Rethink required after poor performance
A CHASTENING experience on a Saturday night at MacHale Park! Permitted free rein of their many talents Dublin availed of the opportunity to inflict the heaviest defeat in all of their league clashes on their hosts at a Mayo venue.
Coming a week after their resourceful performance in Derry this was a heave back into the swamplands of doubt and indecision, a plunging shift of their mood swings. And at the end of a 14-point thrashing you begin to wonder at the ability of this Mayo to measure up when confronted with real class.
It’s only March yet and, compared with some other recent results, this defeat may not seem any more bizarre. Yet the manner in which Dublin drove through Mayo in packs, how they found one another with long accurate foot-passing, how they were almost always first to the ball, how Stephen Cluxton could pick out a player from any distance, any angle, how all that was allowed to occur by esteemed players yells for explanation.
How inside a week could Dublin have risen to such a degree of potency after a performance in Croke Park against Tyrone that was so patchy, so inconsistent, so disjointed? Or is that blanket defence of Tyrone now so impervious as to become the norm for all teams?
Mayo erected no such blockade. But their defensive alternative was flimsy and porous and Dublin ran through it with little resistance. They had the fillip of Diarmuid Connolly and Paul Flynn back in attack.
Even so, it boggles the mind how managements in Donegal and Tyrone can devise plans to frustrate Dublin while Mayo’s one-dimensional style in the face of any sort of unexpected imaginative strategy is laid bare.
It was not only by their forward line that Dublin’s win was shaped. Everywhere they were rampant, swarming around Mayo, hitting points from all angles, many of them long range. Nowhere had Mayo a foothold.
Stuck on three points from their four games Dublin came desperately seeking sustenance, and they could scarcely have asked for more accommodating hosts. Barely seven minutes had passed when midfielder Denis Bastick fired their first goal, and by half-time they were well on their way to victory . . . ten points ahead.
Nor did the storm abate after the break. Mayo tried to curtail Cluxton’s accuracy from kick-outs by sensibly broadening the midfield positions, but somewhere a Dub was always loose, and almost always the goalkeeper found him with extraordinary marksmanship.
Aidan O’Shea did his best to salvage some pride from the wreckage, and in his urgency to find the net ten minutes into the second half stumbled while in possession a couple of yards from the goal. The ball spilled across the face of the goal to Mark Ronaldson unmarked with a yawning gap a yard away. In trying to make certain, however, the corner forward hesitated and like a flash midfielder Bastick got back to cover the shot.
It summed up Mayo’s night, and the frustrations of those who strove to make amends but whose efforts without help were fruitless.
Kevin McLoughlin, as ever, beavered away in the forward line and Jason Doherty too. Lee Keegan at centre-back had his best game so far this season and Colm Boyle worked unceasingly in a bid to turn the tide.
Dublin’s second goal should not have been allowed. Kevin McManamon, who laid on the ball for Bernard Brogan to finish, had hopped it twice. The mistake was clear to us in the pressroom; why the umpires failed to notice is one further instance of incompetent officialdom.
Only on one further occasion did Mayo come close to the goal they needed to stir a resurgence when substitute Danny Kirby took on the responsibility of a shot from distance on the right wing and almost caught Cluxton off his line, the ball dropping over the bar. Otherwise we weren’t at the races.
Under-21s make solid start to their journey
IN the end it was a relatively easy win, Mayo having eleven points to spare over Leitrim in the quarter-final of the Connacht U-21 championship.
But for most of the first half at MacHale Park they struggled to make sense of some good passages of play by squandering scoring chances and over-playing the ball.
It’s that old home grown problem handed down by our senior squad: failure to score points from a 35-yard range.
Their four goals tend to mask that habitual shortcoming. They hit ten wides in the first half, many of them from kicks under pressure when the players had run out of space. Only on four occasions were they on target.
A fine goal scored by corner back Michael Hall in the 20th minute, allowed them breathing space and a lead of two points at the interval, 1-2 to 0-5. They were the better side but were making hard work of it.
Three further goals came in the second half, all of them after Leitrim’s full back was injured in the 44th minute. They also scored three further points, but if they are to advance more must be done to reel in points from distance.
Michael Hall was honoured with the man of the match award and the Breaffy man, lining out at corner-back, was a key figure in Mayo’s victory.
For this reporter, however, midfielder Diarmuid O’Connor shaded the kudos for his unstinting efforts throughout the hour. His industry, his tackling and support for forwards and defenders gave Mayo a firm grip in the vital position.
Patrick Durcan, Stephen Coen, James Stretton, Adam Gallagher and sub Matthew Ruane also contributed hugely to the win.
Injury mars victory
FOR more than twenty minutes on Wednesday night young Leitrim full-back Gary Butler lay injured in MacHale Park waiting for the arrival of an ambulance.
He was accidentally hurt while contesting a high ball near his own goalmouth, and fearing a serious injury his attendants wisely took precautions.
It was a frosty night, people shivered in the stand, the game was held up and both teams left the field temporarily. Out there lying motionless in the cold the young man posed a lonely figure.
He was suitably covered, treated professionally by attendants, and the ambulance was on the scene in fifteen minutes to whisk the full-back away for observation. Later, after examination, he was discharged from Mayo General Hospital.
How times have changed! No such precautions were available to footballers up to recent decades. Nor was there an insurance scheme in operation to defray expenses.
It was a reminder of old times when members of the Order of Malta were a constant presence at almost all football matches. They were trained in First Aid and qualified to attend to minor injuries, fractures and the like.
Amateurs though they were the members did useful voluntary work and while they could do no more for the injury that was being addressed on Wednesday night, it is a sign of the times that the service they offered is now being undertaken by doctors and other professionals as part of management teams.