LEGENDS Mayo GAA Board Secretary Seán Feeney was in esteemed company in Gaelic Park. Paddy Muldoon and New York-based Aughagower native Pat Gavin had a chance to catch up too. Pic: Sportsfile
Nothing proven but off the mark
“NOTHING proved” is how John O’Mahony put it to Mike Finnerty after Mayo’s 15-point defeat of New York on Sunday. “It was a case of having to win.”
Wrapped up in those few words is an implicit warning that for all their dominance, no-one’s place in the Connacht semi-final on June 20 is secure. There’s a lot of room for improvement.
Yet, the manager could scarcely conceal a certain satisfaction at the efficiency with which Mayo tied up the game in a 20-minute spell in the first half.
There will have been a comforting assurance that Alan Dillon and Pat Harte were at the core of Mayo’s recovery from a deficit of four points to a lead of 11 at the interval.
It was to the two wing forwards that Mayo’s U-21 joint manager Pat Holmes attributed Mayo’s clinical end to the game as a contest after an uneasy opening few minutes. According to Holmes, who assisted Mike Finnerty in his radio broadcast from Gaelic Park, Harte and Dillon led and worked by example in turning the game around and settling the team in.
In selecting the Ballina man as man of the match, Harte, he said, was the more marginal influence. You wonder, then, why he was only used as a sub in Ballina’s league defeat to Ballinrobe the previous week.
It was in the opening ten minutes that New York had their brightest spell. They must have reasoned that Mayo would not easily settle if they were tackled hard, an opinion once generally shared throughout this country, but not an issue anymore.
With Robert Moran from Foxford setting the pace at midfield, New York started in a blaze of confidence, and in five minutes were four points to the good. But one further score was all they managed for the remainder of the half.
Dillon and Harte took over and brought the rest of the attack into play. The Ballintubber man put Mayo into the lead in the 23rd minute, and less than a minute later, Harte swept in to finish the ball to the net. The sluice gates were open.
Aidan O’Shea, making his senior championship debut for the county, grabbed Mayo’s second goal in the 30th minute, and by half-time it was all over, with the score standing at 2-10 to 0-5.
Mayo made good use of the big men up front, O’Shea and Barry Moran. And as they strolled to victory after the break, it was good to see the long, loyal service of James Nallen and David Heaney recognised ... Nallen replacing Trevor Howley and Heaney coming in for Kevin McLoughlin.
’ROBE AND ’TUBBER SET THE PACE
WITH some teams almost halfway through the Welcome Inn League the pace is being set, curiously, by less likely sides. In Division 1A, Ballinrobe and Charlestown share top spot, while in Division 1B, Ballintubber have the outright lead after four games.
Ballinrobe’s surge to the top is sprung from their shock ten-point victory on their home ground over Ballina Stephenites, their most impressive of the current campaign. And while those in charge will not want to read too much into that easy win, the steady rise of the South Mayo side will be generally welcomed.
Ballina have been struggling to curb their slippage from the peak over the last year or so, ever since lynchpin David Brady called it a day. They are clearly in the process of rebuilding, and in using Pat Harte as a sub, complacency may have been a contributing factor. But the sheer scale of their defeat will have set the alarm bells ringing in the North Mayo capital.
Charlestown’s morale may have taken a knock from their championship disappointment, but the manner in which they have bounced back in the league suggests no permanent damage. Their sweetest win so far will have been over Crossmolina at St Tiernan’s Park. It was unexpected and if Crossmolina’s big guns were not uncharacteristically off target it might have ended differently. All credit to the East Mayo side, though, for their resilience.
After a couple of blushing defeats, Castlebar finally got off the ground with a hard earned win over Aghamore. It should not have come to a tension-filled final ten minutes. They had played the better football but conceded three easy goals.
Former Mayo defender Pat Kelly came to their rescue in his first game for the club. Better known as a defender, the Kilmaine man was lively and productive at centre half-forward and linked up well with Barry Moran in the front line. But defensive reconstruction is necessary before the Mitchels become a serious threat in the championship.
Swinford and Kilmeena, who have yet to salvage a point, now shore up that section, while Breaffy are finding the going difficult at the bottom of 1A. They won’t have Aidan O¹Shea for the next couple of matches. Their key man is under suspension, and they’ll miss him.
Could be a very interesting championship season.
LURE OF AUSTRALIA NEEDS RESPONSE
FORMER Down All-Ireland winning manager Pete McGrath has added his voice to those who have already called on the GAA authorities to devise incentives to counter the lure of Australian football for young GAA stars.
Agents are said to be scouting Ireland in search of potential talent for AFL clubs, and were present at the recent All-Ireland under 21 semi-finals and final. A rich vein of talent was on display in all three games on which clubs from ‘down under’ would only be too delighted to get their hands. Well aware that players at this age can easily adapt to AFL football, you can be sure that names from each of those teams have been pencilled in for trials.
Cork, Down and Mayo have already felt the loss of budding young stars who have grabbed the chance of an enviable lifestyle. And at a time when the economy of this country is on the ropes who can blame them for trying new verdant pastures?
Pete McGrath said such scouts could not be stopped at gates to matches. But he feels the GAA should see if something could be done to prevent players from being attracted to this new life. He says that scholarships or bursaries, something that would not interfere with the amateur ethos, might be considered to offset the Aussie attraction.
“It’s a big issue and I haven’t the answer, but if you were thinking along these lines, some mechanism could be put in place to ensure that young players are not lost to our games,” he added.
Tom Parsons, Aidan O’Shea and Donal Vaughan, members of the Mayo team beaten by Down in the All-Ireland semi-final, will all have come under scrutiny, and the fact that each was a member of the senior side that beat New York in the championship opener last Sunday increases the possibility of approaches from the Aussie scouts.
“Gaelic football has opened a lot of doors for a lot of people in terms of their careers and in many different ways and there’s not a thing wrong with that,” said McGrath who coached Down to two All-Ireland senior titles.
“I suppose given the economic downturn in this country and a young fella of 19 or 20 has no prospect of work and is given an opportunity to go to Australia for a couple of years, you can’t blame him for chancing his arm.”
Nevertheless, the loss of any of the above trio would make a serious dent in John O’Mahony’s rebuilding plans.