For the second in row Mayo started off the National League with a defeat at the hands of Derry, this time in James Stephen’s Park last Sunday. While both sides hit 10 scores the decisive score of the game came from Derry debutant James Kielt 45 minutes into the contest, who got on the end of move that came about as Tom Cunniffe lost possession trying to break out of defence.
However it was Mayo’s inadequacies in front of the posts that cost them at the end of the contest. Mayo hit only four points in a second half that ran over 38 minutes. From Peadar Gardiner’s point in the first minute of the second half to a Conor Mortimer pointed free on 50 minutes Mayo failed to score, and again from Ronan McGarrity’s 19th minute levelling point to Mortimer’s second point of the day on 36 minutes Mayo failed to score. That’s half an hour of play Mayo went without registering a score at home, also added into the mix is the fact that of Mayo’s starting six forwards Andy Moran was the only one to score from play inside the opening couple of seconds. In the same second half period Derry managed to score 1-4 and kick nine wides to allow Mayo to remain on their coat tails for the contest. Derry also had to deal with picking up four yellow cards in the contest, while Mayo managed to have no-one sent to the sin bin.
While this was the first time John O’Mahony has been able to get his side together for a competitive fixture this year, he knows that improvements will be needed by the time the next league came comes around away to Donegal on Valentine’s night. But before that he will get the opportunity to cast his eye over some of the fringe players on the panel along with some of the more established when Mayo take on Cavan in senior football challenge on Saturday in Ballinrobe under lights at 6.45pm.
Hurlers look to fare better than footballers against Derry
This weekend sees the opening round of the National Hurling League and the Mayo hurlers will make the long trip north of the border to take on Derry in Feeny. This is the second year that Mayo will be under the guidance of Martin Brendan and Pete Finnerty. After leading Mayo to within a whisker of the Christy Ring Cup final last year, the Mayo management team will be looking for an improvement. However with Keith Higgins, Stephen Coyne, and Shane Morley all not available for selection as they are travelling in Australia, it could be a tough challenge for the Mayo side to reach the heights of last year and try to go better.
Higgins, who was the side’s main scoring threat, will be hard to replace in the forward six, while Coyne and Morley were both also lynchpins of the team’s success over the past number of years. The pre-season warm ups in the Keogh Cup have failed to register a victory for Mayo who went down to both DCU and Louth in the competition in January. This year Mayo will be plying their trade in division 3A of the league alongside Derry, Meath, Kildare, and Armagh.
Mayo will go into the game with a clean bill of health for Brennan and Finnerty to pick from, even with the loss of the three players who are travelling Mayo will have an experienced side to pick from with the pair of Pierce Higgins (Ballyhaunis ) and Stephen Broderick (Westport ) likely to continue their partnership in the midfield sector. The defence will also have a settled look, with Micheal Walsh expected to take up the position between the posts with Paul Hunt, Derek Walsh, and Aidan Connolly expected to make up the full back line. Belmullet’s Paddy Barrett should lead the line in the half back with Westport pair Conor Ryan and Brian Higgins on the flanks.
Up front Mayo will have to shuffle the decks as they try to deal with the absence of the totemic Higgins from the attack. Tooreen’s Adrian Freeman and Eoghan Madigan both should get the nod in the front six, while the likes of Niall Murphy, Paul Broderick, Derek McDonnell and Derek McConn will be battling it out for spots in the starting 15.
Mayo hurling panel (v Derry ): Derek Walsh, Pierce Higgins, Peter Healy, Hugh McKermitt, Niall Murphy, Derek McConn, Micheal Walsh, Paul Lynch, Liam Lyons, Stephen Hoban (all Ballyhaunis ), Conor Ryan, Stephen Broderick, Paul Broderick, Brian Higgins, Eoghan Madigan (all Westport ), Paul Hunt, Martin Devaney, Adrian Freeman, Conor English, Sean Markham (all Tooreen ), Derek McDonnell, Paddy Barrett, AP Barrett (all Belmullet ), Andrew Butler (Castlebar Mitchels ), Alan Stenson (Ballina-James Stephens ), Aidan Connolly (Castlegar ), Michael Harty (Oranmore/Maree ).
Ladies also lose out
The Mayo ladies also got off to a losing start in their opening round clash in the league. Kevin Reidy’s side went down by 1-9 to 1-7 at the hands of Tyrone in Trillock. Cora Staunton was once again Mayo’s scorer in chief hitting 1-5 for Mayo. Going in 1-5 to 0-4 at the break Mayo did well to fight back to close the gap, but couldn’t bridge it enough and went home pointless. Mayo’s next outing in the league is at home to Kerry on February 15.