Cillian’s cracking debut lights up McHale Park

A wet and windy January night isn’t ever going to produce champagne football and that was certainly the case at McHale Park this evening where the James Horan era got underway under the floodlights at the Castlebar venue.  What we got was a typical FBD match with loads of moves that almost came off, plenty of handling errors and a bag of wides but also a few performances to make the journey down from the capital well worthwhile.  Of the latter, it was the shift put in by debutant Cillian O’Connor that stood out, that and his hefty contribution of 1-6 to the winning total.

We had three changes to the starting fifteen named in advance.  James Burke – who had an excellent game, especially in the first half – replaced Trevor Howley, James Moran started instead of the injured Barry Moran and Cillian O’Connor was on instead of Brian Benson.  Within five minutes, we had another change when Kevin Dolan suffered what was later confirmed to be a bad jaw break as a result of an accidental collision.  Enda Varley – who was busy throughout but failed to make the scoresheet – replaced the unfortunate Tourmakeady debutant.

We were against the wind in the first half and within ten minutes we had four or five wides clocked up already.  We had most of the ball but GMIT took the lead from a free and they soon had a goal as well when a ball from another free came dipping in and David Clarke (blinded by the light?) failed to hold it, enabling a loitering student to sweep it home.

The goal prompted our lads into action and while we spent most of what was left in the half in their territory, all of the three points we got came from close-in frees from Cillian O’Connor.

We went in a point in arrears but with the strong wind with us in the second half, you had the feeling (well, I did at any rate) that our dominance in terms of possession would tell.  It did.

A fourth Cillian O’Connor free brought us level and then a lovely long range point from Ronan McGarrity – who enjoyed a very productive second half after a fairly disinterested first half performance – edged us in front for the first time.

They pulled level from a free but this was cancelled out by another Cillian O’Connor free and then the Ballintubber youngster shot us clear when he gathered the rebound from an Aidan Campbell shot that had hit an upright and he smashed it to the net.

After another free for them, Cillian brought his haul for the night to 1-6 with an eye-catching point from play and an easy win for our lads was secured when Aidan Campbell won a soft penalty which was emphatically despatched by sub Mark Ronaldson.  Our final point of the night was a real peach of a one from way out from Ronan to complete a six-point win for us to get the James Horan era off and running.

FBD games are never about the result – last year’s success in the tournament didn’t do us much good, did it? – and the inclement conditions, as well as the soft going underfoot, meant that there was a large element of hit-and-miss about the game.  But there were a few notable performances tonight which should give some encouragement for the future.

I thought we were good defensively.  Every time GMIT broke forward, we harried them and the fact that the only score they got from play all night was the rather fortuitous first half goal was the proof of this particular pudding. Cathal Hallinan enjoyed an impressive debut in the corner while both James Burke and Chris Barrett at wing back put in strong displays.  Further forward, Ronan McGarrity had a great second half, Aidan Campbell and Enda Varley were always busy and Mark Ronaldson made a positive difference when he came on.  The star of the show, though, was Cillian O’Connor and he could hardly have hoped for a better senior county debut.

McHale Park also looked really well on the night and the decision to use this fixture as a dry run for the Down game was obviously a sound one.  There was a crowd of about 2,000 there tonight and I’d say there could be four or five times that number when the Mournemen pitch up in early February.  A prior commitment for then will unfortunately keep me in Dublin for that one but I’m glad I made it down tonight to see the first ever piece of after-dark action at McHale Park and to see too the start of what we all hope could be a bright new departure for the county team.

MAYO: David Clarke; Cathal Hallinan, Ger Cafferkey, Alan Feeney; James Burke, Mike Nestor, Chris Barrett; Ronan McGarrity (0-2), James Moran; Aidan Campbell, Austin O’Malley, Aidan Kilcoyne; Kevin Dolan, Andy Moran, Cillian O’Connor (1-6, five frees).  Subs: Enda Varley for Dolan (inj.), Mark Ronaldson (1-0, penalty) for O’Malley, David Killeen for Cafferkey, Ruaidhri O’Connor for Barrett, Lee Keegan for Feeney.

10 thoughts on “Cillian’s cracking debut lights up McHale Park

  1. Thanks for that Willie Joe, I was waiting for the first Mayo match of the year to officially wish you a happy new one, though I believe we all can only hope that late september will bring the answer to any new year wishes. I’m excited about the new regime and its already apparent that fellas that were discarded or ignored by the previous man are being given a shot. I think we have a lot of footballers of a decent quality and a good number of them for reasons known only to a select few have had the route to a senior panel spot blocked. I’m not saying there were agendas or conspiracy theories at play but I do think the county panel was too exclusive and a lot harder to get off than it was to get on. I’m hoping that changes with the new man, and I believe given his own humble pre-inter county days, it will.
    I also need to say how much I’ve always loved your video updates (I think it was via one of these on you tube I first discovered you, a gra), please continue this labour of love, 2010 was a miserable year for exiles in the America’s, setanta usa’a demise meant that the only Mayo action seen was on the internet but your blog and tweets are precious to many of us. Except when I’m driving 7 hours from chicago to minneapolis during the Sligo match and the sporadic mobile coverage gives me a “halftime, we’re fucked” tweet, relayed via a 7 month pregnant wife. Thank fuck there was an open bar at the wedding I went to that night.
    You mentioned it was a “soft” penalty for a foul on Campbell, while Ronaldso’ is lining it up Campbell is clearly limping back to the 14 in your clip. Maybe something else happened or it wasn’t as soft as it looked live. Anyway it’s nice to have Mayo and you back. Up Maigh Eo!

  2. Considering how more advanced the College teams are supposed to be at this time of year, our performance appears to be very encouraging.

    I disagree that sucess in the FBD means nothing. For a new manager, following our worst championship performance in a long time, wins create confidence and belief. The upcoming game against the Rossies (still hard to believe that they are the Connacht Champions!) will be very interesting.

  3. Hi willie joe. I don,t know you from adam, but you must have been sitting behind me at the match last night. I just watched your clip of the mayo penalty, and you can hear the same conversation going on, that i could hear last night at the match, about which corner he was going to put it in!! Maybe cillian did too much for his first spin in a senior jersey!! Now he,l be expected to win an all Ireland on his own!!….

  4. After a wasted trip to Ballyhaunis last Sunday, I missed last night as I couldn’t make it down and probably just as well because with my luck the floodlights would probably have failed. Sounds like Cillian O’Connor can make the transition from successful minor. He has the build to hold his own and the talent too. I trust and hope that JH looks after him as he will play a lot of football this year and we could have a right crack at the u-21 before we think about the championship.

    If JH can tighten us up at the back, I believe we have the forwards to mix it with the best this year. Here’s hoping for a good year.

  5. Well a win is a win. Great to have something to look
    forward to and hope we can be competative in all competiitions.
    Respects to the Harte family. What a sad day. Football is only
    football after all.

  6. jh noticeably kept instructing our forwards to move the ball faster and to kick it more often this was good to see (hear). besides cilliain who,s scoring speaks for itself , the performance of james burke was another positive, strangely his club is listed in the programme as dublin does anyone have info on his playing career, also heard a parke were beaten in all ireland quarter final

  7. Just thiking on the way home from Castlebat last night that this is a make or break year for a number of our big men.
    Tom Parsons has all the athleticism, skill and size to be a really top class IC player. He needs to show it this year by dominating games around the middle of the field.
    Aidan O Shea has the potential to put the fear of God into any backline – again he needs to start converting this undoubted potential into practice.
    Barry Moran – another big man who needs to make an impact for a full season and not just show tantalizing glimpses of what might be.
    Aidan Kilcoyne has looked as if he is capable of delivering but has yet to do so – this has to be the year.
    These and other lads need to make up their minds that they are going to be the best footballers in Ireland if Mayo are going to become a real force again.

  8. We may have the makings of a genuine class foward.O’Connor seems to have a toughness about him as well that none of the current crop have.Horan seems to be giving McGarrity a chance to prove himself,as he has not played well in any game of any meaning since the dirty hit by Ciaran Whelan.

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