WHEN PUSH COMES TO SHOVE Mayo’s Aidan Campbell is stalked by Limerick’s Andrew Lane during last Sunday’s game. Pic: Keith Heneghan/Phocus
Mayo have to win ugly
SOMETIMES the end justifies the means. That is the only way to reconcile the events that unfolded last Sunday at McHale Park as Mayo prevailed after a dour affair that masqueraded as a staging-post in this ultra-competitive National League.
As John O’Mahony pointed out afterwards it was all about getting two points, thus propelling Mayo into the upper echelons of the Division 1A table.
However, that tangible benefit aside, only Mayo’s first 25 minutes and a handful of individual displays would be enough to sustain the loyal supporters that paid in hoping for a little more in the way of entertainment.
Mayo were always in control of their own destiny but they made hard work of closing out a match that longed for a knock-out punch that the winners were simply unable to land.
One of the primary reasons for Mayo’s failure to push on was their inability to secure primary possession around midfield. The early departure of David Brady with a calf injury deprived the team of their bulwark and both Ronan McGarrity and Pat Harte were forced to play second fiddle to their direct opponents.
Limerick’s John Galvin and Timmy Carroll were a formidable partnership and Galvin, in particular, was responsible for ferrying a plethora of ball towards Mayo’s goal. His team-mates were also much more effective in winning breaks but the lack of a focal point in their attack cost them dearly.
The final three-quarters of this game loitered between tedious and scrappy. Limerick’s display during that period was undoubtedly gritty and workmanlike but it was also fiercely limited.
They kicked thirteen wides over the course of the eighty-odd minutes that were played and it took them 48 minutes to register their first score from play. Mickey Ned O’Sullivan may have been pleased with the spirit his team showed but it will take more than courage for them to win their first Munster title since 1896.
The purists would not have left happy. Basic errors blighted the match, turnovers were rife, shot selection was erratic and the referee’s fussiness deprived a poor game of any chance of continuity.
Ironically after 24 minutes there was little to complain about from a local perspective. Limerick were beginning to lose their shape and their static attack were labouring while Mayo were doing their own thing. It was simple and highly effective.
Kevin O’Neill was a huge influence in Mayo’s period of dominance. Playing at centre-forward the captain orchestrated almost every single score; his passing, vision and option-taking allowing his team-mates to exploit the gaps that were appearing in Limerick’s over-worked back-line.
Aidan Campbell got the scoreboard ticking with a clever score on four minutes and Andy Moran pointed confidently moments later. Seven minutes had elapsed when Trevor Mortimer lashed a loose ball to the Limerick net and Mayo were off and running.
The paucity of the visitor’s challenge in the first half was lamentable. However, Mayo encountered significant difficulty in converting their early superiority into scores and a barren spell of twelve minutes passed.
This was ended (after a string of wides) by Limerick’s first score on 19 minutes as Michéal Reidy converted a free after missing a couple of earlier efforts.
Mayo’s response was impressive and four points in seven minutes were reeled off through Alan Dillon (free), Peadar Gardiner, Ger Brady and Aidan Campbell (free) to open up an eight point gap.
Mayo’s control was practically total at this juncture with Liam O’Malley and James Kilcullen minding the house as Keith Higgins and Peadar Gardiner swept upfield time and again.
The final twelve minutes of the half passed without incident or anything of note and it was a second Michéal Reidy free that ended the first half scoring to send Mayo in at the interval ahead by 1-6 to 0-2.
The less said about the second half the better.
Mayo managed just four scores in the forty minutes that were played while Limerick tagged on five points in the same period.
Mayo were blitzed around the middle of the field after half-time and most of their problems stemmed from there.
The likes of Aidan Campbell and Andy Moran were starved of possession as a consequence and just two points in 37 minutes tells its own story.
Limerick played some good football in the second half and the efforts of Johnny McCarthy, Thomas Cahill and Michéal Reidy, plus their dynamic midfielders, were rewarded with a comeback of sorts.
Points from Reidy, James Ryan and John Galvin sliced the deficit back to just four by the 59th minute. People scratched their heads and wondered aloud how it had come to this. Could Mayo not win this game?
Thirteen ragged, fractured minutes passed without an answer before Enda Devenney sprinted through to nail a point and Alan Dillon clipped a 13m free deep in injury-time to finish the job.
It was far from a vintage performance but the job got done. That is the bottom line at this time of year as Mayo look to consolidate their top-flight status. But hopefully winning ugly will not become a habit.
K O’Malley; L O’Malley, J Kilcullen, K Higgins; E Devenney (0-1), B Padden, P Gardiner (0-1); R McGarrity, D Brady; G Brady (0-1), K O’Neill, T Mortimer (1-1); A Campbell (0-2, 1f), A Dillon (0-2, 2fs), A Moran (0-2).
Subs used: P Harte for D Brady (inj); A Kilcoyne for O’Neill (inj); M Ronaldson for G Brady; A Higgins for Kilcullen; J Nallen for Harte.
S Kiely; A Lane, J McCarthy, P Browne; P Ahern, T Cahill, P Ranahan; J Galvin (0-1), T Carroll; G Noonan, J Ryan (0-1), J Cooke; J O’Brien, D Horan, M Reidy (0-5, 4fs)
Subs used: G Collins for Noonan; M Crowley for Cooke; S Lavin for O’Brien; D Carroll for Lane.
Referee: Marty Duffy (Sligo)