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Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly got their senior management tenure off to a winning start in Elverys MacHale Park on Sunday. The fare on show wasn't anything that will be remembered for long, but it got a few miles in the legs of a a couple of new and some returning faces in green and red.
Last May between four and five thousand Mayo supporters descended on the Big Apple for the first round of the Connacht Championship, excited, anxious, expectant, is this going to be the year? Mayo supporters are a rare breed; they keep on supporting despite so many setbacks. I bet the New York GAA board and the pubs in Mid Manhattan wish Mayo had to travel every year. The performance levels grew as the tests became stiffer and Mayo found themselves in an All- Ireland semi final replay in Limerick above all places. I find this defeat particularly hard to take because we simply did not deserve to lose to Kerry. What is even more challenging to accept is that a team we were five points up against with three minutes left on the clock or a team we gave a hiding to by 16 points last year are going to be All- Ireland champions, will anything break for us to claim back the Holy Grail?
There was nothing more they could give. It may be seen as cliched to say they gave blood, sweat and tears, but that's exactly what was every single man in red and green left on the field in the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick on Saturday.
1. Both O'Sheas are in fantastic form
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.