Harsh red card put Mayo on an uphill path they could never climb

GAA: Casey's Call

Getting to know you: Diarmuid O'Connor and James McCarthy get to grips with each other last Saturday night. Photo: Sportsfile

Getting to know you: Diarmuid O'Connor and James McCarthy get to grips with each other last Saturday night. Photo: Sportsfile

We will never know what the outcome would have been had Mayo kept their full complement on the field for the duration of the contest, but for the first 15 minutes or so, Mayo certainly had the better of proceedings against the Dubs.

Even after the dismissal of Jordan Flynn, Mayo were extremely competitive for the remainder of the first half, which was very encouraging, but you knew deep down, playing with 14 men against that Dublin team was ultimately going to end only one way.

The big talking point of the game was the issuing of a red card by referee Barry Cassidy for a high tackle by Flynn, on Dublin centre back, John Small. I happened to be sitting beside former All-Ireland final referee, Brian Crowe, who was the referee assessor for the day and immediately after Flynn's high forearm both of us assumed it would be a yellow card on first viewing - but he did point out thereafter however that referees have been told to come down heavy on high tackles, especially around the head area.

Flynn's tackle was high, it was late and it was clumsy but it was never a red for me. I have watched it over fifty times and still feel it was harsh. A referee has to be absolutely certain before he makes such a big call, so for that reason, I don't get how Cassidy came up with his decision while only seeing the incident in real time.

It ruined the game and our chance of getting anything from it. It was heartening I suppose to hear that the general consensus and across the media, is that Flynn's red card was harsh, particularly for the player himself, as I'm sure he feels down in himself after it and that he let the team down. However those who feel Niall Scully should have being issued with the same sanction for his high tackle late on in the second half, probably need to take off the blinkers.

Scully's pull around the neck was nothing compared to Flynn's forearm - but Flynn shouldn't have gone, in my opinion. Consistency is not the issue here, there was little or no aggressiveness on Scully's part. A ref who feels he needs to even things up if he makes an earlier mistake, is the most frustrating thing in any sport; at least Cassidy didn't do that.

Defensively, Mayo were strong, holding the Dubs to only 0-5 for the first half, despite having only 14 players for a major chunk of that time. Two of those Dublin scores came late. James McCarthy's levelling injury time point came when Colm Boyle hobbled helplessly across the field to try to make his presence count. Let's hope Boyler's injury isn't too serious. Despite some fine first half scores from Aidan O'Shea, James Durcan, and a monstrous effort from James Carr, Mayo were struggling up front.

Mayo didn't register their first score of the second half until the 22nd minute, by that time the damage was done. Dean Rock's deft flick over Robbie Hennelly for the game's only goal was the killer score that finally broke the camel's back. It was beautiful improvisation by Rock, who really couldn't have done anything else with Kevin McManamon's pass.

With the numerical disadvantage, the Mayo forwards spent most of their time retreating, tackling and tracking Dublin runners from deep in the field, often leaving no outlet up front for a long kick pass. At times like that, you miss the guile and experience of Andy Moran, who was always a viable option.

Mayo's inexperience and frustration was summed up in one passage of pla,y when Ryan O'Donoghue tried to pick out Tommy Conroy from 50 metres with a long pass, that was gobbled up by the Dublin defence. O'Donoghue took a rollicking from Diarmuid O'Connor for coughing up possession, before O'Connor bust a gut to track back and somehow manage to regain possession inside his own 21 yard line and carry the ball 70 metres out of his defence to instigate another attack.

Tommy Conroy made the run again, but instead of O'Connor kicking a low percentage kick pass to Conroy, he doubled back to keep possession for his team. Nothing accrued from the situation but O'Connor's experience and O Donoghue's lack of same, was evident in that passage of play. You cannot give the ball away needlessly. You can be sure O'Donoghue will learn that very quickly. When your backs are quite literally to the wall, you don't cough up cheap possession.

With Monaghan defeating Tyrone and Galway's late-late loss against Kerry and a round three game against Donegal for Padraic Joyce's team this weekend, Mayo's game against Meath on Sunday is of the upmost importance.

With nothing taken for granted in any division one game, this is a must win for Mayo. I feel any team that fails to gain maximum points against the Royals will find themselves in trouble with them.

A win will relieve the pressure going into the mini break before round 4, knowing one more win thereafter should secure division one status. A winning streak for Mayo wouldn't be out of the question either, with Donegal and Dublin now out of the way. That's the beauty of the league, every game is winnable but we can easily get caught by any team - as has been proven down the years. Mayo by four points.


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