Cillian aiming for March-April return

Cillian O'Connor injured

There’s Mayo GAA stuff in the papers again today, this time it’s related to Cillian O’Connor’s appearance at HQ yesterday for the launch of the GAA’s Off the Booze and On the Ball campaign. Interviews with Cillian are in the Irish Times, Irish Independent and Irish Examiner.

The first two of those focus on the past and the by now irrelevant issue about whether or not Cillian should have gone for goal with that last-gasp free in the dying seconds of this year’s All-Ireland final. Regardless of what he should or shouldn’t have done then, what’s certain is that it’s all undoable at this stage, which would make you wonder why the journos would want to dangle the issue in front of him now. From the two articles, it’s clear that Cillian is still beating himself up about it, which of course he has no cause to do, not least given the superb year he put in and despite the fact that he was crocked for a lot of it.

Of more interest is how he is now and when he’s likely to be back in action. With his troublesome shoulder having at last been operated on, the Irish Examiner reports that he’s starting his rehab work this week and is targeting a return to the fray at some point between the middle of March and early April. Thatย Irish Times piece states that Cillian is “aiming at two or three league games at best”.

With everyone seemingly in agreement that we need to look at fresh options in attack (not instead of Cillian, let me hasten to add), the Ballintubber man’s forced absence in the early part of next year opens up at least one place for experimentation. As a result, it’d be good to see some tangible evidence of increased firepower in this area by the time Cillian is back and ready for action once more.

25 thoughts on “Cillian aiming for March-April return

  1. Liam Irwin, Mikey Sweeney, Tom conroy, Danny Kirby etc etc
    Plenty of lads to be given a good shot at it while coc recuperates

  2. Tom Conroy is way too light and physically immature for senior county football. His day will come but not next year. Down the years many very promising young players were destroyed by putting them into senior county fare too soon. Liam Irwin does look like a player who could step into the panel immediately but I would be inclined to use him in games very lightly until at least next summer. I have suggested Tom King in a previous post if he were available and was told he is too light. but he is more mature and has had a period of professional training behind him. Mikey Sweeney was, I think, in the panel in his U21 days and would certainly be worth another look. Danny Kirby is a must if he is interested but surely both he and the other Castlebar lads will be concentrating on club matters, hopefully until Paddy’s Day

  3. Andy

    I am one who said that about king, maybe he’s a tough fella, I don’t know but he looks very light
    Varley and co are small but can take a wallop, that’s what I was getting at. If Tom king is tough enough then he’s worth trying.
    I hope Kirby and co are busy until March too, but they could still have a game or two in the league to see how it goes.

  4. I agree Tommy Conroy is too light and shouldn’t be included until he has a couple of years done with the under 21s at least. Kirby, Sweeney and King might not be bad options, though I personally believe that what is there is better than them at present. However, I think Irwin is worth a look at. A good free taker off the left, he seems to have the ability to manufacture a bit of space for himself and has a beautiful left peg with which to swing over points. He is of a good build and is definitely worth looking at for next year. Certainly, he looked to be the only scoring forward on view in the Mayo county final. His only issue is a slight lack of pace – at the minute he looks very similar to O’Connor, Freeman and Moran in terms of build and pace. Definitely one for the future, and possibly the immediate future I would argue.

  5. I was and am hoping that Cillian will be lining out at 11 next year as playmaker, so I do hope he can get some league games under his belt – a forward unit needs time to gel. The forward line that started the All-Ireland final had only played something like 5 minutes of football together last year, what with the injuries at various times to O’Connor, Moran, Dillon, Doherty, Conroy, and Alan Freeman didn’t get a league start until the final Cork game, along with Higgins forward switch taking place in late July.

    Let’s try what who need to try between January and early March, and from late March on I would like to see a mostly settled forward unit that can get used to playing with an off each other against top quality opposition.

  6. I am of the opinion that, while toughness is essential for a small man, elusiveness, the ability to sell a dummy and create space even before the ball arrives is even more essential. I have only seen Tom King in the four games since the Mayo SF but have been more impressed each time I saw him. He might not be the best man to start but could make a great impact as a sub – and it is a 20 man game now.
    Richie Feeney also has that ability to create space, he constantly amazes me with his ability to be in space to receive a clearance and act as a link man. This I think may have counted against him in the All Ireland as he would be leaving a very fast and dangerous wing back loose who might possibly cause even more damage than himself.
    Putting all eggs in the basket of a settled six forwards might be a dangerous tactic as injuries are so unpredictable and could upset all calculations. We need a good deal of flexibility and awareness of all options which might be needed.

  7. why would you have at 11 put him in the corner where he is more of a treat also do anyone see the conterversy over bernard brogan and the christmas lights down in kerry it so funny

  8. Personally I would have low confidence in forwards that are small in stature or slight of build being able to make a sufficient breakthrough to the level required to tear apart the defences of the top teams in the country in the white heat championship battle. While they might do alright in a few league games, the championship is a totally different proposition. To that end, I think that Kirby and Irwin most definitely have the attributes to make a real difference in our forward line. We should not overlook the other names that have come to the fore in recent months as they are deserving of a fair chance to prove their worth and make a real impact.

  9. Hi David, thanks for asking. Obviously you have to go on form and merit, and as Johnny Giles would say “You have to take each game on it’s merits” – different forwards can be adept in different situations and can target opposition weaknesses. I haven’t seen enough of Regan, Kirby, Mikie Conroy et al to suggest they might break into the team, but ask me again in April and I’ll tell you then!

    If I was going on our current players (which this year, with injuries seriously affecting us meant our forward play was somewhat disjointed) when I have seen them on top form:

    Higgins (keep going from this year)
    O’Connor (at CHF playmaker like in the Galway match this year)
    McLoughlin (in form of 2012)
    Andy Moran (back to 2011 form)
    Alan Freeman (kick on from this year, now that he has finally made a position his own)
    Jason Doherty (2013 league and Sigerson form)

    But Carolan could be pushing McLoughlin in that link man role, as could Richie Feeney. But with those two, you get different things. Carolan has lightning pace and plays well in the thick of it. Feeney is not as quick, and is excellent at finding space, and has a good right peg on him. (This is why I think Horan prefers him as an impact sub when the game opens up).

    Contrary to some beliefs, depending on the circumstance, Dillon could still do a job for us, perhaps as a playmaker, or maybe even be given a new lease of life in the inside forward line – however, he’d have to be a lot sharper and tougher – I think he sometimes takes too much out of the ball and slows things down.

    Inside, Michael Conroy will be pushing strong, and while he does a lot of things well, he needs to get closer to goal and take more scores. Darren Coen showed promise too, could this be his year? I’m not too hot on Enda Varley – personally I think I’ve only seen him at his best when Mayo have had their tails up and are ahead.

    One crucial thing is to have everyone fit and well, and that they’ve played enough competitive football by June to be a realistic option for the championship. And yet it is also crucial that we also balance this by having a somewhat settled looking forward before championship – if you’re going to define your forward play for what lies ahead.

    (Dublin got uber-lucky this year by not having any forward line injuries – they had 9 good forwards who all got plenty of game time playing in pretty much the same positions. (A little bit of planning, with a lot of luck thrown in, or vice versa!) That’s what you need to get you over the line.

    But again though, ask me in April! ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Hi Cat,

    Cillian is indeed a great corner forward, but it’s my view that you need a good playmaker at CHF, somebody with guile and an eye for a pass, as well as someone who can finish from distance. We need to play more precise kick passes from inside the 45 – this is what really opens teams up. You also need to be able to arrive late to finish off moves. But if you’re going to be out in the half forwards you’re going to have to have the lung capacity and will to engage in your defensive duties.

    Keith is a great link man and a box to box midfielder and in my view should stay in the half forwards – but if you’re looking for an accomplished and natural forward – a mobile, pass-making, score-taking, move starter and move finisher at CHF, then Cillian ticks those boxes more for me than our other players.

  11. what about few of the minor lads like conor loftus and liam irwan and danny krby look what d fitz the clare manager has done with clare what do you think wonder will cillian be back for the dubs game

  12. The more I look back the more I see a miracle or…..This team apparently went into an All Ireland final with three forwards either coming back from serious injuries or carrying a niggle. The first sub on came back from a serious injury also , so in effect we now had four forwards on the pitch not at their optimum, now I know this could be all rumor or speculation but had our men being flying and fully fit…what then? To compound the issue we moved our most potent player back into left corner back removing another threat up front. All in all I see it as a commendable result keeping Dublin to a point victory.

  13. Agree with almost every word of John Cuffe on our not quite optimal forward line.

    We got away with it during the year, because we were able to build up a head of steam quickly. This suggests too that JH could actually use the same forwards again next year – if fully fit, or the same panel. But for God’s sake let panel members get game time – that’s essential.

    I do hope we can find new forwards (and backs), but while all the speculating here is good Winter fun, it’s just that. ‘Marquee’ forwards will almost certainly be marked out of it by the Donegals of this world.

    Shrewd football analysts (not Eugene McGee) realise that managers will not be looking for the most talented forward. Instead they seek one that has pace, works his socks off, can score, or prevent scores or moves, and is, most of all, a team player. Very good club players don’t necessarily tick those boxes. Think of Senan Kilbride, Frankie Dolan of Brigids. Think of Tom Nallen who was brilliant in a club All Ireland with Cross or Enda Devenney with Ballina. Even Dean Rock of Ballymun was just used as an impact sub, though a pretty good one it has to be said.

    I think Cathal Carolan has great potential and showed great flashes during the year – yet some of my Cross pals maintain that none of this was evident at earlier stages of his career.

    Good luck James Horan in your quest – you will need it.

  14. When you consider how gaelic football has evolved in the last 3 years alone you can take it for granted none of last year’s minors will have the conditioning, pace and power to move straight up to senior (and you can’t compare gaelic to hurling, there isn’t the same physicality in hurling, hurling is much more skillful).
    It’s also very unlikely that a club player that hasn’t had at least one year of Strength & conditioning will be able for the Dublins of this GAA world.
    So that leaves the extended panel to make the breakthrough – McHale I think is a real option for CB, Keane, Harrison, Walsh, Gallagher, C O’Shea, C freeman, Coen, Regan.
    I don’t think many counties would have coped with the massive constant intensity of this year’s final, Mayo and Dublin have brought it to a new level this year.

  15. Digit:

    Surely Mayo need ball winners at 10 & 12,with K Higgins at chf. Look back at all ireland final v Dublin 2nd half. The half forward line was a real poor area, both cathal carolan (who never played at 11 previously, but showed huge promise as a wing half forward) and E Varley (who is a corner forward, does not have the pace or athethism to play at 11.)

    I would suggest both Tom Parsons & Danny Kirby, could be coached to become excellent inter county half forward. Full of pace and power, can get up and down the park, compete in the air and take a score.

  16. One thing for sure, no one can ever question James Horan’s loyalty. It’s that trait in the man that might have contributed to Mayo’s poor showing in the final. Those guys were always going to start the match and were probably wrapped in cotton wool to insure they were injury free. Injury free they might be but match fit, they certainly were not.

  17. Hi Mayo_Sam, I take your point, but it’s becoming a trend that half forwards don’t compete in the air too often now. They run wide and take goal kicks on the run, or they win dirty ball, or they take a punt pass from their half back line. This is why when Aidan O’Shea played at CHF he was largely anonymous, because that’s not his game.

    Unfortunately I don’t think that a player can go from cold to lording Croke Park on AI final day in one season. Even looking at Dublin, all their newcomers struggled, from the supposed YPOTY Jack McCaffrey to the supposed next greatest thing Ciaran Kilkenny. Similiarly on our side, despite their promise the likes of Kevin Keane and Cathal Carolan have struggled on the big day in their 1st season. So if I wanted to be relying on a Kirby or a Parsons to be winning me an All-Ireland, it would have to be 2015 because I think 2014 would be too soon for them.

    I agree with you though that the half forward line was poor, but not just in the 2nd half of the AI but probably all year.

    There was an enormous amount of chopping and changing at positions 11 and 12 (Kevin McLoughlin was a constant and unfortunately he didn’t perform as well as he did previously, fingers crossed for next year). We tried out 5 different players at CHF – Richie Feeney, Aidan O’Shea, Cathal Carolan, Cillian O’Connor, Keith Higgins, along with another 4 at 12. – Lee Keegan, Cathal Freeman, Alan Dillon, Enda Varley. That’s 9 players for 2 positions.

    Carolan showed promise and Feeney was solid, but for me the only 2 players who shone at CHF for me were Higgins and O’Connor. Unfortunately they only played at CHF in 4 games out out of 14. We need consistency there.

    So it comes down to what you want your CHF to do? Each to their own. Keith Higgins certainly has his merits there for his ability to link, inject pace and take on his man. But he tends to do his best work further out from goal, between the 45s. But in my view, you need a natural forward with guile and vision, who can be a fulcrum for the attack, dictate and vary the play unlock defences and bring the inside forward line into the game instinctively. This is on top of roughing it in the middle of the park (remember CoC flattened a Dub with his injured shoulder?) and also getting forward to support your inside forward line.

    This is THE area we have struggled in the forward line – getting the ball into the INSIDE forward line in DANGEROUS positions. Too often our delivery has been poor, or the play held up and our inside forwards forced to go wide because the middle has been blocked up, and more noticeably, we relied on runners coming through instead of being more direct. And what happened when the runners couldn’t be there like in the AI?

    This is why in my opinion we need to adapt our approach in our forward play, we need another string the in the bow. This is sharp, incisive, bouncing and accurate passes into the scoring zone from our half forward line. And fine footballer though Keith is, I think CoC is better placed to do that then Higgins.

    Sorry for sounding like a broken record the last couple of days!

  18. Yes Digits you sound like a broken record alright but there’s no need to apologise, ๐Ÿ™‚ sometimes to get one’s point across it’s the only way. Reading between the lines, what you’re really saying is, we need a Colm Cooper – and right now in Mayo there’s not a chance in hell of a player of that caliber appearing on the horizon. In the meantime we may have to make do with what we have and hopefully during the League campaign unearth two or three players, who could just add that bit of freshness that the team badly need. This could have the effect of give a new impetus to existing players who now hopefully injury free, would set about restoring some lost pride for themselves and the County.

  19. I don’t subscribe to the “marquee forward” theory, although of course they are handy. But there’s no point in wishing for something you don’t have at the moment. If it’s something I’ve picked up from being around some die-hard Tyrone supporters, it’s that you have to accept your team and support them, rather than wishing them to be something they’re not.

    Reading between the lines, I am saying that we need to improve our forward play, tactics wise. I think we’ve lacked shape and purpose.

    I actually think that Cooper was slightly over-rated for what he did at CHF, but besides that, I rate O’Connor highly – he is our best forward and most likely will be for years to come.

  20. I agree with you Digits on a lot of points.
    I always thought COC was wasted played anywhere other than 15, but he’s really grown into the CHF role and looks our best bet for that position in the years to come.

    But we need to stop the chopping and changing. If Cillian is to be our no.11, then leave him there and let him and his team mates grow accustomed to the role.

    Talking of forwards, I don’t subscribe to this idea that we desperately require this mythical “marquee forward”.
    I have no doubt that had we been as lucky as the Dubs with injuries to our forwards, we would have won the AI this year. The pain of the defeat may have gone lightly, but that realisation hasn’t at all.
    If (and I realise it’s an if) we can get Dillon, Moran and O’Connor back fit and playing to their best, then I think our forward division is as good as anyone’s.
    But finding a couple of alternatives during the FBD and league would add gret depth to our squad and keep the established players on their toes.
    If the newcomers are good enough, then they need to get the jersey. No room for sentiment anymore, time to be ruthless.

  21. As long as I care to remember, Mayo have been at the receiving end of teams with marquee forwards – or would it be more accurate to describe them as scoring forwards, guys who can turn a match on it’s head in a flash. Cooper, Murphy, Brogan, to name but a few, what pain they have inflicted on us in finals – and during all this time, Mayo had no stand out forward that was capable of producing that bit of magic that we so badly needed this year, last year and indeed all those other finals we would rather forget. Now that’s not to say we didn’t have some fine forwards along the way and baring injuries in 2014, who knows what might happen. But like any hand of cards, you’re always better to have an ace up your sleeve…….

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