide over a defiant point that seemed to declare no surrender.
It was Mayo’s first score of the second half after Cork had wiped out a half-time deficit of four points and raced into a lead of three, threatening to engulf Mayo in a whirlwind of attacks.
It was also a cruel breach of a good Mayo defence which had held together in the first half, confining Cork’s powerful forward line to five points and sustaining some hope that with a cushion of four points Mayo would hold out after the break.
There was admirable coolness and courage in the graft with which the defence went about their work. And if any one of the seven deserves special mention it must be Keith Higgins for the cutting edge he brought to his ventures out from the full-back line.
Against Kerry, Colm Boyle took the kudos. On Sunday Higgins forced his way through for an inspiring point in the 22nd minute after intercepting a Cork turnover, and taking a return pass from Boyle.
A similar run after Conor Mortimer scored Mayo’s second and last point of the second half might have lit a late rallying fuse if his daring incursion had not spilled into cover near the Cork goal.
Six of Mayo’s nine points in the first half came from the boot of Cillian O’Connor, one of which might have ended in the Cork net if he had seen Barry Moran waiting unmarked. The other three were from Donal Vaughan, Andy Moran and Higgins.
Vaughan was cynically tripped near the end of the half as he bolted through the defence with a goal clearly possible. How Pearse O’Neill was not sent to the line for the blatant foul is baffling.
Comfortable, though that four-point gap seemed at the interval, on reflection it was hard enough to sustain hopes of a Mayo win against the numbing wind, and with a midfield that offered no serious contribution.
And that’s a sector on which the Mayo mentors have got to work if any real progress is to be made in the championship. A few clean catches do not add up to a satisfactory performance. Cork’s big duo, Pearse O’Neill and Alan O’Connor, dominated the area and contributed in no small way to their third title on the trot.
Mayo did not have that luxury and the pressure falling on the defence was massive as a result. The possibility that Aidan O’Shea may miss the Connacht campaign makes the midfield glitch even more urgent.
It seemed an ideal opportunity to put the muscle and drive of Seamus O’Shea into work, but for some reason the Breaffy man was not called upon. Nor were the services of Alan Freeman sought who might have added something to the attack.
All of this can be worked on, however, in the weeks leading up to the championship. In the meantime the players will be devoting their energies to club requirements commencing this weekend with the first rounds of the league.
You can only imagine the sacrifices these players have to make week in, week out, to keep club and county hopes of success alive.
They will feel somewhat disappointed at losing another final in Croke Park, but in comparison to what stared them in the face a few weeks back when they lost to Down, Donegal and Cork in succession in the league proper the picture is a lot less gloomy.
Trevor Mortimer leaves rich legacy
MORAL FIBRE is the enduring footprint Trevor Mortimer has left on Mayo football. More than any other of his attributes it is how we’ll remember him.
At 31 years of age Trevor had reached the stage when younger players were about to benefit from the wisdom and experience he had gained traversing the football fields of the country. That asset is an incalculable loss.
There were many occasions throughout his career when you wished every Mayo player possessed the drive that Trevor brought to his game. After absences through injury you always looked forward to his return because you knew the Shrule/Glencorrib man would not spare himself, would shirk no tackle, or shun no responsibility.
Work commitments have forced him to emigrate after more than a decade of service to Mayo football. And while All-Ireland success never embellished his efforts, he did, amid so many disappointments, have the satisfaction of winning a National League medal in 2001, a year after he was first selected for the county.
An imperishable memory too is the July Sunday in 2009 when he led Mayo to their first Connacht title over Galway at Pearse Stadium. For a man living on the border, and occasionally in the shadow of Galway success, that achievement was of special significance.
He lined out more than 90 times in league and championship, his last against Kerry in the All-Ireland semi-final last August in which he made his presence fully felt in mixing it with his redoubtable tenacity.
But a more significant contribution could scarcely have been made last season than his help when called from the bench in rescuing Mayo from what came close to a mortifying defeat in Ruislip in the first round of the championship. For that, the Shrule/Glencorrib man deserved greater recognition than was given him.
Most of his career was spent in the forward line, and although noted more for his work rate that scoring power he contributed a respectable 8-89 to the Mayo cause.
In recent years he moved to wing-back where his versatility was widely admired and where his scope for attack was given a broader sweep.
Trevor’s likes have been scarce in Mayo. We will miss his dynamism on the field and we wish him well in his new surroundings in Africa.
Just a thought …
AS thoughts turn to the championship and speculation takes on a more serious hue, we are reminded of Michael Meehan’s imminent return after injury and the boost it gives to Galway football.