Forward moves vital for Mayo
SO, where are we now? A little closer to the elusive goal perhaps, a lot better placed than their early league performances had portended, to be sure . . . but not yet ready to join the pantheon of the stars.
Mayo are, after all, in transition. Young, eager, able men have been found who might just fill those perennial problem positions, but to mature they need the experience that only championship can confer.
So when it comes to selecting a team for the championship will management choose their bright new discoveries? Will the likes of Kevin McLoughlin, Donal Vaughan, Michael Sweeney and Aidan O’Shea get first team places?
That’s the dilemma that challenges management as they face into a new championship.
I think it is fair to say that Mayo would not have retained their Division One status without the input of their U-21 members. The dark future which the early stage of the league seemed to presage forced the selectors — often against the wishes of the U-21 management team — to call on the young men who were then parading through Connacht in their own campaign.
In contention for places in defence are Donal Vaughan and Kevin McLoughlin. Assuming that Ger Cafferkey, Tom Cunniffe and Peadar Gardiner retain their positions, the two newcomers are up against Liam O’Malley, Chris Barrett, Kieran Conroy, Trevor Howley, Andy Moran, David Heaney, James Nallen and Keith Higgins just back from a six-month stint in Australia.
It’s a crowded sector and the competition for places will please the bosses. But there is a big onus on John O’Mahony, Tommy Lyons and Kieran Gallagher to get the right mix. Form will decide in the end, but form may not succeed on the day. It is a big call but there is room for a bit of adventure, for placing faith in those who served them well in the league.
Ronan McGarrity will hold down midfield. Either Tom Parsons, Pat Harte or perhaps Barry Moran will be his partner. Seamus O’Shea, back to full fitness after injury, is also a midfield contender.
Moran made an impressive start to the league at full-forward against Derry and Donegal. But injury, which has plagued his career, forced him out of the remainder of the league. He had recovered sufficiently to be named among the subs for the final match, against Tyrone. But in training the following Tuesday he broke down again.
He was able to do some light training with Mayo last Saturday but did not tog out with Castlebar on Sunday against Ballintubber. Those injuries will have hampered his fitness to some extent, and lack of competitive match practice will limit his chances of first team selection.
He had never been a recognised full-forward until the selectors envisaged in his potential a Donaghy or a Cussen. He didn’t score against Derry, but he engineered a few, and in Mayo’s astonishing recovery against Donegal, the Mitchels’ man was a central figure scoring 1-1. He had a similar return against Cavan in a challenge at Ballinrobe a week earlier, and it looked as if Mayo had at last found the front-line leadership they have been craving so long.
In his absence Aidan O’Shea, not yet nineteen years of age, grabbed the spotlight and was vital at full-forward in Mayo’s survival in Division One. Even a fit Moran would now find it difficult to displace the young Breaffy man. But a physically and mentally fit Moran still offers a serious challenge to those in other positions, particularly at midfield. Along with O’Shea in the front line he could present a serious challenge to the best of defences.
O’Shea carries a lot of Mayo hope on his broad shoulders. His teenage exploits at minor and senior level will not have gone unnoticed by Australian scouts, and there is a real danger that the young man in whom Mayo followers place so much hope for the future could be snatched for AFL football.
If Tom Parsons is chosen to partner Ronan McGarrity, a place will surely be found for Pat Harte in the forward line — maybe on the ‘45. Trevor Mortimer could smoothly adapt to the wing where, like Tyrone star Brian Dooher, the effect of his roving qualities would remain undiminished.
With the likes of panellists Billy Joe Padden, Alan Dillon, Conor Mortimer, Andy Moran etc all chasing places, the selectors ought to be able to resist the annual plaintiff cries at this time of year for the recall of sunshine footballers.
Breaffy begining to feel the pinch
BREAFFY, who upset a few apple carts last season, are struggling after three rounds of the new league. Their latest loss was to a rejuvenated Moy Davitts at Breaffy on Sunday.
But the season is young. Plenty of time left to recapture the form that held so much promise, plenty of time for the O’Sheas and the Canavans and the Jennings’s to lead them out of their difficulties.
It was not a pretty day in Breaffy for their joust with the Moysiders. But they kept us entertained. And on the slippery pitch the stronger northern side shaded the duel.
There was more to the winners than mere muscle, however. They were extremely fit and they fought doggedly for every ball.
A bit of needle in the game added to the intensity of the exchanges. But the loss of Aidan O’Shea fifteen minutes from the end scuppered whatever hopes Breaffy entertained of earning their first points of the league.
The teenager’s dismissal was for retaliation. A young man of his calibre is ever a sitting duck for special attention and while the infringement was not serious, referee Vincent Neary was nevertheless obliged to take action for the retaliatory nature of the offence.
His dismissal winged Breaffy. They were trailing by five points when he left the scene, but he was still their best worker, their best hope of recovery. His loss will be sorely felt in whatever games are played during his month’s suspension.
Seamus, his brother, who is also on the Mayo panel, shaped up well after his bout of injury. He is another midfield option for John O’Mahony, but may also fit into the attack.
In the absence of Aidan, Breaffy held their own but Moy Davitts held on to a four-point lead and deserved the win they had carved out in the first half with the help of two goals, one splendidly engineered, the other lucklessly conceded.
That second goal broke the back of Breaffy’s resistance. Tomás Mulderrig scored it, the ball like a blob of soap skidding off Robert Hennelly into the net. It came seconds before half-time after Breaffy had wiped out a four-point deficit.
Moy Davitts had that bit extra in graft and fitness. Their defence was built around the rock-like attributes of Warren McDonagh and Brian Hughes and wing-backs Dara Quinn and Mark Howley who lent powerful support to their forwards.
They were hungry for this win and for big men pretty fluid in their movements. All but one of their forwards scored, and their wastage was less than average. Near the end, James Mulderrig, their exemplary captain, was sent to the line for double yellow card offences. But they held out against concerted Breaffy attacks and deserved their win.