I could not believe the crowd that turned up in Elverys McHale Park last Saturday evening, there was a lot more than the 13,500 recorded, I am guessing closer to 16,000. I do not imagine there was ever a bigger crowd for a National league game in Castlebar. Most championship matches would not attract such attention. What makes the support even more impressive was that the game was broadcast live on Setanta Sports and also that the Ireland and Wales game in the Six Nations would have meant a few would not have travelled.
No question Dublin and Mayo are the two best supported counties in GAA. When you consider there were just over two thousand to watch the Clare hurlers in Ennis (and they won the All-Ireland two short years ago ) you have to credit both sets of supporters. The carnival atmosphere the Dubs bring unfortunately did not have the fairytale ending we were hoping for as they dished out a proper hiding to a lacklustre Mayo.
It was Mayo’s heaviest defeat in a long time in Castlebar (since 1956 I am told ) and will have the management scratching their heads wondering why. Like Tyrone a few weeks ago, Jim Gavin’s Dublin were being written off by pretty much everybody and they responded just as Tyrone did, only far more impressively, their forward play was sublime to say the least. I warned last week that the Dubs like playing against the green and red and so they proved, but I did not envisage such a thumping. At times during the game it looked like Dublin had three extra players on the pitch such was their desire to prove a point to those who questioned their credentials. I can only apportion the measure of defeat to Dublin being at their brilliant best and Mayo at their worst, where every Mayo player played second fiddle to his direct opponent. Aidan O’Shea and Kevin McLoughlin tried hard but it was not to be enough to stem the blue tide. The Mayo management seemed to be expecting the inclusion of Diarmuid Connolly and Paul Flynn from the start, as immediately our half back line was re-jigged as Lee Keegan went on Connolly and Colm Boyle on Flynn, but it was to make no difference, Dublin looked like they would score every time they attacked. Mayo had a great start but it was all Dublin after that, Mayo eventually conceding a massive 2-18, 2-12 from play. The conundrum facing the management after 20 minutes was simple, Mayo needed cover in their defence, bodies back to thwart the Dublin forward line, but they were 10 points down and also needed bodies in the forward line to threaten the impressive Dublin rear guard while trying to reduce the deficit, nothing worked for Mayo on the day. The odd long ball into Aidan O’Shea looked the way to go but it very often petered into nothing more than a half chance. Mayo’s impressive statistic of scoring at least a goal in every game came to an end, while the drought continues from our much feared half back line who failed to register a flag again. Lee Keegan was surrounded by Dublin players every time he went into enemy territory. Despite how bad it may have looked, we cannot be too despondent. Dublin were dishing a similar hiding to Mayo a few short years ago only for dense fog to save the day and Mayo hammered Dublin in the re-fixture.
It is only March and I would rather it happen in Castlebar in March than in Croke Park in August or September. Let us not forget Kerry shipped a hiding from Cork two weeks ago and were very impressive winning against Donegal last weekend. Mayo will be looking for a response in Cork next week. May I suggest we do not go toe to toe with Dublin for the next competitive game, their forwards will outgun any defence that plays one on one against them, an ugly defensive option is the best way to go to stifle them.
History for Rochford
Crossmolina’s Stephen Rochford has written his name into the history books after he masterminded Corofin to the All Ireland club title. He is the only person to win the Andy Merrigan Cup as a player and then manage a different club to the same feat. For anyone who listened I fancied Corofin to win by at least five points and they duly obliged (and no I did not put any money on it ). They have a brilliant team and watching the club final you would wonder how anyone would come even close to them next year. All their forwards scored in Croke Park, and their midfield and defence play so brilliantly as a unit. Heartiest congratulations to Rochford, I have no doubt his name will be on everyone’s lips for the next available job in Mayo football.
Thank you to Cill Chomain GAA club for inviting me to their dinner dance in the Broadhaven Bay Hotel in Belmullet last Friday night. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting club members along with players from their successful winning teams