A certain brand of Danish lager does not do GAA weekends but if they did it would not be a patch on what unfolded in Croke Park last Sunday (as long as you’re from Mayo ). I had a dream last week that we had two teams in Croke Park for All-Ireland final day- that dream is now a reality. Not since 2008 did any county have teams in both minor and senior finals when Tyrone were successful on both occasions. I sat beside Barney Rock for most of the minor game and at full-time he and Oisin McConville could not have heaped any more praise on our minor team when both described them as a serious outfit. Mayo ripped Monaghan apart, scoring goals at crucial times, culminating in a very impressive total of 3-19 and they had contenders for man of the match all over the field, I opted for wing back Michael Hall who seems to be trying to emulate another number five on our senior team. On a day that had mixed emotions for the minor camp, may I wish Cian Hanley a speedy recovery from his very unfortunate injury.
Seniors got to grips with the game
The senior game was not as straightforward as I would have hoped but it did confirm something for me. Mayo are a serious outfit, capable of coping with adversity and are content in their ability to get themselves out of sticky situations when things do not seem to be going to plan. It looked like a perfect example of déjà vu at HQ for the first 31 minutes, forwards misfiring, backs overrunning the ball, passes going astray and it looked like things couldn’t get any worse when Cillian O’Connor slumped to the ground in agony holding that now infamous shoulder, but they did. Maurice Deegan, to the wrath of the huge Mayo support, decided to not allow an advantage to Alan Freeman when he sublimely finished to the net with a superb piece of individual skill. Matters were compounded when Kevin McLoughlin amazingly missed the resulting free. Fast forward to the 32nd minute and Mayo still had not scored from play, and Tyrone had frustrated us time and time again with their relentless defensive system. What happened in the next four minutes was the turning point in the game. Chris Barrett, twice, and Lee Keegan scored inspirational scores to put Mayo in at half time only a point down yet not having performed up front. The second half was a totally different game and Mayo, inspired by midfielder Seamus O’Shea, led the charge early on as he set up Enda Varley for the equalising point, albeit that he hopped the ball twice in the build up. In times of need you take what you’re given. After Alan Freeman expertly slotted home the penalty, after a somewhat dubious decision by Deegan when Colm Boyle was clearly fouled outside the box, there was only going to be one winner. Alan Dillon started pulling the strings and helped himself to two second half points, the half back line and the O’Shea’s attacked with more purpose and venom, and Cathal Carolan and Mickey Conroy did themselves no harm whatsoever when they ran the battle weary Tyrone defence ragged. It was great to see Conroy back after a very frustrating year for him and he is right in the mix for a starting place on September 22. Andy Moran needs the few weeks to get sharper as he struggled at times, it must be very vexing for him trying to get back to speed after his injury plagued two years. James Horan needs to sort out the free taking responsibilities as Kevin McLoughlin and Enda Varley were not up to par and Mayo need to avail of all chances created in the final.
Could O’Connor make the final?
There is word that Cillian O’Connor has been given a glimmer of hope for the final and if anyone has any special healing powers make sure to let O’Connor avail of them. Other than that a few trips to Knock and a few novenas might be the way to go. I really hope for Mayo’s and his own sake he makes a speedy recovery. I’m not sure if many people knew it at the time but if Aiden O’Shea picked up a second yellow card last Sunday, he would be suspended for the final. There is a one game suspension for receiving two yellow cards for two games in the same season. I was sweating for three quarters of the match. Thank God he did not. Its brilliant to be back in the final.
On another note tomorrow, August 31, there is a charity match on in Knockmore GAA grounds at 7pm in aid of cystic fibrosis between a Mayo legends team and Rest of Ireland Masters. The who’s who of GAA over the last 20 years will be in attendance and all support will be welcome.