A WATCHING BRIEF Gerardine O’Mahony and Madeleine Scahill were in Ballinlough last Sunday for the FBD Insurance Connacht Football League game between Mayo and Roscommon. Pic: Michael Donnelly
Wide boys on the mark
CONFLICTING emotions will assail those who watched Mayo ease to a six-point win in the final trial of the FBD League at Ballinlough. None can deny it was a worthy victory. But none will be satisfied with the manner in which Mayo conceded two goals . . . and kicked seventeen wides.
It was a stiffer test than we had expected. Roscommon fielded their strongest team of the competition including several players from St Brigids, not long back from a well-earned holiday . . . and perhaps not at their fittest. A few of their All-Ireland winning minor team were also present.
Mayo had four changes in personnel from the side that defeated Sligo IT the previous week, Enda Varley replacing Donal Corrigan and occupying the full-forward berth, Colm Cafferkey taking over from Keith Higgins at left half-back, Conor Moran coming in at right corner back in place of John Brogan and his club-mate Liam O’Malley resuming in the opposite corner from Aidan Higgins.
There was no doubt about their overall dominance throughout the field. They won most of the duels, and were faster and, clearly, fitter. The four-point advantage they held after thirty minutes did not reflect their share of possession. Nor should it have taken a fortuitous goal to do so.
Yet the goal was a fine piece of opportunism by Michael Mullins. We all thought that the long centre by Brian Benson was one more addition to Mayo’s increasing pile of squandered chances. And goalkeeper Mark Miley did likewise. But Mullins contested the ball on the end line with Adrian Murtagh, won it and swept it into the net while Miley was bending to collect another ball for the kick-out.
It should not have taken a freak score to underline Mayo’s authority, and the manner in which they conceded a similar score less than a minute later sowed the first seed of doubt about the security of the defence.
Full-forward Jonathon Dunning was left unattended to drill the ball into the net after Ros Nolan, on the edge of the square, knocked down the high ball to Senan Kilbride. It was a salutary lesson for Billy Joe Padden who up to that moment had been shining in his new position.
Dunning repeated the exercise two minutes into the second half, and this time openly exposed the inexperience of Billy Joe at full-back. The Belmullet man lunged at a high ball and missed it. Lurking behind him was the Roscommon full-forward with a clear path to goal. He didn’t miss.
No area in the filed is punished as much as a full-back for failing to field a high ball. Paddy Prendergast claims to this day that in jumping high he was always secure in the knowledge that if beaten his corner back Sean Flanagan was behind him to avert any crisis.
Billy Joe did not have that cover when he made that fatal jump and he paid the penalty. It was a timely lesson before facing the sterner tests of the Allianz League. To his credit it did not prevent the Belmullet man from continuing to play with great heart and enthusiasm even though he had to follow Dunning all over the field.
It must also be said that in many of his brave challenges, particularly in the first half, Padden did receive excellent support from Liam O’Malley, and Conor Moran, the two corner men who were back to their best.
That goal reduced their lead to two points, and Mayo were beginning to pay dearly for their growing heap of misses. But there was no flagging in their application. All of them showed a degree of determination that Roscommon could not match.
Alan Dillon had the best game of his three FBDs. He accounted for seven points, and with a little more accuracy could have reached ten or twelve. More important was his appetite for greater involvement in all phases of play.
There was no diminution in the form displayed by James Gill in the other two games, and his tally of four points is an indication of his growing confidence in taking on responsibility for scoring instead of leaving it to others.
The bright promise of Michael Mullins continued to flow with another gutsy performance. Enda Varley showed that he is not afraid to take on a defence, Austin O’Malley left no real imprint, and although he scored a goal Brian Benson did not reach the standard he had set in other games. The goal had its origins in a lightening run through the defence by Keith Higgins, who had just replaced David Geraghty, and the finish by Benson was clinical.
John O’Mahony will be well pleased with the performances of Seamus O’Shea and Peadar Gardiner in the middle of the field. O’Shea’s fielding and distribution were flawless while Gardiner’s incisive running opened the Roscommon defence in the first half in particular.
The question is what role has John O’Mahony in mind for Gardiner? Nobody is suggesting that centrefield is other than a temporary position for the Crossmolina man until Ronan McGarrity returns. Yet he has adjusted well to the role and is making an impression there, and you begin to wonder is that where the selectors intend playing him.
Trevor Howley was again a pillar of defiance at centre-half back, and Frankie Dolan made no progress against the strength of the Knockmore man. Two newcomers on either side of the Howley, David Geraghty and Colm Cafferkey played reasonably well but it was obvious they were less assured in their play than the more experienced backs around them. More games are what they need.