For those of you that never heard of David Fairclough, he was a ginger haired Liverpool player who came off the bench on numerous occasions to score crucial goals for his team to rescue several points for the reds, when they were the standard bearers of English football in the seventies and eighties. He earned the title/nickname - super sub.
Kevin McLoughlin did his best David Fairclough impression thus far, coming off the bench in Pairc Tailteann last Sunday, scoring 1-2 against Meath in a second half haul that ultimately secured two crucial league points for Mayo. He was Mayo’s only second half scorer.
While taking conditions into consideration, this game was still riddled with schoolboy mistakes and poor decision making by both sides. The strong breeze wreaked havoc for whoever was playing against it. Meath’s carelessness was the springboard for many of Mayo's first half scores - James Carr kicking the pick of the bunch of Mayo's first half tally from outside the 45 in the 12th minute.
Despite Mayo going in 0-7 to 0-1 up at the interval, you always knew it was going to be far from straightforward, as is the way Mayo always seem to do things. Even though Meath played against the gale for the first 35 minutes, some of their first half shooting was bordering on atrocious.
Mayo did hold Meath scoreless for the first 14 minutes of the second half, leading us to believe the game was well under control. However, a brilliant James McEntee goal for Meath in the 49th minute set the tone for what was about to unfold. Meath's dominance around the middle of the field led them to score another goal in the 54th minute through Ronan Jones, after another flowing, passing move, that ripped through the Mayo defence without anyone laying a hand on a Meath player. Meath were all of a sudden in front and Mayo were in trouble.
The ease with which the Royals ran through our defence to score those goals was alarming, to say the least. It was then time for Kevin Mcloughlin to announce himself into the arena after coming on as a half time sub for James Carr. Donal Keoghan brilliantly dispossessed a long pass to Conor Loftus to knock the ball over the sideline, Keoghan's over-enthusiasm cost Meath dearly in my opinion; he uncharacteristically kicked the ball away, leading referee Sean Hurson to bring the line ball 20 metres closer to goal. The resulting kick was still far from simple but Kevin Mcloughlin nailed it brilliantly into the teeth of the breeze to level the scores at 0-8 to 2-2.
Mayo looked like they would struggle to score up to that point and they certainly weren't going to score directly from the original line ball. Mcloughlin's second point to level matters again came in the 68th minute, after a fine assist from Ryan O'Donoghue. With normal time almost up, a kick-out found its way to Meath corner back Robin Clarke, who was made to retreat towards his own goal, as he was put under the most severe pressure by McLoughlin after he gathered the ball. He panicked with McLoughlin's relentlessness and misplaced a pass to Ryan O'Donoghue, who then fed a delightful hand pass to McLoughlin, who hammered home what ended up to be the winning goal in the 69th minute. It was a superb finish by McLoughlin and although Meath did tag on two late points, Mayo held on for what may end up being two crucial league points. Had we lost this game, our long standing in division 1 would be in serious jeopardy.
With the relief still etched on our faces following the late win in Navan, came the damning news we all feared, that Colm Boyle’s knee injury was of a serious nature. Taking the way he plays into consideration and the fact he's turning 34 in July, you'd worry about seeing Boyler in a Mayo jersey again at his very best, but I hope I'm wrong. He has been Mayo's ultimate warrior and a real life Mayo Braveheart, never shirking a challenge. If he was on the field last Sunday I doubt Meath would have sauntered through so easy for their two goals. I wish him a speedy recovery.
Penalties has no place in championship games
I wasn't able to make it to Castlebar on Saturday for the u20 semi final between Mayo and Galway, so I had to rely on twitter and WhatsApp messages to follow proceedings. Whoever agreed to let penalty kicks decide a championship encounter should be barred from ever making an important football decision again. I would feel strongly about this even if Mayo had won the game. It's OK for the FBD league or the O'Byrne cup but not for a championship encounter. I can only imagine how gutted the players are. Charlestown's Paul Towey was unplayable on the day, scoring nine points for Mayo in the most atrocious conditions. My heart goes out to all of them.