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Mayo club standard has dipped

Sport

EXPERIENCE Former Castlebar Mitchels joint manager Declan Shaw. Pic: Conor McKeown

Edwin McGreal

THE standard of Mayo club football has dipped in recent years, but people should not over-analyse the nature of Westport’s 13-point defeat to Moycullen in the Connacht senior club championship recently.
That’s according to Declan Shaw who, together with Declan O’Reilly, joint-managed Castlebar Mitchels to win the 2015 provincial club championship title, the last Mayo team to do so.
Indeed, when you add in Mitchels’ 2013 provincial success under Pat Holmes, you have to go back to Ballina’s 2007 win to find when any other Mayo club last conquered Connacht.
While admitting the standard has dipped, Shaw was cautious about drawing too many conclusions from Westport’s heavy defeat.
“I think everyone will agree the standard has dropped a bit,” Shaw told The Mayo News. “Why that has happened is hard to know. You can just get a group together that can go places. “We had a very good, solid group of players. Not a whole pile made the breakthrough into the county team, but all 15-plus would have played county at some stage, be it underage or on the senior panel.
“We have to be honest and say there are probably three or four clubs in Galway who are better than our top teams at the moment. Is it just swings and roundabouts? I don’t know. It is very hard to pin down the reason.
“Westport were beaten by 13 points. They were coming off a first title and likely enjoyed themselves and rightly so. I’m sure if they went out again and played Moycullen it would be a different game. They certainly wouldn’t be beaten by 13 points.
“As well as that, games can take on a life of their own. If Westport had scored with one of the goal chances they had at the start of the second half, that would have got their gander up and may have changed the course of the game.
“It is easy to say afterwards. We took trouncings in Croke Park. If we played the same opposition again shortly after, it would have been much closer,” added Shaw, who was one of the four candidates interviewed for the Mayo senior management position earlier this year.
Mitchels beat Corofin en route to Connacht titles in 2013 and 2015. They lost to them after extra-time in 2016 and 2017. Corofin started a three-in-a-row All-Ireland title run in 2017/18, defeating Ballintubber in the 2018 and 2019 campaigns by two and four points respectively.
Shaw says such high standards can lead to teams often driving each other on.
“We played Corofin four times and we had a very good record against them. We were very strong and in the county we had Ballintubber to contend with, and we probably played off each other a bit and that drove us on. We went on and won two Connacht titles and we were very competitive in the province,” he said.
“We probably were not as strong towards the end as at the outset. We beat Corofin in our first two Connacht campaigns and were beaten in the next two by them, and we probably didn’t have as strong a bench by then. James Durcan and Cian Costello were mainstays of our team by then; in earlier years we were bringing them on and they were great impact subs.”
Shaw cites defensive approaches in the club game and forward play as other factors why the standard of Mayo club football may have dipped.
“The gap has certainly closed in Mayo. Now almost every team at senior is doing their gym work.
“How teams set up in Mayo is a factor too. Teams are very defensively-minded and often there’s more of a focus on not losing than trying to win.
“Quality of forwards is an issue. Have we enough guys who will drop the shoulder and take on the man? I don’t think so.  
“You have to be balanced though. Certainly you can over analyse one result. Mayo football is not in the depths of depression because our county champions lost a Connacht quarter-final,” he said.

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