Two weeks is a long time in sport. All of a sudden after two very impressive wins in the National League things look rosy in the Mayo camp as they sit proudly at the summit of division one. We have to be clear on this, Mayo are not going to win every game left in the league (maybe they will ). The management are still learning and their most important lesson came when Tyrone visited MacHale Park. You cannot but be impressed by the way they and the players have responded, a thrashing of Monaghan followed by a hard fought win away against Derry in Celtic Park.
We also need to take into account that they (the joint managers ) have rung the changes from game to game changing the starting 15 by five players on the last two occasions. I imagine objective one is now secure, maintaining status in the division, although mathematically they still could get relegated if every result went against them, but six points in the past have been enough to make the semifinals never mind get relegated. Mayo got a couple of lucky breaks in Derry last weekend, Mark Ronaldson’s poaching instinct led him to follow Cillian O’Connor’s attempted effort at a point which came back of the post and rebounded off Ronaldson’s knee and into the net. Most forwards would not have bothered chasing the flight of the ball as O’Connor looked nailed on to point the free, a proper opportunist’s goal. The second lucky break came right on the stroke of half time when Sean Leo McGoldrick lofted a ball in around the six yard box only for Michael McIver’s fisted effort to come crashing back off Kenneth O’Malley’s crossbar. It meant Mayo went in four points up at half time instead of just one despite playing with the benefit of the elements. The most impressive part of the second half, apart from O’Malley’s splendid double save, was most certainly the way Mayo responded to conceding five points in a row, they never panicked and in turn took the game to Derry, a sure sign that the players have been through the mill and know how to react when the game is tight and the chips are down.
The only worrying statistic for me is that the once prolific Mayo half backline have failed to score in the first four games of the National League. When I asked Fergal Costello (Mayo’s Dublin trainer and match day liaison with the management ) if the reins had being pulled on our attacking half backs he assured me they were not and when I informed him of my concern at their failure to find the target in four games he was not long reminding me of Mayo’s standing in the division now comparing to this time last year. I really had no argument.
Another interesting case in point, Noel Connelly, Pat Holmes, Micheal Collins, and Fergal Costello were all no nonsense half-backs in their time whose primary objective was to defend, I am not sure if I am buying Cos’s story.
The Dubs are there for the taking, but are still dangerous
The Dublin roller coaster arrives tomorrow night to Castlebar. You never forget the games against the Dubs. If Noel Connelly and Pat Holmes found themselves in the same position as Jim Gavin of Dublin after four games people would be asking for their heads, Dublin are not playing well and have struggled in every game this year. Right now if you take Dean Rock out of the equation Dublin are struggling, so he should be targeted by the Mayo management on Saturday evening, he scored 1-06 out of their 1-09 against Tyrone.
Note to self, Bernard Brogan and Diarmuid Connolly (who I am told will return this weekend ) love playing against Mayo and should not be taken lightly. The pressure is off Mayo so maybe a few more players can be tested. A home win will ensure a semi-final spot and leave Dublin in serious relegation trouble.
The Galvin question
The pros and cons of Paul Galvin's return to the Kerry squad have certainly taken up many column inches, flooded message boards and occupied many a pundit’s air time along with dividing opinion among many Kerry legends. For what it’s worth here is my take on it. Eamon Fitzmaurice is in a very precarious position regarding Galvin who we all know was a serious operator for Kerry, because he is his brother-in-law. I have no doubt Galvin regrets walking away on Kerry last year costing himself another Celtic cross and he is desperate to make up for lost time, however at 35 it is a big decision to take him back. If a game is tight in the dying minutes and a few dirty breaking balls are needed around the middle of the field there is no better human in the country at winning such ball than Galvin which is why I think Fitzmaurice has him back on the panel. I do not imagine he will ever get a starting jersey. However if a young lad trying to break into the Kerry team is released off the panel or deprived of a jersey in his place, that is where the problem will arise. It is a big call for Fitzmaurice; who are we to argue with the All-Ireland winning manager? I know I would like to have Galvin as back up if a game was in the melting pot.