A CONSTANT THREAT Mayo’s full-forward Aidan Walsh, seen here shooting for goal against Sligo in last Saturday’s Connacht Minor FC semi-final, ended the match as top scorer. Pic: Michael Donnelly
Dempsey’s men get job done
ONCE again Sligo come up short. And once again Mayo learn little from the joust. It was the turn of the minors on Saturday evening to put on display the power of their collective talents.
But, like their senior counterparts, they were never tested and, as is the case with John O’Mahony, without a worthwhile semi-final trial Ray Dempsey cannot be quite sure how good his charges are as they prepare for the Connacht final.
The manager has, of course, practical knowledge of the opposition he faces in the final, for his side has already beaten Roscommon by four points in the round robin championship which Mayo and Galway were allowed enter only at the quarter-final stage.
Having beaten All-Ireland champions Galway by a point in extra-time, Roscommon will have gained much more from their semi-final than Mayo garnered from locking horns with Sligo at the same stage.
From a Mayo viewpoint it was a disappointing challenge. Sligo had brought with them to McHale Park a decent result sheet.
In the round robin they lost to Roscommon by two points, beat Leitrim by a whopping eight points and ran Galway to two points in the quarter-final.
That would have alerted Mayo to hosting quality opposition on Saturday evening, and for a short while Michael Moyles’ charges shaped up like a side that could spring a surprise.
But that prospect lasted no longer than it took Ray Dempsey to bring the splendid Aiden O’Shea to midfield.
That one move spelled the end of Sligo’s championship adventure, and will have Mayo installed as favourites to regain the Connacht title. But if they squander as many chances as the sixteen wides they frittered away on Saturday evening, their hopes may not be fulfilled.
While they were businesslike and determined in the way they went about their work, that flaw in their armour will cause a certain unease, and it takes a little of the polish from their nine-point margin.
Yet you can’t overlook the nature of their win and how they clinically dismantled the dreams Sligo had built on earlier results. James Clarke and Niall McDonagh had begun to bear out their promise with an impressive showing at midfield.
At the same time, Aidan O’Shea’s early dominance in the Mayo half-forward line had begun to wilt for lack of supply from midfield.
Management remedied the defect by moving O’Shea to midfield and from that moment Mayo regained control for the rest of the hour.
But it took the award of a penalty to kill off Sligo¹s hopes entirely.
The spot-kick from full-forward Aiden Walsh, after Ray Geraghty was fouled in front of the posts ten minutes into the second half, found its way off the goalkeeper and off an upright into the net.
Walsh scored a total of 1-6, and although he missed a number of easy chances, was Mayo’s best forward.
But Cathal Freeman was selected as man of the match for his sharpness and insight throughout the hour, especially in the first half when Mayo were under pressure. Playing at right-wing back, the Aghamore man stood out as a tough, attacking defender, a trait reflected in his two well-taken points from play.
The fact that Sligo were confined to seven points is a tribute to the defence as a whole with Kevin Keane, Shane McHale, David Dolan and Shane Nally solid and uncompromising.
James Cafferty and Alex Corduff had spirited performances in the final quarter especially, while David Drake and Daniel O’Hara were also smart and efficient in the attack.
But spare a thought for the losers. It must be difficult being a follower of Sligo football these past ten days or so.
Hopefully they can turn the corner soon and look forward to better days ahead.
Mayo bench warrants good look
HOW’S this for a prime number of sideline talents — Alan Dillon, Aidan Kilcoyne, Billy Joe Padden, Trevor Howley, Seamus O¹Shea, Aidan Campbell, Mark Ronaldson? Seven stars glistening on the bench, tumbling over themselves for recognition!
They were part of Mayo’s smouldering fire against Sligo and the few who were given a while to perform during the seventy minutes were no less impressive than those sent out to do duty from the start.
Alan Dillon would have been first-team choice but for the injury that forced him to the bench. He’ll be ready for the final and, hopefully, back fully to the form that has won him the constant confidence of the selectors.
Aidan Kilcoyne’s half-hour display will have pushed him high up on the list of the selectors’ choices. His goal — best of the three — his devastating acceleration and his support play were the hallmarks of a man ready to claim a place among the best.
Strangely, he has not always revealed those traits in club football, and you wonder are Knockmore bosses wise in persisting with him in the full-forward line. John O’Mahony has wrung his best football from Kilcoyne as a half-forward where he has the room to exercise those qualities to the full.
He was the biggest threat to Crossmolina in their recent championship meeting, but only when he moved outfield of his own volition in search of the ball where he was able to use his speed and skill to good effect down the left wing.
No forward can be assured of first team selection while a talent of Kilcoyne’s class remains straining at the leash.
Billy Joe Padden marked his return after injury with customary exuberance, not at full-back but full-forward, in place of Austin O’Malley. He has experience of both positions although most of his work in the while he played against Sligo was outfield.
It was good to see the Belmullet man back in action. His strength and work rate are galvanising assets, and when he is restored to full match fitness the bench will be a restless place.
Neither Mark Ronaldson nor Michael Mullins got enough of the action to display their full capabilities, but their reputations are well known. And it was good to see Trevor Howley listed among the subs. Lack of match fitness may still prevent first-team selection, but the hunger and courage associated with the Knockmore man are motivating assets.
Seamus O’Shea and Aidan Campbell are also hovering on the verges, big, strong men who are being groomed by John O’Mahony to seize the opportunity when vacancies arise on the first team. That could be sooner than later. All in all, it is a strong bench of potential talent of which any manager would be proud.
Local lads chase glory in Galway
THREE Mayo men could be in line for senior championship honours in two counties this season. Ballina Stephenites’ Ger Cafferkey, Ballaghaderreen’s Stephen Drake and Mark Ronaldson of Shrule/Glencorrib are members of the NUI Galway team that is participating in the Galway championship.
All three have been chasing honours with clubs in their native Mayo, and all three played leading roles in the students’ victory over Menlough in the first round of the Galway championship.
Ronaldson who had come on during Mayo’s defeat of Sligo at MacHale Park returned later than evening to help the university easily overcome Menlough at Tuam.
The Shrule man came off the bench to score 1-1 in a one-sided first round while Drake is reaping the benefits of a punishing gym regime that has him playing the football of his life these days.