Mayo put in their best 70 minutes of football under Stephen Rochford's watch to easily account for Kildare in their third round qualifier in sun drenched Elverys MacHale Park last Saturday. There is no question it had to have been the most relaxing 70 minutes Rochford has had since he took over the reins. The opposition has to be taken into account however. Kildare are no longer a force in football, they struggle to beat division four teams, they are probably the fifth best team in a Province that has only one decent team, but as the saying goes Mayo can only beat what is put in front of them.
Mayo unusually started with the 15 players named the previous evening, we wondered would Andy Moran have the legs or would he not be better off coming off the bench. Was he picked to throw a curve ball at Cian O'Neill? His display echoed the opinion that age counts for nothing as he was the focal point for most of Mayo's attacks while he was on the field. He departed to a well deserved standing ovation from the large partisan crowd.
Getting over the gain line
It took a little bit of a niggle from Kildare to get the gander of some Mayo players fired up and they certainly responded. Tackles became intense and Mayo, especially the two O'Sheas, turned over a lot of ball as Kildare more often took the wrong option and ran into more physical players than themselves. If the Fermanagh game was remembered for a controversial penalty given, the Kildare game will be remembered for the penalties that were not given. Mayo had three legitimate claims, all in the first half and all in the bacon factory end, where the Aidan O'Shea incident occurred against Fermanagh. Maybe we could rename that side of Elverys MacHale Park the “Penalty-gate End”. As is the norm I call it as it is. The first two decisions for tackles on Donal Vaughan and Diarmuid O'Connor were legitimate claims but never fouls in my opinion, both players had lost possession of the ball when they were in the box. The third incident where Andy Moran's goal bound shot was foot blocked was, as they say, a stonewaller. However referee Derek O'Mahoney did not raise his hands to signal he was allowing an advantage so it was fortunate for himself and Mayo that Evan Regan was on hand to fire the rebound to the net. I could only imagine how the Mayo players and the crowd would have reacted to O'Mahoney had nothing accrued. It is a little bit of a worry though as it looked like the referee was under instruction not to give Mayo a penalty no matter what.
Diarmuid O'Connor dazzles again
I'm running out of superlatives to describe Diarmuid O'Connor. He had an unbelievable game again scoring 1-5 from play. Apart from his scoring prowess his work rate and ball turnover was top drawer. There are not many players in Mayo or indeed Ireland that will tell Cillian O'Connor to back away from a free as he did when he dispossessed a Kildare player near the stand on the half way line. There are also not many who would have scored the goal he did either, kicking the ball over the bar was the obvious option with four Kildare defenders in front of you, that would be too easy for O'Connor, instead he elected to swerve his way in and out through them before side footing past a helpless Mark Donnellan in the Kildare goal. It ended the game as a contest.
Tough test needed next
I was hoping Mayo would have drawn Donegal in round four of the qualifiers because as the championship progresses you need to be increasing intensity as you are playing better teams, and Westmeath with respect are very similar to Kildare. The positive is that our lads are getting a game in Croker, and it is another game to see how the Kevin McLoughlin sweeper and Keith Higgins forward roles pan out. Worryingly two of our fullbacks left the fray last Saturday, Kevin Keane with an injury and I hope Brendan Harrison as a precaution. It leaves us very light in that sector with Tom Cunniffe no longer on the panel and the injuries to Ger Cafferky and Chris Barrett. Putting the cart before the horse, Mayo will play either Tyrone or Dublin in a quarter final if they beat Westmeath and they will certainly need a strong squad for either of those encounters.
Galway earned their Connacht title
Galway looked massively impressive in the Connacht final replay against Roscommon. They completely blitzed them scoring three pretty stunning goals in the process. I mentioned in a column a few weeks back that Galway need to take a few scalps before we get to know their players properly, we certainly know them now. They are deserving Connacht champions. Interestingly Galway are priced at 16/1 to lift Sam Maguire while Mayo are only 5/1. Who comes up with these odds?