O’Shea’s display is the biggest positive
Billy Joe Padden
THERE’S nothing like a winning start to the championship to get the show on the road so you can imagine the mood in the Mayo camp this week.
Management will be absolutely delighted to get the first victory on the board, players are buzzing after coming through a tough game, and the rest of us are looking forward to a fifth Connacht Final in five years. What’s not to like?
For me, the biggest positive from Sunday was Aidan O’Shea’s man of the match performance. Our big player delivered a big game and showed just what we will need from him for the rest of the summer.
He was excellent. He caused havoc, and played with great maturity.
When Aidan drifted out the field, he didn’t take as much out of the ball as he has done in the past. He passed and moved.
But it was his work in the full-forwardline that really impressed me. I can’t remember a better performance from him in there.
Aidan isn’t a natural full-forward but he showed on Sunday that he’s learning fast about how to play the position.
I thought he kept his depth well, showed great patience with the runs he was making, won frees, and had Galway living on their nerves. He dominated the game and led by example.
It was a good day for Noel [Connelly] and Pat [Holmes] too.
They picked the right team, utilised Aidan O’Shea really well, and their use and timing of substitutes was impressive too.
Donie Vaughan made a massive contribution when he came into the defence in the second half.
Gary Sice was starting to cause us a few problems but Donie started to run at Galway as soon as he arrived. That forced Sice on to the backfoot and neutralised his threat.
Mark Ronaldson also made probably his first real impact on the championship in a Mayo shirt. After making hard work of the first few balls that came his way, I thought Mark made some very clever runs, used the ball well, and took his score with great style.
Tom Parsons also repaid management’s faith in him with a good, solid performance.
There was nothing flash from Tom in Salthill; he won ball from kick-outs, moved it on, and just kept things ticking over.
Apart from a ten or fifteen minute spell in the first half, Mayo won the midfield battle and that was a huge factor in them winning the game.
If Galway had managed to hold their own there for longer, it could have been a very different outcome.
So the aggression and dominance that Parsons, Seamus O’Shea and the support team brought to that area for 55 or 60 minutes was crucial.
They did the bread and butter basics really well and it was a good shift in their first game of the summer.
Galway showed from an early stage that they were more than happy to ‘mix it’ with Mayo and it was easy to see why.
They had to let it be known that they would stand up to a team that has physically dominated them for the last few years.
But I felt Mayo were in control of their emotions much better than Galway when things started to get hot and heavy.
That’s where Mayo’s experience really showed.
Things to do
LEAVING room for improvement is no bad thing either.
Galway’s two goals kept them in the game and, from a Mayo perspective, you’d have to say they came from poor defensive play.
The first goal was a really poor one to give away and showed that there is still some work to be done on how Mayo transition from attack to defence when a move breaks down.
Sure, Gary Sice finished it brilliantly for Galway but it all came from a nothing ball from Colm Boyle into the centre-back pocket that went straight to a Galway player.
As soon as the ball had been intercepted, Mayo needed to get bodies back to protect the heart of the defence.
But not enough players reacted quickly enough to the fact that the team was vulnerable, and Galway punished them.
There were a few Mayo players under the stand, out of the game, that needed to get back to cut off Galway’s options.
The second goal also came from players not thinking and reacting quickly enough to a Galway counter-attack.
If you’re going to play Aidan O’Shea close to goal, and are kicking the ball into him more, then moves are going to break down more frequently.
More Mayo players have to be able to get back quicker as a consequence or else we will get opened up for more goals.
There is also some work to be done on the training ground in terms of creating goalscoring chances.
With Aidan O’Shea at full-forward, the most effective way of doing that is to get runners feeding off him at pace.
There’s no doubt that the full-back line was under pressure at times and I was a bit surprised that we didn’t get some protection for them during Galway’s purple patch in the second quarter.
They will need more help back there later in the summer.
Mayo have five weeks now to build on their good start.