Mayo have responded in the face of adversity before. When a situation looked doomed, this team somehow got inspiration from somewhere to rectify the wrongs, to produce performances when we didn't expect them and when we needed them badly.
That scenario has presented itself again and now more than ever, Mayo need a massive reversal in form and fortune to maintain our proud standing in the top flight of GAA football, which dates back to the 98/99 season. Mayo's 2-16 to 0-13 point loss to Monaghan in Clones last Sunday has left us languishing second from bottom in the league, above Meath, who have lost all their games so far.
Last week I mentioned about consistency and that players need to be putting in solid back-to-back performances, but I honestly can't remember a time when this entire group were struggling for form resulting in below par performances and a team playing without confidence and conviction. The only good thing to come out of last weekend from a Mayo perspective, is that Donegal lost and Tyrone suffered a right hammering from Galway, leaving those two teams very much on our radar in pursuit of avoiding relegation.
Big battle to stay up
Tyrone seem to be the most viable option for us to overtake, as they suffered their biggest ever loss of Mickey Harte's tenure, going down by 2-25 to 0-12 to Padraic Joyce's high flying Galway. Factor in they have lost star forward, Cathal McShane, to a serious ankle injury which he picked up against Galway and that Mattie Donnelly is out for the year, which means they are robbed of the services of two of their top performers.
Their run in is not that pleasant either, Dublin up next in Omagh followed by two away games to Donegal and the crunch tie against Mayo on the final day. Taking into account that Dublin don't like losing and Donegal will need to win, augers well from a Mayo perspective. Taking fixtures into consideration and from a bit out, it looks like Mayo will be playing for their division one lives in a winner-takes-all game against Tyrone in Castlebar on the Sunday, March 22. I'd prefer if Mayo had their division one status secured by that stage.
Cards cost us
Discipline seems to be a factor of late for Mayo and some can argue that it has cost us games in this year's league. The scoreline read 1-11 to 0-12 to Monaghan last Sunday when Jordan Flynn received his second yellow card, reducing Mayo to 14. We were very much in the game at that stage but Mayo were outscored by 1-5 to 0-1 after his dismissal. Padraig O'Hora also got his marching orders late on - but the game was done as a contest when he went off.
Those numbers suggest red cards are costing us dearly. There is serious emphasis in the modern game about how aggressive forwards are in the tackle. If you score four or five points from play in the modern game but are unwilling to put in the hard yards tracking back and tackling, then a manager may not be that interested in you.
No matter where you play, you have to put up a high tackle count. Jordan Flynn's second yellow card was harsh, no question, and no doubt he felt he had to stop the Monaghan defence from orchestrating a counter attack, but you have to somehow restrain yourself from committing a foul that puts pressure on the ref when you have already been booked.
Diarmuid O'Connor can probably consider himself lucky too after he swung a Monaghan player to the ground, having been already booked for a high tackle before that. Frustration is the root of all evil in cases like that. When things aren't going your way you tend to increase your aggressiveness in the tackle, often resulting in a bookable offence. I used to be very guilty of the same back in the day.
Mayo were unable to shackle a rejuvenated Conor McCarty on the day. He led our defence on a merry dance scoring a very impressive 1-3 from play and he was a constant menace throughout. He looks a completely different player under Séamus 'Banty' McEnaney. Along with Shane Walsh from Galway, he has been the most impressive player so far in this year's league.
Despite the result, I was delighted my own club mate, Paul Towey, made his senior début, scoring a fine point in the process. After his heroics in the u20 semi final against Galway, it was only a matter of time. Hopefully he can add a bit of bite to the Mayo forward division. Kerry may just bring out the best in us on Saturday evening
More distractions that weren't needed
The Tim O'Leary and Mayo GAA saga took another turn for the worst on Sunday afternoon when Mr O'Leary issued a very inappropriate tweet calling for James Horan's head, shortly after the loss to Monaghan. The timing couldn't have been any worse as the team are going through a sticky patch. Negativity and off-field distractions are the last thing anyone needs right now. Despite apologising, it was very irresponsible on his part considering all the furore that was created for him to become accepted over the last few months. However any actions that are to the detriment of Mayo GAA need to be dealt with and I feel the correct actions have been taken.