I thought it was going to be close.
I felt Monaghan may even upset the apple cart, which in turn led me to think a draw was the best option. How wrong I was.
The three main factors for Mayo’s facile win over the Farney men in order of importance were, (1 ) Monaghan’s indiscipline; (2 ) the placing of Aidan O’Shea at full forward; and (3 ) Ciaran McManus crying off before the game for Monaghan
When I arrived in Castlebar I was shocked to hear games had been postponed in Tuam and Hyde Park because of snow as the sun was splitting the stones in Elverys McHale Park and, despite the heavy downpours all week, the playing conditions were near perfect for the resumption of the National league.
I was immediately envious of the cancellations in the other counties as I realised they would be able to watch the much anticipated rugby match between Ireland and England.
For the life of me I cannot figure out why the GAA did not have a plan B in place to let punters watch their beloved county team play and then enjoy the rugby.
We live in such a small, sports mad, country. We should not be making punters decide what sport they have to watch, I’m sure the clash could have been avoided.
The crowd in Castlebar was recorded at 6,067, just short of 3,500 down on the attendance at the Mayo and Tyrone game, which was 9,555. This can only be apportioned to the general public not wanting to miss the crucial Six Nations game.
I hope a lesson was learned for the future that no such clashes take place. I’m sure the coffers of county boards have been hit all over the country as a result.
The game was keenly contested until Monaghan’s first dismissal, Stephen Gollogly rightly red carded for a closed fist swipe at Jason Doherty. There was no real contact but the intent was there and the officials got the call right.
Monaghan completely lost the plot after this and as a result the game as a contest was over.
They remonstrated with referee Rory Hickey about practically everything, especially Kieran and Darren Hughes.
If Gollogly deserved a red card then most certainly Kieran Hughes did. In one passage of play he caught Kevin Mcloughlin three times and Kevin Keane once with strikes to the face. He was lucky to get just a yellow.
Ryan Wiley’s frustration was there for all to see when he dangerously fired Mark Ronaldson into the metal hoarding on the sideline right in front of us in the media tower, Hickey left with no choice but to send Wiley packing.
The game certainly kept the officials busy, Hickey issuing two red, two black, and seven yellow cards throughout the 70 minutes. Monaghan’s indiscipline must be very worrying for them. On the plus side, it was assuring to see the Mayo players stick up for each other in times of need without going over the top.
Aidan O’Shea put in a virtuoso performance at full forward for Mayo. He was in midfield for the throw in but almost immediately found himself on the edge of the square where first, Drew Wiley and then Vinny Corey were out muscled, out fielded, and out played on every occasion.
O’Shea bagged himself 1-03 from play but it could so easily have been 3-04. He missed two fairly decent goal chances in the first half along with a poor attempt for a point with his weaker right foot that will have left him a little disappointed.
O’Shea’s positioning at full forward certainly gives Mayo an option; Monaghan certainly were not expecting it and as a result had no plan in place to curb his threat.
He also very wisely brought other players into play and set up scores for his team mates. He is not as agile or elusive as Kieran Donaghy but he would certainly give the majority of full backs in the country sleepless nights.
His versatility could be key to Mayo’s season; I would resist the temptation to play him at full forward in every game to keep opposing managers second guessing.
Brian McIver, the Derry manager, will certainly expect him to play there on Sunday.
Mayo looked in much better shape and were well fired up for this game compared to the lethargic performance against Tyrone.
I have to say, I love going to games to see the crème de la crème of the GAA, so I was a little disappointed Conor McManus had to cry off before throw in, not that his inclusion would have altered the result because of Monaghan’s indiscipline, but I love watching these guys in the flesh and to see how Mayo would cope against such a player.
McManus not playing for Monaghan was the equivalent of Mayo losing a Cillian O’Connor, or Kerry a James O’Donohue for their team - only Monaghan do not have the depth in personnel to cover for such a loss.
His absence certainly made it an uphill struggle for Monaghan from the start.
Derry will be disappointed throwing away a four-point lead in Omagh, Mayo confident after an impressive display against Monaghan. I fancy Mayo to make it two wins in a row.
What about Paul Galvin’s return for Kerry? More on that next week.Xx