Mayo u21 manager Niall Heffernan admitted after his sides win over Wicklow in the third round of the Hastings Cup in Ballina on Saturday, that it can be tough at times trying to get his squad together at this stage of the year as demands are placed on his players from a number of teams.
Speaking after the game on Saturday and asked was it difficult having to make a number of changes each week as he tries to figure out his starting 15 he said: “Absolutely, would love to have all the players. I’d love if we’d a situation in Mayo where we had all our players with us all the time, but that’s not the situation we have. So I have to deal with the reality of that. But having said that, when you have a panel of 30 players, you do need to give guys who haven’t got game time a game to start, give them a chance. So we set ourselves a target to win our three games and also give players a start to chance in each game and we’ve done that with three or four changes, not taking into account any that were enforced on us by players not being available and we still have several players injured that we’re hoping to see in the next game.”
Even things like getting the squad together for training midweek, has led to them having to plan to meet up in the midlands so the players, many of them students can make the mid-week session hasn’t gone to plan so far this year, he explained: “We intended to meet in the midlands this week, but at the last minute we had to pull it because of the weather conditions. This was the first week we were doing that, next week we were going to go to the midlands again but the forecast was pretty poor, so we changed. We’re going to train as many as we can in MacHale Park on Wednesday night and the rest of the guys that are in Dublin will train with the senior team in Dublin. It’s not ideal, but nothing in u21 is ideal. You’d love to get the players and have them cocooned and with-you all the time, but it doesn’t happen that way. We have to make deals with clubs, college managers, I’m like a politician, but that’s what you have to do.
As for his sides performance against Wicklow, while he was happy for the win, he admitted that there was plenty of work still to be done and it wasn’t a great showing by his side. “We didn’t probably get ourselves set up right on the pitch, we had our system of play, but I think today it didn’t just work as well (as it did before ). But there was a lot of positives to take out of it, our work rate was good, defensively we were solid, but we turned over far to much ball. We turned over a lot of ball in the first half. We turned over 15 in their half in the first half out of 18, it’s not good enough. Second half we cut that right down, we’d five turnovers. You can get hung up about stats but it showed, I think that once we got ourselves using the ball faster, instead of carrying, carrying and carrying. We carried the ball into far to many tackles, that’s what were good at I think (moving the ball fast ). Possibly some of the players might have thought this game was easier than it was, not that we took Wicklow in anyway’s lightly, I think they thought we’d the job done and we very nearly got caught. But we dug it out in the end. Again we didn’t concede any goals which was a positive. We know that we missed a lot of chances and it put us under more pressure. They are a fine side, fine strong good footballing side.”
One thing that Heffernan was impressed with on Saturday was that his players figured it out for themselves when things went a little bit against them and he’s happy to see them do that. “We have a lot of good lads, who’ve great personalities great heart, work-rate and are intelligent footballers. They figured out a lot of the stuff themselves that was going wrong and they tried to fix it and we try to encourage that. Because at the end of the day, they are the ones that go out on the pitch and they have to play what’s in front of them. Really to me, it was the simple things we did wrong in the first half, we turned over ball, there was bad hand passing, bad foot passing, yet we saw superb examples of each (in the second half ). Like Val Roughneen his foot passing was superb, his work-rate too, we’ve a lot of payers who do that who work really hard to try and fix what needs to be fixed.”