Mayo doing fine - but can do better

James Carr is one of a number of players who have shown flashes of their quality this year. Photo: Sportsfile

James Carr is one of a number of players who have shown flashes of their quality this year. Photo: Sportsfile

Mayo's mid-term league assessment would have to be summarised very briefly as 'doing fine, but can do better'.

Three points accumulated from a possible six is acceptable, when you consider Donegal away and Dublin at home were two of those first three games. However, those three points on the board could so easily have been zero points, but for late late cameos by James Durcan in Ballybofey and Kevin McLoughlin last time out in Navan against Meath.

Every single team in division one has pencilled in a win against the Royals as a given, so I don't see the win in Navan as two points gained, rather than just maintaining parity. As I mentioned before, any team that doesn't secure a win against Meath will find themselves in trouble with them and Mayo almost fell into that category.

Instead of comparing yourself to the lower ranked teams, you have to set your barometer against the best. Mayo were competitive against Dublin in the first half of their league meeting and taking Jordan Flynn's red card into consideration in that game, you still felt the Dubs were only playing in second gear to eventually coast to victory in Castlebar.

Dublin have our card marked now. They are unbeaten by Mayo in the last 16 meetings stretching back eight seasons. Six consecutive league losses to Dublin is not exactly what you'd call an intense rivalry. Mayo are mostly judged on how they get on against Dublin and the statistics do not look good from that perspective.

After some herculean All-Ireland final battles down the years, Dublin know that they are capable of running away with games against us in the second half and we somehow need to change that concept. Mayo are no longer Dublin's biggest rivals, Kerry have taken that mantle from us.

The confusing thing is that Mayo are more than capable of beating the likes of Monaghan and Kerry and yet both of those teams put Dublin to the pin of their collars in this year's league. Dublin miraculously clawed back a huge point deficit against Monaghan with only ten minutes left, albeit their equaliser arrived in the ninth minute of injury time.

Consistency needed throughout the field

Mayo need to display more consistency right throughout the field for the full duration of the game. A lot of players are playing in patches during games and some are struggling to put in two good performances back to back. James Carr is a prime example. He has scored some wonder points in the first half of Mayo's opening three league games but yet James Horan has taken him off at half time in those three games, presumably because he feels the Ardagh man can do better.

To my knowledge he didn't pick up any injury in any of those games. Scoring a wonder point in 35 minutes is not sufficient at this level. I'm sure Carr is frustrated and he wants a full 70 plus minutes to show us what he is capable of. There are many more too that are doing fine but can do better and they need to show a level of consistency required to compete with the very best.

Things are very tight in the top flight

The way the league is shaping up and the competitiveness of the fixtures means Mayo will at the very least need another win and possibly two or at least another win and a draw, to stay in division one. The surprise packages so far for me have been Galway and Mayo's opponents on Sunday - Monaghan.

They played each other on the opening day and Galway held on for a one point win in Salthill against the Farney men. Padraic Joyce's Galway could so easily have six points on the board having lost late on in Kerry, but they could so easily have no points as they almost let the game slip against Monaghan and recovered from a seven point second half deficit against Donegal in round two, to somehow hold on for a morale boosting win in Letterkenny. But they will be more than satisfied with their four point tally at this stage.

Monaghan will ask plenty of questions

Monaghan's response to that defeat against Galway has been impressive - a commanding performance and home win against Tyrone and making the Dubs look very ordinary for long periods in Croke Park last time out. After losing a number of key personnel, Séamus 'Banty' McEnaney has rejuvenated a number of Monaghan players to freshen things up.

I can't remember any team running Dublin as ragged as they did in Croke park in round three in the last 10 years. Their first half performance was as good as anything we have witnessed against the Dubs. They may however be kicking themselves at letting that game slip and maybe they will be a little fragile for Sunday after not winning it.

Every dog on the street knows putting the shackles on Conor McManus is a must in pursuit of victory against Monaghan. That's easier said than done. Banty's interchanging of his half back line and half forward line from week to week will have the Mayo management guessing as to how they will line out.

They are very difficult to break down and counter attack at speed, often kicking long ball into McManus. Don't be surprised to see Kieran Hughes on the edge of the square either in pursuit of gathering a few offensive marks.

Mayo need a big performance to lift the spirits, more importantly we need a win in this cut throat division. Monaghan are slight favourites at 8/11 while Mayo are 11/8. A draw which would not be out of the question either is 15/2.


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