Since the end of the National League campaign, Noel Connelly has become the public face of the Mayo management team when it comes to engaging with the press. On Saturday evening, it was once again the former Mayo captain who came out to face the questions after Mayo booked their place in the final four of the championship with a comfortable win over Donegal in Croke Park.
Overall he was very please with how things went on the day saying, “ it was a good performance. Energetic. I thought the whole team worked really, really hard. Maybe Donegal to be fair, a week to recover from last weekend didn't help and I thought we were fresher throughout the field and we finished strong. We wouldn't be happy with the amount of chances we missed in the second-half and we could have killed the game off as a contest earlier than we did. But overall I thought the performance was good from the lads.”
Moran to the defence
Speaking about the positioning of Barry Moran in front of his full back line, Connelly said “I thought he played the position very well. We needed to give a little bit of cover in that area, we knew we were going to be targeted in that area so we just wanted to cut out that option.” As for where the idea came from the Hollymount-Carramore man said: “It's always been (that ), we look at it as horses for courses. Donegal always play long direct ball as do Kerry. There's teams that do play that style of football, against Sligo they wouldn't have been doing that. That was the reason for it, just to maybe get back there and cover off the space for Michael Murphy, I thought he did that very well. Barry is probably one of the best and smartest footballers you'll find. He did it very, very well and I thought his positional sense would be very good. We'd be happy with the way he played.”
As for playing against the type of system that they faced on Saturday, Noel added that they used the league as a training ground to see what they needed to do to counteract that type of system. “We learned during the league that against that kind of system you need to be patient on the ball, switch direction when it needs to be switched. Be patient and wait for the runners coming through and when they come, be clinical when they do appear.”
Injuries to be assessed
Mayo lost the services of a both David Clarke and Tom Cunniffe before the second half started, explaining the injuries Connelly said, “Davy Clarke picked up an injury when he was saving the goal shot in the first-half and he has an adductor injury we're told. We don't know how serious it is yet but that was the reason for the change at half-time” and “Tom tweaked his hamstring going for a ball to his feet. He stumbled out over and just pinched his hamstring. Again I don't know how serious that is, we'll have to look at that over the next few days and see how it is.”
The closing stages of the game saw Kevin Keane pick up a straight red card after a needless tussle with Michael Murphy, it was something that Connelly admitted he was very disappointed with “ Very disappointing. I have to see it again. Kevin says, I suppose Michael Murphy had him by the neck and jersey, I suppose it's a natural reaction to push off, whether the fist was closed or the hand, I don't know what it was. Being very truthful I haven't seen it. But he's very disappointed, we'll have to look at it and see whether or not it was a correct decision. Whether we'll appeal it, we don't know, we'll have to have a look at it.
O’Shea goal the big moment
The big moment in the game was when Aidan O’Shea stuck the ball in the Donegal net just before half-time and that score gave the game a fairer reflection on the scoreboard Connelly believes “It was a very good time to get a goal. We had a two or three point lead for most of the first-half but it came back to one. It's an awful time to concede a goal but it's a great time to get one and I suppose the team talk was a bit easier because of that goal. I thought we were doing well at that stage. I think overall, the first-half performance, four points was a fair difference between the two teams at that point.”
As for the Dubs in three weeks time, Mayo haven’t been thinking that far ahead yet says the joint manager. “We've always taken it one game at a time. Our complete focus was on Donegal up to this evening and from tomorrow onwards we'll focus on Dublin. We know the calibre of team they are. We're under no illusions. They came to Castlebar in the league and gave us a whipping. They're very strong throughout the park. We'll need to be very competitive but we know that performance today especially in the second-half won't be good enough to over come them.”