For those of you who decided to go to Croke Park last Saturday night, it was a good decision. It was a game that had pretty much everything, full of twists and turns, it certainly was not for the faint hearted and nothing beats being there to watch the action unfold and embrace the atmosphere. I was asked by someone tuned in to the radio if my wife has my life insurance policy updated as I apparently nearly had a heart attack live on air. I have no doubt Mayo will feel like they lost this game, being in such a commanding position in the second half and with a numerical advantage for 45 or so minutes, it looked like it was a case of by how much would they win, but their inability to kill of a team that was not playing well and had only 14 men will certainly worry James Horan.
Mayo easily could have lost only for Jack McCaffrey’s wayward attempt with the last kick of the game; he had acres of space and should have carried the ball closer to Rob Hennelly’s goal before pulling the trigger. It was a real let off for Mayo. Dublin seems to have a real psychological edge over Mayo and they will relish the chance of coming up against them later in the year if it should occur. The main talking point of the first half was most definitely Stephen Cluxton's red card. I wondered if Mayo were going to let him dictate the game with his pin point kick outs. In the first 10 minutes he had picked out Cian O’Sullivan, Diarmuid Connolly, and Paul Flynn with radar like accuracy and it seemed it was going to be déjà vu all over again. Mayo got their act together and instead of man marking, the Mayo players marked zones which made it harder for Cluxton to pick out his runners, and several times Mayo intercepted to telling effect, the most notable moment was when Cillian O’Connor clattered Paul Flynn from a Cluxton kick out which resulted in the three- in-a-row All-Star having to leave the field. It was frustrating for the Dublin keeper and when Kevin McLoughlin ran across his path to slow him down he lashed out with a kick and rightfully got red carded. There were a few former Dublin players none to happy in the press area, not because of the decision but because of Cluxton’s stupidity, prompting one to remind me of the controversial side of the Dublin captain’s game. I would have done the very same as Kevin McLoughlin, and while in goal for Charlestown many a forward did the same to me as I was partial to the odd fast kick out, and to my knowledge I did not lash out at any of them, I am sure I had a few choice words however.
McLoughlin had a great game for Mayo scoring 1-3 and setting up Mikey Sweeney for Mayo’s second goal with a timely interception on Rory O’Carroll.
Goals galore again
Mayo have now conceded 13 goals in six league games which is two more than any other team in the four divisions. Last year we could not score goals, this year we cannot prevent them, which leads me to want not to panic just yet. We knew Mayo would probably have to beat Derry on Sunday to qualify for the semi-final so nothing has changed there, I would have fancied Mayo against Derry any day of the week so with the Foyle siders already in the playoffs they may have had their eye off the ball. Lee Keegan had scored in 11 consecutive competitive games up until last Saturday bringing his amazing run to an end; he could have scored twice in Croke Park but shot narrowly wide on both occasions, I am sure it will be service as normal on Sunday.
I was on the Des Cahill sports show as a guest with Tommy Dunne (former Tipp hurling captain ) and Marcus Horan (former Munster and Ireland prop ) last Saturday before I had to dash across the capital to Croke Park for the Mayo Dublin game and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed having the banter with them all. It was great to listen to people from other codes talk so passionately about their beloved sport and one thing is for certain, there is no sports person in Ireland who would begrudge Mayo an All-Ireland senior football title, and both men wished for the green and red to achieve that goal in the near future as long as it was not at their own counties’ expense. I somehow do not think Mayo will come up against Tipperary or Clare in a senior football final any time soon. One caller asked me if I was Mayo manager where would I play Keith Higgins, I wonder was it James Horan.