FORWARD MOVES Mayo’s Darren Coen takes on Monaghan’s Drew Wylie during last Sunday’s National League clash in Clones. Pic: Sportsfile
Billy Joe Padden
NOW the going gets tough.
Mayo have been down this road before and we all know the drill. There are three league games left and they need to win at least one of them to give themselves a fighting chance of staying in the top division. But to do that they need to find some form again.
Being honest, I wasn’t surprised by last Sunday’s defeat in Clones.
Kevin McLoughlin had got Mayo out of jail against Meath but with the team not creating many/any goal chances against Monaghan, they were always going to be up against it.
Plus, Monaghan are going better than Mayo at the moment, they had a physically stronger and more experienced team out, and another sending-off didn’t help Mayo either.
I don’t think Jordan Flynn can have any complaints. He was on a yellow card for a high tackle in the first half and should have recognised that he was walking a tight-rope.
I thought the difference in conditioning between the teams was very apparent in the last 15 minutes, but that’s a long-term project for the younger guys in the squad.
The short-term objective has to obviously be picking up points as quickly as possible.
Last Sunday’s game was the latest example of Mayo not creating enough scoring opportunities. There were a lot of ill-advised shots in the first half from long-range and just not enough of the combination play that you need to open defences at that level.
Like I said last week, the absence of a playmaker is really glaring and it’s preventing Mayo from getting any sort of proper patterns going in attack.
Not having someone to pull the strings in the recent past was nearly always compensated for by being able to produce a lot of dynamic play around the middle third of the field.
Players like Lee Keegan, Paddy Durcan, Diarmuid O’Connor, Tom Parsons or Matthew Ruane (last year) were breaking the line, driving the team forward, and getting scores.
But with Ruane and Parsons both out injured, and the other three lads not firing on all cylinders just yet, there just wasn’t enough ‘go forward’ momentum.
The days when Keegan plays in the full-back line takes away from Mayo’s engine. I want to see him out the field, involved in the play, not back in front of his own goal marking a Con O’Callaghan or a Kieran Hughes.
On the flip-side, I think Stephen Coen needs to spend more time in defence because that’s what suits his skills-set more so than trying to be a creator.
The way that Monaghan scored their first goal last Sunday was a bit of a killer too.
Conor McCarthy is a very good player, I rate him very highly, but in my opinion it was poor defending that allowed the Monaghan forward to get in on goal in the first place.
Aidan O’Shea, Padraig O’Hora and Michael Plunkett all had an opportunity to stop McCarthy, but they all defended as individuals as opposed to as a collective.
And McCarthy had the quick feet and ability to beat them all individually.
If they had defended as a team they could have held him up or forced him out; so I’m sure that’s one of the things that James Horan will be focussing on in the video analysis during the week.
That incident also showed how big a loss Colm Boyle is — and is going to be in the months ahead. He reads those sort of danger signs so well.
In terms of the second Monaghan goal, that’s the sort of score you concede when you’ve had a man sent off, you’re playing a team that has more work done than you, and you get opened up.
You can be sure that Kerry will do the same thing next Saturday night if they get the chances.
Coen and O’Shea two reasons to be positive
IF you’re looking for positives out of last Sunday, one that sticks out for me was the return to the team of Darren Coen. He kicked three good points from play and also played a lovely pass into his cousin, Stephen, in the second half which led to an advanced mark.
Considering how long he’s been out, I thought he played well.
In fact, looking to the months ahead, I think Coen is probably our most reliable forward in terms of kicking scores if the chances fall to him. So I’d be leaving him there in the bigger games, even if things aren’t going well for him or he’s fatiguing a bit, because he’s the fella who can get you a score when you need it.
I have to say I think Aidan O’Shea is a good choice for team captain.
In terms of his age, the personality that he is in the dressing-room and on the field, and the way he’s started this season, I feel he’s shown the qualities you need to be a Mayo captain and he’s led by example with what he’s done.
Diarmuid O’Connor and Paddy Durcan would have been good choices too, but maybe Aidan being captain will take the focus off them and allow them to concentrate on their own games.
On a separate note, if this Mayo squad is going to develop this year, James Horan needs the likes of Matthew Ruane, Ciarán Treacy and Fionn McDonagh to take the next step and go to the next level.
But with none of them featuring in the league yet the focus instead has turned to some lads who are still getting to grips with senior football — like Oisin Mullin, Padraig O’Hora, Jordan Flynn, Tommy Conroy and Ryan O’Donoghue. Some of them have shown glimpses of potential but they’re only dipping their toes in the water.
The fact that some lads with one year under their belt already haven’t featured yet is definitely stunting the development of the team at the moment.