We’re still standing
DESPITE some very mixed reaction to Mayo’s display in last Sunday’s one point win over Leitrim in the Connacht SFC semi-final, Mickey Moran last night saluted the effort of his players in securing a hard-fought victory.
Speaking to The Mayo News, Moran said that the result was paramount, and while he admitted that the performance was somewhat sub-standard, he was adamant that his team were always in control of their destiny.
“It’s not always about great football and great passing,” said the Mayo manager. “Sometimes it’s just about getting the right result. We scrapped, we worked hard, we made some good blocks and there were some good interceptions.
“We dug in. It was a hot day. I’m not sure if people realised how hot it was, but our lads worked hard after Pat Harte was sent off. Leitrim got a glimpse and they went for it. The odd decision went for them, we kicked a few wides, but I felt all we needed was another point at any stage just to close the game out.
“But we didn’t fold, we didn’t die. We continued to work the ball down the field. People have to remember that Leitrim are no dozers. They beat Sligo last year and they’re not a bad side.”
Much of the criticism in the wake of Sunday’s game has focussed on Mayo’s tactics after midfielder Pat Harte was sent off in the 42nd minute after a second booking. At times, a dozen players were in the Mayo half as Leitrim set about reducing an eight point deficit.
“When you have a man sent off it’s very difficult to keep your shape,“ says Moran. “I think we had some opportunities to score in the second half and if we’d done that, we’d have been safe.
“We made a few tactical substitutions,” he added. “It was a day for putting lads in to scrap. Aidan Kilcoyne was brought on at half-time in a direct swap with Alan Dillon, and he’s a good lad, a good footballer. He’ll get his chance again. Taking him off again was tactical. James Gill has a bit more experience and we wanted someone to work back, get their hand in, win ball. Barry Moran came on for the same reason. Billy Padden’s forte is chasing back and tackling so we took Ger Brady out. The backs and forwards were both under pressure because of the extra man but everyone worked so hard.”
Much has also been made of John Morrison’s comments in the wake of Sunday’s game concerning what he feels is the “negativity of Mayo supporters”. However, Mickey Moran conceded that he felt his assistant had a point.
“From my point of view, I’ll do the job to the best of my ability, give it 110% and my conscience is clear. But you would feel for the lads. Everyone talks about football all the time in Mayo, at home, at work, at their clubs...The lads need space.
“Maybe, with all the disappointments down the years, maybe a sub-conscious negativity has set in. In relation to that match, I believe that if Pat Harte had stayed on the pitch we’d have held our lead. But he didn’t, and we battled hard. Look at Ciaran McDonald, he was back at corner-back helping out, he wanted to win, he worked hard. The full-back line was outstanding. The lads deserve great credit.”
Moran, who led his team to their 10th win in 13 competitive outings against Leitrim, also explained that the build-up to Sunday’s match had gripped him tightly. ”I was actually more tense on Sunday, beforehand, than I ever was at a football match in my life. Once the ball is thrown in you’d start to enjoy it. You have to work hard at it, mentally, when things start going against you, but the credit has to go to the players. It was looking hairy for a while but I was more worried that we didn’t put away chances than by anything Leitrim were doing. I always felt we’d hang on.”