LOST IN THE CROWD Mayo goalkeeper Shane Nallen is pictured just moments after Sunday’s NFL game against Donegal had ended. Pic: Keith Heneghan / Phocus
Mayo pay hefty price for naivety
THAT ball from Eamonn McGee in the dying seconds went much deeper than the right corner of Shane Nallen’s net. It also sank, sickeningly, into the pit of every Mayo stomach.
It earned Donegal a victory to which they had no real right, but it was conceded by Mayo naivety. To their credit, Donegal made full use of the last chance provided to them by Mayo sub’ Aidan Kilcoyne.
The Knockmore man will still be kicking himself over the rush of blood that forced him to unleash a wild attempt for a point, as Mayo clung to a lead of two. The ball, for which he had a number of options, fell short and into the hands of goalkeeper Michael Boyle, who set up the movement that led to the bullet from McGee whistling into Nallen’s net.
In fairness to Kilcoyne he had won the ball skilfully out near the left-hand sideline, and cut in towards the goal unchallenged. It was scoreable, but Conor Mortimer had made himself available at an easier angle. To have driven the ball wide was also an option lost in his eagerness to secure a consolidating point.
The outcome was a harsh lesson for the young man who has talent and, hopefully, the ability to learn from his error. And while its timing had more serious consequences, it was no less erratic than a couple of attempts by Conor Mortimer and Alan Dillon a few minutes earlier.
That said, Mortimer was by far Mayo’s best forward, and a couple of his scores in the first half were sublime. If Mayo had won even a small share of the midfield exchanges then their lead would surely have exceeded the five points by which they led after the opening sixteen minutes.
Donegal’s Neil Gallagher and Kevin Rafferty dominated midfield, despite the best efforts of Seamus O’Shea who retired because of injury. His replacement, Tom Parsons, brought some improvement to the area . . . although more experience, and the composure it begets, might have curbed some of his wilder inclinations.
Flaws in the Mayo defence were also exposed. No fault could be found with the performance of Billy Joe Padden at full-back, his best so far in that position.
Nor did Keith Higgins spare himself at left half. The Ballyhaunis man was Mayo¹s outstanding player, his covering and his incisive running a feature of the game.
But apart from the lesser prominence of Trevor Howley, and the penalty save by Shane Nallen, the plaudits for the defence go no further.
Allowing for the fact that a transfusion of Donegal substitutes, who took up no set positions, did upset the rhythm of the defence, it never looked secure as a unit, and even the introduction of David Heaney offered it no safe support.
James Gill had a satisfactory seventy minutes and was on target, but if he had the confidence in his accuracy that he displays with his club it might tempt him to try a lot more for the county.
Strangely, of the newcomers, Michael Mullins has not produced the quality of his FBD league performances that won him automatic selection in the last two games. Hopefully, he can be teased back to his best.
Having led up to that last knockout blow Mayo on balance deserved a better result. A fine save from Shane Nallen denied Donegal a goal from a penalty, and they also missed from easy positions in their short periods of ascendancy. It was, however, the manner in which Mayo conceded defeat that really hurts.
Junior high still celebrated despite Carney’s comments
DISPARAGING remarks made about Sean Flanagan by a fellow member of the All-Ireland winning Mayo senior team of the fifties were decried at a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the county’s All-Ireland junior success of 1957.
The comments, in a book titled House of Pain written by Keith Duggan and published at Christmas, are ascribed to Padraic Carney. But at the function in Breaffy House Paddy Muldoon said they maligned a man who had given outstanding service to Mayo.
The late Sean Flanagan was manager of the Junior team that beat Warwickshire in the final, and Dr Mick Loftus, who captained that side, also took Carney to task for his ‘disheartening’ comments.
He said Sean Flanagan’s son, Dermot, who was unavoidably absent from the function, told him that the family were upset about the references to their father made by Carney, a retired medical consultant living in America.
Joyful reminiscences, however, triumphed over the discourteous comments of the man who had come to be known as the flying doctor, and the renewal of friendship among the surviving members of the team that chiselled out a two-point win over Warwickshire on that September day in 1957 was the overriding impression.
I don’t know if oranges were distributed to the players at halftime in that match, but it was a time not far removed from that practise by club teams and there was talk around the table of the goose grease rub for certain injuries, poitin used as liniment, and rings of glucose around players mouths from fistfuls dished out during the half-time break.
No worthwhile training was done for the junior final. Players prepared in club matches and on their own. To be selected required qualities above the ordinary to withstand the prejudices of a surfeit of selectors from the four divisions, each rooting for his own man.
Tommy Ainsworth, accompanied by Colm O’Toole, drove his Morris Minor to Dun Laoghaire the day before the match. He parked the car at the local garda station before both hopped on the ferry to Liverpool and then on a train to Warwickshire. They arrived at the hotel at 6.00 a.m on the morning of the match. Three hours later a priest knocked them up to attend Mass. That evening they travelled back to Ireland.
Dr Mick Loftus said they played in their own gear but were allowed keep the jerseys as souvenirs. For what little training was done they togged out in a small hut with cold showers at MacHale Park. On February 6 of the following year they received their medals at a function. It was the night of the Munich plane crash in which several members of the Manchester United team were killed.
Mention of soccer or of Manchester United was anathema to most GAA officials, but at that function Sean Flanagan stood up amid the hushed diners and sympathised with the relatives of the victims stating that sport transcended all barriers. His words found an echo in every heart.
Dr Loftus, who together with Tommy Quigley, the team¹s towering midfielder organised the event, remembered the deceased members of the squad John Doc Healy, Charlie Phillips, Josie Munnelly, Ivan McCaffrey, Eamon Barrett, Fr Jim Nallen, Paddy McManamon, Walter Joyce, Mick Downey (physio) and Sean Flanagan. Most of those were represented at the function by relatives.
Paddy McManamon¹s were the only relatives with whom Dr Mick was unable to make contact. John McAndrew, whose home in Birmingham is named Kiltane after his native village, apologised by letter for his unavoidable absence.
Other speakers included Laurie Quinn, president Connacht Council, James Waldron, chairman Mayo GAA Board, and Paddy Muldoon. Presentations of a t-shirt and a framed picture of the winning team were made to each member and relatives. Sponsors Musgrave and Centra Supermarkets and PJ Hughes for his help were thanked.
BALLYHAUNIS LOOK FOR INFORMATION
THE Ballyhaunis GAA Club are compiling a commemorative programme to mark the re-opening of their grounds on May 6 following renovations, and they are seeking information on the club down the years. They would be grateful if anyone with photographs or other memorabilia would send it to Johnny Biesty for inclusion in the programme. Any such material will be returned with thanks.