Mayo finally got off the mark after a pulsating battle with Ulster champions Monaghan in Clones last Sunday. Given the situation I feel this was the most important league game Mayo have played in the last 15 years as defeat would surely have left an insurmountable battle to survive in division one, so huge credit has to be given to both management and players. It would also have been the first time since 1994 that Mayo would have lost four games in a row at the start of a league campaign so needless to say Stephen Rochford did not want that statistic on his CV.
Let’s be clear, safety is far from certain but at least there is now a platform in place knowing two wins from the last three games will ensure safety. I am already notching the Down game in the final round as a given as they have become the division’s whipping boys, so a win against Kerry on Sunday in Castlebar or Roscommon in Hyde Park is a must, I would prefer that win on Sunday as I am sure our Connacht rivals would like nothing more than to send us packing to division two. I am certain most of you realise the importance of Dublin’s amazing fightback against Cork in helping Mayo avoid relegation by keeping Cork on two points. Cork are most definitely going to pick up points against Down so Dublin’s win against the rebels was a huge result for Mayo.
Heart, guts, and nerve
Mayo’s win in Clones was all about guts and heart and who better to lead by example than captain for the day Colm Boyle who had an inspiring game. What was even more impressive was the Mayo team’s ability to grind out a result after Aidan O’Shea’s black card in the ninth minute, Upon losing such an influential figure some could have thrown in the towel and lost their way but the opposite happened, Mayo circled the wagons and regrouped very effectively. After looking nervous at the start Mayo got their act together going in a point up at half time, Conor Loftus scoring his first goal at senior level in a green and red jersey. Mayo seemed to turn the screw at the restart and raced into a five point lead early in the second half - Diarmaid O’Connor (and what a game he had again ) poking home Mayo’s second major after some poor keeping by Rory Beegan. To their credit Monaghan and in particular Ciaran McManus (from placed balls I might add as Ger Cafferky had a fine game on him ) never gave up and the sides were level with minutes remaining. It was now Robbie Hennelly time as the Breaffy net minder scored two splendid long range kicks to secure Mayo’s first league victory of the campaign. You have to feel a little for McManus however, he has scored 12 and 11 points in his last two games against two of the top four teams in Ireland and still ended up on the losing side. Mayo had stars a plenty, Diarmuid O’Connor again underlying his value having his third splendid game in a row. We need to remember he is still only 21 years of age but has already turned into a vital cog for Stephen Rochford.
The battle in the Kingdom
I am sure those who did not make the trip to Clones tuned in to watch Kerry and Donegal on TG4 for what turned into a proper dust up. I have no doubt after watching Donegal the previous week against Mayo, Eamon Fitzmaurice instructed his team to bow for no one and take no prisoners. It was a nightmare game to officiate with controversial incidences happening every minute. The main talking point happened early on when Neil McGee was clearly seen trying to interfere with Kerry full forward Alan Fitzgerald’s fingers in a disgusting act that has no place in football, so for me the Kerry player was in his divine right to do whatever was necessary to prevent himself getting injured and McGee left with a bloody nose for his troubles.
Fitzgerald was sent off but he put down a marker and McGee will think twice before trying that again with him. McGee has received a proposed one match suspension for his actions. Upon watching it, I remember Noel Connelly telling me how a player tried to do something to Kevin McLoughlin last year in a league game. I somehow think there will be a lot more football played this Sunday when Kerry visit for the round five clash against Mayo but the Kingdom certainly were not shy in letting the country know that they will meet fire with fire as well as being able to play football.
Come on the Mitchels
As this is our last publication before Paddy’s Day, I want to wish the Castlebar Mitchels team and management the very best of luck in the club final. It is an occasion I can’t wait for, so hopefully with all the prep work done and a little Lady Luck we will have a very prestigious cup in the county.