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Forgotten men get rare run-out


DRIVING ON Mayo’s James Carr takes on Meath’s Conor McGill during Sunday’s National League clash in Castlebar. Pic: Sportsfile

Player Watch
Ger Flanagan

YOU might find this hard to believe, but it will be two years next month since James Carr scored THAT goal against Galway and subsequently became an online sensation.
That moment of sheer brilliance catapulted Carr’s name into the realms of potential stardom, with the whole county optimistic that a new scoring weapon has been found.
But as often happens, the Ardagh forward hasn’t scaled the heights expected of him after that wonder goal. Niggling injuries also curbed his progress and he fell out of favour with James Horan, being reduced to a handful of substitute appearances in the last two seasons.
Last Sunday was the perfect opportunity to give Carr a rare start, against an experimental Meath side, and the powerfully-built number 15 grasped the opportunity with both hands.
He marked his chance with another goal from the top drawer, taking a pass from Cillian O’Connor just inside the 20-metre line before turning and shooting in one swift movement, catching Meath goalie Harry Hogan napping with a daisy-cutter.
Ten minutes earlier he had palmed home Mayo’s first goal of the game after a swift counter-attack and he managed two points from play (1 mark) before the short whistle sounded.
Not alone was Carr a scoring threat, he also showed for ball while he was on the field and was often the most advanced Mayo attacker, alongside Cillian O’Connor.
The secondary school teacher amassed 12 first half possessions, hit one wide off his left boot, and won two turnovers in that first half.
It was the sort of performance we had hoped to see from Carr.
His second half was much quieter, and he looked to be fatiguing after a busy opening half before eventually being substituted late on.
It was no surprise to hear James Horan name-check Carr afterwards.
Another North Mayo man who would have been keen to impress was Eoin O’Donoghue.
After a season of really impressive displays under Stephen Rochford, the Belmullet man has failed to win over Horan and has often been the forgotten man in the Mayo set-up.
His continued absence has been a source of bewilderment for a lot of people who know his talents and no doubt it must be seriously frustrating for O’Donoghue too.
But the corner-back handled his return quite well on Sunday, marking James Conlon for the most part and limiting him to a single score from open play.
O’Donoghue spent time all over the field – sometimes being the lone man in the Mayo defence and other times getting possession inside the opposition half and making runs. He finished the game with at least 21 possessions – not bad for a man in the full-back line.
He was never found wanting in one-on-one situations either, especially when Mayo were wide open at the back having committed so many bodies going forward.
Fergal Boland finds himself in a very similar situation. Having emerged as a real find under Rochford, and establishing himself as a solid option at wing-forward, the Aghamore man hasn’t been able to force his way into Horan’s plans.
Boland has found making the match-day 26 difficult, never mind getting game-time.
He found himself in the unusual position of wing-back against Meath and adapted quite well.
His game suited the role as the dual player has the engine, positional sense, pace and scoring ability to slot in seamlessly.
Boland found himself on the ball nearly 20 times before being subbed around the 50 minute mark.
By that stage he had scored a nice point on the run, was linking well with the inside line and winning breaking ball from the kick-out – everything you need and expect from a wing-back.
But despite a solid display, competition for those jerseys is fierce in that squad and it’s unlikely he’ll get the nod over the likes of Eoghan McLaughlin and Michael Plunkett, two players that James Horan is very keen on.

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