Westmeath offer a feeble challenge
THE intensity of the fight for places against Leitrim in the Connacht semi-final will have left the Mayo selectors with a headache as big as the margin of the squad’s win over a weak Westmeath side at Ballaghaderreen.
The truth is that Westmeath offered nothing in the way of a decent challenge and Mayo were allowed gallop through for a feast of goals to which the midlanders had no answer.
It should have been an opportunity for James Horan and company to sort out a few niggly concerns in the central positions, but as a spectacle the game was over before the first quarter ended by which time Mayo were three goals up.
Thus experiments were just that. Every player met every test with flying colours. Shane McHale at full-back did all that could be expected of him, and the man who normally holds that position did little wrong in the left corner . . . even though Ger Cafferkey’s tendency to get the wrong side of an opponent in a sprint for the ball did surface on one or two occasions.
To Keith Higgins was given the roll of centre-back, and the Ballyhaunis man performed with his usual flair, and speedy interceptions . . . although when he takes off on a solo he has not yet shed the habit of running straight into traffic and losing possession.
While no member of the defence or replacements was found wanting, one man did stand out for the quality of his tackling and covering. Colm Boyle will have strong opposition for a place from the likes of Chris Barrett, who showed no signs of the injury that kept him out of the league, but the Davitts’ man played with a cutting edge that cannot be ignored.
In view of Mayo’s midfield problems of late, speculation about the return of Ronan McGarrity lured many followers to the match. The Ballina man was given a 35-minute trial and while he did not perform any earth shattering feats of fielding, given the fact that he has had no winter training with the squad, his was a satisfactory appearance.
A general assumption that centrefield might be more suitable to Donal Vaughan’s talents was not established by the performance of the Ballinrobe man on Sunday when he replaced McGarrity. In fact, Barry Moran was the best of the three midfielders on trial especially in the second half when he fielded and distributed intelligently.
Jason Doherty’s penchant for goal poaching was evident again and there is no doubt that his three goals will have put the selectors in a tizzy when it comes to choosing a left corner forward.
Alan Freeman did nothing to harm his cause for selection in the other corner or at full-forward, and it is fair to say that even Alan Dillon and Conor Mortimer who were absent on Sunday will be fighting to hold their places when it comes to select the best championship side.
Others missing included Michael Walsh, Peadar Gardiner, Danny Geraghty, Jason Gibbons and Evan Regan, but the opposition was so poor that they were not missed.
Maybe other challenges will help sort out the difficulties that Sunday’s test poses for the selectors, for while there is still a dearth of physical strength in the front line, those on show in this challenge were in fine trim.
The story of Ballagh’ is told again
WHEN Minister of State for Sport, Michael Ring, performed the official opening of Ballaghaderreen’s re-developed clubhouse and playing facilities, he also re-opened the century old debate about the idiosyncrasy of a Mayo club operating in a Roscommon town.
In Mayo it is accepted as a time-honoured symbol of a club’s decision to maintain its independence and birthright, and the county has benefited enormously down the decades from that decision.
There would have been no Sean Flanagan (pictured) but for that decision, no Dermot Flanagan, no Kevin Cahill, no Con Moynihan, no Andy Moran, no Noel Durkin, no Mick Ruane, no John O’Mahony . . . nor a host of other county representatives in all grades.
How did it all happen?
Tom Shiel it was who unearthed an article written by Patsy McGarry of the Irish Times, himself a Ballaghaderreen man, about the origins of the decision.
“This intriguing tale of two counties,” he wrote “can be traced back to another millennium when, in the distant 19th century, John Dillon, one-time leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party at Westminster and MP for East Mayo, decided his home town, Ballaghaderreen should be moved into Roscommon.
“It was 1898 and local authority boundaries were being redrawn.
“At a meeting he (John Dillon) and other traders in the town (Dillon owned the large Monica Duff & Co Ltd business) decided they wanted the map redrawn so Ballaghaderreen could be included in Roscommon, where rates would be lower than in Mayo.
“He moved a private members’ motion to that effect at Westminster and it was done.
“But Ballaghaderreen GAA Club refused to budge. Map or no map it was staying in Mayo, of which it had been part since the GAA was founded 14 years before, in 1884.
“It rankles with quite a few Roscommon people that talented footballers they regard as Roscommon natives by birth end up playing with a rival county, Mayo.”
Mitchels’ duo head to the usa
TWO of Castlebar’s leading players, Tom Cunniffe and Aidan Walsh have left for America, but, according to the grapevine, Cunniffe could be back for the club’s next round of the senior championship.
The return of Tom King to the side is, however, a bonus for Pat Holmes as he plans for the championship. King broke a leg while playing for the club more than a year ago and his performance against Shrule/Glencorrib showed no loss of pace or agility.
Leitrim get the job done
IN heaving off the threat of London at Ruislip on Sunday, Leitrim crossed a major hurdle in the Connacht championship.
On the face of it a one-point win would appear to have been the outcome of a fragile performance . . . until you recall how London pushed Mayo into extra time at the same venue last season. So let’s not write off Leitrim just yet.
Just a thought …
FIRST rounds are not true indicators, they say, but Dublin’s crushing of Louth on Sunday would seem to indicate that after an insipid league the champions are ready to beat off all opposition again.