Mayo motoring along nicely

Mayo are moving: Stephen Coen and his Mayo teammates before last weekends game against Donegal. Photo: Sportsfile

Mayo are moving: Stephen Coen and his Mayo teammates before last weekends game against Donegal. Photo: Sportsfile

In the immediate aftermath of Mayo's comprehensive triumph over Donegal, Kevin McStay was as shocked as the rest of us to find out that the win was Mayo's first ever competitive victory on Donegal's own patch.

I find that hard to comprehend as both teams would have squared up against each other fairly regularly down the years, especially in the last decade. This was as emphatic an away victory as you are likely to see and a hiding Donegal wouldn't have experienced in quite a while on home soil.

Donegal don't lose at fortress Ballybofey but last Sunday they were pummelled by a rampant Mayo team. Still however, we can't get too carried away because Donegal are in disarray at the moment, a giant mess both on and off the field which has ultimately cost their manager, Paddy Carr his job after he resigned after a meeting with some of his senior players on Wednesday.

At the same time we have to acknowledge the quality of what went before us because it was very impressive and we can't take that away from the Mayo performance no matter how disoriented the opponents were.

It was a complete, dominant and emphatic victory that could have been even greater were it not for two splendid saves from Donegal keeper Shaun Patton. In the first half Patton saved brilliantly from Fionn McDonagh and in the second half, Tommy Conroy was denied by Patton when the Neale Roadrunner turned on the after burners about 80 metres from goals leaving every Donegal defender in his wake — it's a shame Conroy didn't finish the chance he created.

Other than those saves, the Donegal net minder had a bit of a nightmare. Most, if not all of that nightmare was caused by Aidan O'Shea who hounded and harassed him every time he came from his goal with ball in hand, O'Shea turned him over at least four times. I somehow doubt Patton was ever put under such pressure before.

O'Shea had another fine outing in the green and red. He looks to be in a very happy place at the minute and I'm not just on about his positioning on the field. He's playing some wonderful football and looks to be enjoying it. He outmuscled and outplayed Brendan McCole throughout and whatever other Donegal player engaged with him. Did we ever think we would see Aidan O' Shea comfortable taking marks and then executing them? His confidence is so high at the minute he even took charge off and nailed a free from the hands from the right hand side in the second half.

It was a very accomplished performance that deservedly earned him the GAA.ie footballer of the week. He became the fourth Mayo player in a row to receive the accolade following on from Jordan Flynn, Enda Hession and Jack Carney, surely that was never done since its conception. His Breaffy team-mate Mattie Ruane also played superbly and was the only other Mayo player selected on the Team Of The Week although I felt some others were a little hard done by. Ruane was untouchable in the first half scoring three from play from midfield. His 30th minute point was exquisite, faking to go to the right before cutting back inside and nailing his effort with the outside of his right boot from 40 metres.

Truth be told, every Mayo player did well. It was nice to see Paddy Durcan back to performing the way we were used to seeing him, carrying ball from deep and driving at the Donegal defence and also getting his name on the score board again. He scored a peach in each half, with the left foot in the first and his customary right in the second half.

The game was all but over as a contest when Ryan O'Donoghue goaled in the 37th minute after some nice interchange play between himself and Tommy Conroy. A dummy run from Jack Carney took some Donegal defenders out of the way, but still questions have to be asked of the Donegal defensive set up. Eoghan Ban Gallagher backed off O'Donoghue encouraging him closer to the Donegal goal while at the same time Gallagher obscured the keeper's view making it an easy finish for O'Donoghue.

You can't help but think if there was one or two of the McGee's or a Paddy McGrath in the vicinity, O'Donohue's path would not have been so straight forward. It's worrying times for them as their team are pretty much consolidated to division two for 2023 and now they are entering the championship without a manager.

Cillian O'Connor and Enda Hession were obvious absentees for Mayo, so hopefully their injuries aren't too concerning with a league final and a first round championship game all coming up inside the next three weeks. It was encouraging to see Paul Towey getting a run albeit for only five minutes but he too left his mark on the game scoring the last point in what turned out to be a facile 1-17 to 0-09 win for Mayo.

All eyes will be on Salthill next Sunday to see who prevails between Galway and Kerry for the right to play Mayo in this year's league final. A draw would see Padraic Joyce's charges make it through on scoring difference. However, I'm not too sure how bothered Joyce or Galway are about this year's league and feel they will be more than content knowing their involvement in Division 1 for 2024 is secure. If both teams go for it, don't rule out a draw.

 

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