WHEN PUSH COMES TO SHOVE Mayo’s James Nallen and Donegal’s Brian Roper are pictured in action at MacCumhaill Park, Ballybofey last Sunday. Pic: Sportsfile
Power failure costs Mayo
MAYO met the solid face of Donegal determination at Ballybofey. Just when it seemed they might contrive a share of the spoils, they fell victim to a late flurry of points from the home side. And no one will quibble with the result.
While Mayo had chances to steal a draw at most, Donegal always looked the stronger and more convincing side. Intermittent spurts of quality football provided glimpses of hope for the large Mayo following in the 6,000 strong attendance, but lack of physical power up front in the heavy conditions was their main drawback.
Still, it was a thoroughly enjoyable match with the outcome in doubt up to the final minute. Donegal opened in whirlwind fashion, and after twenty minutes were leading by three points. Brendan Devenney, Kevin McMenamin and Ciaran Bonner were the leading players in their attack.
After his success against Kerry’s towering full-forward last week, James Kilcullen was faced with a more difficult opponent in the smaller and more nimble Brendan Devenney. Kilcullen eventually switched places with Liam O’Malley and the exchanges were more evenly balanced as a result.
Nor did Billy Joe Padden dominate with the authority he had displayed against Kerry. Ciaran Bonner at centre-half forward did not win a lot in the air, due mainly to Padden’s intervention, but he did pick up a lot of loose play on the wings and in that capacity was always a source of danger.
Mayo’s best performance came in the second quarter when, with some spirited play, they not only cut that three-point deficit, but shot into a lead of one point which they held at the interval.
The work rate of Andy Moran – who was replaced in the second half – was instrumental in that resurgence. Trevor Mortimer’s total commitment was also significant. The scores came from Conor Mortimer, who had already accounted for Mayo’s opening two points, Austin O’Malley (2), Alan Dillon and Moran. Momentously, Mayo’s brief dominance had come before the weather took a turn for the worst with heavy rain falling at half-time and for a lot of the second half.
The rain did not deter Pat Harte from grabbing a point immediately after the break to increase their lead to two. But it did have something to do with Donegal’s goal eleven minutes into the second half.
David Clarke, unusual for him, failed to catch a high ball and it skidded away from him right into the path of Ryan Bradley. The corner forward gratefully accepted the gift by planting the ball in the net.
From that moment Donegal raised their game, vocally supported by their big following. And even though Mayo got a rub of the green when Neil Gallagher deflected the ball into his own net to level the scores in the 63rd minute, the home side did not lose their momentum.
A minute from normal time Kevin McMenamin shot Donegal into the lead. He added to that half a minute later, and substitute Colm McFadden sealed it in injury time.
It could have gone any way, but the heavy conditions and the tight pitch suited Donegal, and while the Mayo forwards had a few chances to make amends the Donegal defence was on top for most of the seventy minutes.
For Mayo, David Brady’s resilience was once again in evidence at midfield. As the game progressed he got better, one of the few Mayo men to glisten in the rain. While none of the backs was inadequate, a couple did better than the others. Keith Higgins was one of those, Peadar Gardiner and Liam O’Malley also.
The need for physical power in attack is still obvious. Andy Moran, until he tired, Alan Dillon and Trevor Mortimer were diligent and unflagging all through; Austin O’Malley was effective in the first half.
Paidi O Se, who once voiced an interest in coaching Mayo, brings his Clare team to Ballinrobe on Saturday night for a tussle with Mayo to mark the official opening of the club’s brand new floodlighting system.
The quintessential Kerryman, who led his native county to All-Ireland success over Mayo, and Westmeath to their first Leinster championship, is hoping to breathe new life into a team who last made the headlines in 1992 when, coached by John Maughan, they won the Munster title.
Hurling has dominated the county’s sports headlines since the heady nineties, but Paidi will not rest easy until he has them competing seriously for top honours.
It’s a big night for Ballinrobe who have set a headline with what is regarded as the best floodlighting system in Connacht. Following their defeat by Donegal on Sunday, John O’Mahony will be anxious to settle a few positions before his meeting with Limerick the following week. He is still searching for a grittier forward line and is likely to give a run to some of those on the perimeter.
Clare will provide a stern test for him.
ISLANDEADY MOURN DEATH OF A LEGEND
THEY buried Dicky Conaboy in Islandeady last week, one of the local GAA Club’s great servants. Dicky’s name was synonymous with the club, one of the thinning band of volunteers who characterise the soul of the GAA, on whose love and service and dedication the Association has been so firmly built.
Dicky Conaboy gave fifty-five of his 73 years to the Islandeady club. At the time of his death he was vice-chairman. A week or two before entering hospital in December he helped erect the scoreboard for a county league match. He sought nothing in return other than a healthy, lively parish football club. He was the embodiment of the values of the Association.
Dicky first donned the Islandeady colours in 1953, and for the best part of fifteen years was a resourceful member of the team, mainly as a forward, principally as an accurate and dependable free-taker and, in moments of crisis, was prepared to play in any position when called upon . . . even at full-back on one occasion.
The 1950s was not a particularly fruitful period for the club, but pride and devotion never waned. And thanks to stars like Dicky Conaboy Islandeady won the West Mayo junior championship in 1959, a notable feat in those days. In the county semi-final they were pipped, however, by Ardnaree led by the likes of Mayo stars Joe Corcoran and Jim Fleming.
Dicky’s performances did not go unnoticed and in the early Sixties he was selected on the Cois Farraige team - an amalgam of West Mayo clubs - that competed in the county senior championship.
Having retired from playing, Dicky took to refereeing, his impartiality beyond question, his knowledge of the rules indisputable. Throughout his fifteen years with the whistle he took charge of two county-semi-finals, some National League games in the Connacht area, and numerous club matches around the county.
Life after service as player and referee was given over to administration at which he proved himself equally adept. He was chairman of the Islandeady Club for a number of years and president of the West Mayo Board for two terms.
None of these appointments interfered in any way with his commitment to his native club, for which no task was too difficult to shoulder. When funds were scarce in the Fifties Dicky took to the stage as a member of the local Dramatic Society in plays the proceeds of which were a lifeline for the club.
He was club grounds manager and deeply involved in the development of the property over the years . . . the levelling and drainage of the pitch, the erection of the stand and dressingrooms and the provision of carparking facilities.
He lined the pitch for matches, hung the nets, erected the scoreboard, manned the gates. To this work he applied his tradesman skills as a carpenter and plasterer, and was noted for his painstaking attention to detail.
He’ll be missed by the club and in particular by Tommy O’Brien with whom Dicky worked closely in the interests of the club down he years. The esteem in which he was held was reflected in the large attendance at his funeral for which a guard of honour, consisting of club colleagues and members of the local Fine Gael branch, of which he was also a loyal member, was formed. To his brother Jimmy and sister Judy we extend our sympathy.