With Mayo’s involvement in the National League over I had a brief look back at their games to do somewhat of a summary of their performances throughout the competition. There is no question it was a roller coaster campaign with lots of highs and lows involved.
The high point was the very impressive win in Killarney against Kerry, the low most definitely the hiding shipped from Dublin in Castlebar. If I could be positive about Mayo’s two worst displays this year (Tyrone and Dublin ) it is the fact that it was just the league and at least we know what to expect if we meet either team in the latter stages of the championship.
Hitting the target
Mayo scored a total of 8-79 and conceded 7-79 compared to scoring 15-122 and conceding 16-106 last year, albeit playing one game more in 2014. That is a staggering difference from one year to another. The worrying stat for me was the strike rate in our last three games this year, scoring just 10 points against Dublin followed by two measly 12 point hauls against Cork and Donegal, two games we should have won. From my memory, we had one half goal chance against Dublin and one against Cork but not even a half chance against Donegal in the final round in Castlebar. Mark Ronaldson’s deflected effort in Celtic Park against Derry our last attempt to find the net.
I wonder if this lack of goal chances can be attributed to the fact Cillian O’Connor had missed those last three games, surely there is something in it. Another important point to note is that two of our midfielders, Tom Parsons against Cork and Barry Moran against Donegal were our top two marksmen from play in those last two games, scoring three points each. I have had a paranoia over the last few weeks/months about the lack of scores coming from our back line, Donal Vaughan the only defender to raise a white flag this year scoring twice from defensive positions in our last two games.
Compare that to our back line scoring 1-15 last year, it is a phenomenal tally taken from your overall haul. I have no doubt you would have got at least 100/1 on Lee Keegan not scoring in the league this year seeing as he was so prolific last season, scoring in five successive games in a row and ending with a fine total of 1-07 by the end of the campaign in 2014. I do recall him having some poor attempts during this campaign but it is important to note opposing managers see him as a serious threat now and have plans in place to thwart his involvement when he crosses into enemy territory. This was most notable against Dublin when he was swarmed upon by the Dubs every time he crossed the half way line.
Men in the middle
After the performances of Tom Parsons in Cork and Barry Moran against Donegal the fears of having no midfield will have all but vanished. Both look more than capable of playing alongside Seamus O’Shea in that sector. After all the hype about Evan Regan’s return to the Mayo team for the first round against Kerry, it was somewhat of an anti-climax leaving Killarney after a very impressive win. Regan’s sickening fall looked like it had put his career on hold again for quite a while, but I am sure he will have a big part to play in this year’s championship. For me Mayo’s top performer in the league this year was Kevin Keane, he was simply brilliant in most of the games (Dublin aside ), keeping tabs on some top shooters, most notably Paul Geaney of Kerry. His barnstorming run in injury time against Donegal made it a clear choice for me, that run should have sent Mayo into the League semi-final. Aidan O’Shea also had some impressive outings; his drifting from full forward to midfield is something that needs a little tweaking to get the balance right, but his versatility is something to look forward to for the summer.
Big game experience is hard to beat
After watching the National League semi finals last weekend I could not help but feel it was a game Mayo could have done with, not for the importance of trying to win a national title but more because of the time frame until Mayo’s next game and for our management team to experience match day in Croke Park. Every manager will tell you one competitive game is better than 10 training sessions and five or six challenge games. Competitive games are where you see exactly what a player brings to the table and if he is up for the task in hand, a good performance in Croke Park does amazing things for one’s confidence. If Mayo make it to the All-Ireland quarter final this year which I presume they will, it will be Pat and Noel’s first game in Croker as a management team with Mayo. Last Sunday would have been an ideal dress rehearsal for hopefully far bigger games to come in headquarters. I am afraid we will have to wait.