It may only be very early in January, it is just the FBD but nevertheless it sure is great to have the football back again. Matches at this time of year always tend to have a raw, elemental feel to them and today’s opening outing in the 2012 FBD was pretty much of that kind. The exchanges were often hard and uncompromising, there was precious little fluency in evidence from either team and the grass at Ballyhaunis was way too long. But it was a good workout, with a number of new and returning faces faring well and we came away with a hard-earned four-point win.
Given the hour that I’m writing this at and bearing in mind that, like the football, school is back for the kids in the morning, I’m not going to dwell too long on today’s match here. We didn’t get back from the west until close to eight this evening and we were no sooner in the door than the locality was plunged into a power cut-induced darkness, which obviously wasn’t helpful for report writing purposes. In any event, Colm Gannon of the Mayo Advertiser has already got his match report online as well as some post-match audio with James Horan.
It was a low scoring match and so the blow-by-blow account of what happened is easy to set out. We establised an early 0-4 to 0-1 lead, with points from Danny Kirby, Enda Varley, Darren Coen and Colm Boyle, but the vistors got the next three points to leave it all square at half-time. Indeed, Leitrim were unlucky not to go in ahead as they had a goal ruled out for a square ball (it would seem that refs are now going to blow for this infringement if there’s any doubt at all about where man and ball are) and then a close-in free just before the break came back off the upright.
Enda Varley got our opening point in the second half from a free, which was quickly cancelled out by a similar score at the other end but a second Darren Coen point and another free from Enda sent us two clear. Then Conor Mortimer, who had replaced Pat Harte early in the second half and who had provided the assist for Darren’s point, belted over a glorious left-footer to the delight of the home crowd.
When Enda knocked over another free it was obvious we had the game in the bag and, despite losing Donal Vaughan to a second yellow from the over-fussy ref Michael Duffy, all Leitrim were able to add to their tally was another free which Mort responded to at the other end to complete our 0-10 to 0-6 win.
Overall, it was a satisfying performance today, with solid outings by Eoghan Reilly, Lee Keegan, the evergreen Peadar Gardiner and Colm Boyle in defence, Barry Moran in midfield and Danny Kirby, Enda Varley, Darren Coen and sub Conor Mortimer in the forwards.
I’d expect both Eoghan and Lee to be pushing strongly for starting slots later in the year, with Lee obviously a candidate for a place in the half-back line rather than in the corner, and both looked strong and uncompromising today. Colm Boyle also showed he has plenty to offer and has the ability to make the selection process for those half-back slots a difficult one for James Horan and his colleagues.
Barry Moran’s performance in midfield – where he made a number of eye-catching fetches, including this one – was great to see. Poor old Bazza has had wretched luck with injuries over the last few years and while his tendency to get crocked so easily makes it hard to see him becoming an integral member of the first fifteen, he showed today that he could well do a job for us in the middle.
In the forwards both Danny Kirby and Darren Coen enjoyed positive debuts and it’ll be good to see both getting more game time over the spring. Enda Varley wasn’t always accurate but his four points (three from placed balls) were a major factor in why we won today.
But the man whom everyone would have been talking about when trooping away from Ballyhaunis in the gathering gloom of a dull and misty January afternoon was, of course, Conor Mortimer. A big cheer went up when The Mort came on for Pat Harte early in the second half and an even bigger one resounded around the place when he knocked over a delicious point from out on the left with his trusty left boot.
Conor last played for us in the qualifier defeat to Longford back in June 2010 but he showed today that he has every intention of forcing himself back into the reckoning for the no.13 jersey when the serious stuff starts later this year. How the cutthroat battle for starting places in the full-forward line pans out will be a fascinating sub-plot to our football year but it’s great to see that we have plenty of talent available once again in this sector.
So, we’re up and running again, with two more FBD matches to come – next Sunday against GMIT in Ballinrobe and the following Sunday away to Roscommon – before a possible FBD Home Final appearance and then the resumption of the NFL the weekend after that. Yes, it’s great to have the football back once more.
MAYO: David Clarke; Shane McHale, Eoghan Reilly, Lee Keegan; Peadar Gardiner, Donal Vaughan, Colm Boyle (0-1); Barry Moran, Seamus O’Shea; Kevin McLoughlin, Pat Harte, Danny Kirby (0-1); Enda Varley (0-4, three frees), Darren Coen (0-2), Michael Conroy. Subs: Conor Mortimer (0-2, one free) for Harte, Ger Cafferkey for McHale, Richie Feeney for McLoughlin.