Old order is restored
ON their new platform as Connacht champions Sligo had come in from the wings. And if not expected to hold on to the title this season they at least laid substantial claim to the birth of a new football force in the province.
Nothing about their performance on Sunday revealed any sense of revival, however. The catastrophe at MacHale Park stamped out their dream once more.
A defeat of such proportions not only wiped away the gloss of last year’s victory but, sadly, has sent the Yeats county hurtling back into the shadows of virtual oblivion.
We had waited for a team brimful of tigerish energy. Sligo’s determination to avoid what has been generally — but wrongfully — seen as Tommy Murphy Cup humiliation, was to have been the stimulus for victory.
But their ambition died in a hail of Mayo firepower that failed even to excite the winners’ own band of followers in the 13,000 strong attendance. It was too one-sided to hold the interest. Mayo were simply too good.
Overwhelming though their authority was, we are still left in the dark about Mayo’s true potential. Mistakes were easily covered up as they waltzed through a paper thin defence, mistakes that could have serious consequences against stiffer opposition.
Yet you can’t overlook the grace and control exercised by Tom Parsons, one of John O’Mahony’s new, young discoveries, nor the example set by the team’s most experienced campaigners, David Heaney and James Nallen. As exemplars of sportsmanship, honesty and quiet dedication you do not have to go farther than either star.
All three were at the heart of Mayo’s dominance, Heaney and Nallen in defence, and Parsons in a mature midfield performance alongside Ronan McGarrity who has lost none of his positioning sense and was readily available to players under pressure.
Experience and freshness blended well in the defence. Kieran Conroy, on his championship debut, lined out at full-back, but a short while into the game was found doing useful work around the half-back line, as Sligo forwards began to wander. The Shrule man was not found wanting in any role.
Nor did Colm Boyle betray his lack of experience in defence. A slow start gave way to a growing confidence. In the second half when a defensive slip led to John McPartland having a real chance of a Sligo goal, Boyle popped up on his line to avert the danger.
That Sligo opportunity, and another in the fifth minute before any pattern had begun to emerge, should have rewarded Sligo with goals. The first followed a break-down in Mayo’s overuse of the ball.
Short passing while Sligo crowded in on the defence forced the error and from it Michael McNamara had a clear chance. A daring save by David Clarke did not diminish the gravity of the error that led to the chance. Nor does it ease the apprehension among spectators of the short-passing philosophy.
Keith Higgins, who has bedded in well into the defence, used his speed intelligently in an attacking role, and also in his timely interventions in averting dangerous situations. Without embarking on any of his trademark runs, Tom Cunniffe also defended safely.
Sligo’s main tactic was to deny Mayo room to build attacks. They tackled in swarms, in a bid to suffocate accurate delivery, and the plan did have the effect of slowing Mayo’s progress.
But all that evaporated when Pat Harte, who is rediscovering his old sparkling form, rammed home a penalty awarded when Conor Mortimer was dragged down in the box. His shot, and the move by Andy Moran and Trevor Mortimer that led to the penalty were notable pieces of excellence.
Trevor once more brought all of his instinctive powers of industry and acumen to the game and as ever Mayo are the better for his presence. Conor was what Conor always is — a thorn in any defence. All of his scores came from play, and a remarkable feature of Mayo¹s overall performance was that, other than the penalty, no score resulted from a free.
By his own standard, Andy Moran had a quiet match, but he and Austin O’Malley, who is making steady progress, would have benefited from more direct ball.
Three of Sligo’s seven points came from frees, and the fact that only two forwards, Mark Brehony and David Kelly, scored is surely an indication of the poverty of their forward power.
Ironically, Brendan Egan, who was listed at centre-half forward but started out in defence, was to become one of their most persistent forwards. At times he took on too much work only to be dispossessed by shrewd interventions.
Nor did he receive much help from Eamon O’Hara, their experienced midfielder on whom Sligo relied for motivation. The influence of the Tourlestrane star has begun to wane, however, and on Sunday he spent a lot of his time in conflict with referee John Bannon.
Good friend of Mitchels dies
FOND memories of her friendship and generosity spanning several decades have been evoked in Castlebar, and Mayo generally, by the death in Chicago of Mary Theresa Reaney.
Tess, as she was affectionately known, died suddenly at her home on May 19 severing a connection with Castlebar stretching back to 1960 — when the local Mitchels GAA Club made their first flight to the US — and which continued up to the time of her death.
Those ties stemmed from a casual meeting in a Chicago bar between Tess, her late husband, Paddy, and two Mitchels footballers, Mick Ruane and Tommy Quigley, who had been on that historic flight.
Friendships blossomed there and then. Castlebar players were invited to the Reaney home, and no visit to Chicago ever after was complete without an overnight stay and a big Irish welcome from the Reaney family.
Their hospitality extended fully to members of subsequent touring Castlebar and Mayo teams. On many occasions Tess and Paddy Reaney went out of their way to accommodate their visitors, and the kindness and generosity they afforded their guests were never forgotten.
Tess, formerly Morley, was born in Chicago Ridge. Her father’s family had emigrated from the Knock area. Paddy Reaney was a native of Murneen, Claremorris. He and Tess were married in 1930 and they had a family of four; two sons, John and Patrick, and two daughters, Peg and Kathy.
Ever since that first meeting in 1960 Tess and Paddy, who was a member of St Brendan’s GAA Club in Chicago, were frequent visitors to Mayo, and Tess continued the link after the death of her husband some years ago.
As President of the Mayo Association in Chicago she had planned to travel to Castlebar in October for the official opening of the Peace Park dedicated to soldiers killed in the world wars.
She was to have been accompanied by her close friends Audrey Lean and Pat Foody, who is also a member of the Mayo Association in Chicago. The trip was to coincide with the celebration of her 78th birthday on October 7. God had other plans for her, however, and Tess died suddenly and peacefully at her home on Monday, May 19.
But she will be there in spirit. Audrey Lean and Pat Foody are to make the journey to Castlebar for the Peace Park ceremonies — and Tess and Paddy will be with them, at their side, every inch of the way. Mick and Breege Ruane from Castlebar were among the huge attendance to pay their respects to Tess at the removal from Sheehy Funeral Home, Oaklands, to Our Lady of the Ridge Catholic Church, and again after Mass at the burial beside her husband in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Worth, Chicago. May her gentle soul rest in peace.
Former Mayo captain mourns son-in-law
SYMPATHY is also extended to former Mayo football captain and team manager Johnny Carey on the death of his son-in-law, Sean O’Neill, which took place in Phoenix, US. His remains were removed to Bearna Church on Saturday and the funeral took place to Rahoon Cemetery on Sunday. The Green & Red golf outing fixed for Ballina last Saturday was cancelled as a mark of respect.