GOING THEIR SEPARATE WAYS Mayo’s Darren McHale shakes hands with Kildare goalkeeper Aaron O’Neill after Saturday’s All-Ireland SFC Qualifier match at Croke Park. Pic: Sportsfile
There were no shortage of talking points from Mayo’s latest great escape
1 Old woes are still there
YET another late, late show might have left some Mayo supporters smiling after the full-time whistle went, but it doesn’t solve the old problem that has dumbfounded this team for so long. And that’s their failure to break down a packed defence.
Kildare lined out a different unit to what we saw in the Leinster final against Dublin, opting to shut up shop and pack the danger zone. The system change worked too, as the Lilywhites restricted Mayo to only five first-half points, as well as swarming our runners like a pack of wolves and winning those momentum-changing turnovers.
Oisín Mullin’s goal proved to the dart that burst the Kildare balloon, and they will be absolutely devastated at how they conceded it, given they had the Kilmaine flyer almost bottled up.
There was only going to be one winner after that though as the Kildare challenge wilted, but the result only serves to paper over the cracks.
2 Boland takes his chance
AFTER kicking seven points from play for Aghamore in the Mayo Senior League six days earlier, Fergal Boland was a man in form who took his chance on Saturday.
Sprung from the bench just before half-time to replace Jason Doherty, he kicked two points and had a major influence in the second half.
His performance will raise his stock even further for the large cohort of supporters who are tearing their hair out as to why he isn’t getting more game time.
And perhaps if Bryan Walsh had not picked up a hamstring injury in training on Thursday evening, James Horan would have gone with another option.
Boland’s scoring prowess is undoubted, something Mayo are really lacking at the minute. So the question remains: has he done enough to convince Horan to give him a starting spot?
3 Life in the old ‘GOAT’ yet
IS there much left to be said about Lee Keegan at this stage?
The Westport man’s form over the past two seasons has been nothing short of astonishing, and he’s showing no signs of slowing down.
Against Monaghan he arrived up the field and hit a massive point when his side needed it most. And last Saturday in Croke Park he drove forward and hit two sensational efforts from play.
On his hugely popular Twitter page, Edwin McGreal of this parish suggested that Keegan is firmly on his way to winning his sixth All-Star award and it’s hard to disagree with him.
There was a general consensus on his post, including from Meath great Bernard Flynn, that Keegan is Mayo’s greatest player ever. It’s hard to argue with that either.
He’s still as nonchalant and carefree in his football as he was in his early days and is as ferocious as a competitor.
Shrule/Glencorrib’s Austin Payne summed it up when he said: “You will see grown men cry when he departs”.
4 Young guns showing form
THE past two Qualifier games have given Enda Hession and Jack Carney time to really find their feet and some form.
Hession’s lung-busting runs from deep are an enormous asset and is key to why he is keeping Padraig O’Hora out of the team. His block on Daniel Flynn’s second-half goal-bound shot was huge, and a moment that seemed to get some admiration from Flynn himself afterwards.
Meanwhile, Carney is looking more and more like the promising young talent we all have seen develop since his days with Rice College.
On Saturday the Kilmeena man didn’t back down in the physical stakes and got on the scoreboard once again, while also showing an ability to be an option as a target man at full-forward if needed.
If Mayo had a full deck, Carney may not have been given this chance, but he has taken his opportunity with two hands.
5 Mayo missing Ryan badly
THE significance of Ryan O’Donoghue’s absence from the Mayo attack is even greater than we first imagined.
Fortunately, the opposition during his spell on the sidelines has thankfully been at a level where Mayo have still had enough to get by.
But his return has to be top priority ahead of the stiffer challenge a quarter-final poses.
His energy, accuracy and explosiveness is a huge void to be filled, and none of Cillian O’Connor, James Carr nor Jason Doherty can offer what the Belmullet man does.
Rumour had it that O’Donoghue may have been rushed back for last week had Mayo felt they really needed him, so his return should be impending in the next fortnight.
Correctly managing the apparent groin injury he has so as to not aggravate it is going to be vital if Mayo have any intention of getting past Kerry.