Championship preview: Mayo

Mayo team 2013 AIF

Photo: Mayo Mick

As supporters of Mayo it’s revealing that when we speak anymore of this team that mostly we talk solely in terms of All-Ireland glory. That seems to be the common denominator now for the fan base within the county. This is certainly a laudable (and slightly arrogant) standard to shout about. But is this goal possible anymore for this team, after three hard years where they have come so close? The consensus among the national experts was that falling again in the 2013 final was the end of this current era. Another glorious failure and so we were immediately written off after that defeat.

But here we are now in 2014 and another championship road beckons. What is going to happen with this team this year and what is in store for us? It’s a tough one to call as in truth no-one knows the exact mind-set of these guys after all they have been through. All we can do is examine the players, our form to date, and look at the possible paths and where they would lead.

Firstly when you look at the talent within the squad there is little doubt that this is the best championship panel in the history of the county. The return of Tom Parsons and the addition of Gavin Duffy may (or may not) be the final pieces in the jigsaw to push on this team.  The possible A versus B combination matches would be exciting tough encounters and could have a variety of combinations, such as the following (based on everyone being fit):

Mayo AB_

The assumption always is that the A team should automatically beat the Bs but it would certainly be a close call and a real physical contest in the above match-ups.  I would suggest the B team sit back and defend and invite the As to dominate possession. When broken down they look to counter attack.  Overall perhaps the As would shade it in pace and experience, but not much else.

The above also shows how many are competing along each line and on the face of it this panel is just as strong as any of the other favourites for this year’s All-Ireland. When you look at our team we have at least nine quality backs, five midfielders, and at least twelve forwards who are fighting for places and can lay claim to the ability to play senior inter-county championship football.

The bottom line is that the open-ended panel that the county team currently have is the correct one given the level of professionalism needed.  Plus the requirement of a top panel will be key this year because of the intensity of the big games and the new black card rule. It is up to the management now to decide how these pieces fit together and what blend of football they want to produce. So far it has been a running game with attacking half-backs however the alternatives are there if so desired. Personally I would like to see a mixture of running, quick kick-passing and the addition of players who can score points from distance.

Also judging from the League the team has improved. Last year on the final day of the League campaign we needed a win in Cork to ensure our survival. This year we qualified comfortably for the semi-finals. However the failures against fourteen-man Dublin and against Derry in the second half of this year’s League semi-final do raise serious doubts about the mentality of these players to close out tight games.

Another area of concern is do we have enough experience in the panel to cope with injures? Last year we lost our star corner-forward for practically the entire season and the year before the captain was out. And already our star League man is gone now for a considerable period. However it is something that we have to put up with. All teams with aspirations have the same issues – Kilkenny is missing from Dublin and Gooch from Kerry. This is another reason why the panel has to perform.

Management though must perform as well. Match-ups and changes need to be quickly addressed. If a guy is not making it in training he should not be automatically on the team. There was a suspicion in years gone by that some fellas inevitably made this team regardless of their performances at club or even in training at county level. If this is true and it persists, well, James Horan can forget about any success. He needs to be ruthless in addressing any shortfalls within this team. No one inside or outside the panel can or will complain if the strongest performers take to the pitch.  After that it’s up to those guys to show why they are representing the county in those fifteen jerseys, and why they are ahead of the rest.

Also he will need to spot when tiredness or complacency is creeping in. When we played Dublin earlier this year they deliberately matched Ger Cafferkey with Cormac Costello. The young Dub U21 is a fine player but more importantly is very fleet of foot. Later on in the game they switched in the rangy O’Gara, who came in to plough through what was presumably seen as a tired defence. It reaped fine dividends on the evening. What plan is there for such tactics in the future? Can Kevin Keane or Shane McHale come in on our side to deal with more physical guys? Are they up to it yet? Is this what Gavin Duffy is for? Is this part of the fragility and mentality issue? So many questions and possibilities, that as yet remain unanswered.

Overall when we look at the championship there are probably three or four teams who will realistically challenge this year, and on their day with a bit of luck and momentum, most can go out and beat each other. Peaking at the correct time, though, is very important. To this extent a smooth exit through Connacht would be beneficial.

But Roscommon are unlikely to just turn up and doff their caps to us. Their recent hammering of us at U21 along with home advantage and the strong showing to win Division Three offers serious hope to the Sheepstealers. And it is not beyond the realms of possibility. Remember last year’s Division Three champions Monaghan won the Ulster title beating a tired Donegal on home turf. Victories like these offer real hope to Roscommon of an upset.

The last time we played them in the Hyde we won by two points on a miserable afternoon. Since then Roscommon have improved. So it would not be a major upset were James Horan’s team to fall at this hurdle. Therefore it is imperative that the team concentrate on this match. If they were to lose and go through the back door, then the likelihood of any possibilities later on in the year would be remote to say the least.

And in truth these guys probably do want another crack at Dublin. Certainly if I were one of the players after this year’s League match, I would like another shot at them in Croke Park. For now, however, that prospect is far away and James Horan and this team must concentrate hard on the next obstacle. After all of the experts have us written off this year maybe instead of game one of five it should be one game at a time in 2014.

49 thoughts on “Championship preview: Mayo

  1. One game at a time sounds good no room for complacency last year is history time to dream it all up again

  2. I would swap Dillon,SOS with Gibbons,Feeney on those A and B sides not sure about Barry Moran as a forward top midfielder thats it would put Parsons on bench and bring in Conroy. Looking at the B side it will be interesting how much game time those players will get this summer.

  3. Great credit has to be given to all these lads after all they have been through over the last few years,to come back again for another crack at it,it takes huge commitment.Win,lose or draw they owe us nothing,if anything we owe them,they have given us many more good days than bad ones.We really need to get behind them this year especially when things are going against us, that is when we as supporters need to be at our loudest,to know your supporters are still behind you when the chips are down can only give you the lift you need to get going again.Here’s to another long summer,can’t wait for Sunday,Maigh Eo Abu

  4. Good piece JPM.

    The panel is strong, and the competition is intense. One could mention a few other names – Brian Gallagher, and Regan, and maybe Danny Kirby.

    I am optimistic at this stage – I always am before a ball is kicked – because in theory they have as good a chance as anyone. But, getting down to the nitty gritty, they need to be very focused for Roscommon.

    I would be surprised if the team look back on the Dublin match negatively. It was a big game and both knew that. Mayo were well on top before Cluxton left and they should have won. But, knowing that you had the beating of them and should have beaten them, and actually not losing to them, are quite a lot of positives.

    My worry at this stage, is that the fatigue factor may kick in. We really won’t know until we see it, but it is a real possibility during a fourth year on the road; don’t forget we have played three semi finals in a row, so that is tough going.

    Still, I certainly didn’t detect it during the league.

  5. I’d be very surprised if Mayo don’t win the province and after that it’s Russian roulette in a quarter final draw. Anybody including Dublin could be in the qualifiers, that’s why after the provincial, i reckon it’s anyone’s game to be won on the day.
    Someone mentioned fatigue, very true, though I think the minds will have Sam in front and center view and once the games start coming the bodies will do as trained for 2014, after that things will change for sure.
    For now Mayo are definite contenders with Dublin, cork and maybe Tyrone,Kerry and donegal on their good day

  6. Very good piece JPM, I really enjoyed reading it. Thats a very good point, that when we now talk about Mayo football, we talk about them in terms of All-Ireland glory, thats the big question to answer, can we become comfortable among the elite teams. Slowly but surely we are getting closer to becoming comfortable in uncomfortable situations i.e. playing the biggest teams in the biggest games and performing to our best in these games. Can we take the final step and fulfill our full potential, only time will tell! Would Donegal have won the All-Ireland final in 2012 without Michael Murphy or would Dublin have won last year’s final without Bernard Brogran? We had to play the 2012 final without Andy Moran and the 2013 final with three of forwards not been fully fit. If we can keep as many of our top players as fit as possible then we have as good a chance as any team and a better chance than most of doing well this year.

  7. @Hopespringseternal – When you put it like that RE: the players that were and were not fit on All Ire day, it does give perspective. Cotton wool and some luck and we’ll do it!

  8. @Pete – Some cotton wool might just do the trick alright! You’d think that our luck has to change sometime, especially in terms of our injuries. As JPM pointed out, there will be great competition for places in the coming weeks. I often think that when players are going full out, they don’t get injured as easily as players who are minding themselves in games. No player will be able to mind themselves or rest on their laurels, all will have to play to their best to get into the first 15, hopefully that will help to keep all of the players on their toes and fully fit.

  9. We are preparing for sep – right?
    The more I think about it the more I am convinced that a blanket type defence is our best strategy for 2014 though it pains me to say it. Why?
    We have the men for it. We have enough of the right kind of players to practically seal off our defensive area and make it extremely difficult for attackers to get a shot off. I reckon we would be even better at this than Donegal were at their very best. I’m not sure we can go man on man with the likes of Dublin – I’m not sure anyone can.
    We also have lots of top class players who can break at speed and carry the ball hand to hand. At the other end of the field this strategy gives us a bit of space. I’m not sure we have enough top class forwards to really punish a tight defence on 50/50 possession in a tradition setup. We could use AOS as an attacking ‘go to MF man’ for breaks out from defence rather than him trying to run his ass off chasing shadows and using up valuable energy.
    With the 6 sub rule it would allow us to have 4 ‘defenders’ who would burn themselves for 30 or 40 minutes chasing anything that moved and then be replaced by a fresh 4. Gavin Duffy might have some role in this as an enforcer/ hitman.

    It’s horrible football……but it has proven successful. I reckon if we keep doing what we have been doing over the last few years it will probably end up the same. It has got us almost there but not quite. Now we have one last chance before the tank is empty. We need to be bold and brave. It’s time to pose new problems for other teams.

  10. Diehard I like your thinking,but our forwards have to press hard on everything coming out of the opposition defense,pin them back.don’t give them that first 40-50yds to get Men in place for the (lackey to Murphy)40-50yd defense splitting’s easy really…NOT.maigheo Abu.

  11. Quite surprised at the little doubt to this being the best championship panel in the county’s history claim. Surely that claim will have to be left until this panel wins back to back All Irelands or indeed one All Ireland accompanied by six consecutive National League titles.

  12. Well done once again JPM. Some very good points here. We are indeed following the best Mayo team in our time. I want to see them do the 4 in a row. This is a history making step for JH and his team. Beyond that we should not look for now. Galway Sligo and Roscommon will have their say in all of this. I believe it is a case of them worrying about Mayo rather than we worrying about what they may do or not. I believe Enda and Mickey had a part to play yet in the Green and Red. The return game to the Hyde reminds me of our last outing 3 years ago. A terrible day for football and a crowd of about 25 k with two and a half thousand Mayo fans. Challenging the reigning Connacht their own backyard. It has taken them time to get over that one and we may have rode our luck a bit on the day. Next week they face a completely different foe make no mistake about it.

  13. Nice piece JPM and I have to say seeing your A v B team laid out there made me stop in my tracks – that B team alone would have the beating of more than a few teams if they had to line out like that, So it’s good to have a bit more depth to the panel this year – when you think back to last year, we were very unfortunate.

    Trying not to think too much about what lies ahead this year and going to take it one game at a time as much as possible (despite having that week in September tentatively booked off, just in case …)

    The Rossies are absolutely gunning for us this year. This time next week, we should have a pretty good indication of how we’re looking. I’d like to get through that game wit a win – even it’s only a point, a win is a win – and injury-free. And as PJ says above I hope it’s a much better day out than the last time we were there.

    A word about yesterday’s game in MacHale Park – there was very good support there for the hurlers (there was a distinct increase in support versus last week’s total of 4 down in Arklow!) and they are playing the Rossies next Sunday before the football game. They put in a cracking second half against Kerry yesterday so if you’re heading up for the football do consider getting there to cheer them on. There’ll be the added bonus of actually getting a seat for the football too 😉

  14. I think Higgins of rossies will be hard stopped centerfield and I don’t know if we have anyone fit enough or mobile enough to match him in midfield.

    They will give us a match with cregg Kilbride and shine they have powerful forwards. Will be some dog fight

    Cunnife and caff will be critical in fullback line. They will look to pull out caff and pump in ball to shine and cregg. Caff and cunnife will get better of those two but if its anybody else’s eking them we maybe in bother.

    I would have full forward line of Sweeney freeman and o conor but I do believe it will be Moran in there.

    Andy does need run out and some confidence but Sweeney is such an intelligent player

    On form players at the moment Kevin mc was superb for knock more v kiltane and feeney was powerful for castlebar. With both at wing forward we have two great men to win their own ball mobile and also capable of hitting scores on the run.

    Looking forward to a battle in the Hyde

  15. This time next Sunday we will be in the Hyde and facing real championship action. This is the team I’d like to see JH team start:
    Hennelly, Cunniffe, Cafferkey, Higgins, Keegan, Boyle, Vaughan, A. O’Shea, S O’Shea, McLoughlin, Doherty, Feeney, Sweeney, Frreman, C O’Connor.
    I’ve included Doc ahead of Andy, because Andy’s reduced pace will not be an obstacle for him coming in as an impact sub in the last 20 minutes against less energetic Rossies.
    Feeney deserves a start to show that he can fill the 12 jersey, and Mayo’s forward line needs Sweeney.
    That leaves subs like O’Malley and Clarke covering the goals, and for the back-line, the like Harrison and Keane, with Barrett and McHale to return very soon. Midfield has Parsons in reserve, with Gibbons and Barry Moran to also return soon.
    We have Andy and Dillon as obvious options but it’s in this sector where we are scarce on back-up unless you have some of our high quality midfielders moving forward.
    The two Gallaghers, the younger O’Connor and O’Shea, the two Coens, will be ready for Championship next year and the year after, but not this year. The one I believe could have been an option as a finisher is Regan, and he’s not there!
    Mayo to beat the Rossies by 4 points but to get a hell of a scare in the Hyde!

  16. Fairness I think the best players in county are on panel and any combination should be good bough to beat the rossies in a battle. I would hope they don’t underestimate the rossies as they are well fired up and will be a dog fight.

    Here’s a 15 that not currently on mayo panel who are best in county besides mayo panel and players currently injured.

    1 ciaran Naughton
    2 Ronan Rochford (crossmolina)
    3 Eoin o Reilly (castlebar)
    4 Finn (breaffy)
    5 peader Gardner
    7 pat durkan (castlebar)
    11 Danny Kirby
    12 conor Loftus (crossmolina)
    13 mark ronalsson (shrule)
    14 kieran mc
    15 Evan regan ( Ballina )

  17. Pretty tasty team selection there Outside of the Boot. Hopefully we can get over the line this year as the boost to everyone including fringe players would be mighty.

  18. “Mayo’s forward line needs Sweeney” – I agree and am firmly of the belief he has earned his place. Will be extremely disappointed if he doesn’t feature next weekend.

  19. Kevin Mc, Doc, Alan Dillon

    O’Connor, Freeman, Andy

    That’ll be the forwards I reckon, I’d have little argument with that too to be honest, I think it’s probably our strongest. That could change tomorrow though! I certainly wouldn’t have Mikey Sweeney in the team instead of Andy! Not to say I don’t rate Mikey, I do.

    Saying that, he might go with Keith again in the forwards and trust Kevin Keane with Tom and Caf. It’s really hard to know, great that we have options. Remember, there have been a lot of training sessions in between New York and next week and a couple of challenge games and of course the A v B games, they will pick the team based on how lads have been showing there. Don’t rule out Gavin starting!!

  20. For the year ahead, if we can get back up to the level that we were at last year, get a little bit extra from Andy Moran, Alan Dillon and Cillian O’Connor, get something new from Mikey Sweeney, Jason Gibbons and Tom Parsons, and add into the mix something unpredictable from Gavin Duffy. Will this be enough to give us that something different this year, only time will tell!

  21. I would disagree with you there Mark – I’d much prefer to see Mikie starting before Andy – the latter doesn’t have the pace needed anymore IMO, but could potentially play a serious role coming on as a sub. Mikie has the pace, if not the height, and (a couple of mistakes aside) has the smarts too.

  22. MayoMark says:
    June 1, 2014 at 10:38 pm
    Kevin Mc, Doc, Alan Dillon
    O’Connor, Freeman, Andy
    That’ll be the forwards I reckon,

    I agree with you Mark however its not what i or others would pick but its the tried and trusted 6 for James Horan. Either way Sweeney,Coen,D O’Connor etc are sure to get some action and all would be good options to bring on against tired rossie legs.

  23. Sweeney has to be given game time, I also think Dillon has still got a lot to offer and with him and Andy Moran ready to come in later on in any game gives us better use of this squad

  24. Thanks Anne-Marie!
    Mayo Mark, I don’t know what you’ve been watching or where your thoughts are?
    Sweeney’s form, intellegent play, pace, ball winning (non soft variety and despite his physique), and conversion attempts/success ratio is far ahead of Andy and Doc’s current form, with a lot less chances so far this year, and you start Dillon after a very rusty one half in NY ??
    No more than Outside the boot, you are showing poor judgement, and showing little or no respect to the Rossies. Dublin are doing really well under Gavin, because he picks not just from a strong squad, but on form, not reputations!
    But who knows? JH may go with ye too, and we’ll be f–ked again!!!

  25. Roscommon will be difficult to beat, they have improved a lot from last year and are playing at home and they will also be the underdogs. I believe we will need leaders on the pitch in the Hyde if we are going to win. Mayo were in trouble against Tyrone last year in the semi final until Chris Barrett came up from the full back and kicked two great points, a great example of leadership. Tyrone were trailing by two points with time running out in the first match with Down this year when Sean Cavanagh won two frees and scored both of them to draw the game, another example of leadership. Kevin Heffernan believed on having players on the pitch who decide that they are going to make something happen and not wait for somebody else to do it, Dublin were always difficult to beat under Heffernan. I believe Jim Gavin has the same philosophy about leadership on the pitch. Mayo’s attitude on Sunday next will have to be spot on, this is going to be a battle and they will have to be up for it. Tipperary hurlers were strong favourites today and were playing at home but they lost the game because they met a Limerick team that played with greater heart and passion. John Evans stated that he would be happy if Roscommon got nearer to Mayo (on the score board) than last year, he is trying to lull the Mayo team and management into a false sense of security.

  26. Lets not blow Sweeney’s performances out of proportion, he has done well, but he hasn’t been magnificent. Andy Moran is a seasoned championship footballer and our captain, lets not forget. He scored 1-3 in an AI Final last September without being totally fit. There is no way I would have Sweeney in the starting 15 ahead of him at this moment in time.

    I would start Dillon because, like Andy, he is a seasoned Championship footballer and I would be amazed if he hasn’t set a marker down in training since he returned. The 15 starting next week will have earned their spot, of that I have no doubt.

    “But who knows? JH may go with ye too, and we’ll be f–ked again!!!”

    Nice dig at JH there cloud. If only he had you advising hiim, we’d be laughing!

  27. MayoMark, you’re certainly never going to mark JH’s card with that attitude !
    You seem very happy with the status quo and when the going got tough,
    we all know where that got us! Reputations always before form – sure, that’s the
    answer!! Why the hell didn’t we think of that?

    But after Cillian (15), Kevin Mc (10), and Freezer (14), then Sweeney (13), is the next name to go on the team sheet. After that, I’d say Feeney at 12, with 11 being the issue right now for the Hyde next weekend.

    Nothing against Andy, I’m really a big fan, but he’s obviously off the pace and playing poorly! Similar with Dillon, who’s too rusty – both should be on the bench and coming in during the second half.

  28. agree fully cloud9 andy seems miles off the pace , if we are picking fellas on reputation then we are setting a dangerous precedent.

  29. I think that its a terrible insult to JH if anyone thinks he puts players on the pitch based on reputation.Why bother with training at all?.A little respect for the guys that are watching the team at close quarters day in day out.In fairness lads, we are looking from the outside in,and dont have an iota what’s going on at training/challenges/AvB etc.Everyone is entitled to an opinion but I think that throwaway comments about reputation before ability or such,serve no purpose.

  30. I think some of you guys must have attended lots of Mayo training sessions and A v B games if ye know who is in form and who is not. I presume our management team are in best position to know who is going well in training, who is likely to provide leadership in what could be a difficult environment etc. Id also expect they will pick what they consider to be the best team for the job. Accusing them of not doing that is somewhat unfair. And they haven’t done such a bad job up to now

  31. I repeat, I take no pleasure in saying that we have too much loyalty and not enough credit for form. And I’m certainly not happy saying that Andy hasn’t recovered his pace since his last major injury, and combined with the likes of Dublin raising the tempo further in that regard, there is no room for sentiment in the quest for Sam.

    The rest of the squad and all Mayo supporters deserve to have only the best possible 15 on the pitch every time.

    You really don’t have to be at training, just open your mind and eyes at all the league games and in NY. Andy is running short to take close passes, most often slowing down the attacks (like Ciaran Mc did for years). He’s no longer winning competitive ball and delivering great passes. He isn’t winning the 10 yard races for possession time after time. It’s sad but the captaincy and leadership becomes a chain for him and the team in such circumstances.

    But as I said yesterday, as the opposition slow down in the last quarter, introducing Andy as an impact sub could work well?

    Remember, you can beat average teams most days carrying two or three players but come judgement days in Croker, you need the best 15 and a game plan that everyone is buying in to and capable of delivering!

    Mayo are 1/5 on to beat the Rossies, with Roscommon 4/1 to win. On last Saturday, the same Paddy Power site had Limerick at 7/2 to best Tipp. Now there’s possibly a lesson that management could use to get their heads in focus for next Sunday?

    Agree to certain extent with Diehard, when he wrote earlier about a blanket defence, but braking fast. I see the Rossies having Seanie McDermott playing in front of our inside danger men and I think, we should do the same in front of the very dangerous inside line. Dublin did it successfully to the Rossies in the U-21 Final and the Rossies employed it against Leitrim in the last round.

    But I also agree with Eddie K, that we push forward in attack and defence – put them under pressure every time.!

    Injuries in the Ros camp will necessitate changes to their half-backs, midfield, and half-forwards. Expect Shine to move to midfield with Keenan.

  32. Agree with Cloud 9. A great player but I would not start Andy based on the league form. He was played mostly in the HFs in the league, got on the ball a lot – but those extra seconds on the ball allow defenses to organize. I think if Andy comes on with 20 to go it should be in the FF line where he could be a goal getter from breaking ball. Similar to AIF. As someone said above, there are only 3 certain/highly probable starters in the forwards – Kev Mc, Cillian and Freeman. After that who knows.

    Overall, all the pressure on Mayo IMO. Win big and it’s only as expected. Dublin would be expected to beat Ros by 8-10 points probably. But Ros are improving. Strong, Physical and dangerous forwards. That 4/1 is actually a great value.

    Quick question for those in the know – Are either of Conor O’Se or Evan Regan training with Mayo at the moment?. Just have a feeling that these are 2 guys that could dig Mayo out of trouble if we were 2-3 points down with 10 mins to play some time this summer.

  33. “MayoMark, you’re certainly never going to mark JH’s card with that attitude !
    You seem very happy with the status quo and when the going got tough,
    we all know where that got us! Reputations always before form – sure, that’s the
    answer!! Why the hell didn’t we think of that?”

    Oh yawn. Picking the best squad and the best team for the last 3 years has landed us 3 Connacht titles and 2 All Ireland Final appearances, not to mention maintaining division 1 status consistently. If a player is good enough based on how he has trained in the last few weeks, not based on games that happened 6 weeks ago, then he will play. Simple as that. And my opinion is that Andy and Alan D will show that in training. Why do I think that? Because they are better players. And so does James Horan, up to now. There have been a serious amount of sessions since New York. Remember the progress we made in the 3 week gap between Dublin in the semi and Galway last year? Enormous.

  34. We all have our opinions I guess – JH goes on what he sees in training, we go by what we’ve seen in front of us in games that count.

    I’m still in agreement with Cloud9 regards Sweeney ahead of Andy, based on what we’ve seen from Andy so far this year, but by god if he proves me wrong I’ll be a happy woman, and MayoMark you’re right that we made huge strides last year in the intervening period, so who knows? I’m dubious about Alan Dillon returning to the fold too, but I’d like to think that he will have earned his place no more than anyone else.

    I think the concern here probably stems from the (apparent) lack of innovation we have seen from the sideline this year – things like Aidan constantly being left on the field over Jason, being slow to make other substitutions and adapt the game play when it seems clear to those of in the stand that changes need to be made.

    But you know what, we can argue about this til the cows come home and it won’t make a blind bit of difference – at the end of the day, Horan is the man in charge, and regardless of whether or not we think we know better, we have to rely on his decisions whether we like it or not. And no matter what he does, he won’t please everyone.

    Over and above all of that what I would really love to see is some evidence of clear, decisive leadership on the field, because our manager can only do so much. The clearest example of this in recent times was Chris Barrett taking the initiative by the scruff of the neck vs. Tyrone last year and in my mind he won us that game. That’s what will win us All-Irelands – players deciding they are going to push forward and do what needs to be done when the chips are down. More of that I say. I would like to think that last September taught Mayo a valuable lesson in that regard… but only time will tell.

    Six days and counting … all ahead of us. These truly are glory days.

  35. Regarding initiatives on the field, what about Tom Cunniffe’s surging run against Dublin and layoff to Sweeney for a point; what about Freezer’s waving Hennelly away against Kerry and planting a sweet 45; what about Boyler’s constant examples, one or two in every game; and there’s Andy who is everywhere cajoling and exhorting – sometimes too much so?

  36. Completely agree with you MayoMark on your starting forwards. I’ve said it before about Sweeney, nice player and all that he is, he will not start ahead of Andy Moran on Sunday and nor should he.

    I understand some of the questions regarding Andy, given some obviously average performances in the last year, but where the clamor for Mikey Sweeney has come from I really don’t know. He’s had a solid league campaign but he has not shown himself to be any better than Moran. And one thing that definitely needs to be put to bed about Mikey is that he is particularly quick, because he is not. He shows well for the ball (but so do all of our forwards) and is a solid finisher, but he’s too light and definitely not as talented as the captain, All Star, and what, 35-capped+ championship player.

    The other 2 slightly contentious selections in your forward line are Dillon and Doc. Both of whom I think will start – Dillon (whose position is most at threat) because he will have shown in training recently why he has 2 All Stars and 10+ years of inter-county experience, and Doc because he offers that scoring threat from centre-forward, and actually the lad has a bit of pace about him as well.

    Finally, JPM, just to point out that you mention in your report it wouldn’t be a major shock if the Rossies won. I think it most certainly would be. They’re 4/1 outsiders with the bookies and haven’t beaten Mayo in Championship since what, 2001, 13 years ago? Not to mention Mayo having a better team and bench, more experience, finalists for the last 2 years. And one crucial point in this, I believe Mayo’s management team to be significantly better than their counter-parts.

  37. i think Sweeney is more talented than Andy, just less experienced , I used to think andy was so bad when he was younger that omahony only picked him becuase he was from ballagh, now dont get me wrong , he improved and before he got hurt he was brilliant , absolutely brilliant , but it smacked to me of the trainers son for the club team who wasnt great at the start but got good becuse he saw so much action!!. only my opinion and i am sure there will be plenty to shoot me down.

    i think if we play mikey he too will improve, he is a more skillful player than Andy imo and is only young. would love to see andy back to his best from what i have seen this year in the league he has been massively below par and mickey C even more so , I would select mikey ahead of them but unlike James Horan i havent seen them train at all , I saw mikey in the two intermediate games and he was outstanding.

    sometimes a manager has to take a leap of faith instead of going with the tried and trusted , someone compared us previously with eddie osullivans ireland team and i think that was an apt comparison , teams need new blood infused every so often , look at the Dubs.

  38. Roger Milla – sorry but I will be taking up the offer of shooting you down on that one!

    There’s no way Sweeney is “more talented, just less experienced”. He is 26 years old and I believe I am correct in stating that he has not started a championship game for Mayo. Moran has been picked regularly by 4 different managers, Maughan, Moran, O’Mahoney, and Horan, won an All Star (roasting both Marc O’Se and Michael Shields in the process) and captained his county. Moran, for me, is so much more skillful than Sweeney and has proven it.

    Also, management have continually freshened up the team over the last 3 years. O’Connor, Keegan, Hennelly, McLoughlin, Gibbons, Boyle all now nailed on starters but certainly were not in 2010. How anyone can accuse the management of not trying to keep things fresh is beyond me – they’ve even gone and brought Gavin Duffy into the panel.

  39. Certainly it would be a shock if the Rossies beat us but not as big a one as people think.

    Consider that so far this year Down should have beaten Tyrone (in Omagh). Donegal did beat Derry (in Celtic Park). Limerick came back to win against Tipp in Thurles. If anything it seems to be the year of the upset so far. And all these games were all won/drawn by the visiting underdog. We have it tougher as the underdog this time is at home and we are the visiting team going into it’s den.

    Also as I said in piece it’s hard to know how our players are reacting considering the games against Dublin and Derry and how we threw away the first against 14 men and were fundamentally out of ideas and beaten by 14 men in the second. Essentially we don’t know what team is going to take to the field Sunday and more importantly we don’t know what they can produce if the game is a close one.

    Roscommon + 5 points are roughly even money. Maybe I am underestimating this Mayo team but overall considering what we have seen from the championship in general and from ourselves so far in the League, well, I simply don’t think we are 5 points better than them in the Hyde.

  40. Sweeney has earned his shot, and I wouldn’t have any problem with it being at Andy Moran’s expense. Yes, Andy’s achievements are serious and demand respect. But a player’s reputation is not and cannot be the sole criterion for picking him; current form is just as, if not more, relevant. Andy’s form has been poor throughout the league, and despite being the only source of forward-line leadership in the All-Ireland Final, he never really got going in 2013 either.

    A cruciate ligament injury takes away your pace, especially if you’re in the late stages of your career. Andy’s burst of pace is gone, and it won’t be back. But he still has a fine football brain, an eye for a telling pass and will chip in with a score.

    Trouble is, he’s taking far too long to move the ball on. Sean Rice’s Mayo News column last week ( praised Andy for moving it quicker for Ballagh in a club game. That’s great, but for me it’s not enough (not yet anyway): the 2014 model of Andy Moran should be an impact sub.

    Mikey Sweeney is physically slight, but that’s my only reservation about him. He shows for ball, wins it, lays it off to the incoming runner or takes a score. Quickness of mind, and no messing. It’s refreshing and it’s what Mayo need.

    And on the point of management freshening up the team? Here’s the selection from the 2011 AISF v Kerry:

    1) Robert Hennelly – Breaffy
    2) Tom Cunniffe – Castlebar Mitchels
    3) Ger Cafferkey – Ballina Stephenites
    4) Keith Higgins – Ballyhaunis
    5) Richie Feeney – Castlebar Mitchels
    6) Donal Vaughan – Ballinrobe
    7) Trevor Mortimer – Shrule-Glencorrib
    8) Aidan O’Shea – Breaffy
    9) Seamus O’Shea – Breaffy
    10) Kevin McLoughlin – Knockmore
    11) Alan Dillon – Ballintubber
    12) Andy Moran – Ballaghaderreen
    13) Enda Varley – Garrymore
    14) Alan Freeman – Aghamore
    15) Cillian O’Connor – Ballintubber

    Take out Feeney and Varley (still involved as subs) and Trevor Mortimer (retired) – that’s not much freshening up. (Chris Barrett and Lee Keegan were on the bench that day by the way.)

  41. But the point is Moran isn’t playing any worse than Sweeney, or while Sweeney hasn’t done himself any harm during the league, I certainly can’t see why he would start ahead of Moran.

    “Mikey Sweeney is physically slight, but that’s my only reservation about him. He shows for ball, wins it, lays it off to the incoming runner or takes a score. Quickness of mind, and no messing. It’s refreshing and it’s what Mayo need” Sorry but the above is not good enough to warrant a starting place, he needs to be able to get scores in the FF line. That’s why I’m saying Andy is a better pick, he has more natural ability to get scores from play. The lad hadn’t any pace before he got injured, and he’s the same now – for me he’s far more talented than Sweeney.

    On this daft notion that the squad needs freshening up or that the management are picking players on rep and not form, I shouldn’t really respond to it because it doesn’t deserve it, but it seems to be a growing trend here. The only player I’ve heard mentioned in the argument to “freshen up” the team is Mikey Sweeney, other than that, maybe Richie Feeney. The team that is being picked is invariably the best team. If people are going to make the argument that the team needs freshening up, they’d want to start backing up their statements.

  42. Good man GBXI , thats good debate.
    I think DavyJ’s post is fairly damning there however as regards freshening up , look at the Dubs , our biggest rivals.

    they beat kerry at the death , who hockeyed us in the semi dont forget with this team

    1 Stephen Cluxton
    2 Michael Fitzsimons
    3 Rory O’Carroll 23′
    4 Cian O’Sullivan 61′
    5 James McCarthy 46′
    6 Ger Brennan 44′
    7 Kevin Nolan
    8 Denis Bastick 63′
    9 Michael Darragh MacAuley
    10 Paul Flynn 51′ 12′
    11 Barry Cahill 57′
    12 Bryan Cullen (Captain)
    13 Alan Brogan
    14 Diarmuid Connolly
    15 Bernard Brogan
    20 Eoghan O’Gara 57′
    21 Philip McMahon 46′
    24 Kevin McManamon 51′ 56′
    25 Eamonn Fennell 63′

    2 years later they were back and won again against us, playing poorly enough admittedly .


    1 Stephen Cluxton (c)
    2 Philip McMahon
    3 Rory O’Carroll
    4 Jonny Cooper
    5 James McCarthy
    6 Ger Brennan
    7 Jack McCaffrey
    8 Michael Darragh MacAuley
    9 Cian O’Sullivan
    10 Paul Flynn
    11 Ciarán Kilkenny
    12 Diarmuid Connolly
    13 Paul Mannion
    14 Paddy Andrews
    15 Bernard Brogan
    Substitutes Used:
    25 Eoghan O’Gara for Mannion (16 mins)
    20 Darren Daly for McCaffrey (half-time)
    26 Dean Rock for Kilkenny (42 mins)
    22 Kevin McManamon for Andrews (49 mins)
    17 Denis Bastick for Cooper (53 mins)

    they have brought on a serious amount of starters and improved the team massively in my opinion , they are tougher to beat now and better to watch now.

    we have also improved our team but not at the same rate , again , just my opinion

  43. I think everyone would agree that Dublin improved between 2011 and 2013 but if you look a bit closer at it you’ll see that there’s still a large amount of commonality between the two sets of players and that a large part of the turnover in players was enforced, due to injuries and retirements.

    Of the players Dublin used in 2011 but not in 2013, Fitzsimons was a sub in ’13 as was Nolan (who was diagnosed with diabetes after the ’11 final and took some time to come back) as was Cullen, Cahill had retired and Alan Brogan was injured (but has returned since). Of the subs used by Dublin in 2011, the only player not used in the final last year was Fennell, who isn’t on the panel anymore (proper order, many would say). In total, then, fourteen of the eighteen players (starters and subs) used by Dublin in the 2011 final were also used in the 2013 final, with another three unused on the bench and another (Alan Brogan) back this year as a first fifteen man. By way of contrast, fifteen of the nineteen players we used in the 2012 final also featured in last year’s final (Clarke, Keane, Gibbons and Feeney being the four from 2012 who didn’t) so there’s very little difference between us as regards turnover of playing personnel, yet Dublin are lauded for constantly freshening things up while James gets criticised for his overly conservative approach of keeping faith with the same bunch of players.

    Going back to the Dubs, the biggest change between 2011 and 2013 was actually on the management side and the one major call Gavin made in making those four changes was to go with youth. It needs to be borne in mind, though, that while this worked well for him early in the campaign, it blew up spectacularly in his face in the semi and final. Only Cooper performed well against Kerry and us, with McCaffrey, Kilkenny and Mannion (aside from that fluky goal against Kerry) all freezing on the big stage. In fact, I’d argue that Mannion’s injury so early in the final, which forced Gavin to bring on O’Gara far sooner than he’d planned, was a major factor in Dublin winning that game. Somehow (and I still can’t quite figure out how), Gavin managed to get away with what was by any stretch a major tactical blunder but because he did, it not only gets airbrushed from history as a negative but is instead advanced as an initiative others should follow. History truly is written by the winners!

  44. “Sorry but the above is not good enough to warrant a starting place, he needs to be able to get scores in the FF line. That’s why I’m saying Andy is a better pick, he has more natural ability to get scores from play. The lad hadn’t any pace before he got injured, and he’s the same now – for me he’s far more talented than Sweeney.”

    Mikie Sweeney started 4 games in the 2014 league and came on as a sub against Dublin. In all of these games he was in the FF line. He scored 2-5, all from play.

    Andy Moran started 6 games in the 2014 league. In the first 2 he was at FF and scored a total of 0-1. In the remaining 4 he was at CF and scored 1-3 (1-2 from play).

    I’m not counting the New York game because, frankly, they are a lower standard than anything in Division 1. We might as well count FBD games and challenge matches if we’re going down that road. (For the record, Andy scored 0-3 from play from CF. Mikie Sweeney didn’t feature at all against that illustrious opposition.)

    Based on the above, Andy’s “more natural ability to get scores from play” gave us 1-2 in 6 games. Sweeney got 2-5 in 4-and-a-half. Andy may be “far more talented” than Sweeney, but talent and form are different things. On form in 2014, Sweeney gives the team more scores.

  45. Let us hope JH has similar Gavin blow ups this year and we will be writing our version of history.

    It is written by winners.

  46. Freshening up? What do we want? For JH to bring in players for the sake of freshening it up? I have watched a lot of football in the last 4 years and there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the best 30 odd players in the county are on the Mayo panel. I have seen nothing to suggest otherwise.

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