It wasn't supposed to be like this

GAA:Casey's Call

 Diarmuid O'Connor of Mayo reacts after his shot on goal went wide against Roscommon last weekend. Photo: Sportsfile

Diarmuid O'Connor of Mayo reacts after his shot on goal went wide against Roscommon last weekend. Photo: Sportsfile

Just before I was about to hit send on last week's column I deleted one of the opening lines 'Beware- this game is fraught with danger'.

I was fully aware that Roscommon were going to bring it to us for reasons I pointed out in that column, but, maybe like Mayo and a lot of our supporters, I started to be slightly swayed by stuff I was reading - about a handy win for James Horan's team.

I'm in a state of shock as I pen this, this was not in the script, not in the opening scene, this was not meant to happen. We were after all the only team capable of beating Dublin, or so we thought. Maybe we started to believe in our own hype.

There were so many reasons why we didn't get anything out of the game, one being we were outfought by a team hell bent on laying down a marker after being written off by virtually everybody. Call it a form of complacency if you like. It happened to Monaghan the week before against Cavan. Now all of a sudden two teams that were expected to make inroads in this year's championship are disregarded and cast as no hoper’s. Football is a funny game.

Some of the statistics coming out of the game are worrying from a Mayo point of view. Mayo were wasteful in front of goal in New York, we couldn't afford to be the same way against a better team, a division one team, but we duly obliged. 15 wides in total, 11 coming in the first half whilst playing with the elements. Mayo had 29 shots from play during the encounter, scoring only 14, three dropped short.

A lot of these were from straightforward positions. Shots were taken on, on other occasions, that were low percentage chances, all resulting in a very poor efficiency return. Our-free taking wasn't much better, only scoring three out of seven from placed balls, again all very kick-able.

The kick out stats don't make for pleasant reading for either goalkeeper, Roscommon only retaining 42 per cent of Darren O'Malley's restarts in the opening half but yet, Mayo failed to punish those mistakes on the scoreboard. Any team with that sort of a return should be losing heavily at half time, yet Roscommon found themselves two points to the good at the interval.

We weren't so lucky with Robbie Hennelly's wayward restarts. A poor kick from Hennelly was intercepted by Ultan Harney, who passed to Andy Glennon, before squaring the ball to Harney for an easy tap in. O'Malley's mistakes may be overlooked, as he nailed three very impressive placed balls, two 45's and a long-ranger, while Hennelly's maybe not so much, as he didn't have his radar in sync at all and kicked some horrible wides that he'd normally be hitting the target with. The free-taking debate will continue long into the night and haunt us for a while as it always seems to be our Achilles heal.

Upon Matthew Ruane getting fouled deep in injury time for the last gasp and relatively straighforward chance to level matters, Kevin McLouglin turned his back to the area of the foul. In other words, he expressed zero interest in taking on the kick but was somehow persuaded to take it as it suited a left footed kicker.

I have said it time after time, Kevin McLoughlin does not want to be Mayo's place kicker. It thrusts added pressure on him that he doesn't want and affects his overall performance. I do not blame Kevin Mcloughlin, although I have no doubt he'll be very irate with himself for missing. The importance of Cillian O'Connor cannot be over emphasised. You need someone with ice in their veins in such a situation. Questions will be asked as to why this scenario wasn't sorted out before such an occasion arose.

While most of our forwards struggled, Darren Coen took the initiative, helping himself to five points - although his last effort was clearly wide ( Roscommon had a right to be incensed with the decision to award the score ). It's slightly ironic that the three forwards that we would have worried most about were the ones that played the better of the sextet. Neither Diarmuid O'Connor, Kevin McLaughlin or Jason Doherty will be satisfied with their return. Paddy Durcan, Matthew Ruane and Fergal Boland all kicked two fine scores each to help Coen keep the scoreboard ticking over.

Defensively we struggled badly as well. Our wing backs pushing too high up the field left gaping holes for our full back line to fill. Cathal Cregg and Conor Cox exploiting such gaps to punish us time after time. Keith Higgins will be disappointed Cregg rounded him with such ease to score the opening goal.

The first weekend in September seems such a long way off after this. The scalding Mayo have taken from everyone should, and hopefully will be used as motivation to get the wheels back on the cart. With four to five injured players set to return in the near future hopefully the dressing room will get a new lease of life. A kind qualifier draw is crucial. Well done Roscommon. We can't begrudge them this one, they deserved it.


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