EXPERIENCED Offaly manager John Maughan has managed both Mayo and Clare in the past. Pic: Sportsfile
John Maughan is warning Mayo to tread carefully next Sunday
THERE are few people more qualified to assess next Sunday’s National League Division 2 promotion play-off than John Maughan, who has managed both Mayo and Clare during his time on the inter-county circuit.
His achievement in leading the Banner County to the 1992 Munster championship title has become the stuff of legend while the Crossmolina native also managed Mayo to the 1996, 1997 and 2004 All-Ireland Finals.
As luck would have it, the current Offaly manager also brought his team to Cusack Park in Ennis last month to play Clare in a challenge match before the start of the National League.
So his words of warning for Mayo should probably be heeded.
“We’ve played Clare a few times in challenge games and we actually beat them the last day,” Maughan told The Mayo News Football Podcast this week.
“Colm Collins has done a remarkable job getting them out of Division 4 and into Division 2, and they’re now a game away from Division 1. It’s quite remarkable.
“They haven’t got any stand-out players since Gary Brennan retired this year, he was an amazing footballer. But the one who’s captured the headlines this week is David Tubridy from Doonbeg, a very formidable club team.
“Clare are so honest. They’re as dogged and resilient a team as you’ll get. Every time those boys put on a Clare jersey you’re guaranteed a performance. It might not always be a winning performance, but they will never give up.
“Beating Kildare in Newbridge was a huge scalp and they nearly turned Cork over. So I guarantee you that they will make it very awkward for Mayo,” he added.
“I do think that Mayo might win it, but it’s a game I won’t be running to Paddy Power to gamble on. Because I wasn’t overly impressed with what I saw from Mayo against Meath, albeit both of them had already qualified for the play-offs.
“I didn’t read a whole lot into the Mayo performance but I do expect it to be a right, rollicking game down in Cusack Park, Ennis.
“They will respect Mayo but they won’t care for them, and they certainly won’t wilt under pressure.”
As well as leading Offaly into the Division 3 League semi-finals, Maughan was also in MacHale Park on Sunday week last to watch Mayo beat Meath easily in a ‘dead rubber’.
On the basis of facile wins over Down and Meath, along with a hard-fought victory away to Westmeath, Maughan says of Mayo, ‘I don’t think this league has told us a whole lot’.
“Cillian O’Connor was superb in the first half the last day, Matthew Ruane has really enhanced his reputation, and Lee Keegan looks in terrific shape and seems to have the appetite back for inter-county football. So if you’re looking for a man-marker for David Tubridy he’s the guy I’d be looking to,” he reflected.
“But other than that, there were a lot of questions about some of the performances. I’m not quite sure that James Horan and his management team realise what their best team is.
“I was surprised the way Meath ran through the heart of the Mayo defence so easily in the second half when they unleashed some of their big guns.
“So I wouldn’t be surprised to see Aidan O’Shea coming into a sort of holding role around centre-half back for the championship.”
As for a prediction for the game on Sunday, Maughan explained that while Clare are primed to ask a lot of difficult questions, he expects Mayo to have the answers.
“Mayo by a couple of points with a few frights along the way,” he offered.
“They will earn it but I expect their know-how, experience and expertise to help them prevail.”