REMEMBER THE NAME Mayo manager John O’Mahony uses his personalised pen during a recent Allianz NFL match.?Pic: Sportsfile
O’Mahony elects to look at options
JOHN O’MAHONY will burn the midnight oil over the next few weeks as he tends to the grinding demands of getting himself elected while preparing Mayo for their critical championship meeting with Galway at Pearse Stadium . . . four days before we go to the polls.
In his managerial capacity he’ll be hoping that Mayo’s visit to Kildare next weekend will be more productive than their challenge with Clare at Parke on Sunday. If their twelve-point drubbing was the best Clare could provide, Paidí O Sé faces a barren year in Munster football.
Mayo’s spirited performance taught us nothing new. It did, however, expose the gulf in fitness between the teams, a fact made possible by Mayo’s impressive league run. It also spelled out why managers attach such importance to a successful league campaign as groundwork for the championship.
The difference between the two was so glaring that Paidi will be under no illusions about the task on hand. In no sector of the field could he feel satisfied with the form of his players, a fact amplified by the general belief that Mayo, splendid and awesome though they looked, are still some distance from the standard required for ultimate success.
As an exercise the game will have reminded us of the equality in standard of O’Mahony’s panel in general. While we do lack physical strength in our forward line, the level of skill throughout the squad varies little, and the performance of those on Sunday who are generally on the fringe of first team selections was impressive.
Of particular note was the quality of Pat Navin’s game at full-back. The Claremorris man never put a foot wrong and grew stronger and more confident as the game progressed.
The Mayo selectors appear to be losing faith in James Kilcullen, with whom they have persisted throughout the league in that position. Having replaced him in a few of the league games, there is a perception that Kilcullen will not be able for Padraig Joyce in the championship.
Navin’s performance may tempt the selectors to plump for him for their joust with Galway. But whether he is ready yet for such an important posting is doubtful. On Sunday the Claremorris man was Mayo’s best defender, and has been a fullback in waiting throughout the league. He has not, however, figured against the big guns and, therefore is not tested. A similar performance from Navin next weekend against Kildare may help the selectors to make up their minds.
It is the view of this writer that Kilcullen should be given more time to settle in as a full-back. His height and strength are vital assets, and he has had some sound games in that position.
It was a baptism of fire for the young man when he was given responsibility for that role early on this year, and he has been learning all the time . . . against the toughest of opposition. The fact that he does not occupy a similar berth on his club team does not help his case, of course, and it is to be hoped that his confidence will not be undermined if Pat Navin fails the ultimate test.
Kilcullen was given a run at midfield in the second half against Clare where he performed creditably despite the fact that he also had a gruelling hour in the same position for his club the previous evening.
Another player to give notice of his promise on Sunday was Castlebar’s Sean Ryder, a consistently diligent player for his club. From the right half back position he took on an attacking role, and it was his charge through the heart of the Clare defence that Austin O’Malley rounded off by planting the ball in the net for the only goal of the game.
It speaks volumes for Andy Moran’s versatility that he looked as much at home as wing back against Clare as he did in his full-forward role for his club in which he excelled the previous evening.
Sunday’s game revealed that there is no shortage of top class goalkeepers in the county. While Kenneth O’Malley and David Clarke fight it out for first team selection, hot on their heels are John Healy, who turned in a praiseworthy performance for Ballina in their league match with Ballaghaderreen on Saturday, and Sunday’s discovery, Morven Connolly.
Following in the notable footprints of his father, Mattie Joe, Morven cut a dash for himself with a couple of great saves against Clare. They were from close range and showed pluck and ability on the part of the Garrymore man when he threw himself at the foot of Clare’s Shane Ryan.
Clare failed to expose any real weakness in the Mayo performance in general . . . not even at midfield where James Nallen, as eager and as energetic as when he first wore the county jersey more than a decade ago, and Aidan Campbell, ruled.
Elsewhere, the speed and skill of Mayo left Clare looking pedestrian in their movements. David Russell brought a little improvement to the area when he moved from centre-half back, but not enough to disrupt Mayo’s momentum.
BALLAGH’ STARTING TO LOOK THE PART
HAVING set a scorching pace to the new season’s competition, the relentless march of Ballaghaderreen towards league honours will have already established them as championship favourites.
Their mentors will no doubt remind them of the old adage that ‘there’s many a slip between cup and lip’, and while the winners were in control for most of the hour, Ballina did manage on a couple of occasions to remind them of some defensive vulnerabilities.
There is no doubt about Ballaghaderreen’s determination to go one step farther this season. They are a well-balanced side, strong in every line, fearless in the tackle, and skilled in the fundamentals of catching and kicking.
If they have a fault it is that they take too much out of the ball at times, that teamwork seems of secondary importance. Maybe that’s why the scoreboard did not reflect their greater percentage of possession throughout most of the first half. Only a minute from halftime did they finally find a more accurate measure of their dominance when Barry Regan crashed home the only goal of the match. Fittingly, it bedecked a brilliant piece of play by Pierce Hanley, Andy Moran and Regan.
Ballina have been crippled by injury and absenteeism. They are missing David Brady and Ronan McGarrity from the middle of the field. In this match, Enda Devenney was forced to retire at halftime with what appeared to be a recurrence of an old knee injury that will be a worry for John O’Mahony as he prepares for the championship opener.
They were also without Pat Harte, who had been travelling back from Scotland where he is studying, for all of Mayo’s league games. Harte is in the middle of exams and should be available to his club soon for the remainder of the league.
The club is paying a heavy price for their absence, and their nine-point defeat to Ballagh’ is a reflection of their loss. All they could manage in the first half was a single point, scored by Stephen Hughes in the 16th minute. True to form, they refused to die, however. And while they added only four further points to their tally after the break, they raised sufficient spirit to confine Ballagh’ to five.
JIMMY MCHUGH, to whom the impressive new stand at Parke Sports Grounds is dedicated, was a talented member of the club’s successful teams of the eighties. As an underage player he excelled at full-back . He lined out for Mayo in the Ted Webb u16 competition in 1984 and was chosen as the Mayo underage representative at a special ceremony in Cusack Park, Ennis, marking the centenary of the GAA.
He won honours with Davitt College, and played with Athlone IT in the Sigerson Cup competition. Having graduated from Athlone IT in 1990, Jimmy took up an appointment in Scotland, and it was there that he lost his life in a road accident in 1996.
Parke player honoured
THE manner in which Meath overcame Roscommon in the final of Division 2 of the league would seem to suggest that the Royals will present plenty of problems for aspirants to the Leinster title this season.
For a long time John Maughan‘s charges kept pace with the Meath men, but lack of power up front denied them a clutch of scores in the first half. Felled by two goals in the second half, the Connacht men never recovered, and Meath, in their comfortable margin of victory, gave fair warning that they will be no pushover in the championship.