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Minors provide plenty of reasons to be cheerful

Kevin McStay
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Mayo's David Dolan

Minor reasons to be cheerful


Kevin McStay

Kevin McStayDID Mayo deserve to win the minor semi-final versus Kerry last Sunday? Most observers of that game believe we did. Now there’s a strange conclusion to the pre-match forecast that said Kerry and the extremely talented Barry John Walsh would prove far too strong for Mayo.
On a championship day when possibly the poorest display of officiating this season was rolled out over the course of two major games, Mayo might well point the finger towards Mr Higgins from Fermanagh.
His pair of sympathy votes as the clock ticked down was very harsh and resulted in two points and a lifeline for the favourites. But if this squad is wise they will concentrate on the many positives that they can bring into next week and tidy up the areas where the match report says they could do better.
Let’s start there then, get them out of the way quickly and pave the way to an appreciation of some really good footballers this team is likely to produce for the senior ranks in a few years.
Once again, in Croke Park, we had some very poor wides. In all we ‘scored’ 13 of them and at least a half dozen were of the hard-to-believe variety. I expect the forwards, now that a semi-final in a pressurised arena has been experienced, will convert most of those when they present next week. The free-taking is not as clinical as it should be; a free late on from about 30m out and for the equaliser did not even reach the goalposts.
And there were some bad turnovers too. The opening three points from Kerry featured two from Mayo turnovers: a sloppy handpass and a foul pick-up. I counted three balls directed over the sideline from routine kicks and clearances. This is an All Ireland semi-final boys and those inches really do count!
And yet the lasting impressions are of a really decent team trying manfully to win the prize of a final appearance. I expect they will close out that deal next weekend. Recall the early work of Crossmolina’s James Cafferty and a brilliant goal from Knockmore’s Shane McHale after a sublime foot pass from the nifty corner man Aidan Walsh from Castlebar.
Aidan O’Shea made a very strong contribution throughout and with better shot selections will improve further.
But the Mayo defence was just great. Still no goal conceded and making hard work for the opposition every time they try to score a point. If they can cut down a little on the frees to Kerry it would be the perfect template.
Kevin Keane, Shane Nally and David Dolan caught my eye and any and all of those lads can play senior county one day. I was tipped off about young Keane when on a visit to Westport a few months ago and he was classy and brave and composed throughout as he gave the country’s leading minor footballer plenty of it.
I already knew about Cathal Freeman and he was everywhere. The much-heralded Aghamore man has loads of football and pace and if he had his share of wides, the chances were there because of his running. It he fully clicks the next day, Kerry will know all about it.
And Kerry? Outside of Guthrie and BJ Walsh they were extremely average. I’m not sure where their reputation as a really strong minor team came from. There is absolutely nothing to fear in this replay. If Mayo tidy themselves up in the few departments mentioned I see no reason why they will not play in the final. For sure, they improved 50% since the provincial final and another 10% or 20% will see them home.
Like most of you I settled for the comfort of the sitting room and the TV. I had a bit of an excuse, it was my first weekend off this summer and the wife and kids had filed for divorce. Had you one?
I know the trip to Dublin and the cost of tickets is hard going on families but the next day will be a Munster or Leinster venue (Limerick or Thurles perhaps) and we should all make the effort to get down there to support our latest crop. They look pretty decent and they give it their all. What more can we ask?

Why are we waiting for Johnno’s answer?

IN the aftermath of the shock Tyrone victory over Dublin where does our Round 3 performance rest in light of the northerner’s great win a couple of weeks later? Can we draw straight lines from one game to another and conclude Mayo are vastly superior to the Dubs, Tyrone will reach an All-Ireland final and so, we must be by deduction, a Top 4 team?
But football does not work that way. Dublin probably hit their worst day out in a long time, the performance sometimes hinted at a collapse and so who knows if we are any better or worse than them? What I certainly do know is we are pretty close to Tyrone and could so easily have won the match if a few small matters had gone our way. Alas, they bounced the other way and so we end the season in woulda, coulda, shoulda land.
I was down in the Sweet Plains a week ago and fully expected the debate to concern our current standing. Instead, the talk was only of the management arrangements for the next season.
Of course I had been following the mixed signals coming out from City Hall and the sideline. One might think they were separate camps until you pause and reflect the boat has to be rowed in the same direction by all interested parties.
The supporters deserve better than this posturing. Talk of ‘leaving if they want me to’ coupled with ‘the job being there’ if only they say yes is the worst type of nonsense. To use a phrase originally coined by Tommy Lyons (the pundit rather than the selector) this is ‘arse-boxing’ of a pretty rare vintage.
Instead we seem to have pyromaniacs driving the fire brigade. Or is it controversy just for the sake of it? One of the key attributes of leadership is the ability to provide stability and calm when uncertainty and concern for the future abounds. In the present climate of will he/won’t he I would have thought somebody would pick up a phone and quickly sort out the BS that is flowing.
The job was offered for three years and one remains. JOM has already received the green light, so what’s the problem? Sometimes managements anticipate a heave that never actually takes off and in this case, it has all the look of somebody adding one and one but getting eleven.
The county board has officially stated they are 100% behind this management and they want them to see their term out and maybe even beyond those three years if all sides feel the gig is headed in the right direction. Last week this newspaper carried the views of two players and the sense from those interviews is that the team is fully behind the present arrangements.
Nothing left for it then but a timely announcement that everybody has held their nerve and plans for Season 2009 are in draft form. Come on lads, how about a group hug?