Mayo limped out of the national league in spectacular fashion last Sunday in Croke Park against a much livelier and hungrier Derry team. What has everyone worried is Mayo’s failure and inability to make a numerical advantage count for the second time in three weeks.
It was Stephen Cluxton who was red carded for the Dubs’ three weeks ago, this time it was Fergal Doherty, the heartbeat of the Derry team after a thunderous hit on Aiden O’Shea in the shadows of the Hogan Stand. I was very keen to see how Mayo would use the extra man after what happened against Dublin two weeks previous.
Shane McHale was given the job of closing down the space in front of the Derry danger man, Emmet McGuckian, however it was not McGuckian who was posing the main threat on this Sunday. Mark Lynch needed special attention, Sean Leo McGoldrick broke relentlessly from the Derry backline and at every opportunity Enda Lynn tore the Mayo Defence apart. Shane McHale is a no nonsense Knockmore defender but he is not going to split a defence with a pass or play a spectacular one two before running the length of the field and firing over a point to inspire his team and therefore not the ideal person to play the free role. I could understand this if McGuckian was wreaking havoc in the Mayo backline like the week before but he was not. It’s very hard to explain what happens to teams who find themselves playing against 14 men. Psychologically performance levels drop so if your 15 players on the field drop their performance levels by 10 per cent it’s actually worse than losing a player to a red card.
No excuses this time
Mayo have no excuses this time and so many of their big players failed to turn up. Alan Freeman had his card marked from the previous week and Chrissy McKaigue, the Derry full back gave him plenty of rough and tumble and won the battle hands down. On numerous occasions Mayo players were caught in possession, Freeman and Boyle were pulled for over carrying in the first half while Brendan Harrison, Aiden O’Shea and Shane McHale were all dispossessed rather easily in the second half while coming out of defence. Harrison’s was a cardinal sin after receiving a short kick out from Robbie Hennelly, McGuckian the Derry full forward raced from his full forward position to tackle and harass Harrison, it was like taking candy from a child as McGuckian ripped the ball away from him, O’Shea made amends for his mistake and won possession back but it is the culmination of all these little issues that are making it grim viewing for all Mayo supporters and management alike.
Players looked tired
The team look very tired and jaded maybe as a result of two years reaching All- Ireland finals in a row and a semi-final the year before however you can’t forget that there are no league games until February and this should have given plenty of time for the players to recharge the batteries. After the All- Ireland final replay of 96’ we played Monaghan in the national league either a week or two after losing to Meath, there were no let ups back then and the season was a full 12 months long if you got to the All- Ireland final. Mayo have serious issues in their defence that need to be addressed and the ease at which first Mark Lynch and then Sean Leo McGoldrick broke through for the two Derry’s two goals is extremely worrying. Lynch got lucky and gambled on a breaking ball from a Mayo kick out which left Colm Boyle on his back side and no where near him when he broke free from midfield to set up Cailean O’Boyle for Derry first goal but the way McGoldrick walked past Keith Higgins and then Colm Boyle before setting up half back colleague Kevin Johnston for an easy tap in must have the management scratching their heads. Boyle and Higgins have both being brilliant for Mayo but look like they could do with a break. Subject to being wrong, Derry wing back Johnson was left on his own in front of the Mayo goal which makes me wonder where Jason Doherty was and reiterating my earlier point about people dropping their work rate with a numerical advantage, Doherty probably thought there was ample cover in his backline and didn’t bother following Johnston. I’m almost positive it was Doherty who was marking him. It may be a blessing in disguise with the championship just around the corner but there is no time for anyone to have a break, players or management. As D:Ream the Derry Singer once sang “Things can only get better”