With all the furore, excitement, and stories from my recent visit to New York for the start of the Connacht championship I did not leave many column inches for the most important part, the match. It was amazing the amount of Mayo supporters who expressed concern to me before the team departed from Dublin for the Big Apple. I was regularly asked if they would win in New York, and the number of times I heard “they’ll hardly mess up, will they?” made me snigger to myself. Supporters were concerned after the performance against Derry in the League semi-final, but you were dealing with three in a row Connacht champions and double All-Ireland finalists here against a bit part team made up of a sprinkling of average county players and mostly of average club players. The result was never in question, but it took until the last kick of the game when Enda Varley goaled to seal my prediction of Mayo winning by at least 20 points. New York’s so called bigger players, Brendan Quigley and Ross Wherity, completely faded into obscurity as they were overwhelmed by Seamus O’Shea, Jason Gibbons, and Donal Vaughan. It was a difficult game to watch and even more difficult to talk about as New York had 13 men in their own half for long periods to basically try to keep the score down.
Superior fitness and physique would always come to the fore in a game like this. Despite been told New York only had one challenge game against Toronto to prepare, I did find out they played Leitrim (the New York Club ) in a match but it had to be abandoned after 10 minutes because of a mass melee. It took until the second half for the goals to arrive for Mayo, with the first from debutant Diarmuid O’Connor after a sublime one two with Andy Moran. Mayo ended up making seven substitutes (one a blood sub after Kevin McLoughlin got a dirty smack in the nose ) Tom Parsons and Enda Varley being the most impressive. It was great to see Alan Dillon back and despite his not setting the world on fire it is games he needs to bring him on. I hear his fitness levels are as high as they have ever been.
A few stats for pub quizzes at the end of the year, Donal Vaughan the first scorer in the 2014 football championship, Diarmuid O Connor the first to find the net, we are still waiting for the first black card however, I somehow think this accolade if you want to call it that will be achieved before Mayo’s next outing on June 8. On Sunday we will find out whether Mayo will be playing Leitrim or Roscommon in the Connacht semi- final. Roscommon have struggled with Leitrim in the not too distant past but I feel if they tie up Emlyn Mulligan, along with home advantage, they will win the game despite the setback of their humiliating All-Ireland u21 final when they were 19 points behind after 40 minutes. A good day weather wise should see lots of scores around the country. Bet for the weekend Tyrone -4 against Down doubled up with Roscommon -6 against Leitrim at 3/1.
The Mayo GAA league eventually got under way last weekend, the competition’s late start probably all the better as many teams struggled to fill managerial vacancies. Ballaghadeereen’s trouncing of Ballina was probably the most impressive display even though the Stephenites were under strength. My own club Charlestown travelled to Castlebar to take on the county champions who may have been a bit vulnerable after their run to the All-Ireland club final but such is the depth of their squad they had eight points to spare in the end. Times are definitely changing in Charlestown as I would not be over familiar with some of the players and I would say it’s the first time in more than 20 years a Charlestown team lined out without a Higgins or a Casey in the starting 15, out with the old and in with the new. It is important to get points on the board as early as possible in the league as you can very easily find yourself propping up the table after a few games and struggling to achieve that elusive victory to ultimately help you avoid relegation, which is the prime objective of all the teams in the division, except Castlebar and Ballintubber who will feel they can win every game. Division 1A of the league is very similar to the inter county scene with Castlebar, as Dublin, miles ahead of the chasing pack. There will be one or two teams capable of putting it up to the Mitchels, but if they play to their potential, they will be very difficult to beat. Any of the other teams can take points from each other, such is the closeness of the chasing pack. Ballintubber and Breaffy will be looking to relieve the Mitchels of all their silverware in 2014.