Game day – this one’s a free hit

Such is the ultra-competitive nature of Division One every year, Round 7 matches can so often be fraught affairs. We’ve had plenty of occasions ourselves where we’ve taken the pitch in the final round knowing we needed to get something from the game to stay up.

It makes a pleasant change, then, that today’s Round 7 meeting with Monaghan at Hastings Insurance MacHale Park (throw-in 1.45pm) is, from our perspective at least, to all intents and purposes a dead-rubber. We’re in next weekend’s Croke Park final no matter how today’s game goes for us and so the result this afternoon doesn’t matter in any tangible way to us.

The Farney lads are, of course, in a very different place. Every season they’re invariably in a pickle entering Round 7 but they’ve become rather expert at doing enough to dodge the drop. Two years ago they sent Galway crashing through the trapdoor, last year it was Dublin. Today, if they beat us and Tyrone do them a favour by winning their game, it’ll be Armagh.

So, one thing we can be sure about today is that we’ll be facing opponents who desperately want to win. We know full well that they’ll come roaring out of the traps at us at 1.45pm and they’ll stop at nothing to get the victory they need if they’re to have any chance of staying up.

We’ve arguably made their task a whole load easier by opting to go with a much-changed line-up for this game. Only six of the team who started the last day against Donegal – Sam Callinan, Stephen Coen, Matthew Ruane, Jordan Flynn, Aidan O’Shea and Ryan O’Donoghue – are also named to start this afternoon and there’s every chance that a few of them won’t line out today either.

But this isn’t experimentation for the sake of it. A number of those in today’s starting fifteen are returning from injuries, some of them after long-term lay-offs, and they need some competitive football ahead of Championship. None of those coming in are League debutants either; instead they’re panel members, some of them extremely experienced ones, who are keen to demonstrate to Kevin McStay and his selectors that they’re ready and capable of pushing for a starting spot this summer.

With so many Championship games to play in such a short space of time, squad depth is going to be more important than ever this year. So far in this year’s National League thirty different players have got game time of some kind, with 23 of these starting at least one game. Those numbers – proof of a squad deepening policy – will obviously be higher after today’s game.

So how will this afternoon’s match go? It’s hard to tell, in light of the very different incentives facing the two sides. If hunger is the determinant then you’d have to think Monaghan have the edge. Hunger can, however, be measured in different ways and, for those Mayo players in doubt about their place in the match-day 26, let alone the starting fifteen, there’ll be plenty of appetite today to prove their worth to all and sundry.

There’s also the not inconsiderable issue of our unbeaten record so far this year. While we’re dicing with danger somewhat in making so many changes for today’s game – in the process also telegraphing clearly that we intend to go full-out for the League title next weekend – the team selection we’ve gone with contains enough talent to ensure that the unbeaten run is still intact by the time Meath referee David Gough blows the final whistle at MacHale Park this afternoon.

Up at O’Donnell Park in Letterkenny today, meanwhile, the county’s women footballers have a more elemental issue on their hands. They need at least a draw in their against Donegal this afternoon (throw-in 2pm) to ensure that they retain their Division One status. If they succeed, they’ll relegate the Tir Conaill County in the process. This one is, then, very much a zero-sum encounter.

We’ve only one win to show from six outings in this Division One campaign but Donegal have lost all six of their matches, some of them badly. By contrast, we’ve been competitive in all of our games and, had we enjoyed the rub of the green in one or two of them, we’d surely have secured our top tier status before now. We look well placed to do this later on today.

I’m out the door heading to Castlebar shortly, hoping to see the lads record a fifth win in a row in Division One this year, which, if we do this, will send us all onto Croke Park next weekend in high spirits. If we get word that the women have also done the business today then so much the better.

Right, time to get moving. Let’s hope for a positive result in both matches today. Safe travelling everyone. Up Mayo.

71 thoughts on “Game day – this one’s a free hit

  1. I’ll go for a draw. Here’s the scenario: we’re cantering, five or six up, scores coming from a wide spread of players. Word comes through, Tyrone are hockeying Armagh, cue all out mayhem from Monaghan, Beggan leading the charge, goal, now host pepper in high balls on Hennelly, seven minutes of added time…

  2. At the moment it’s beautiful, however the forecast shows a high percentage chance of rain around game time and during game time! The pitch will be solid, but if it rains the ball will be hard handled as the surface will like glass!
    I see either Aiden not starting, or starting and coming off around 45 min.. it makes more sense to see how playing Aiden inside in croker works out rather than him arriving in croker not at 100% due to a minor knock or tiredness. Plus we have Kevin for right pitch side for frees if required. I’d rather see Tommy somewhat isolated inside now and then to see him take on a defender close to goal.. Tommy needs game time, however I do understand the logic of not forcing the issue as there are a huge amount of games coming so squad rotation is more critical than ever.
    Seeing Mattie get to a 7/8 out of 10 again today is important. He has incredible moments, but getting a consistency across a full game is proving difficult for him.
    A beefed up Swannie (I thought he looked stronger the last day) will be exciting to watch, plus he loves driving on so with Coen and Jason minding the house the other lads will cause Monaghan trouble. Then when the younger lads are resting, Jason in particular can pop up for a score! We have an excellent system from defence of rotating who’s attacking and who’s sitting. That’s why I feel Coen is absolutely the key man as he’s directing that strategy on the pitch and ensuring it works.
    I was very keen to see Mc Stay get the job during the interview process. However I had doubts about the strong personalities in his coaching team and how he would manage that dynamic. However, touch wood, all looks great..
    Best of luck to all today

  3. @gaaobsessed.i think Kevin would rather waik on hot coals than take frees. Looking forward to the game and I wonder does a 9 changes mayo team put even more pressure on monaghan can you imagine if mayo win what the talk will be regarding the monaghan setup. They need to win to get the points and also to avoid embarrassment. Isn’t it great to have as @williejoe said a free hit. Good luck lads.

  4. While it would be nice to remain unbeaten I think the performance today is more important both collectively and individually. Will the lads returning from injury layoffs be able to slot into the style of play we’ve seen so far and will individuals put in performances to give management more good headaches? For these reasons today’s game is very important and I’m hoping for some big pluses this afternoon. Anyway it’s time to head for Castlebar. Safe travelling to all Mayo and Monaghan supporters.

  5. @ Joe G . Agree totally. Performance and a few lads really putting their hands up for making the 26 over the next 2 weekends is no 1 .
    Getting the win an added bonus .

  6. Subs bench as tweeted by Mayo GAA

    16 Rory Byrne
    17 Jack Carney
    18 Jack Coyne
    19 Paddy Durcan
    20 Ruairi Keane
    21 David McBrien
    22 Darren McHale
    23 Eoghan McLaughlin
    24 Diarmuid O’Connor
    25 Aiden Orme
    26 Paul Towey

  7. I can understand management starting with Aido & Ryan today to build the understanding of how we are trying to play with some of the newer lads in such as Frank & Kevin in the h.f.line, but we don’t need to flog them at this stage so I hope we see Carr & Towey replace them at h.t.
    As others have said avoiding injuries is no.1 today.

  8. Actually they are probably resting Tommy c and the likes of colm reape paddy Durcan for next week !

    Sorry for the double post there!

  9. Interesting to see who we get in final. Galway or Kerry? I would prefer Kerry as I think Galway will be more difficult for us to beat and we cannot afford the psychological impact of losing another national final could undo all the progress up to now…

  10. Value bet today is to back Roscommon to win the league @25/1 . Is it really that far fetched to see Roscommon hockey Donegal who are in a mess and Kerry to beat Galway by a couple of points . When I say value bet , I’ll put it this way they won’t be 25/1 if the unlikely happened and they made the final .

  11. Good bet surely on Roscommon, they are a dangerous team in the Hyde and fully expect them to go all out today and beat Donegal well. If they do , all they can hope for is a result in salt hill. Hope it’s not Kerry in the final. I still have nightmares after last year’s final.!!!!!!

  12. When you put it like that it is not behind the realms of possibility that Roscommon could make the final alright .

  13. Almost all the footballers brought in are either quite experienced or have already played well this year. Tommy was probably rested because Monaghan is not a game to use Tommy and also we want to mimimise his game time till later summer.

  14. Has anyone a spare ticket I have one but I am looking for a ticket for the Mrs

  15. @Rober I feel the exact same also still have nightmares about last years final haha be a cracker one if 8t was Galway we got!

    Good to see Paul Towey getting more game Tim e in fairness hw has huge potential!

  16. Towey would be my pick for frees. He knocks them over all day long for Charlestown. He scored some outrageous points last year and could be another great scoring option for us.
    Of course inter county is another level and it might take him a while to adjust but I’m convinced there’s a player in there.

  17. Mickey 3- listen to it on Midwest radio.
    TG4 have a camera in McHale Park for any goals!!
    Mhuigeo Abú!

  18. Hmm monaghan looking good but if we do loose today I would not be surprised they really need a result we do not and Robbie hennelly is rusty I would say.

    @Mikey3 heard that on Midwest mad stuff ha the dubs will be bouncing haha

  19. Division 4 very tight. Leitrim v sligo level. If leitrim win Laois go up with them and if sligo win wicklow go up with them. It’s amazing how fluid things are

  20. I would think that 8 or 9 of todays starters will not start next weekend. Our bench is not as good as some thought

  21. That will stop the clamor for a few of our back up forwards to start . They got better with each game they didn’t play. And then they played . Aidan Orme will be next in line now

  22. Dead rubber or not. 6 point thumping from Monaghan at home slightly worrying. Galway up to speed now, Kerry still way off the pace. First real test of where we’re at next weekend.

  23. Jeez a 2nd goal in safe to say we have lost this one but I won’t be loosing any sleep over it good to try out a different team pretty much.

    Looking like Galway next week and we will have a stronger team be a cracker match if so

  24. MOTM poll is up.

    Seeing as we’ve finally lost a game, I also want to remind everyone about the usual rules on critiquing players. Not least because the usual trolls (all in moderation so comments won’t go up) have already begun to crawl out from under the rocks.

  25. Monaghan really needed a result today we did not and they had more hunger for it I would not be worried about this result.

  26. Good run out for alot of players with little game time so far this league. Make 9 changes to a team you will always have rustiness and inconsistency in attacking patterns and defensive structure. I’m not reading to much into. Plenty of players got a rest, many didn’t even get into matchday squad. Galway put a lot of effort in that Kerry game. We will be fresher next weekend.

  27. I think it’s awful the way whenever we do loose and let’s be honest here we were always bound to loose a game at some stage that people come out and start attacking the players who give up their spare time and play for free for their county I might add give them a break !

    It’s only the league early days yes we let in 2 bad goals but they had to try out new players and let hennelly have a go he was rusty after a long lay off . Colm Reape never 1 goalie for next week and championship .

    Lots to be positive about and should give the players credit for bringing the energy back today was always going to be a funny match as a must win for monaghan and not for us.

    Onwards and upwards for next week !

  28. Galway next week the first real test for the new Mayo..winning that i feel is crucial. Amazing how quick it could all turn around. If we loose league final and hrad in to connacht championship against Roscommon on back of 2 defeats. Rossirs bouncing into it with nothing to loose.
    5 goal chances for Monaghan today a concern.

  29. With 10 changes we can’t fully judge any of today players. Imagine 1 of these starting with 14 first team players and then compare it to starting as 1 of 10 changes it’s a totally different scenario so don’t be too hard on the lads and most of them won’t weaken the 1st team if introduced as sub

  30. Comhghairdeas to Monaghan as they needed to survive. We fielded a B team. Martin Carney was impressed with Towey Coen, OHora and Touhy man of the match
    We are in a league final v Gaillimh so let’s get behind our team! A huge achievement for the management and the team!
    Mhuigeo Abu

  31. Am I right in thinking this will be only second time Mayo and Galway played each other in league final and only 3rd time in history two Connacht teams play each other in League final?

  32. Cian o Neill , really starting to see the fruits of his coaching expertise , Galway now my favs for sam at this stage but kerry will improve youd imagine , serious defensively sound unit galway have .

  33. This isn’t the worst thing ahead of games with Galway and Ros, I feel. Some of our lads are not yet where they need to be and that was important to find out now rather than in two weeks’ time.

    Galway looked good today in spite of getting a dollop of luck with their goal. They will be hard beaten next week.

  34. Congrats to Monaghan, the classic escape artists. Armagh dragged into division 2. Tuned in to Ocean FM for the Leitrim Sligo 2nd half, Leitrim 8 points down at one stage and managed to go one up with 5 mins left, if they held on they’d get promoted at the expense of Sligo. In typical fashion Sligo broke their hearts and won by a point in the end and took their spot in Div 3 next year. Always drama between those two

  35. @Sean Burke still think it’s the Dubs this year Galway no . Especially since the Dubs have cluxton back on the bench..

    Agree with above comment this keeps us level headed going into next week we might even be under dogs and we always play better as under dogs.

    10 changes to a winning team and henbelly after a long lay off period was always going to be rusty.

  36. Seems to be alot of talking up Galway here, I haven’t seen any games today so cannot comment.

  37. We found out today that the depth of the squad is not as strong as we would have hoped and certainly a reality check for the summer campaign.

  38. Mayo finished as highest scorers while Galway had meanest defence. Galway are not the biggest scorers however, only Donegal scored less than them. Most they scored in a game this league was 16. Mayo scored more than that in 5 of there 7 but crucially, one of those they didn’t was against Galway.

  39. Good to See Hennelly get game time it will stand to him but id like to see Colm Reape start his first national final.i wouldnt worry about losing today. The ones to win are next week and again against Roscommon

  40. Galway will be very hard to beat this year.They are good all over the field.
    Physically much stronger then us.
    We could get a trimming next Sunday.

  41. Big psychological test for mgmt next week. Lots of progress this year. Lots of good results, but as we know, those lording us for the last few weeks won’t be long sticking the knife in to ‘same ol mayo’ if we lose another final. Galway will be bouncing if they beat kerry and then us so I think we need to go after this one.
    You can see Galway focused on a defensive system much like kerry did last year and it’s paying off but we have improved a lot up front so I’d give us every chance if we go for it.

  42. You’re right Seán. Galway have the best defensive record in the league.

    Anyway, I’ve always been firmly in the ‘league shmeague’ camp. I couldn’t care less about it. Other than having some influence now on championship seeding Division 1 is really just a glorified series of challenge matches for me. We’ve won it more than any county other than Dub/Kry and what use has that been to us come championship? None.

    The real business starts when knock out football commences. People go on about it being a ‘national competition’. Yes, it is but not one that, in truth, garners any genuine respect.

  43. We had a not-so-pacy team out and met a few Monaghan flyers. Not to mention McManus. Lot of bad shot selection, bad wides and bad shots to Beggan. Quite a collection. Monaghan still left it dangling, bad wides by Beggan and others, but we hadn’t the wit to punish them. Goals never looked like coming.

  44. All about Galway next Sunday..4PM I think. Galway presumably played their first team..we over the 75+ minutes played about maybe 8 or 10 of our first 15 and the normal Subs used. So several should be fresh for Sunday. Today’s starting team, even though relatively our second string team, could easily have beaten Monaghan with a bit better coordination that would come from a bit more experience of playing together. Don’t think that we picked up any injuries. Congratulations to Monaghan yet another near Houdini like escape. .. Galway v Kerry will be interesting watching for the Mayo boys this week, much more interesting than Mayo v Monaghan will be for Galway!

  45. Agree moose, management have bigged up league importance (can’t blame them it’s secondary competition).
    But it adds more spice. I’d go as far as to say both teams will see this as more important than if they meet each other on Connacht championship.

    Good exercise today, probably done more to move lads down the pecking order than launch themselves into starting team/26.

    But plenty of games to come. So all hands needed on deck.

  46. Lots on here saying Galway will be hard to beat next weekend we played a team with 10 changes today and will be much stronger next weekend with different subs to.

    We did get a draw against Galway in our first game we are every bit as good as Galway if not better. We only lost to Galway last year by a point and we were a very weekend team then. Let’s not forget kerry are in poor form Atm so would not go on about Galway winning all Irelands it’s the Dubs year I think.

    Don’t think that we will get a trimming against Galway next week either. Jeez all doom and gloom around after 1 loss that we knew was a big possibility of us loosing today with 10 changes and a match we did not need to win.

  47. Ah the game against Galway is massive, I fancy Mayo to win. We certainly need a big performance otherwise a lot of the optimism from this season so far will ebb away.

  48. Championship starts next week for us,
    Today doesn’t matter really, will help develope fringe players, some are just not ready yet,
    I think missing hession and cillian is problematic
    (Confirmed more or less by mcstay on interview).
    On balance, if we’re serious about winning the all Ireland this year then winning next weekend is a must I feel; put down a marker.
    Likely heavy week of training put in this week and lack of focus today, against a team that was going for it.
    Next week for me is vital to see where we truely are.
    The importance of doc for Mayo is underestimated all over the pitch. He is key for us.

  49. The performance next weekend is more important than the result and the most important thing is no injuries. We could be playing Galway in championship a few weeks later. I love beating Galway but we gain nothing come championship the following weekend if we go all out for a win next weekend revealing much of our style of play in the process. I see this season as divided into 4 sections:
    League – it’s already done/finished

    Connacht champ – how we fare here impacts our seeding for the group stage

    Group stage – how we do here influences our last 12 or quarter final pairing etc

    All Ireland series

    The league is done and winning next weekend offers us nothing other than bragging rights. Next task is to Win Connacht – be first seeds in our group, go from there

  50. Find it absolutely bizarre that people are still tipping the Dubs. Can only imagine it’s a result of pure psychic damage from the 6 in a row years because I’ve seen a lot of their games this league and they have serious problems up front and are lacking a distinctive playing style. I can’t even figure out what they’re trying to do most of the time. They’re probably too good for Division two but not good enough for an All Ireland, in my view.

    They’ll get through Leinster because there is no one to challenge them. But the first tough team they meet in championship, I’d fancy them to get beat. Could see someone like a Tyrone taking them out. Galway on current form would handily beat them.

  51. Bob Touhy showed again today what a huge player he is going to be for Mayo going forward. So composed on the ball for such a young lad. I’m afraid the u-20s won’t have the full benefit of him. It also showed how important a fully fit and available Diarmuid especially, and Paddy are for us. I didn’t think we used the long ball to Aido to great effect today especially with the wind so a few to be worked on for next weekend.

  52. Wanted a Galway final so glad that is what has transpired. As for todays game lads got a run out but understandable they wouldn’t be at full tilt for this one, why over commit in a nothing game. The next 2wks is what its all about. Beat Galway in a League final and that could give them serious momentum

  53. Team for Galway

  54. You have to go all the way back to 1954 since Mayo won a Connacht championship after winning the National League, can McStay be the man to do it? But as Colm Keys said not its the end of the world as we will be 3rd seeds minimum for Sam Maguire round robin if we exit Connacht championship early.

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