Heartbreaking is all that can be said to describe Mayo’s defeat in Park Ui Rinn last Sunday. After going 1-02 to no score down after 10 minutes it looked like the writing was on the wall for another hiding at the hands of League leaders and division one top scorers Cork.
Despite Mayo losing this game what happened after those first 10 minutes will certainly give us hope for the future, as Mayo decided to shout stop and tore into Cork for the remainder of the game. A little naivety at the end cost us again; players should have been willing to take a yellow or black card to prevent Cork getting that injury time decisive winning goal. Conceding late scores has cost us in too many games in the last few years. Tyrone thrived for years on cynical play and more recently Kerry have implemented it into their array of tactics, they had to.
Time to get cynical
If you are defending a lead and the game is nearing the end, as last Sunday, quite simply foul the opposition high up the field to prevent them getting into danger territory. It is not pretty and it is cynical, and the perpetrator may get a box in the jaw or into a scuffle with half of the opposition for his troubles, but it is what teams are doing to close out games. Look what Kerry did in Limerick last August. They were defending a lead, started fouling and frustrating Mayo, and in the end turned the game into a melee in the dying moments, culminating in a Mayo supporter entering the field in frustration and Cillian O’Connor boiling over and getting a red card. With all the confusion Mayo were never going to get that much sought after goal.
What can we remember about last season? Kerry won the All Ireland and damn all people outside Mayo remember the shenanigans at the end of that semi-final in Limerick. The first person that criticises a Mayo player for being cynical at the end of a game in the pursuit of victory will get a piece of my mind. We have been on the receiving end for far too long. It is time to learn how to close a game out using whatever means necessary, everyone else is.
Plenty of positives
I am still a lot more optimistic despite the loss in Cork as Mayo showed great character in this game and I for one thought Cork would have won the game more comfortably as they were dealing with a fragile Mayo team that were shaken from their hammering by Dublin. It is sickening to lose the way they did. Mayo had big performers aplenty on Sunday, none more so than my club mate Tom Parsons who had an inspirational game. I mentioned last week that he was rearing to go but I did not imagine he would have had such an impact. He keeps himself in immaculate condition and despite not having played competitive football in seven months he looked like he was never away and ran the show at midfield for Mayo after those initial first 10 minutes, scoring three big points from play in the process (not his forte I may add, he is obviously putting in the training in front of the posts as well ).
Donal Vaughan has finally put my paranoia to bed by getting on the scoreboard. Although Vaughan had raised a flag in an earlier round (he was midfield that day ) he became the first Mayo defender to score in this year’s National League. We need more of that and we also need Lee Keegan and Patrick Durcan bothering the umpires at the other end. Colm Boyle will not mind me saying that he prefers the rough and tumble and fighting for breaking ball rather than finding the target.
After six rounds of league football last year Mayo backs had scored 1-13 (including 0-3 from Robbie Hennelly ) compared to a single point at the same stage this year. Aidan O’Shea showed his amazing power last Sunday and scored a marvellous point with Cork men hanging out of him, but I feel he is killing himself by constantly taking the ball into the tackle. We as supporters love to see him in beast mode barging through opponents, but it is energy sapping trying to do it all the time. He was shot for the last few minutes when we could badly have done with him to get his imposing frame in the way or putting in a big tackle.
For me special mention has to go to Ger Cafferkey who has been the only player in Ireland to keep the prolific Colm O’Neill scoreless from open play this year. A very rare feat for O’Neill not to find the target from play, so all the credit has to go to Cafferkey. O’Neill’s substitution will tell you who won that battle.
All comes down to Sunday
You would need a degree in rocket science to figure out all the permutations for the final day of the football league on Sunday, so to prevent any confusion it will take a minor miracle for Mayo to get relegated on Sunday, virtually impossible, and Mayo simply have to beat Donegal to make the semi-finals which is all we need to worry about for now. I can only imagine the discussions among supporters in grounds around the country as score updates come in from other matches. Donegal will be on a high after their impressive display against Tyrone last time out but how will they cope without their talisman, Michael Murphy, suspended after a succession of black cards. Donegal have the meanest defence in the division conceding a measly 5 -58, I hope we have a plan in place to breach it.