Crossmolina’s James Nallen put in impressive performances for both his club and county last weekend while Ciaran McDonald has been sidelined by a knee injury.
Challenging times for Mayo
A SNAP BACK to reality for Mayo two weeks before their semi-final clash with Roscommon. Their defeat by Louth at Garrymore on Friday evening raises more questions than answers.
Having run the rule over most of the panel throughout the game, the selectors will have left with mixed feelings about the form of some of those who might reasonably be expected to make the first fifteen in the semi-final. On this performance so close to their crucial match at McHale Park it is doubtful if the selectors know yet their best back line.
In winning by four points, Louth exposed some disturbing Mayo flaws that cannot be fully attributed to indifference. On the contrary, the Mayo players appeared to be flat out in their bid to impress, equally conscious no doubt of the opposition from within their own ranks as that coming from the Wee County.
No, it’s just that they were not good enough.
The vigorous challenge on their home patch clearly surprised Mayo and no amount of changes was able to shake off the tenacious visitors. Brian White created Louth’s platform to success where you least expected . . . at midfield.
Neither Tom Parsons nor Ronan McGarrity quite managed to outshine the Louth star, and there was also a marked reluctance on the part of the Mayo half-lines to fight for the breaking ball. Here, too, Louth were sharper.
In the absence of Tom Cunniffe and Keith Higgins, neither of whom may be ready for the semi-final, Mayo fielded the backline which most people would expect to start against Roscommon. It consisted of Liam O’Malley, Ger Cafferkey, Donal Vaughan, Peadar Gardiner, Trevor Howley and David Heaney, and they played reasonably well, Howley and Cafferkey especially.
But that unit must be feeling the heat of the half-time changes which saw Kieran Conroy and Kevin McLoughlin take over at full and corner back respectively, and the half-back line replaced by Vaughan, James Nallen and Andy Moran who, after a stint in that position during the league, had been restored to the front line in recent games.
Vaughan and the whole half-back line were, to say the least, very impressive and, on the eve of the semi-final, will have left the selectors in a quandary about which backline to send out against Roscommon.
Goalkeeper David Clarke was forced to limp off with injury before half-time and Kenneth O’Malley took over guardian duties.
The selectors gave the O’Shea brothers, Barry Kelly, Mikey Sweeney, Austin O’Malley and Conor Mortimer a run in the second half. Sweeney scored their goal and Aidan O’Shea was a bit unlucky not to add a second.
Mayo were without Pat Harte and Alan Dillon, but although it was a classic workout and a hotly contested challenge, they never quite came to terms with Louth’s diligence and greater teamwork.
Louth are on a shelf of All-Ireland contenders a little lower than Mayo, but on this performance they looked like a side in hot pursuit of a Leinster title. Either that or the standard displayed by Mayo is not what many expect as they head into the championship season proper. Louth were snappier, crisp in their passing and more accurate. Only a fortnight remaining and there’s much to be done.
The match marked the opening of new dressing rooms and other development at the Garrymore pitch, another milestone in the history of this great south Mayo club.
Meanwhile, if Sunday’s match is anything to go by, the hot contenders for All-Ireland honours will have nothing to fear from Dublin. Kerry and Tyrone are still on course for another joust. Cork had the chances to reach the Munster final but the manner in which Kerry recovered in the final minutes at Killarney to force a draw maybe their foothold to victory in the replay.
MCHALE PARK READY JUST IN NICK OF TIME
IT should not have come to this. A condition of the contract was — or should have been — that work on McHale Park should be sufficiently advanced to have it ready for the Connacht semi-final.
The Health and Safety Committee came down hard last week when they threatened to have the game switched (most likely to Hyde Park) because the work had not met certain safety conditions.
With an estimated crowd of up to 25,000 people expected to attend the match between Mayo and Roscommon on Saturday evening week the inspectors were clearly within their rights in ensuring the safety of patrons.
A second inspection last week did not meet with their satisfaction and a list of priorities was handed down with an ultimatum that it be completed in seven days. There is a general expectation that the conditions will be met when the final inspection takes place this weekend.
But it should not have taken this warning to have the pitch ready. And the County Board ought to have seen to it that nothing would imperil one of the most important fixtures on the Mayo calendar this year.
MIDFIELD MINEFIELD CATCHES EYE IN LEAGUE
AN interesting contrast in midfield tactics was played out at Breaffy on Sunday between Mayo panellists Seamus O’Shea and James Nallen and Cathal Carolan and Finin Canavan — two big Breaffy men battling it out with the wiry Nallen and the nimble Carolan.
Carolan, a member of the Mayo U-21 side earlier this season, and the smallest of the four, got through a power of work especially in the first half.
He did not have the aerial power of O’Shea, but his work rate was a central plank in Crossmolina’s strategy with a style so much different to the attributes O’Shea brings to midfield play.
When Carolan tired in the second half the Breaffy man had a bigger influence on the game. On occasions the wily Nallen dispossessed him but his superior physical strength was evident all through. His partner Finin Canavan, not lacking in physique either, was less successful, however, and certainly lacked sharpness when he moved to full-forward in the second half.
Crossmolina will have to make do for some weeks yet without their injured talisman Ciaran McDonald and also perhaps for the season without a couple who have left the country. But there were moments in the first half when they hunted in packs as impressively as when led by their ace forward.
The speed of their movements and the accuracy of their passing was the difference between them and a Breaffy side who have begun to pick themselves up from that crushing championship defeat by Ballagh.
VIDEO EVIDENCE COMES IN HANDY FOR CLUBS
EVERY club will be rushing to purchase video equipment following the successful appeals of Alan Dillon and Kevin O’Neill of the red card punishment they received in their respective championship games.
The nature of Dillon’s offence in their match with Claremorris, which was also captured in a photograph by Michael Donnelly, was not regarded sufficiently serious to warrant suspension, while the Games Committee also cleared O’Neill following inspection of footage of alleged dangerous abuse of the elbow.
Without video evidence the Games Committee would have to rely solely on the reports of the referees. But if in the case of retaliation the footage proved the referee’s decision correct, could the Games Committee also take action against the original perpetrator of the incident even though he was not named by the referee?