I’m not sure if it’s the wisest thing I have ever done but I joined up with the 'Charlestown party bus' after Mayo’s drive for five became a reality last Sunday in Hyde Park. I felt it was important to celebrate such a milestone and such an emphatic victory in the Connacht final. I did suffer for it on Monday.
There was a little debate developing in the press box before the game as to whether this would be Mayo’s first five in a row as many thought, however I am informed from a reliable source and after some fine investigative work through the archives by Fr John Doherty of Charlestown that the Mayo team from 1906 to 1910 achieved the same feat. The debatable year from that period of dominance was the 1910 final which originally suggested that Mayo were not even in that final, but according to new findings they defeated Galway by 1-03 to 0-4. Anyway not to take away from the current crew, 2015 was the most emphatic victory of any final by the proverbial mile.
Sligo didn't help themselves
It is hard to know where to start when analysing this game and as I mentioned before I would never be cut out for inter-county management, but I do know one thing, it did not take a rocket scientist to know where Mayo’s big threat was going to come from, and for that reason I am very disappointed in the Sligo management. When you go into a game as rank outsiders you want to give yourself a glimmer of hope and stay in the game for as long as possible, get the crowd on your side, and try to make the favourites rush things and frustrate their game plan. This game was all over after six minutes as the naivety of the Sligo defence was there for all to see. They left a rookie full back one on one with the most feared footballer in the country right now. Aidan O'Shea wreaked havoc every time the ball arrived in his jurisdiction and to finish the day with a whopping 3-4 from play along with having a part to play in umpteen more scores including all the goals, his performance merited the perfect 10. We all knew there would be a triangular switch of positions of Ger Cafferkey, Donal Vaughan, and Tom Cunniffe, and that Colm Boyle would probably go to centre back to snuff out Mark Brehany to release Vaughan up the flanks. We all knew that Tom Parsons and Seamie O'Shea would be physically superior to the Sligo duo. We all knew Mayo would bombard Aidan O'Shea with ball, we are all aware that Mayo possess the most feared set of forward tacklers in the game and it is extremely dangerous to take them on coming out of defence, but it looked like Sligo were not aware of any of these crucial points. One of the standout moments of the game for me is not one of the six brilliant goals or any of the points but when Aidan Devanney, the Sligo keeper decided to give a short kick out to Ross Donovan, an accomplished experienced defender. Donovan came face to face with Cillian O'Connor. Playing in division three Donovan is probably used to rounding a weaker corner forward and setting his team on their merry way, but O'Connor wrapped him up and sent him backwards towards his own goal gasping for air and desperate to get rid out the ball. It did not yield a score but Sligo’s toughest defender was not going to try it again. Sligo were simply not used to playing against this intensity. Another memory etched in my mind is when Andy Moran centred a line ball on top of Aidan O'Shea who in turn goaled, but in the lead up to the goal Sligo centre back Brendan Egan sauntered in no man's land unaware where to go instead of getting his body back to help out his nervous full back line. His lack of enthusiasm made it an easy decision for Moran to fire the ball towards O'Shea. I could see that passage of play develop from the press box a minute before it actually occurred.
Tom Parsons comes up trumps
Many may not have been aware of this but Mayo had not goaled in their previous four competitive games, against Dublin, Cork, and Donegal in the league, and Galway in the first round of the Connacht championship (I’m not counting Finian Hanley’s own goal in Salthill by the way ), so to hit Sligo for six was more than I would have bargained for. Apart from O'Shea Mayo had super performers all over the place, none more so than Donal Vaughan, Tom Parsons, and the two O'Connor brothers. It was Parson’s finest 70 minutes in a Mayo jersey, his work rate, and particularly his foot passing (to Aidan O'Shea mostly ), was top drawer. I knew we would get a big performance from him considering he resides on the Sligo side of the railway track in Charlestown. There is no doubt tougher tests lie ahead and the concession of 2-11 in a game Mayo dominated will worry fans. It could easily have been 4-11 only for two great saves from David Clarke. It is a conundrum the management will want to get right. You cannot offer so many bodies to attack and have effective cover in your backline. It was a classic example of robbing Peter to pay Paul. For me it was the ideal way to go at Sligo, straight for the jugular, but a different approach may be needed against a more accomplished team. Let’s put the drive for five to bed and start the drive for Sam. Well done Mayo.