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Mayo show signs of life

Sean Rice
The Mayo U-21 management of Pat Holmes, Noel Connelly and Michéal Collins
THREE WISE MEN  The Mayo U-21 management of Pat Holmes, Noel Connelly and Michéal Collins watch their team against Kerry during last weekend’s U-21 Tournament in Claremorris.  Pic: Michael Donnelly

Mayo show signs of life

Sean RiceSean Rice

MAYO have lifted the shutters on a new year with two contrasting displays, the first at Ballinode on Wednesday night under lights, the second on Sunday at Ballyhaunis against Roscommon. In losing the first game to Sligo IT by four points, you would have difficulty picking a performance of note. On Sunday at Ballyhaunis you couldn’t find one to fault.
One reason for the disparity was that the Sligo college were the better side and in a greater state of preparation as they look forward to the Sigerson Cup. Roscommon, on Sunday, were a much poorer side. The Mayo selectors made nine changes for Sunday’s match and the team as a whole looked sharp and eager.
Most notable were the performances of Billy Joe Padden at centre-half back, David Brady at midfield, Trevor Mortimer at centre-half forward and Austin O’Malley at full-forward. Nor could one overlook the input of Aidan Campbell, the accuracy of Aidan Kilcoyne, the return to form of Gary Mullins, the defensive qualities of Liam O’Malley, Aidan Higgins and Colm Cafferkey, and safe keeping of David Clarke in goal.
David Brady has not been the greatest midfield fan of this writer, but on Sunday the old Brady reappeared, keen and workmanlike, qualities I have not seen from him for years. Urged on by John O’Mahony from the sideline, and perhaps motivated by him, the Ballina man’s return to form is good news, his performance much better than against Sligo on Wednesday.
He was partnered by David Heaney who, like he did at centre-half back on Wednesday, started impressively but ran out of steam much quicker than Brady.
Billy Joe Padden had been selected at full-forward, but in the absence of James Nallen started at centre-half back where he excelled. His move to the defence allowed the selectors to cast an eye on Austin O’Malley at full-forward and they must have been well pleased with the efforts of the Louisburgh man.
On Wednesday Mayo looked rusty. They had started off as if the Sligo side might want to concede at half-time. But as the game wore on and Mayo had failed to take the chances they created while on top, IT Sligo grabbed the reins and slowly, meticulously  nudged ahead. Long before Andy Moran crashed the ball past Kenneth O’Malley in the Mayo goal, the college was well on the way to victory.
It was of course a makeshift team. But more of the so-called regulars were selected than we had expected . . . maybe on the premise that a win in their first outing of the year was important. Seven members of the All-Ireland final side were in action at the beginning.  All of them will of course have been on trial, and if the new manager’s instructions were to each to go out and impress him, he will have been disappointed.
The best performances came from the Mayo men on the Sligo side, especially Andy Moran who was their star forward and whose workrate left no one in doubt about his determination to make an impact. His two Mayo colleagues Alan Costello and Barry Regan were also up for it.
Ronan McGarrity made a useful contribution, but Mayo lost the midfield battle generally, and for all their fleetness up front they lacked the physical power to cut through the hard-working Sligo defence.
There was much greater bite in Sunday’s team, and John O’Mahony got a lot more work out of his side than John Maughan did from his youngsters. Of course Mayo’s was a vastly more experienced outfit and were favourites to claim the points, but the huge crowd will have been reasonably satisfied with the contribution of the team as a whole.
Tonight (Wednesday) they meet NUI, Galway at Ballinrobe, and the importance attached to the match for the selectors is in finalising a side to meet Kerry on February 4. With full points from all of their games, IT Sligo are through to the final.

DOCUMENTARY ON JOHNNO BRINGS US BEHIND SCENES

JOHN O’MAHONY’S success as an inter-county coach made compelling television on TG4. The story of his rise to managerial eminence was captured in full with back-up tributes from officials and players of the counties he has guided to prominence.
It was a side of John O’Mahony not everyone will have known, and when it was all over you wondered had he revealed too much of himself. Had he disclosed too many of the secrets of his success, had the aura of mystique enveloping him paled a little.
Maybe not. For what really emerged was the lengths to which O’Mahony was willing to go to satisfy a consuming desire to manage, the hard work involved, and the self-belief that he could get the best out of even the most uncooperative of players.
Officials and former players of counties he had led to success stressed O’Mahony’s attention to detail and the lengths he would go to motivate his charges. Current Galway manager Peter Ford, who was on that successful U-21 side in 1983, spoke of the importance his predecessor attached to working on the mind and building self-belief, something every manager does now.
Former Galway star, Sean de Paor referred to the manager’s capture of former Irish rugby captain Keith Woods to speak to the team on preparation for important games. Former Mayo Board chairman and secretary, Christy Loftus also praised the qualities of the Ballaghaderreen man.
Leitrim’s Tommy Moran said he had never come across a man so focused. His greatest achievement in the GAA irrespective of what he had already achieved or might achieve in the future would always be in leading Leitrim to a Connacht championship title in 1994 for the first time in 67 years. He was a man, Moran said, who put his heart and soul into everything he did.
O’Mahony talked of the highs and lows of his reign as manager and of the importance of good relations among players and between players and the manager. It was imperative that what happened in the dressing room stayed there, he said. Success depended on what went on in there.

GREEN AND RED TRUST TO HONOUR MAYO GAELS
FOUR Mayo men are to be honoured by the Green and Red Trust fund for their services to the GAA in Mayo. Awards are to be made to, North: Richard Cosgrove, Kiltane who has given long and distinguished service as a player and official to his club; East: Peter Geraghty, Swinford for a lifetime of service as player/official and referee to his club; West: Peter Reynolds, Westport who has also given a lifetime of dedicated service as a player/official/referee to his club, and South: Tom Duggan, Mayo Gaels Club, a founding member who has given a lifetime of service to his club.
The Green and Red Trust Fund was set up in 1988 with a view to assisting Mayo Footballers, who through no fault of their own, have found themselves in difficulty, medical or otherwise. The Trust, originally the brainchild of the late Mayo coach and trainer, Seamie Daly of Mulranny, is particularly anxious to reward those who work diligently and tirelessly behind the scenes.
This year the Trust has awarded an overseas award to be given to Pat Gavin of the New York Mayo GAA Club. Pat is a native of Aghagower and has been involved in the Mayo Club in New York for over 40 years. He has been a good friend to many Mayo Footballers who have ‘summered’ in US.
The awards will be presented at the Trust’s Dinner Dance in Breaffy House Hotel on Friday night, February 23, at 8.30 pm. Last year the President of the GAA attended and this year it is hoped to have as guest speaker, Nickey Brennan, President of the GAA. Tickets are €30 euro and music will be by Mark Finn Band.
Tickets can be obtained from any of the following: Susan Calpin, Kiltane, on 097-86917; Cathal Kelly, Swinford, on 087-6412785; Seamus Moran, Westport on 087-2217026 or Anne Baynes Westport, or James Duggan, Mayo Gaels.
Or from any of the committee members of the Green & Red Trust Fund: Dr Mickey Loftus on 087-2572239, Johnny Carey on 087-9090470, Mick Ruane on 094-9021861,Jim Fleming on 086-8807185, Paddy Muldoon on 087-2423114, Sean McManamon on 087-6812155, Billy Flynn on 094-9021089 or John Nealon, Sligo.
Clubs or Divisional Boards can book tables from any of the above.

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