Plenty to work on following tough Westmeath examination

GAA: Casey's Call

Limbering up: Mayo go through some stretches ahead of their game against Westmeath last weekend. Photo: Sportsfile

Limbering up: Mayo go through some stretches ahead of their game against Westmeath last weekend. Photo: Sportsfile

As the old cliché goes, games are for winning and Mayo did that, just about.

The far from impressive display has guaranteed the green and red a place in the division two semi final alongside Sunday's opponents, Meath, after Mayo's hard fought win over Westmeath at TEG Cusack Park.

A torrential downpour of Monsoon proportions during Amhran na bhfiann didn't help either set of players. As I expected, Mayo rang the changes from the team named to the media prior to the game while also having another number of changes in personnel from the named substitutes, which makes a mockery really of sending in any team sheet before a game.

Dublin did the same thing the week before in Hyde Park against Roscommon, with players not even wearing jerseys that they were supposed to be wearing from the match day program.

In a recent hurling league game, Laois had seven players not wearing their correct numbers that they were assigned in the match day program. It might not sound like much of an inconvenience to many, but when you are commentating/analysing a game, it's your worst nightmare, if you don't find out about such changes before throw-in or even after the game has started.

What will transpire out of all of this is that the anticipation, the nervousness and excitement about hearing who has made the team and subs before a big game, will all but evaporate, and supporters won't care less about who is announced on a team.

For me, it's a huge part of the build-up to a big game, the who's in who's out scenario. Mayo had seven deviations from the team and substitutes named in the program, including three from the starting 15. Ben Doyle, Eoghan McLaughlin and Conor Loftus started in place of Enda Hession, Rory Brickenden and Kevin Mcloughlin.

Mayo responded in kind from their poor start with some fine points from Eoghan Mcloughlin, the superb Paddy Durcan and Conor Loftus. A notable feature of the opening half was the ease with which Robbie Hennelly picked out Michael Plunket for several kick-outs in exactly the same place. It left me wondering why Westmeath were so naive to the tactic.

Matthew Ruane continued his impressive form, firing over two encouraging first-half points. Despite looking like things were under control, Mayo still went in at half time 2-05 to 0-10 behind, after Diarmuid O'Connor conceded a penalty that was dispatched by Heslin, O'Connor receiving a black card for the foul.

James Horan and his management were obviously not happy with first half proceedings and rang the changes at half time. On went Colm Boyle, Kevin Mcloughlin and Brian Walsh for Doyle, Jordan Flynn and Fionn McDonagh. Just as I was wondering about the impact Tommy Conroy was having, up he popped with an inspirational point in the 39th minute, after a give and go with Ryan O Donohue.

The game could have been put to bed in the 43rd minute but Diarmuid O'Connor dragged his shot wide of the post, after great work by Mattie Ruane.

Worryingly, Mayo were unable to shake off the Westmeath challenge. Rob Hennelly's alertness prevented a certain goal on 48 minutes when he sped off his line to take ball and John Heslin out of the game in a hard but fair challenge. Mayo found themselves only a point to the good by the second half water break, 2-06 to 0-13.

Mayo can largely thank Robbie Hennelly for this win after a super save in the 62nd minute when Colm Boyle got caught out with a long ball over the top. It looked like Boyler was about to pull down Brandon Kelly in the build-up before Hennelly's smart and crucial save. They say cream always rises to the top.

Paddy Durcan certainly is the cream of this Mayo team and he played a true captain's part, scoring two inspirational points in the second half. His 67th minute point was a splendid effort. Despite Mayo’s impressive 0-21 point tally, the worry that Westmeath scored two and created two more goal chances, will concern the Mayo management.

Sunday's game against our old foes, Meath, is somewhat of a dead rubber as both teams are already through to the division two semi-finals with a game to spare. It is a game that Mayo can experiment somewhat with. Although the top team in division two north faces the second placed team in division two south in the league semi final, I doubt James Horan & Co will mind having a go at either Clare, Cork or Kildare and therefore, can use the Meath game for trying new things, although I'm sure they will still want to win it at the same time.

Michael Moyles got his tenure as Mayo ladies manager off to a great start with a last gap 2-15 to 2-14 win over local rivals Galway, in what was a thrilling encounter. It was a Roy of the Rovers type comeback as Mayo found themselves six points behind entering the final quarter, before scoring 1-04 to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Well done to all involved, a great start to their season.


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