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Funny old game


Latest episode was a funny old game

Kevin McStay

AS the Dublin canter drew to a stop and the clock headed for the Angelus, I began to draw a line from our one point win over Leitrim to a similar margin nod over Galway. And I joined it to another line that had Westmeath beating our great rivals and the hammering those same Lakers were getting now in front of me. I know sport, Gaelic games, do not work like this. But it worried me.
And I know sports journalism is a funny old game. A bit like football itself.
It struck me today (Monday) that one could strongly defend two opposing views of just about any game, phase or incident and that perhaps this is what really attracts us to the game in the first place.
For instance, one can argue the draw against Laois is the perfect result for us, as Mayo need another game if they are to put it up to the Dubs. Or you can argue they will be too tired after the preparation, travelling and concentration levels big day matches in Croke Park demand.Mayo's Pat Harte
A draw. Do you look back or quickly look forward? The immediate aftermath of the draw. Are you better to be totally positive or reflect on a game that got away?
Do quick kick outs work? At the end of the day, as Roy might say. Give me the argument for and against. Easy enough, is it not?
Should you attempt to catch ball clean and lose it when you come down? Or break it no matter what? Ask Nicholas Murphy. Ask Shane Ryan. Is free taking off the ground easier than out of the hands?
It really does go on and on. Which is why you should always make up your own mind on these things. None of us, and I include players and managers in this group, really know for sure. We have opinions of course but as they are often proved wrong, those same opinions are the real reason we keep coming back for more. You just never know for sure.
Mayo travelled in good numbers last Sunday and will travel again next week for the journey remains a hopeful one. As argued on this page last Tuesday, there is little between the teams and the type of football played lends itself to a tight contest. Lots of running, lots of support play, lots of incident, lots of wides and loads of excitement. I called it ‘Bud Lite Football’ and it is.
There are of course reasons for this brand of football. Both teams believe in the beautiful game and cynical acts are not associated with their approach to football. It was so quick, so open and the pace relentless that when the ball is passed quickly by hand before the traffic arrives, tackling and big hits are often avoided.
That does not mean this prototype is a joke; it is merely a type of game that we often play, a style and a manner that will allow us beat most of our Connacht friends and a couple of other similar beverages outside of it. But I believe it is not a game, or indeed a team, that can beat the Armaghs and Kerrys of this world. It simply is not built to do so.
To the game then. Does the observer look back in anger or look forward to redemption? Rule Number One with a replay: Be positive. Mick O’ was quick off the mark with his routine number: outstanding game, delighted to be still in it, looking forward to getting back as quickly as possible to HQ and hopeful of closing out the game this time.
Mickey? Oscar got an airing and the media a sideswipe. Can somebody tell me who out there said Mayo had no chance? That they should not bother to travel? This constant siege mentality is wrecking my head. Christ lads, this could be the last time ye ever get into the inner buildings of the stadium. Suck it in and enjoy. 
Rule Number Two: Review and adapt. Learn from the opening skirmishes. These are the only two rules used to prepare for a replay.
We imagine the team will show up next Sunday in a very positive frame of mind.  With nothing to declare but their genius ….

Management must make the hard calls
IN the interim the key will be the selection; it was a poor effort for the Connacht final and not much better for Laois. Allow me to give my opinion (see opening paragraph).
Sort out the goalkeeping situation. Now.
Sort out the corner back situation. Now. Put your best corner man on their best corner man and look at Liam O’Malley/Trevor Howley as serious options.
Put young Barry Moran straight into midfield and select Pat Harte at wing forward. I take it Ronan McGarrity will be okay for the next day.
Aidan Kilcoyne deserves a break and any of two of the starting forwards last week can give it to him by being asked to warm the bench.
Some newspaper blazed last week that Ciaran McD was unmanageable. Surely not? But he is giving a strong impression of a player who will write the latest chapter in All Star history: a statuette for a defensive position and an attacking position. In the same year! On reflection, he might well clinch more than two awards. Can anybody get him to put the team first and apply his undoubted skills where they are needed: the scoring department.
More consideration is required on the individual match-ups. By times we had Peadar Gardiner playing corner back and Dermot Geraghty playing on the wing. Where will BJP do most damage? At full-forward with Mort feeding off him? On the wing? Midfield? Just give him a bloody role and stop asking him to be all things to all teams.
An obvious skill in need of attention is the ‘two-on-ones’, ‘three-on-twos’, ‘three-on-ones’ that often develop around the goal area. Composure, guile, awareness, a cool head and quick hands will generally get the ball to the best man to execute the easier finish. Last Sunday we were clueless at this vital skill. Worse, the best-placed man was ignored.
But, as Roy might again say, at the end of the day, we can take positives from our latest appearance. One, we are still there, still breathing as September approaches. Two, Conor Mortimer (below) had a really good day in Croker, his best yet and his confidence (a liquid that fuels his performance) should rocket in a way that improves rather than blurs his next game.
Mayo came from two down with four or five minutes to go. It was their ‘ballsiest’ effort yet and this single aspect changes my call. Mayo will win the replay by a handful of points.

Mayo’s Pat Harte, who started at midfield against Laois, might be better employed at wing-forward. 
Pic: Sportsfile

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