Clones clash is another big one

Graphic: @MayoGAA

The weekend off is now behind us and so, once again, it’s all systems go ahead of a big Mayo match at the weekend. Our Round 4 game in this year’s National League is against Monaghan at St Tiernach’s Park in Clones on Sunday. Throw-in is 2pm and Wicklow’s Anthony Nolan is the ref.

Although the Farney lads – with Banty McEnaney back in the saddle on the sideline for them this year – have been garnering plenty of praise for their performances so far in this year’s League, both of us head into this game with the same number of points in the bag. That said, while we can count ourselves a tad fortunate to have our three points on the board, they’re probably ruing the fact that – given their fine form this spring – they don’t have one or two more racked up at this stage.

As Mike Finnerty noted on the podcast (which, if you haven’t listened to it yet, is here), Monaghan are flying fit already and fielding their strongest possible team. The football they’re playing is close to Championship standard – the League has, in recent years, all but become Championship football in colder weather – and, as they showed against Dublin in Croke Park the weekend before last, they don’t fear anyone right now.

There’s been a good bit of media coverage out there on Sunday’s game. This piece in The 42 with Darren Hughes – back in action again following a long lay-off through injury last year – gives a useful insight to where Monaghan are at heading into Clones this weekend. The Irish Times have a similar piece – that’s here.

Keith Higgins was also on media duty ahead of Sunday’s match. Pieces with him are here – GAA, Irish Examiner, Irish Mirror, Balls.ie.

As he reveals in those interviews, Keith has had a few niggly injuries but he’s hoping to play a part in Sunday’s game. It’s good to have him back too because we’re set to be without several regulars once again this weekend.

On the plus side, Oisín Mullin (on U20 duty the last day), Jordan Flynn (suspended) and Padraig O’Hora (ill) should all be on the bus to Clones. Darren Coen – who was in the match-day panel in Navan but didn’t feature – will also be pushing for inclusion, as will Eoghan McLaughlin, who made his League debut off the bench against Meath the last day.

But, as the Mayo News (paper and digital variants) reports this week, Championship regulars Cillian O’Connor, Donal Vaughan and Matthew Ruane remain sidelined. In addition, Tom Parsons is nursing a hamstring strain while Jason Doherty is still on his long-term comeback from the cruciate injury he picked up last summer. Colm Boyle is almost certainly out for the year as well, with what has been described as a serious knee injury.

The bottom line, then, is that this is a match between a settled, fit-in-February outfit and one in which experimentation is, by necessity, the norm rather than the exception. While one may tut-tut on the long-term advisability of having a team firing on all cylinders this early in the year – that movie has been viewed widely in places like Kildare and Roscommon in recent years – this won’t help our cause on Sunday.

It’s going to be a battle for us to come away with a result from this one. But let’s end these thoughts on the game with this positive one, also from the Mayo News (here), which is that our away record in the League in the last three years is rather good. Indeed, if you discount our annual League losses to Dublin (both the 2017 and the 2019 ones were at Croke Park) the only other away game we’ve lost in the League since 2017 was the one against Galway at Pearse Stadium in 2018.

The match in Clones isn’t, of course, the only Mayo match on this weekend. At the same time as the big ball is being thrown in at St Tiernach’s Park on Sunday, the sliothair will be tossed in at MacHale Park where the county’s hurlers will face the might of Offaly in Division 2A of the NHL.

That same start time on Sunday also applies to the women’s footballers. While the task they face in the LGFA NFL Division One isn’t as daunting as the hurlers’ it’s still as tough one, as they travel to play top-of-the-table Cork. The venue for that match is Cloughduv Hurling Grounds in Cork.

There’ll be more on all three matches, including team news, ahead of Sunday.

28 thoughts on “Clones clash is another big one

  1. Anyone able to collect two Mayo supporters from either Monaghan or Cavan town out to Clones? Much appreciated!!

  2. A mediocre meath team exposed weaknesses up the centre of our defense. Paddy Durcan for me at CHB. O’Hora offers more in a half back position because of his clever runs forward. Very big ask to expect James McCormack to fill the full back position, though I believe he is a quality player. Ryan O’Donaghue struggling to show leadership at centre half forward, but well capable of impressing as corner forward imo.
    Strengthen up the centre and press up on Monahan kickouts and we are capable of getting something out of it. Big game for both teams and Monaghan will believe they can get a result.

  3. The phrase ‘you make your own luck’ applies to our league campaign thus far- lucky to have 3 points but battled hard to get those points at the same time.

    Under a process of elimination I believe Meath will be relegated and Kerry, Dublin and Galway will stay up – so we’re battling with the Ulster counties to stay up.

    One thing we must acknowledge is that the biggest concern or focus for us this year will be the FF line – will it be good enough against the better teams? In that respect we shouldn’t fool ourselves regarding the loss of Andy Moran. He was a brilliant ball -winner and made huge contributions as a sub last year e.g. league final and Donegal and Meath games.

    We always have plenty of talent from 1 to 12; instead, often our achilles heel is the inside line. With no Andy to rely on, is this the potential weak point in the team this year?

  4. One other thing – don’t underestimate Banty’s desire to beat us on Sunday which could add an extra motivation for his team. He was never that kind to us as a media analyst for RTÉ. The reason why – perhaps the McEnaney household never appreciated the depth of feeling in Mayo to his brother’s refereeing performance in the ‘96 replay!

  5. Spotlight – I actually think that our FF line will be fine come summer, fitness permitting. 3 out of Carr, Coen, Cillian and McLoughlin would be very strong. A bigger problem for us is not having a specialist number 11, like Kilkenny or Sean O’Shea, who can supply the inside line. Maybe RO’D can grow into that role but he’s not there yet.

  6. Team named per Mayo GAA website

    The Mayo team named sees five changes from the win over Meath last time. In to the team comes Padraig O’Hora, Oisin Mullin, Kevin McLoughlin, Darren Coen(first start of the season) and Eoghan McLaughlin who will be making his full debut having come off the bench last weekend.

    1. Robert Hennelly – Breaffy
    2. Padraig O’Hora – Ballina Stephenites
    3. Oisin Mullin – Kilmaine
    4. Lee Keegan – Westport
    5. Eoghan McLaughlin – Westport
    6. Michael Plunkett – Ballintubber
    7. Patrick Durcan – Castlebar Mitchels
    8. Stephen Coen – Hollymount/Carramore
    9. Aidan O’Shea – Breaffy (C)
    10. Fergal Boland – Aghamore
    11. Ryan O’Donoghue – Belmullet
    12. Diarmuid O’Connor – Ballintubber
    13. Kevin McLoughlin – Knockmore
    14. Darren Coen – Hollymount/Carramore
    15. James Carr – Ardagh

  7. E McLaughlin has a great engine and will be suited to wing half back. Great opportunity for him. Kevin McLoughlin starting, bound to give us a bit more punch up front and good opportunity for Darren Coen to show he has the appetite to establish himself as a regular FF.
    Carr and O’Donaghue have shown flashes of brilliance. More sustained effort needed.

  8. delighted to see Darren Coen back – I really hope we start to see some sort of attacking philosophy start to evolve around our shooters. Out of our front 6, Carr, Coen, McLoughlin & Boland are all more than capable of taking scores from distance and inside. Obviously there is so much more to it than simply getting them on the ball so they can shoot. One thing that strikes me about Dublin is how they’re shooters find themselves scoring from similar positions again and again. They clearly work on multiple tailored scenarios for each shooter to give them the optimum chance of scoring. Are we doing the same? I couldn’t believe we didn’t have more shooters coming round on the loop on the 45 when we had the wind against Meath. And I can’t for the life of me understand why we played long with the wind when a bouncing ball in front of the forward would have been far more effective? I’m more than likely expecting too much for this time of year, and it does have to be appreciated how many players we’re missing. I keep having to tell myself that we’re in a period of significant transition. On we go!

  9. I expect to see a performance this weekend, hopefully some of the rustiness has been shaken off last 2 weeks. Losers of this one could find themselves in bother but the winner can start looking up the table and see if a final spot can be grabbed.

    Best of luck Eoghan McL on his full debut. Other than him and the relative newbies that are Oisin Mullin and Ryan o’donoghue its actually quite a strong team so we cant make too many excuses about a novice team, in actual fact when you look through that team and the injured list i would suggest its only Mattie Ruane and Cillian who are certain starters to comeback. Other than that i expect its close to what we will be seeing in connacht champo.

    IMO, The forward line will be very close to what we can expect to see in the summer so sunday will tell us a lot

    Looking forward to getting down to clones for it, monaghan fans always good football folk from my experience

  10. I think our best route to staying up is a win against both Monaghan and Tyrone.
    I wouldn’t want to be relying overly on trying to get points from Kerry or galway.
    I like the look of that team. Plenty of potential and hopefully a good day for our lads at midfield.
    Time to catch out the Monaghan goalie who spends half the match out on the half way line between free taking and soloing out the field. I believe there could be a sneaky goal there for us while he is off his line.

  11. Surprised Eoin ODonoghue not named to start. I think he is a very good player but seems to have got very little time.

  12. I hav a quick question for some of the seasoned folks on here. Was lying in bed last night and was thinking of my first memory watching mayo. It was in mchale pk. Mid eighties. They played Galway. They had a Galway team dressed up as some kind of muppets or something similar. I was young at the time and often wonder what was the reason. It was done before the game for some kind of fan fare. Completely off topic I no!!

  13. Think 1987 Connacht Final. I don’t know was it 21st Anniversaries of Galway 3 in a row team that was celebrated or was it for 100th year of All Ireland series. Some type of pageant between Minor and Senior Finals. I have programme of Match up in the attic but am sure someone will come up with exact answer before I come across it.

  14. Hoping for improvement this week.
    We usually seem to improve in the league after the first 3 games, so hopefully a more cohesive performance this week. Full forward line looks the strongest we have fielded so far this year – Great to have D Coen back. Presume Boylan is still injured, but would be great to see him get a go. Free-taker will be Diarmuid or D Coen??

    Having O’Hora and Mullin back in certainly doesn’t weaken the team. Looking forward to see E McL for a full game.
    Monaghan seem to be seriously fit and will be a tough nut to crack.

  15. Hoping for a much improved performance. Mayo should never be written off given our history but what we have seen so far in terms of gameplay is very worrying.

  16. Looks a fairly strong team, good to see Aiden Captain, is that for the year or just this game, hope he sorts out the free takers on the field and stops taking them himself, if there is a line ball, he is wanted in the square not taking it and no target man inside.

  17. We’ll certainly need our Free taker to be on song for this one. I know the last time we played Monaghan in Clones it was Neil Douglas on Frees and he did well from the placed ball that day, and it was a game we won by a single point while Monaghan were reduced to I think 12 men (and deservedly so) by the end.
    I haven’t seen much of them play but if their discipline is in any way similar this coming sunday as it was 2 years ago it will be quite the niggly affair with lots of frees….

  18. I attended the 1987 Connacht final in McHale Park, Mayo were the better team, our free taking was very poor all from the ground back then, if I am correct I think Mayo missed all of there 30 or 40 yard frees playing into the Town and in the 2nd half, this handed the game to Galway.
    Roll on 33 years, Mayo free taking from the hands can be fairly dismal.

  19. If i remember right Hennely nailed 2 late fifties to win for us a few years ago__ we do need to develop alternative kickers to Killian. On coaching it beggars belief that nobody was able to improve Clarkes koickots

  20. @Mayo 36…I don’t know how well seasoned I am… But I think I remember the event that you are taking about…It was if memory serves me correctly…A ‘Macnus’ A Galway based (Artists, Plays, Folklore)production…I think that it was for unemployed Actor’s in receipt of some state funding at the time…I was young back then myself but obviously not as young as yourself….A staged Match, where Galway played Mayo before the real Match…. some of the things I remember…. One was a Mayo player taking much more interst in his long Golden Lock’s, even combing it, and having a good look at himself in the mirror before taking a Free… of course he missed the free, and his eye sight has to be checked, before being a pair of oversized glasses for the rest of the Match, as was the Ref also wearing for the whole Match, and still can’t see anything that’s happening… Another is where the mother of a Mayo Player come’s on and starts to bash a Galway player with her handbag.. The Ref tries to stop the woman, only she attack’s the Ref even worse than the Galway player…It was played on a reduced size pitch, with goalposts and permanent oversized Crow’s or Jackdaw’s perched on the top of the posts….It actually was fantastic entertainment and far far better than the real Match that followed…It ended up a draw…. The real Match was a dour low scoring affair, with Galway winning by a solitary point, if memory serves me right!

  21. Thanks for that leantimes. I was 7 at the time. The memory of the Galway team lining up with there masks still lives in my head. Never knew what it all meant. Thanks for the few nuggets of info

  22. @Leantimes, I had the best visual memory I’ve come across, I give away to you. That’s some serious visual recall.

  23. You’re right there, JP – I’ve no memory at all of the Macnas performance that day, though now that it’s being mentioned it does strike a chord. What I do, though, recall from was the senior final and I don’t need to look up the score to know that we lost to Galway by a single point, 0-8 to 0-7, in one of the most thoroughly depressing Connacht finals I was ever at.

  24. The main thing that I remember from that 1987 Connacht final was Liam Niland missing those frees that would have won the game.
    Roll on 9 years and Mayo produced the greatest ever ground freetaker in Maurice Sheridan.

  25. I seem to remember Liam Niland & Padraig Brogan rowing over who should take the frees,both radars were off that day. Both about 21/22 at the time.

  26. As bad as the 1987 final was, 1993 was voted the worst Provincial Final of all time recently, Mayo 1-5 Roscommon 0-7. Still we won though which is always nice. The collapse against Cork in the AI Semi Final came a month later, a very bad day. The 1994 Final often gets sugarcoated because Leitrim won, but from memory that was a terrible game as well. We scored a goal in the first 30 seconds and then failed to score again in the first half. The standard of football in the early 90’s in Connacht was worse than poor.

  27. I actually remember the exaggerated warm up of the Referee, and him wearing the oversized glasses.. for the toss of the coin before the Throw in, he attempts to shake hands with both Captain’s, but he’s looking in completely the wrong direction, the coin falls to the ground and and the Ref down on his knees and for the life of him, he can’t find the coin, such is the extent of his blindness….I remember leaving Mchale Park and thinking that at least the Pantomime Match was worth looking at…I think the performer’s got a standing ovation!

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