I was delighted to hear on Saturday evening that Ronan McGarrity had participated in the A v B game in McHale Park, it was good news for all concerned and his inclusion in the Mayo team announced on Wednesday night gives the county and the player himself a great boost going into this weekend’s Connacht final. Normally before matches of this nature, I’m fairly confident in predicting in advance who will win, but this time I’m finding it difficult. Mayo’s performances in the championship to date have been hugely impressive albeit against weak opposition. And on the other hand Galway have been deteriorating since half time in the league game in Tuam, when Mayo came back in the second half in impressive style to win the game. Since half time in that game, every time Galway have togged out they have had question marks hanging over them. In Sligo they were very lucky and had to use six different combinations at midfield to see off the Yeats county men who, if they had a bit more conviction when goal chances were presented, could have sent Liam Sammon’s side into the qualifiers at that stage.
O’Malley will add some stealth to defence
I’m delighted to see Liam O’Malley selected as he had a fantastic season before picking up an injury, it’s a great credit to him to be able to return to training, not having lost any of his dash and appetite for the game. He brings a steely cut to the defence and definitely won’t be found wanting in the heat of championship action on Sunday.
Ultimately the game will be decided as games invariably are on how the midfield battle goes, there is no doubt that Mayo have an edge here as Galway have struggled with a variety of combinations over the last six or seven games. If Mayo win primary possession here, I genuinely feel Mayo will prevail. The best line on the Mayo team in my opinion is the half forward line, where Pat Harte, Alan Dillon, and Trevor Mortimer have been playing superb football, a lot will depend on the inside forward line. And if Aidan O’Shea can display the kind of form he has displayed since he burst on to the team, I expect it will be we who will bring the Nestor Cup back to Mayo for the first time since 2006.
Conor’s absence again surprises me
I am surprised that Conor Mortimer hasn’t made the team, I believe he has been in brilliant form in recent trial matches and I would have expected him to have got a starting berth on the full forward line on Sunday. As we have seen in the championship so far, particular last Sunday in the Lenister final, the strength of your bench is hugely important these days as it’s now a 20 man game not a 15. I have absolutely no doubt that Mortimer will play on Sunday and he might be just the man to spring into the action to tip the balance in Mayo’s favour.
Another intriguing battle should be that of Padraic Joyce and Trevor Howley on the 40. Joyce is undeniably the leader of the gang and it was he in particular who grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck in Marchaivez Park in the last 10 minutes to turn the tide in favour of the tribesmen. He is a hugely influential figure in the Galway set up and I feel if Howley can put the shackles on him Galway might just be found wanting. It’s absolutely crucial that Howley sits on Joyce and denies him possession for the full 70 minutes, as I recall an occasion in McHale Park a few years ago when Padraic Joyce hardly touched the ball for 69 minutes he proved his class when it came to the crunch in the dying minutes of that game, kicking the winning score. This will be an intriguing battle and if Joyce can be nullified for the full 70 minutes it will go a long way to Mayo coming out on top in Pearse Stadium on Sunday evening.
A great evening of celebrations from a great day
Last Friday night as part of the 125 celebrations in Clare a sub committee had organised a challenge game between the 1992 Munster champions and a local selection in Michael Cusack Park in Carron in north Clare. It’s 17 years since I managed that bunch of lads, walking into the dressing room was as if I had never really left them. Fourteen of the championship winning side had turned up to participate in the festivities. A number of players from the Kerry team that played in that Munster final had also made the trip to mark this historic occasion in the history of Clare football and the history of the association. A night of fun and story telling ensued as we remembered that great summer of 1992 when the minnows of Clare beat the aristocrats of the game.
Some great games last weekend which were badly needed
We needed a couple of serious performances last weekend to give the football championship the kick of life it needed after a number of poor games and indifferent performances from sides all over the country. Saturday evening’s encounter between Derry and Monaghan was a breath of fresh air, especially after these two sides seven weeks previously engaged in a war of attrition, which was full of negativity and ugliness that would have had most neutral reaching for the remote control. It’s amazing when two sides arrive to engage in playing football the way it should be played, what can happen. The Bradleys proved their class, with Paddy in particular stepping up to the plate after some quarters had questioned his class after being shut out by Tyrone to dramatic effect in the Ulster championship. It looks like it could be the end of the road for this particular Monaghan side, as I feel they have gone to the well once too often and have come up short again. I would be very surprised if Banty stays in charge there, as a new voice may be required to bring the Farney men on again next year. Later on Saturday I watched Kerry in Pearse Park Longford, this was to be their first opportunity for redemption, everything was going brilliantly in that first half when they were winning by nine points, with Kieran Donaghy proving his importance to Jack O’Connor’s side. Unfortunately Donaghy took a serious injury minutes into the second half and Kerry’s performance thereafter became completely disjointed.
The Lenister final was a cracking game of football, arguably one of the best we have witnessed. The Dubs were pushed all the way by a very good and well organised Kildare side, but proved they are a serious side and Pat Gilroy had a huge smile of contentment after the game, as he now realises more than most that his side are well capable of landing the big one. His side needed a serious test of their character and they got that on Sunday from Kildare. They’re a serious outfit and Bernard Brogan delivered a superb performance at full forward. The Dubs this year have real depth in their squad and in fairness to Gilroy he proved his ability as a manager by making astute substitutions and changes at vital times.