Mayo travel to Hyde Park on Sunday to take on Roscommon in the Connacht semi-final. It’s remarkable that it has only been five weeks since we played New York in Gaelic Park. It feels like that game was in a different year. I mentioned in a column a few weeks back that James Horan should keep five or six midfielders in his panel, however I didn’t envisage what was going to happen after that. Tom Parsons is the latest to be struck down with a bad hamstring tear on top of Barry Moran and Jason Gibbons already suffering disheartening injuries. They say things happen in threes, so I hope no more players join them on the casualty list. No time is a good time to get injured but end of May/early June is the nightmare time for any footballer. If your injury is so bad that you are not able to participate in any level of training it may leave you on the scrap heap for the rest of the year as the stamina and fitness levels you have worked so hard to build up will dwindle away like a puff of smoke.
Your mind will also play tricks with you as you will feel all the players that have stayed injury free will now be ahead of you in the pecking order and, without jumping the gun, the third Sunday in September will enter the minds of the injured players. Will I be part of the team if we win the All-Ireland? It’s really unfortunate for the trio. Gibbons had worked so hard to win his place and Parsons had surely thought he was a shoo in after Gibbons injury. The only other player I can think of putting the O’Sheas under pressure for a midfield spot is, of course, Gavin Duffy unless Donie Vaughan could be considered for a role further up the field. I didn’t expect Duffy to get game time against Roscommon, he just might now.
The team that James has picked is a classic case of the backs being fine and the forwards needing to be looked at. Kevin Keane may feel disappointed that he didn’t make the team as he looked very good against New York. But the selection in the forwards shows that just because you played well in the last game doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed your place for the next game and how things have been going in training games are particularly important. You’d have to wonder what has happened with the likes of Richie Feeney and Alan Dillon, I am surprised by the look of the half-forward line, but unless you’re inside the camp you don’t really know how things are going and how players are doing.
More of the same will do
Mayo gave Roscommon a bit of a hiding in McHale Park last year winning by 0-21 to 0-09. It was the only championship game that Mayo failed to raise the green flag. It wasn’t because of any brilliant Roscommon defending, Mayo just content to beat their opponents with points. Roscommon will be on a bit of a high after winning division three of the league, however the pasting their u21s got at the hands of Dublin in the All-Ireland final would have been a right reality check for their supporters who were very confident going into that game. The last time the two teams met in the Hyde was in the Connaught final in 2011 when Mayo won a scrappy game by two points to seal James Horan’s first Connaught title as a manager. I think Sunday will be more like last year’s game. Roscommon will huff and puff against Mayo and do their best to keep it as tight as possible but the green and red will eventually break them down. John Evans, the Roscommon manager will want his team in the game at half time. He will be particularly wary of our half back line who along with Keith Higgins tore holes in the Roscommon defence time after time when the teams last met in Castlebar. They fell asunder last year after ten minutes and had no game plan to counteract Mayo’s power play. I’m presuming the home crowd will spur them on, and despite Mayo’s midfield injury woes I feel Mayo will be comfortable by the end of the game. It’s hard to believe you have to go all the way back to 2001 for the last time Roscommon overturned Mayo. Mayo of course won the league that year and were expected to walk past Roscommon but got ambushed in Hyde Park losing by a single point.
Getting the football fix from a different code
It’s incredible that Dublin are 10/11 to beat Laois by more than 12 points on Sunday. Although I think it will happen, a safer punt for me is for Mayo to beat Roscommon by five or more at evens. A double would yield you 3/1.
My only gripe this week is that last weekend, the June bank holiday weekend, there was only one football match on in the whole country, Fermanagh v Antrim, and although it was a cracker it wasn’t on the box. Surely the GAA should be more compassionate for us fanatics who need a football fix every weekend during the summer. Instead I used my spare time to watch Charlestown Athletic come from 2 down to beat Ballina town 3-2 in a belter of a game in the Elverys Super League.
I happened to meet Ronnie Whelan, Elmo from Love/Hate, and Buster from Mrs Brown’s Boys while they were partaking in a charity walk. They were ever so good to stop at the soccer pitch in Charlestown to get pictures taken and sign autographs. When my six-year-old daughter asked me who Ronnie Whelan was I replied “Ireland Legend” to the dismay of the Liverpool fans present who wanted recognition for his career in the red jersey. My kids didn’t care, they were more interested in Elmo, it must have been his name.