It was far from a vintage performance against Monaghan but the ultimate objective was achieved. Mayo won and were in the bowl for the round two qualifier draw which took place last Monday morning, which of course paired us against Kildare for this Saturday evening in Croke Park.
The choice of venue and the timing seems to have annoyed quite a few Mayo supporters and I personally don't blame them, taking us all the way to the capital for a “neutral” venue when our opponents live beside the place.
There were incidents, controversies and talking points aplenty last Saturday evening in sun-drenched Hastings Insurance MacHale Park, all of which swayed in the favour of the green and red.
Monaghan were incensed with the awarding of a penalty to Mayo for a foot block when they didn't get a penalty themselves for what they thought was a similar incident. There is a massive difference between a foot block and blocking the ball with the foot. Oisin Mullin was clearly foot blocked by Monaghan's Dessie Warde.
Warde's foot was right beside Mullin's and had Mayo's number three followed through with his kicking motion, he could have been badly injured. The awarding of the penalty, that was brilliantly dispatched by Cillian O'Connor, was the correct decision. The incident that aggrieved Monaghan was when Stephen Coen blocked a goal-bound attempt by Monaghan substitute Sean Jones. There was clear daylight (yards ) between Coen and Jones and Jones was never in danger of getting hurt as Coen flung himself to block the ball with his foot. Both outcomes were correct calls by referee Barry Cassidy who had an indifferent afternoon with his decisions.
In real time I thought the issuing of a black card to Conor McManus was harsh and a call that had a big bearing on the game as Mayo reaped the benefit of having an extra man and hit Monaghan for 1-3 while he was off the field. Mayo hadn't scored at the time and were down by two points.
McManus subtly lifted his right foot to trip a rampaging Aidan O'Shea to stop him in his tracks. It was a good spot by the ref because not many at the game realised it was deliberate, including yours truly.
O'Shea had a powerful game for Mayo and anyone who thinks otherwise needs to re-evaluate their match analysis. He carried ball with great purpose and tracked and tackled with great effect. Strangely, he was left out of the team of the week in place of his Breaffy team mate, Mattie Ruane. It was positive to see Ruane return to some form.
The other big incident that went in Mayo’s favour occurred in injury time when the scoreline was 1-12 to 0-12. A dodgy hand pass by O'Shea across his own square was intercepted by Monaghan sub Conor Leonard who looked like he was clearly fouled by Lee Keegan, in my opinion, but Barry Cassidy waved play on, much to the annoyance of the Farney supporters in the large crowd. Replays confirmed we definitely got away with one there. I can only presume the Monaghan frustration at the end was because of that incident.
We are under no illusion that huge improvements are required to progress. It was good to see Robbie Hennelly and Paddy Durcan back on the field.
One thing we certainly have that frightens our opponents is blistering pace and huge athleticism in our back line. I couldn't think of a worse nightmare if I was a forward having to track and keep tabs on either Lee Keegan, Oisin Mullin, Enda Hession Paddy Durcan or Eoghan McLaughlin. Hopefully that power running will flourish in Croke Park on Saturday. Had Eoghan McLaughlin a little more composure he would have ended up with 1-2 at the end and definitely got the man of the match award. His club mate Lee Keegan got it, but personally I thought Enda Hession was the deserving winner. He carried some amount of ball out of danger and to safety. I was a little baffled that three Mayo defenders made the GAA.ie team of the week and Hession wasn't one.
Mayo will not have it easy against Kildare who have to be hurting after their humiliation by Dublin in the Leinster final, conceding five goals in the open 25 minutes or so and being 16 points down at half time.
I don't expect Mayo to score with such aplomb as Dublin did, but if they tie up Jimmy Hyland, Ben McCormack and Daniel Flynn, they will see this one through. But I don't expect it to be straightforward, however Kildare will struggle to tag our runners in the wide open expanses of Croke Park.
Minors make some magic
Massive congrats to our u17's who had a well-deserved win against Galway in the Connaught final. There was a little worry going into this one that complacency may be a factor as Mayo had beaten them well in the earlier rounds, but under Sean Deane there was no risk of that happening.
I was very impressed with them all over the field. Bizarrely, they are also playing Kildare this weekend but in a different venue and a different day. How someone in the fixtures committee could not fix both games at the same venue on the same day is beyond me. Give our young lads some exposure.