Former Mayo captain calls on players to stand up
FINDING a midfield partnership that is good enough to compete in the white heat of championship football should be Mayo’s biggest priority ahead of the start of the National Football League next weekend.
That’s according to former Mayo captain Noel Connelly, who will be looking for signs of ‘some structure around the middle’ when Mayo entertain Galway at McHale Park next Sunday.
Speaking to The Mayo News, Connelly (who made 61 senior appearances for the county) also called on the Mayo players to ‘stand up’ this season and called for them to be ‘men’ on the field in the coming months.
“Coming away from the Galway game next Sunday evening, I’d like to see signs that Mayo are working on getting a structure around the middle of the field,” he said. “It’s vital that we get a settled partnership that can win 50/50 ball, will be aggressive, strong, and compete for everything.
“Personally, I’d try guys like Barry Moran, Tom Parsons and Seamus O’Shea there and try and find a really good partnership. But we need to find a partnership that works and stick with it.
“Full-back is crucial too. If we could get the midfield positions and full-back sorted out by the championship, I’d be happy enough.”
“The footballing ability is there, it’s really about the players themselves now,” he added. “We have one of the most tactically astute managers in the country but, when it comes down to it, we need men on the field.
“We need men, especially around the middle of the field, that are strong and will do the hard work. Maybe we’re lacking one or two of those types of players but we have to make the best of what we have. A lot of lads in the Mayo squad are coming into their prime now too, in their mid 20s, and they need to be stepping up.”
Connelly, who stood down as joint-manager of the Mayo U-21 team last year, also warned against the county’s supporters making any rash judgments on Mayo’s hopes for the 2010 season based on next Sunday’s performance.
However, he does expect John O’Mahony’s side to be well fired-up for a game that could serve as a dress rehearsal for a Connacht championship semi-final against Galway in Castlebar next June. Providing, of course, that Mayo beat Sligo first.
“It’s a bit early in the year to be judging any team, including Mayo, with only a few weeks training done,” he said. “But, having said that, nobody will want to give an inch next weekend because of the fact they could be meeting in the championship again in June.
“It’s an important game for Mayo next weekend in that sense. Psychologically, they won’t want to lose because of that Connacht semi-final next summer.”
The Hollymount clubman also believes that the arrival of former All-Ireland winning Armagh manager, Joe Kernan, will certainly be a boost to Galway’s players — at least in the short-term.
“You can look at it two ways,” he offered. “If I was a player in Galway, I’d be working with a new manager, and training would be fresh and new, and everybody would be mad keen. But by the time the championship comes around next June and July, that novelty will have worn off.”
NFL Division 1
Mayo v Galway
Sunday, February 7, Castlebar at 2.30pm
Referee: Marty Duffy (Sligo)