Mayo got in and got out of London as expected winning by 2-16 to 0-9 without setting the world on fire. I was fully sure they would cover the 15 point handicap, but when you have an injury list as long as your arm you have to be satisfied they got the job done. I, like most of you, had to be content with listening to the game on the radio which was an unusual experience for me, you could almost sense the carnival atmosphere at the Irish TV grounds in Ruislip.
It was unfortunate my club mate Tom Parsons had to cry off injured before the throw in because of a persistent injury picked up in a club game, a scenario that happened to yours truly in 1996 when I suffered the same fate. Maybe we Charlestown folk aren’t meant to play football in the English capital. It took Mayo a while to get going and I’m sure the players, like us listening, were shocked at the black card issued to Mayo captain Cillian O’Connor. I couldn’t believe it. O’Connor who was the bookmakers’ favourite to be the country’s top scorer in the championship and was well backed by many has surely left himself an impossible task of achieving that feat now. I expected him to fill his boots in London and have at least 10 points to his name after round one. The Mayo attack pressed high up the field in Ruislip which resulted in a London kick out malfunction. Their keeper Gavin McEvoy had the proverbial nightmare putting his team under enormous pressure time and time again. One of those mistakes directly resulted in Mayo’s opening goal which U21 star Conor Loftus palmed to the net. I found it pretty astonishing that McEvoy had been best man at a friend’s wedding in Ireland the day before the game and had only returned to London the morning of the match, your head could not be right with preparations like that. It would not happen with the bigger teams. Another London mistake, this time a misplaced pass by Ciaran Dunne to Aidan O’Shea allowed Jason Doherty slide home another goal for his county. Mayo outscored London by 0-8 to 0-4 in the second half with Evan Regan continuing his fine form from the latter stages of the national league, scoring seven points, his card is most definitely marked now. The Mayo medical team will be busy trying to get players ready for the semi final against Galway on June 18, The week’s training camp in London is likely to help them along nicely. Unfortunately Pat Spillane has given us the kiss of death by declaring we are the only team capable of beating Dublin. Take it easy Pat, it was only London. Congrats to Andy Moran who has entered the Mayo record books by surpassing James Nallen as Mayo’s most capped player, which is a remarkable achievement at a time when longevity is not the norm in GAA so full credit to him for never throwing in the towel. One hundred and thirty three appearances not out for Andy.
A great day for the west
They say every cloud has a silver lining, despite my disappointment at not been present in Ruislip to miss my first championship match involving Mayo in five years, it did enable me to be present at Ireland West Airport for Connacht’s homecoming after they beat Leinster in the Guinness Pro 12 final. It was a marvellous event that attracted thousands of fans and well wishers, and needless to say it was a real thrill to get up close and personal with guys we had watched displaying acts of heroism on our TVs a few hours earlier. They are a tight knit group and in their coach Pat Lam they have the most sought after human in rugby. I’d listen to him all day long. He captivated the audience with passion and humour. I wonder how Robbie Henshaw felt knowing it was his last hurrah as a Connacht player, he certainly is leaving on a high. A word of praise has also to be extended to Joe Gilmore, MD at Ireland West Airport, and the hard working staff who had their busiest weekend ever with their 30th anniversary celebrations on Friday night followed by the runway charity walk on Saturday evening and then of course welcoming Connacht home in the early hours of Sunday morning, I’m sure they slept soundly thereafter.
Checking in on the Dubs
I’ll get a chance to have a close look at the Dubs this weekend as I’m doing co commentary for Radio 1 for their game against Laois, I wonder if I’ll see a chink in their armour to give some of the pretenders to their throne a little lift as the championship hots up. Amazingly Dublin are the same price to beat Laois as Mayo were to beat London, 100/1 on, the bookies are rarely wrong, are they? I certainly think Dublin will cover the nine point handicap set even though Laois will put 14 men behind the ball for long periods.