Championship thoughts


For want of something better to be doing, I’ve just updated the fixtures tab here on the blog with details of the revised dates for the two matches we’ve left to play in the League as well as the fixtures we’re scheduled to play in both the Connacht Senior and Minor Championships.

There’s an air of unreality to all this, of course, not least given the rising Covid levels in recent weeks and this evening’s news that the Level 3 restrictions are being expanded at midnight beyond Dublin to include Donegal as well. Despite this, the return of inter-county action is now drawing near.

In our case, of course, we’re set to be pitched straight into a Division One relegation avoider against Galway at Pearse Stadium. The Tribesmen were riding high in the top tier this spring while we made a very poor fist of defending the title we’d won in thrilling fashion the previous year, having won just one match in this campaign, drawing one and losing the other three.

Defeat to Galway in three weeks time would relegate us so our return to play comes in a game in which there’s plenty to play for. A win there for us would, needless to say, do wonders for the team’s confidence, as well as giving us a decent shot of retaining our top tier status when we face Tyrone in Round 7 the following weekend.

Then, the weekend after that, we’re due to take on Leitrim in the Connacht SFC quarter-final. It’s old-style Championship football this year, with every tie a knockout fixture and added frisson coming with the stricture that all matches must be decided on the day.

If we survive that one we’re due to face Connacht champions Roscommon in the semi-final. Seeing as the penultimate round is as far as we’ve managed to get in the Connacht Championship every year since 2016, I don’t think there’s any point talking about further prospective Championship ties beyond that one.

To be honest, I’m not quite sure why I’m talking about any of this at all. The Championship might go ahead this year – now that the money has been found to fund county teams so that games can be played with no more than a few hundred punters in attendance – but the virus may yet have the final say there.

If it does proceed as is now scheduled then the reality is that most of us will only get to see the action on TV or online. Every Championship game this winter (for it will be winter by the time it gets going) is set to be either broadcast or streamed live – Irish Examiner report on that here.

At one level, I think it’s true that all of us could do with the distraction that a return to inter-county action would undoubtedly provide. It’s going to be a bloody long, uncertain winter and everyone could do with a bit of levity in their lives over the next while. Wall-to-wall Championship action in November and December would certainly provide that.

And yet. When the virus first struck earlier this year it became quickly apparent that all unnecessary activities had to cease, including live sports events. We’ve come a long way back in the direction of normality since then but, as the long dark nights return once more and the Covid numbers are on the rise again, that longed-for world of business as usual is looking more distant again.

Will there even be a Championship this year? That’s the question GAA people have been asking themselves since March and, while the current fixture schedule ordains that we will, in truth we’re still none the wiser in seeking an answer on that point, even as the dates for competitive inter-county matches approach steadily.

16 thoughts on “Championship thoughts

  1. We drew against Donegal Willie Joe. But yes only won one and lost three.
    As much as I love football I think there should be no intercounty action between now and Christmas. Too many risks. Perhaps we will be better able to cope/have more knowledge next Spring and begin again.

    Well done on the quality podcasts too Willie Joe.

  2. If it does go ahead, Mayo will need a panel based on I believe the four below elements.
    1. Ability to play to a system. This includes defending, transitioning and supporting forward play as a team.
    2. Physical size, height and power. It is winter football, size matters.
    3. Athleticism
    4. Younger players who are in form, so you go with Eoin ODonoghue ahead of older, you go with Padraig OHora ahead of older.
    If there is a championship I think we’ll go with a conservative team and the Roscommon forwards will rip an old team not playing systematic defence to shreds.

  3. Ya, hard to know how championship will fair out . Virus on the up in alot of counties. Will be interested to see if James brings in players that are on form at club level. Personally I think he should.

  4. While I would hate us to go down, it’s very hard to imagine any substantial crowds will be let in to the league next year anyways(if it even goes ahead). So the loss of revenue is going to be felt no matter what either way. Surely Mayo TV could show games from division 2 in worst case scenario. Anyways, enough negativity.

    Really hard to know how the championship will play out. I really do hope Horan goes with the guys in form. A few really exciting players have put their hand up & maybe with the short window we have, it’s as good a time as any to give them their head. To be frank, we don’t have the time or luxury to bank on some of the older heads playing themselves into form.

    I hope the championship goes ahead, health permitting. Something to look forward to heading into the winter.

  5. Agreed @Mayo Focus…
    While i think its too late in the day for James Horan to take an axe to the squad i certainly feel he should include a few bolters from the club championships where possible, especially some of those knockmore lads.
    I caught a lot of championship action and several of the established county players were very poor or looked to have slowed down a lot.
    A few wildcards from the club championships should be thrown in for remaining league games to see how they go (im already accepting of relegation there)

    By my count, There are 6 long serving players in the current squad who based on their last few outings with the county and fairly average showings for club should be moved on at this point, thank them for their service and cut them loose. Time to move things forward.

    Any thoughts on potential new goalkeepers for county panel, all Hennellys old failings there to be seen in county final and Clarkie is another year older. Reape? Byrne? Anyone else stand out?

  6. Luke Jennings has a huge kickout and is a brilliant showstopper.
    Jamie McNicholas usually a solid keeper.
    For me Colm Reapes kickout and 7th defender play is worth a look at in a development squad at least.

  7. Between the final two league games and Connacht championship – we could be playing 5 weeks in a row taking a slightly more optimistic approach than you WJ. Squad depth and fitness is essential for this

  8. The country going into level 5 is the only thing that will call a halt to the winter knockout championship. Touch wood it doesn’t get to that.

    Sadly most of us won’t be able to attend as it stand level 1 status will only allow 500 and GAA HQ got their cash today to somewhat cover the loss from gate receipts.

  9. What planet are we all living on? Has anyone of you buried a brother or sister ar close relative to this horrible virus?
    Individual counties being systematically locked down. What message does it send to everyone when players are seen seen clattering in to one another. Why social distancing in normal day life. The message is all wrong.
    Billy Joe Padden should know better. We are in a bitter struggle for survival. Inter county football is wonderful but so out of place in a world struggling to protect so many vulnerable people, very often our fathers and mothers our grandparents and wider family.
    Please stop this nonsense. Wise up GAA.

  10. From the 35 man panel selected prior to the New York game last year there has been a number of panel have left the panel for various reasons, Andy Moran Ger Cafferkey David Drake and Caolan Crowe all retired, Evan Regan now team nutritionist, Cian Hanley, Conor Diskin not involved and Brian Reape was let go in the spring. Still 27 players left plus Mikey Murray, Oisin Mullin who were added to the summer panel and Tom Parson brings the number to 30. Brendan Harrison and Donal Vaughan appear to still be injured, Ciaran Tracy didnt play that much for Ballina in the club championship so there should be a few vacancy, There was alot of new players brought in at the beginning of the spring or during the league

    Rory Byrne
    Jack Coyne
    Rory Brickenden
    David Kenny let go
    David McBrien
    Padraig o Hora
    James Stretton
    Eoghan McLaughlin
    Jordan Flynn
    Bryan Walsh
    Ryan oDonoghue
    Sean Regan
    Paul Towey
    Liam Irwin
    Tommy Conroy
    also Cathal Slattery and Gary Boylan for a time, Liam Irwin after opting out for Breaffy I cant see him still involved.

    Comparing they team of new recruits against a team of in form club championship players who are not involved

    Colm Reape
    Ben Doyle
    David McHale
    Seamus Cunniffe
    Keiran King
    Gareth o Donnell
    Shairoze Akram
    Conor o Shea
    Ryan Lynch
    Colm Moran
    Darran McHale
    Mark Moran
    Aidan Orme
    Conor Diskin
    Peter Naughton

    From intermediate, Barry Duffy Nathan Moran, Gerry Canavan, Donovan Cosgrove and Conor Igoe

    There is quiet a strong pick still to pick from no matter what way you look at it.

  11. Thanks for that Mayomessi. One panel trend, are we lacking athletic players who also are big and physical? James McCarthy type physique.
    A lot of players under six foot or lacking top level pace/power. Could a guy like Barry Duffy fill that gap for example?

  12. i really like the look of Barry Duffy, watch him against Mayo gaels, Ballinrobe and Kiltimagh where he came up against big physical midfielders some like Sean Walsh, Paul Kelly and Evan o Brien and he came out on top for me, He has that burst of speed and was waiting for the kiltimagh game to see if he could handle himself against that pair, the way he won the ball the ball from the first throw in and tore off that the field I know he he has that bit extra about him. I like Nathan Moran against Kiltimagh as well felt he has filled out more since I seen him at U20 level and again a very mobile midfielder hit checks most boxes, Was disappointed with Jordan Flynn against the same pair, really don’t see Flynn as an answer for midfield but maybe further forward. Another midfielder I like is Jack Carney still U20 next year, watch the kilmeena game against Shrule and Kilmaine and feel he should be on a developed panel. Feel Matthew Ruane didn’t have the greatest of championships, Conor o Shea seem to steal the limelight from him was expecting more from him. I think now is the time to bring in Barry Duffy and Nathan Moran due to the age of some of our warhorses that can’t go on for ever.
    For forwards In the group stages I seen Paul Toweys 3 games for Charlestown and felt he was a cert for the senior panel, Darren McHale really stood out in the knockout phase and the Knockmore inside shooters Orme and Naughton, I remember something Ciaran McDonald said on his rare interview on First captains, the way to beat blanket defenses is go get your shooters on the ball, Knockmore worked a system to do just that. Still feel that Gerry Canavan can play at a higher level, he plays on the edge and has that grit about him maybe because of his soccer playing he makes great use of limited space and has plenty of pace too. Mark Moran is also easy on the eyes but disappointed in our U20 game earlier in the year in bad conditions, still disappointed with that result we had a great group of young players this year and they showed it in this years championship,

  13. I like players who are able to open up their stride and really clear past the first defender.
    Barry Duffy definitely fits that category.
    I don’t think the numbers on the jerseys mean much anymore, think you need certain types of players. In the middle third can you protect and provide and do it at pace in a big match.
    Defintely players coachable into a modern system, but such a system will be our next manager in my view.
    Goals conceded is a good measure if a team is 2020 modem.

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