Mayo on the edge after Kerry loss

GAA: National Football League

Looking ahead: Mayo manager James Horan is hoping that he will be able to get some game time into a few players who have yet to feature this year for Mayo. Photo: Sportsfile.

Looking ahead: Mayo manager James Horan is hoping that he will be able to get some game time into a few players who have yet to feature this year for Mayo. Photo: Sportsfile.

Mayo are staring down the barrel of relegation to division two of the National Football League following their third defeat from five games last Sunday against Kerry in Castlebar.

Despite putting in a strong showing in the second half where they came right back at the Munster champions and nearly nicked a draw at the death - the performance in the first half was just not good enough, as manager James Horan acknowledged afterwards, saying: "Over the course of the game our performance over the 70 minutes wasn't good enough, in the first half we stood off and we weren't aggressive, didn't put them under the pressure we needed to. They are very good footballers and if you stand off them they will play all day and we were very, very poor in the first half.

"We had 11 shots with the wind and we scored three of them (Mayo scored four points ); you are going to struggle to beat a quality team like Kerry if you do that, even with the second half performance we had."

The poor showing by his side in the first half was something that did surprise Horan, who said he didn't know what happened: "I'm not sure, we'll talk about it as a group and tweak a few things. But it is a surprise for a home game that was important for us to win, that we were that stand-offish, we'll have to try and figure it out."

As for putting in a far better showing in the second half and taking some comfort from that, having almost got a point out of the game, Horan said: "Keith (Higgins ) had a chance at the end, he is disappointed, to level it it would have been nice, but we have to look at what we were at in the first half - we were 1-6 to 0-2 down at one stage with the wind and that is not good enough."

The Mayo management made three changes at the break, with Eoghan McLaughlin, Eoin O'Dongohue and Tommy Conroy all being drafted in from the bench to bolster the side and there were tactical reasons for those changes, he explained: "In the first half they were getting all their kick-outs away and getting a lot of clean ball in the middle, so they were just getting away from us a bit, so we put Eoghan McLaughlin in there who is very athletic and he made a huge difference and ran at them; most of the team did that and took a step forward rather than taking a step back and we had a strong second half, but we need to look at it in total."

As for building on the last 35 minutes of the game and what they will try and do, Horan said: "You have to build and you always have to look at what went well as well and look, we have a big two weeks ahead of us leading into the Galway game.

"We did a lot of good things and guys coming back into form, Kevin McLoughlin did very well, Paul Towey, the other extreme coming in, then Ryan O'Donoghue had a huge shift in the second half - a lot of that is very good and we will have a lot of players back over the next few weeks so we have to pull together and keep working hard for the next game."

When it came to the team that started the game last Sunday there was a big turnover in the numbers of players starting for Mayo compared to the one that started last years All Ireland semi-final defeat to Dublin, with just five of the starting 15 also starting that game in Croke Park - Stephen Coen, Lee Keegan, Paddy Durcan, Aidan O'Shea and Diarmuid O'Connor; and another three who came off the bench in the semi-final last summer, Keith Higgins, Kevin McLoughlin and Tom Parsons, also starting against Kerry last Sunday; while for Kerry, they had eight players who started their All Ireland final replay loss to Dublin also start last Sunday and three more who came on in that loss to the metropolitans in their starting 15. They were also able to call on three players who started that final from their bench last Sunday and another player who came on as a sub in both games.

Horan is hoping that he will be able to call on a number of his currently walking wounded for their last two league games against Galway on Sunday week in Salthill and then the following weekend at home to Tyrone, saying after last Sunday's loss: "Donnie Vaughan is very close, Cillian O'Connor is very close, Fionn McDonagh is very close, they would be three off the top of the head. James Carr, Padraig O'Hora, will be back, some of those just picked up slight knocks during the week to put them out, there are six or seven that we will be able to add to that panel today and we need to use that."

As for others like Mattie Ruane, Chris Barrett and Seamie O'Shea, he wasn't as hopeful that they will see game time before the end of the league, adding: "They are probably a bit further away and we are monitoring them very closely, so it is getting tight now before the end of the league so it is hard to see some of them maybe getting league time - but hopefully some of them will."


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