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Mayo make most of Dublin visit

Sean Rice
Sean Rice

Mayo make most of dress rehearsal

Sean Rice

IT was their last big test before they hit for Markievicz Park . . . and it was revealing.  In the confined space of Hollymount’s ‘bowl’ more questions were posed for Dublin than for Mayo. Allowing for their long journey, an eight-point defeat is not what Pat Gilroy would have had in mind.
What that says about Mayo we’ll have to wait and see. There was championship intensity to them as the battle for places continues. And management will be pleased with many aspects of their performance. But this was nothing other than a rehearsal.
The match will have settled the full-back issue. There was general approval of Ger Cafferkey’s handling of Dublin ace Bernard Brogan. Without being spectacular, the Ballina man was assured and positive.
But Tom Cunniffe was not as compelling at centre-half as against Cavan in Belmullet, which may have more to do with lack of match practice than of appetite. You don’t recover all your stamina overnight after a break of twelve months.
Donal Vaughan cried off before the game and we don’t know how he might have performed in that critical position. For the twenty minutes or so he was on, Kieran Conroy seemed adequate.
But reservations still exist about who best might now hold down that vital berth. The man they are endeavouring to replace, Trevor Howley, did quite well at corner back. Why it took so long to discover the need for a change is a mystery.
It was good to see Tom Parsons at last commit more physically to tackles in the thirty-five minutes allotted to him. Together with the rising graph of Ronan McGarrity’s form, especially in the second half, Mayo got control in the midfield  area. When he replaced Parsons at the interval, Seamus O’Shea’s industry was also evident.
There is now competition for the full-forward spot with the emergence of Barry Moran as a possible first-team choice. The Castlebar man did best in the first half when ideal ball was pumped in from Billy Joe Padden operating on the ‘forty’. It is no coincidence that following Padden’s switch to the left wing in the second half the flow to Moran became more erratic.
The form of team captain Trevor Mortimer had been indifferent over the final weeks of the National League, but in his performance on Friday there was a welcome return of the old smooth-running efficiency.
But the man who attracted most attention in the first half was corner forward Alan Freeman. He showed confidence and maturity in taking on the Dublin defence, and his three points under pressure were a feature of the first half. In his thirty-five minute slot the Aghamore man made quite an impression, and will be high on the selectors’ list for a place in the first fifteen on Sunday week.
The whole bench with the exception of Alan Dillon and Aidan Kilcoyne, who are nursing injuries, got a chance to make their final case for selection, and their eight points win over a Dublin side, not quite in tune with their league performances, is a certain boost to their confidence.
But be aware, this was not the championship.

Jinkin’ Joe Corcoran was a class apart
THERE’S no Celtic cross among his medals. History on a national scale has not been as kind to him as it has to many a lesser talent. But we who saw Joe Corcoran taunt defences know he was in a class of his own. And we are privileged to have been around to record it.
Let’s get straight to the point: Joe Corcoran is my unchallenged choice for the Number 12 spot on my best team of half a century. He’s there on merit, by dint of a career often let down by a bounce of the ball, but rarely ever down on the Richter scale of personal performance.
He heads a pile of forwards who stamped their own mark on the left wing . . . the likes of Des Griffith, Kevin McStay, Kevin O’Neill, Pat Harte, Seamus O’Dowd, Alan Dillon, just some of the 110 players listed in that position down the decades . . . none though so firmly as the Ardnaree man.
Like all great players Corcoran was temperamental, and had his off-days. But for one who didn’t kick a ball until he was fourteen years of age he took to it like a duck to water.
Golf had been his boyhood sport, and he became such a master of the small ball that at one stage he had a handicap in Ballina Golf Club of plus four. Together with his late wife, his son and two daughters they won a total of seven All-Ireland golf competitions. “And I couldn’t win one in football,” he once told me.
Football took over from golf after a local man, intuitively aware of his natural talent, bought Joe a pair of football boots. And later, as a member of the Ardnaree minor team, he remembered having Ballina beaten until one of his own players kicked the ball the wrong way . . . into his own net.
He scored 4-19 in Mayo’s minor campaign of 1958 before losing to Dublin in the final. By now he had become a sensation . . . and high on the list for senior promotion. Today, 36 years after retiring, Joe Corcoran still holds the record as the leading Mayo scorer of all time having bagged 20 goals and 358 points.
He played junior before winning a place on the senior side at right-half forward. Later, following advice from county secretary Johnny Mulvey, he transferred to the other wing where he became more fruitful.
He could kick with either foot, and for the manner in which he skipped through defences he was dubbed ‘Jinkin Joe’. “I never practised free-taking,” he said. “It just came to me. The practice I had was playing backs and forwards in Castlebar with the county squad.”
He was also a bit fond of holding on too long, and remembered being advised by the then county board chairman Fr Leo Morahan to go for a score after beating one man, not to wait until he had three or four beaten. “But that was the way I played it.”
Having won two Connacht medals, in 1967 and ¹69, Joe finally added a national medal to his collection after Mayo’s league win of 1970 . . . when winning the league meant something. But Roscommon caught them napping in the championship.
As a man so accurate with the dead ball Corcoran laments the free kick from the hands. He told me that kicking the ball off the ground and over the bar was a distinctive skill. Anyone, he said, could kick the ball out of his hands. That was simple. “It’s only damaging the game changing a rule like that.”
He said the centre-half forward should be the key man in the forward line. He should be the man in charge. “The centre half forward is very important and he should be a big strong man, a leader.“ And Mayo, he added, were sadly lacking in leaders.
Joe Corcoran would have fitted in easily on any team even one that boasted the likes of Mick Mulderrig, Padraig Carney, Tom Langan, Mick Flanagan, Peter Solan and Joe Gilvarry.

The team so far
1. Eugene Lavin; 2. Willie Casey, 3. Ray Prendergast, 4. Dermot Flanagan;
5. Ger Feeney, 6. John Morley,
7. James Nallen; 8. WJ Padden, 9. TJ Kilgallon;
10. Martin Carney, 11. Liam McHale, 12. Joe Corcoran.

Just a thought...
It’s too late now to stop it, but the controversy surrounding the new hand-pass rule ought to be a salutary lesson to administrators about the folly of introducing a change of that nature a few weeks before the championship begins.

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