Billy Joe Padden
TWO games down, five to go. The National League pace is starting to pick up.
Last Saturday night’s defeat to Dublin means that Mayo go to Meath next Sunday searching for their first win of the campaign. The Royals have lost their opening two games so there is quite a lot at stake in Navan — even at this early stage of the season.
A quick, positive start is going to be vital for Mayo so the team needs to be picked accordingly. That means that Aidan O’Shea will have to put in another big shift and set the tone right from the first whistle.
Mayo were slow out of the blocks against Meath in last year’s Super 8s game at Croke Park and there were plenty of dicey moments before Mayo pulled away to win.
They can’t afford a repeat of that next weekend; they need to start as they mean to go on.
Meath manager Andy McEntee has had big issues with the goalkeeping position recently so it’s imperative that Mayo go after and put pressure on the Meath kick-out on Sunday. That’s the obvious starting point if Mayo want to dominate possession around the middle.
I feel they will also need to run the ball more than they did against Dublin when they seemed to be over-eager to kick it into the attack. That ploy hasn’t been returning enough scores or creating enough goal chances in the first two games.
I see more scores coming from the likes of Paddy Durcan, Diarmuid O’Connor, Lee Keegan and Aidan O’Shea running at defences.
In the first half the tactic of picking out James Carr with quick ball, diagonally most of the time, didn’t yield much by way of scores even though he won quite a bit of possession.
I thought the two best scores that Mayo created were the opening point from Aidan O’Shea and a later effort when Diarmuid O’Connor and Fergal Boland combined.
They were running moves and Mayo are much more effective when they attack that way.
Next Sunday that’s what I want to see Mayo doing right out of the blocks.
The attack butchered too many chances against Dublin.
In my opinion, what we’ve seen from some of the young forwards so far hasn’t been good enough to cut it at this level. That doesn’t mean they don’t get more opportunities to prove themselves, or that they’re not going to make it. Player development is never easy and different players can take longer than others to find their feet at senior inter-county level.
But some of the decision-making and shooting against Donegal and Dublin was well below the standard required at that level. And the players themselves will know that.
They have to be helped and coached with their weaknesses and the good things they’ve been doing needs to be improved on as well. Forwards who are going to be playing close to goal have to be threatening scores and ideally, obviously, getting them.
That’s their job, that’s what they’re measured on, and it’s an area where improvements can definitely be made.
Another area that needs to be tightened up is around the free-taking; Diarmuid O’Connor has struck some brilliant long-range frees in the first two games, so I’d like to see him kick more of the close-range ones as well. Knocking them over gives a free-taker confidence.
I think it’s absolutely crucial now that James Horan persists with the younger players facing into the weeks ahead. James Durcan deserves another chance to show what we can do and I’d like to see someone like Tommy Conroy, if he’s fit, starting next Sunday.
Most of the positives last weekend against Dublin came from Mayo’s defence and, in particular, the performances of rookies like Padraig O’Hora and Oisin Mullin.
They both have great cut to them and don’t shirk from the physical exchanges. That’s the sort of attitude that will be needed if Mayo are to get the win they need next weekend.