Last week I suggested that home advantage might prove decisive in deciding who would advance to play Roscommon in the Connacht final on July 17. I was wrong. Having witnessed the display from Galway last Sunday I am now of the opinion that if Mayo had played the first half of last Sunday’s encounter in Pearse Stadium and the second half in Tuam we still would have won in a canter. I have never in my lifetime witnessed such an inept performance from a Galway senior side. They were spiritless and soft when it came to putting up any sort of a challenge to Mayo last Sunday. In fact the game, particularly the first half, ranks as one of the worst of this year’s championship. (I would rank the first game played in this year’s championship, Donegal v Antrim as the worst. ) I accept that the second half did improve but that improvement came from Mayo as a single point from play by Galway in the entire second half tells its own story. At no point did Galway radiate the belief that they had the measure of Mayo. When a team plays without any semblance of a pattern as Galway did last weekend, it suggests that there is little synchronisation between management and players.
Mayo’s resolve would not allow for a defeat last Sunday and they deserve credit for that gutsy determined display of the second half. The team began to display a unity of purpose for the first time and one could almost suggest that at times they looked the perfect symbol of family. Galway, on the other hand, a team that normally plays with such rhythm and artistic integrity, looked like they had been pulled together on the day and their football did not contradict that theory. Then again their season has suggested that they are a team on the slide. It will be a difficult week and a bit for them before they play the Royals who themselves have reinvigorated their season with an emphatic victory over Louth last Saturday.
Mayo players put their bodies in where it hurt
I feel that this could possibly be Tomas O’ Flaherty’s last game in charge of the Tribesmen as I, for one, am not expecting them to come away with a victory. But back to Mayo for a minute – I was impressed with the work ethic and the way the players surrendered themselves to a game plan that demanded nothing other than hard work. In that regard, Seamus O’ Shea, Donal Vaughan, Kevin McLoughlen, Richie Feeney and Andy Moran were the pick of the crop in displaying great humility by sacrificing themselves for the greater good and were always prepared to put their bodies in where it hurts.
Once Mayo got into their stride midway through the second half any arguments regarding the outcome were brought to a close.
Of course this Mayo team is far from the finished article yet and had they played 70 minutes of ‘champagne’ football last Sunday Mayo management would have nothing to work on for the next few weeks. In fact there is a lot to be done. The general wastefulness from deadball situations has been a stunning failure of this team in their first two matches. It is hard to comprehend that it has not been sorted since the London game. It requires immediate action. The few weeks left before July 17 can also be used effectively to develop a game plan to counteract the twin threat of Donie Shine and Senan Kilbride in the Roscommon full forward line. However it is well done to all. It is always sweet to beat the auld enemy and let us enjoy these victories when we can as I suspect that we will not see Galway as poor again in quite a while.
Minor issues need to be addressed
I was in nice and early to see our minors in action. I was disappointed with the performance as I am sure all involved were. Clearly our system is not coughing up a sufficient number of talented young players at the moment, well not as good as our neighbours in the province. It requires a focused action plan to address the issue. Otherwise we will be playing catch up for the next few decades.
The Dubs will take some stopping
I was home in time for the big match in Croke Park. Wexford had by then steamrolled past a brave Carlow side that put it up to their more experienced and more talented opponents for 35 minutes. Wexford are back in the saddle again after a huge dip in form last year. They have great forwards and may prove a right handful for Dublin in the Leinster final. However I fancy Dublin this year.
They may not win the All-Ireland, but the team that beats them will be a good one. They have a very talented and fit squad of players and in the Brogan brothers they have two of the best forwards playing football. I expected them to beat Kildare and I think they would have won with a couple of points to spare were it not for the fact that they were reduced to 14 players for most of the second half. Kildare were a little naïve in deploying their extra man, Johnny Doyle, as a sweeper in front of Bernard Brogan. By doing so, Kieran McGeeney made it easy for Pat Gilroy. Had he deployed the extra man up into a forward role, even for a few minutes, the Dublin management would have been forced into making a decision. It probably would have resulted in Gilroy pulling off a forward and deploying a sub defender on the extra ‘attacker’. This could potentially have resulted in a totally different outcome to the match. As we now know it ended in a welter of controversy with a dreadful decision by the referee to award a free to Dublin with a minute left on the clock. Not only was it an incorrect call but it also denied everyone the opportunity of seeing both teams in action against each other again. What a shame it was the referee who happened to be making the headlines on Monday morning.
Micko makes his mark, again
Elsewhere Aughrim once again proved itself to be one of the most difficult grounds in the country at which to get a result. It was Sligo’s turn this year to enter the lion’s den and unfortunately for them their season was brought to a shuddering halt. It has been a terrible year for the Yeats county and I am sure Kevin Walsh probably feels he may have stayed on one year too many. They never really recovered from the defeat in last year’s Connacht final and after a few years of great progress they have slipped back down the ladder and will have to start all over again, more than likely under new management.
Donegal are buzzing along and for the first time in years look like they might be taking their football seriously this year. Controversy has never been too far away from their door, but Jim McGuinness appears to have put a halt to their gallivanting and excessive partying. They rode their luck at times last Sunday, but were able to kick a few decisive scores when it mattered most. The Ulster final between themselves and Derry will be a fascinating encounter and is a difficult one to predict.