ALONE HE STANDS Castlebar’s Shane Fitzmaurice is not for turning despite the best efforts of Breaffy’s Aidan O’Shea during last Sunday’s Mayo SFC match in Breaffy. Pic: Michael Donnelly
Cavan challenge now looks interesting
IF he could have known, John O’Mahony would hardly have chosen Cavan for his team experiments in preparation for the qualifiers. The northern side will come to Castlebar on Saturday week a lot more aware of Mayo’s vulnerabilities, having beaten them in that challenge recently.
Still, the draw, made on Sunday in Carrick-on-Shannon, could have been a lot more unkind. Mayo could have been away to Cavan, or to Meath or Armagh, or drawn some other tough challenge. Against Cavan hopes of success ought to be reasonably high.
The one advantage of their recent challenge is that management also know a little more about Cavan now. Had Mayo won, the malady of over-confidence might have been John O’Mahony’s greatest obstacle. Defeat will have jarred the players into the stark consequences of losing.
They know there can be no room for complacency. There is no third bite of the cherry. They have had the luck of the draw, and they will be determined to take full advantage.
John Maughan is unlikely to be too disappointed with Roscommon’s draw of Kildare. It could have been kinder – he might have got Mayo. But he has avoided the likes of Armagh and Meath, and while Kildare are a pretty formidable side, and will be favourites to progress, Roscommon have it in them to cause an upset.
Maughan’s biggest task over the next two weeks is to lift the morale of his side. Having lost a six-point lead in the second half, and allowed Sligo to steal the Connacht semi-final, was a soul-destroying blow, but the incentive of victory over Kildare is huge.
Maybe Roscommon will take heart from the success of their minors in crushing Mayo in the Connacht semi-final at Hyde Park on Saturday evening.
With a team the bulk of which were members of the All-Ireland conquering side of last season, Roscommon let it be known that theirs was no once-off, lucky achievement.
Mayo would have travelled in the hope that minors already sated with success, who had already tasted the ultimate thrill of All-Ireland victory, were unlikely to be motivated to the same degree the following year. To their chagrin the Mayo side were torn apart, totally unprepared for the overwhelming superiority of the champions.
The likes of Mayo and Galway have had the minor competitions to themselves for many years. Each, on occasion, might have experienced the unexpected defeat at the hands of Leitrim or Roscommon or Sligo, and put it down to complacency.
Roscommon are the new threat to the dominance of Mayo and Galway in Connacht. Good management has taken the minors out of their shell of shyness, has convinced them that they are as good as the next. Galway, following their narrow win over Leitrim, will be better prepared for them in the Connacht final . . . because of Mayo’s fall. How they handle Roscommon will tell us more about the real worth of Mayo’s present crop of minors.
Galway’s laboured victory over Leitrim in the senior semi-final bore all the difficulties surrounding the Carrick-on-Shannon venue. You dismiss Leitrim there at your peril.
Having beaten Mayo so decisively in Pearse Stadium, Galway could only be firm favourites to make it to the Connacht final.
But Peter Ford knows all about Carrick, knows how revved up Leitrim always are for the big teams and how everyone, outside the borders of the visiting county, long for the success of the underdog.
Galway, they say, struggled to a narrow win. They were unimpressive, and will have to improve greatly even to beat Sligo in the final. How Peter Ford will relish such comments! Nothing motivates players more than adverse comments about their performance. The manager needs only to slap the articles on the back door of their dressing room to achieve the desired result.
Mayo beat Leitrim by a single point under Mickey Moran last year at the same venue. They went on to reach the All-Ireland final, clear evidence that Leitrim are not a side bereft of hope or confidence or skill. They put it up to Galway, tested the nerve of the Tribesmen, and will have done them a favour.
On Sunday week Galway will meet Sligo in the Connacht final and will be better prepared by their Carrick experience.
Castlebar defeat marks a new low
THE old order changeth. For the first time in their long and distinguished history, Castlebar Mitchels suffered a championship defeat at the hands of near-neighbours Breaffy, on Sunday.
For years the Mitchels have been struggling to restore some of its old glory to the club. Their spell in intermediate football was expected to have been the springboard to renewed success at senior level.
But the best efforts of a succession of handlers have failed to inspire any serious progress at senior level. Something is missing. There is no heart in the team, no searing desire to make the sacrifices that success demands.
It did not help their cause to have been reduced to 14 for most of the second half when Shane Fitzmaurice, their experienced midfielder, was sent off for a double yellow card offence. On his own at midfield, Barry Moran did more than can be expected from one man, to lift the gloom.
Too few, however, emulated Moran’s example, and unless new energy and new interest is injected into the team, the Mitchels are destined to languish in mediocrity for some time to come.
KILTANE, buoyed by their victory over Knockmore a couple of weeks back, were clear favourites to overcome the challenge of struggling Tourmakeady at Bangor on Sunday. But although they dominated the second half, they made heavy work of their two-point victory.
Tourmakeady made it hard for them. Bangor, like Carrick-on-Shannon, is a nightmare for visiting teams. Kiltane are at their best on their home ground, seem to draw inspiration from their surroundings, from the spirit of the men who provided the playing facilities.
There were moments when it seemed they might not live up to the test Tourmakeady had set them. Both were hanging on for survival in Section D. Defeat for either did not sever the lifeline entirely, but one would be left dangling precariously.
Tourmakeady fought with the desperate will of a team close to death, and for a while Kiltane felt the shock of their determination. It took the coolness of Tony Gaughan, John Scanlon, the Sweeneys and Rory Corrigan to guide the home side out of their difficulties.
Plagued by poor finishing, they had squandered score after score, and it became serious when they had chalked up their fourteenth wide, against much more economical Tourmakeady.
Gaughan didn’t entertain the possibility of defeat. His indomitable spirit overcame any thoughts of allowing such wastage to wreck their hopes of winning. His build is not the stuff of your common or garden centre halfback. Yet, his influence on the outcome was enormous.
He played with an unflagging spirit especially in the second half when Kiltane were desperate for scores. His running and his clever use of the wings made room for the likes of Mikey Sweeney and Edmund Barrett to operate successfully. It was a further morale-boosting win for the men of Erris and it was plotted mainly by Gaughan and midfielder John Scanlon.