A bit like Ireland at Croke Park, really. On a day of such sporting significance – when the day’s action at Croke Park offered an alternative to what was happening in the GAA world – Mayo suffered a three-point reversal against Donegal up in Ballybofey. Although Donegal were on top for much of the game, Mayo hung in there till very late on only for Donegal to land three points close to the end and seal the win. Here’s the Indo’s take on the contest.
Mayo were on the back foot from the off but came storming back into it after Donegal had dominated the exchanges in the opening 20 minutes, with a succession of scores from Conor Mort, Austie, Alan Dillon and Andy Moran putting us a point in front at the break. Donegal again took the initiative in the second half and they were helped on their way when David Clarke dropped a high ball and Ryan Bradley stuck it in the net. However, our lads came back into it with a jammy goal of their own, which, highly unusually in Gaelic football, was credited as an o.g. for Donegal captain Neil Gallagher. Back level and with time running out, it looked like we might sneak away with a share of the spoils but it wasn’t to be as three late points won the day for the home side.
Losing any match isn’t easy to accept (as the punters in Croke Park yesterday will confirm, all of whom incidentally now have some idea as to what it feels like to be a Mayoman leaving that great sporting cathedral in September). The defeat adds to the pressure in terms of League placings and will make it more difficult to secure a place in the reconstituted Division 1 next year. Still, things could be worse: we could be like Cork – or Galway in Division 1B – with two defeats racked up. With one win in the bag and a home match against Limerick to come, followed by an away trip to Fermanagh, we could (should?) have six points to our credit before the more difficult clashes with Cork, Dublin and Tyrone. A last-two placing – that would see us plunge to the new Division 3 – should be avoidable but we’ll need to win at least three of the coming five matches to claim a Division 1 place. That’s a reasonably tall order.
In terms of the game itself, it was another good, hard match and Johnno will have learned more about his players from this one than he did from the win over Kerry. DB has already done much to nail down one of the centre-field places after another strong performance yesterday, with his clubmates Pat Harte and Ronan McG left to scrap for the other midfield berth. The forward positions remain fluid: the entire full-forward line was replaced yesterday but none of the subs made it onto the scoreboard. The backline looks a bit more settled but they did concede 1-13 so a bit of experimentation is likely there too in the weeks ahead.
There are no NFL matches next weekend so the next action to look forward to is Limerick’s visit on Sunday week. Limerick were very unlucky to lose by a point to the Dubs on Saturday but they’re scheduled to play their postponed match against Fermanagh next weekend so they might have some points on the board before they visit Castlebar.