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A stuttering restart for Mayo


BOUNCEBACKABILITY Mayo’s Eoghan McLaughlin takes on Monaghan’s Ryan McAnespie during last Saturday’s All-Ireland SFC Qualifier. Pic: Conor McKeown

Edwin McGreal

IN all honesty most Mayo fans would have taken a victory and nothing more from Saturday. It is, I’d argue, the hardest Qualifier draw Mayo ever had and so advancing to the next round was the singular focus.
If you said in advance Mayo would do so by leading from the sixth minute and holding Monaghan to just 12 points, you would have said it was a very good day out.
The reality was it was a very mixed bag. Some positives but when you look at some of the things Mayo did poorly, there’s nothing to be getting carried away with either.
Especially when you consider how poor Monaghan were at times.
The positives, aside from the result?
Having so many of those who were injured in recent months back in the match-day 26 and getting so much game time into many of them could be crucial if Mayo go on a run.
Oisín Mullin looked fully fit – there was none of the hesitancy we saw in his movement against Galway. Paddy Durcan had a bit of dirty petrol but there was real intent in everything he tried. The game will stand to him.
It’s more miles in the legs for the O’Connor brothers.
Rob Hennelly was really good with his kick-outs while Eoghan McLaughlin attacked the Monaghan defence ferociously.
While they might have seen little or no game time, having Darren McHale, Padraig O’Hora, Jason Doherty and Jordan Flynn in the subs is a positive too.
Enda Hession’s first championship start since the 2021 Connacht semi-final against Leitrim was a big bonus and he was outstanding. Ryan O’Donoghue’s fitness remains crucial though.
As frustrating as parts of the game were, there were very few poor performances.
That’s a positive.
Also, it was curious to see Mayo try two things a bit differently.
The first was the role of Jack Carney. When he was named at 14, most of us wondered who he would switch with. Aidan Orme was the chief suspect. Carney had no experience in there,  he couldn’t play there, could he?  
But line out at the edge of the square he did and the experiment was a success. He provided an aerial threat inside but also has the pace to win ball any which way.
He also helped with Mayo’s attacking structure in the first half. He stayed at the edge of the square which brought the Monaghan sweeper closer to goal and away from the optimum position in the middle of the ‘D’. It left more space then for Mayo when they punched holes. He drifted out a bit more in the second half, whether that was by accident or design.
It was interesting to listen to James Horan list his attributes after.
“Jack is still learning the game. Jack has brilliant skills. He’s very good in the air, he’s an exciting player and he’s learning all the time and he can play in a number of positions which is great … I think his hands are very good. He sees the game really early so he’s a good player,” Horan told the print media.
It sounds like it is an experiment that will continue.
Hand-in-hand with Carney inside was a willingness of Mayo to kick or even put long hand-passes into the scoring zone. This happened more in the first half than the second, but that direct style of play will need to be replicated if Mayo are to make inroads this season.
Mixed with driving runs from deep from the likes of Oisin Mullin, Enda Hession, Lee Keegan, Paddy Durcan, Eoghan McLaughlin and Mattie Ruane, it can be a lethal mix if Mayo get it right.
Secondly, Mayo hardly ever pushed up on the Monaghan kick-out.
It was something few of us expected because pushing up is one of Mayo’s strengths.
But, perhaps wary of Rory Beggan’s ability to clear a press and thinking back to September’s All-Ireland Final, Mayo stood off.
It did a few things. It invited Rory Beggan out the field and Mayo were keen to pressure him once Monaghan got outside their ‘45. Also, by not pressing, it meant that when Monaghan finally worked the ball up from a short kick-out, Mayo were well set defensively.
They often had 14 men behind the ball and limiting Monaghan to seven points in the first half and five in the second was a good day’s work.
Beggan started going longer with his kick-outs later in the game even when the short kick-out was still on and Mayo won more of those than they lost.
It showed Monaghan’s frustration with Mayo giving them the short kick-out.

Stat attack
Mayo’s first half conversion rate, eight scores from ten shots. Indeed, after 25 minutes they were seven from seven.

Mayo’s second half conversion rate, six points from shots. Prior to Lee Keegan’s point, it was just 14 percent, one from seven.

The percentage of short kick-outs Monaghan took, 11/20.
Overall they won 80 percent of Rory Beggan’s restarts while Mayo won 83 percent of Rob Hennelly’s, 15/18.


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