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Last Sunday’s All-Ireland senior quarter final against Cork really had a bit of everything. The tone for the game was set up earlier in the week when Brian Cuthbert, the Cork manager, launched an attack on two of Mayo’s favourite sons, Kevin McLoughlin and Cillian O’Connor. This was then compounded by Cork selector Ronan McCarthy’s agreement with his manager when both players’ integrity was put into question and their ability to “foul tactically” and be very “streetwise” was used as a means of trying to give Cork an edge with the referee. McLoughlin and O’Connor are role models for youngsters all over the county and indeed country, and I feel the Cork management made a big mistake in naming them, particularly as they have a pretty much impeccable disciplinary record. The bottom line is you want your forwards tackling hard, and maybe if their own team were a little more “streetwise” against Kerry they would not have received such a hiding.
The first half of Sunday's All Ireland quarter final between Mayo and Cork, will have long faded into the memory bank by the time the Mayo's meeting with Kerry comes around, but the second half is one that the fat will be chewed over a lot in the next 21 days. The first half was a bitty and often ill tempered affair where Mayo struggled to break down, Cork's blanket defence and the sides went in level at eight points each. Mayo ran down closed off avenues and their foot passing into their full forward line was wasn't sticking as Cork smothered the Mayo attack like jam on a warm slice of bread.
Mayo achieved the double/double in Elverys MacHale Park last Sunday with our minors and seniors winning the Connacht championship for the second year in a row. I could only imagine it was a bit surreal for Diarmuid O’Connor who only 12 months ago was on that minor team, and now finds himself togging with the seniors and winning his first senior medal while some of his old team mates collected their second in the minor grade.
Galway came to town and they huffed and and puffed but in the end they were no match for a Mayo team that went about dismantling their southern neighbors with relative ease in the end with man of the match Cillian O'Connor kicking eight points and having his hand in two of Mayo's goals that booked their passage to the All Ireland quarter-final on the August Bank Holiday weekend. Mayo were smarter in almost every area of the field and ran out deserving seven point winners with Aidan O'Shea dominating the game from his centre half forward berth for long periods of the contest. Even when Galway looked like they could get themselves back into the contest the rub of the green wasn't with them as Shane Walsh who kicked seven points for the Tribesmen saw his effort for a goal come crashing back off the bar just after the restart.
Mayo head into Sunday's Connacht final looking to win four Connacht titles in a row for the first time since 1951.
As I expected, Galway qualified for the Connacht final after a somewhat facile victory over Sligo in the semi-final in Markievicz Park last weekend.
Mayo’s championship season will get underway on Sunday, thousands of miles away from home when they take on New York in the preliminary round of Connacht Senior Football Championship in Gaelic Park at 7.30pm Irish time.
Castlebar Mitchels came up just short in Croke Park last Monday when a Diarmuid Connolly inspired St Vincent's team had too much for them in the AIB All Ireland Senior Club Football Championship final.
Three things of note from Sunday's game
Not to long ago the list of Mayo’s walking wounded looked like it could not only derail James Horan’s stated aim of going for league title, but could have made the first step in achieving that goal, being in with a chance of making the semi-final, very difficult. After Mayo lost out to Tyrone in Omagh a few weeks ago, Horan pointed out that he was short some 20 players due to injury and club-commitments. But the past few weeks have seen that number come right down with only Alan Dillon and Chris Barrett on the long term list, and Cillian O’Connor very close to a return to action, according to the Mayo boss after last weekend’s victory over Kerry in MacHale Park. The Castlebar Mitchels contingent are still concentrating on club duty ahead of St Patrick’s Day.