From the sublime to the ridiculous
Mayo take full pointsafter rollercoaster ride
THEY left Cusack Park last Sunday evening rain-soaked, physically and emotionally drained, and relieved to have survived a rollercoaster of a National League match.
And that was just the Mayo supporters.
This was one of those league games that took on a life of its own, and provoked the full smorgasbord of emotions from pillar to post.
The bare facts are that Mayo picked up their first away win of what’s been an eventful campaign, while edging up the league table in the process, but there was much more to the story of this particular day.
Considering Mayo had racked up 2-4 by the 9th minute, and ended up beating last year’s Division 2 champions by five points, it was informative to hear James Horan bemoan a ‘very, very poor performance’ from his charges afterwards.
The manager wasn’t happy with the ‘open’ and ‘naïve’ nature of his team’s defending last Sunday, and called his players out for ‘showboating’ at a time when they were in control of the game.
Harsh words, perhaps, but there was more than a grain of truth in what he was saying, although finding a solution to these problems is going to require considerable input and insight from management as well as players.
Mayo had jumped out of the blocks and were nine points up after as many minutes, so they should never have found themselves trailing at the interval (2-8 to 2-7).
Fortunately, Mayo’s bench was well-stocked in terms of quantity and quality with Cillian O’Connor (in his first appearance for club and county for almost six months), Seamus O’Shea, David Drake and Brian Gallagher all coming in to help make the game safe.
Nine unanswered points in an impressive 20 minute spell broke Westmeath’s spirited, yet limited, resistance as Alan Freeman (3, two frees), Kevin McLoughlin (2, one free), Lee Keegan, David Drake, O’Connor (free) and Gallagher all clipped scores.
The Connacht champions looked to be freewheeling to a very comfortable win when James Dolan scrambled in his second goal of the game in the 69th minute after a typical counter-attacking move from Paul Bealin’s side.
It may have come too late to affect the outcome, but this third goal (the eighth Mayo have conceded in four games) was one that particularly irked their manager.
However, he must have been sitting comfortably in the stand with coach Donie Buckley during the early stages.
An early ‘shock and awe’ style blitz of the Westmeath goal yielded a third minute goal for the outstanding Lee Keegan after Mikie Sweeney’s quick free caught Westmeath napping.
Six minutes later and Sweeney turned finisher; the Kiltane sniper cracking a low left-footed shot to the net after Alan Freeman had knocked a long delivery into his path.
In between, Kevin McLoughlin, Alan Freeman, Enda Varley and Aidan O’Shea posted fine points as Mayo attacked their hosts from all angles and positions.
It was probably inevitable that the visitors would drop their guard a little with Westmeath struggling to keep up, but it was still alarming to watch Mayo lose their way just as quickly as they had found their groove.
An isolated full-back line took the brunt of the backlash while Westmeath’s quick, counter-attacking football also made Mayo look very ordinary for most of the 25 minutes before half-time.
An 11th minute goal from Kieran Martin, after he beat Robbie Hennelly to a ‘garryowen’ and flicked the ball to the Mayo net, kickstarted the homeside’s comeback.
By the time converted defender James Dolan smacked in a second goal on 32 minutes, the sides were level for the first time. In between, Mayo had been off-colour and out-of-sorts.
It was no major surprise then that Westmeath edged ahead for the first time when the influential Martin picked off a point from long-range in the 33rd minute.
It looked at the change of ends like Westmeath were in the mood to make a game of it. However, 32 scoreless minutes in the second half put paid to that as Mayo got the show back on the road.
‘A win is a win’ was the mantra from the Mayo camp afterwards, but we will know much more about the lie of the land by this time next week.
R Hennelly; B Harrison, G Cafferkey, K Keane; L Keegan (1-2), D Vaughan, C Boyle; A O'Shea (0-2), J Gibbons; K McLoughlin (0-3, 1f), J Doherty, K Higgins; E Varley (0-1), A Freeman (0-5, 3fs), M Sweeney (1-0).
Subs used: D Drake (0-1) for Keane (h-t); C O'Connor (0-1, 1f) for Varley (44); S O'Shea for Gibbons (52); M Conroy for Sweeney (57); B Gallagher (0-2) for Doherty (61); C Carolan for Higgins (67).
D Quinn; S Gilmore, K Gavin, K Maguire; P Sharry, J Gilligan, J Gonoud; D Duffy, J Heslin (0-5, 5fs); D Harte, G Egan, K Martin (1-1); D Glennon, J Dolan (2-2), D Dolan (0-1).
Subs: D McCormack for Harte (49); G Hoey for Glennon (53); D Corroon for Duffy (60).