Home comforts

McHale ParkAfter two successive (and successful) weekends spent playing at opposite ends of the country, the lads will be back on home territory this coming Sunday for our NFL Division 1 clash with Monaghan (throw-in 2.30 pm but remember that it’ll be summer time again by then) where hopefully we can take another decisive step towards a place in this year’s league final. I dunno about the rest of you but I’m looking forward to welcoming the team back to McHale Park after the memorable fortnight they’ve given us on the road.

I remember feeling a bit pissed off when I first saw our 2010 NFL fixture list with those four away fixtures on it and I seem to recall that Johnno voiced his disapproval at some point over the fact that we would, once again, be obliged to take to the road on four occasions over the course of this year’s league campaign. Back then, I certainly never expected us to have a 100% return from the trips to Omagh, Derry and Tralee and I never thought I’d hear Johnno joking – as he did in an interview with TG4 after last Sunday’s win over Kerry – that we should perhaps consider, given that our recent away record is now so strong, playing all our future league games away from home.

So, given their encouraging exploits of late away from home, the lads deserve a good rousing welcome when they take to the field at Castlebar the next day and, in this regard, it’s important that there’s a good crowd at the game to provide this welcome and to get behind the team properly once the ball is thrown in. Those who haven’t definitively decided whether or not to go to McHale Park on Sunday will, no doubt, be tempted by the news that TG4 will be showing the match live and the shitty weather forecast could also make the option of watching the game on the living room couch a more appealing one.

But, you know, it won’t be the same, what with the commentator blathering away in Irish and the atmosphere at home in no way matching what would be on offer if you were at the game. And sure haven’t you already survived the harshest winter in living memory? No self-respecting Mayoman should never have his progress checked by a bit of soft March rain and, in any event, wasn’t the shiny new stand built to keep that stuff off our heads?

Having missed the last two away games myself, I know I’m in no position to get all preachy about why everyone should make an effort to get to McHale Park on Sunday, although the knowledge that I’ll be covering the usual 320 miles or so to do the roundtrip to Castlebar (actually, it’s more as I’m going via Galway to take in the Blog Awards the previous night) makes me feel a little bit more entitled to lecture on this topic. The way I see it is that the lads have kept the flame alight for the county on their travels and so it’s only right and proper that we show our appreciation for their efforts on their return home.

It’s going to be a tough match too – even if Paddy Power have us heavily odds-on for it – and you’ll probably already know that Alan Dillon is doubtful to be lining out. The Mayo News is reporting that he has a leg injury which he picked up in a collision with Kerry’s portly captain, Bryan Sheehan. This isn’t, in truth, a major worry for us, given the various options we have in the forwards at the moment and it’d probably make sense to rest Alan for this one so that he’s fit and raring to go for the difficult trip to Cork two weeks later.

The same report states that Enda Varley is still licking his wounds (obviously as a result of all that kicking and belting he got off Tom O’Sullivan the last day) but the Garrymore man should apparently be okay to start against Monaghan. It sounds as if Ronan may not be fit to line out on Sunday but, like Alan, there’s no need to risk him for this one, given the positive performances put in by Tom Parsons and Seamus O’Shea in the engine room in Tralee.

That report also states that Barry Moran and Aidan Kilcoyne are both approaching full fitness once more and it looks as if both might even feature in the squad before the end of the NFL campaign. It would, I think, be wholly appropriate for Killer to make an appearance at some stage during the second half down in Páirc Uí Rinn, given that it was courtesy of his boot that we claimed the spoils the last time we faced the Donkey Ayters down there.

53 thoughts on “Home comforts

  1. WJ,

    Just a quick reminder that all paid up Club Mayo members are entitled to get in free of charge to McHale Park this Sunday…You just need to show the stewards your Club Mayo members card thats all.

    More on http://www.clubmayo.ie!

  2. Interesting piece in Bernard Flynns colum today in the mirror ref Conor Mortimor.(sorry for bringing it up again!). Looks like everyone has an opinion!!
    A win this weekend would make us a lot happier about headn for Cork. I’d expect a big crowd in Castlebar…. There seems to be a bit of momentum amongst fans.

  3. bit nervous about this one. If it turns into a game of football we will win for sure however if it becomes a bit of an “arm wrestle” it could be a tough for sure.

  4. I agree with you Ted. I voted “No” in WJ’s poll. Monaghan are coming off a very good away win too, they will be full of confidence and they need the result.

    I think we should win, but (forgive my play on words) more by a “chip” and less of the “mash”.

  5. I share this sense of nervousness too – Monaghan are scrapping for Division 1 survival and they’ll be buoyed by the win over Derry. If it’s pissing rain – which it looks like it could be – it could descend into a bit of a battle, which might not suit us either. We need to do a Galway on them early on, otherwise we could find ourselves in a real scrap in the second half.

  6. I think it’s going to be a pretty tough game. There will be no more than a point or two in it. Monaghan have some handy forwards. Our defence will need to be nailed to their boots. Can anyone see any changes from Tralee?

  7. Hi North Mayo, can you give a gist of what Flynn had to say in the Mirror. Never struck me as a Mayo sympathizer.

  8. Hi on the road. He said johnnos biggest decision this weekend is what to do with Conor Mortimer? He said from an outsider looking in the most productive thing that could be done is use him as an impact sub. He said he thinks mortimer has always thought he has a right to a starting position and this influence hasn’t helped Mayo over the years. He said for him, “if he becomes a regular starter, Mayo will be a weakened team and this is a statement I (Bernard Flynn) will stand over!!”
    A bit harsh I suppose but I’m sure there are lots that will agree.

  9. Thanks North mayo, am not a fan of Flynn but I see where he’s coming from. Thorny one for Johnno. Sorry Willie Joe, I feel as if I am talking over you.

  10. It’s hard to leave a lad on the bench after a display like that. Even if Johnno wants to use him as an impact sub Conor wants a place on that team and he has now proved his worth. Aiden OShea has had 4 not so good games and is still starting. Surely that’s tough on a lad On the bench fighting to get a run.
    It’s a panal of 30 for championship. There must be about 35 when you count injuries etc. Another cut to be made!

  11. See Flynn’s point too to be honest. THink mort is the last player a tired corner back would want to see coming on with 20 minutes to go. Let varley do the softening up first then spring mort.

  12. I think Flynn is spot on there. We have so many decent forwards this year, but they are all prone to off days, even Dillon at the weekend there (although there may have been an injury issue).

    If you have the likes of Barry Moran, Kilcoyne, Harte and C Mort on the bench, you’re well covered if one or two of your starting forwards are struggling.

    (At this stage I would be looking towards the Championship with a view to starting 6 forwards from T Mort, S O’Shea, A Moran, Dillon, Varley, A O’Shea and Ronaldo – not sure which one of those you would leave off actually, it’s a tough one, great to have the options though.)

  13. Well impressed with Varley .Got a great eye for goal.Nows the time to change things . We are safe in the league so time to try a diffrent option. Like to see higgins at half back and Conroy again at full back. C Mort as a impact sub.(He was`t that good against gal or Dublin don`t forget when he was brought on) it will keep the rest of the fowards on there toes.
    give the younger O Shea a rest ,cause we will nead him to play well against the more phyical Cork boys

  14. Hi WJ. I agree with you that Dillon isn’t a major blow, however he’s a great guy to score a long range free. Sadly, I don’t see anyone else with the ability to do it ( as good as him). His composure was clearly missed during the Dublin match, he was MOTM in Derry and he scored at least one long range free in Tralee. I just fear that should we be so casual in front the posts again next Sunday as we were against Dublin, we’ll have nobody to call on. This is after all the scene of our last bad game and I’d hate to down to McHale Park to see a re run of that.
    Sorry if I’m a little negative, but I think I’d be happier if he was at least on the bench.

  15. We are all a bit cautious which is good but realistically we should be winning these games if we want to progress. The head to head rule is not in our favour with Dublin. We need them to lose and Galway to do us a favour. Any chance Cork losing too or am I asking too much. By Sunday we will be in a better position to know whats what. Im sure Johno is a lot happier than a lot of the so called top managers. Never mind that Meathman. He is no friend of Mayo.

  16. Mayo’s fate is in their own hands, and that is the most important thing at this point in time. .Win the remaining two matches or a win and draw should see us through. Getting to croker for a league final is a huge carrott, an opportunity for the team to learn a lot about themselves, it would be more instructive than half a dozen mickey mouse challenge matches in May and June. Winning the damn thing would be nice (and achievable) but the main event is the c’chip and I’d sooner a narrow loss in the league if it provided important information for greater success in the AI series.

    Of course, caution is important for the mn and c matches, but Mayo’s work rate and fitness along with the newly emerging talent should prompt us to attack the two matches from the word go.

    On the Mort issue, he will be a teriffic impact sub, remember how Kerry used to use MF Russell!!!

  17. If Ronan McGarrity was fit I would be inclined to try him at full forward for a while and leave midfield alone. He would be a real nightmare on the edge of the square. It would be another possibility…….another headache for an opposing defence to worry about.
    Centre half forward might suit AOS better.

  18. Moving AOS out might not be a bad thing but who do you drop on the 40? i see that line as being pivotal and it needs to be a very hardworking team with most importantly some vision to open up the inside line play. so who you drop from Andy, Trevor or Dillon ??? assuming here A Dillon will be fit.

  19. Does anyone think it would be worth leaving A OShea on the bench Sunday? I really think he looks worn out at the minute.

  20. AOS’s best football has been from center forward. He has struggled at FF all year so I really hope management realise this and make the change sooner rather than later. Perhaps they are waiting for the return of Barry Moran? Having a gig FF is a tactic Mahony seems to have invested heavily in and i dont think hes going to turn away from it now. Another option could be to try Par Harte in there perhaps. Anyway O Shea is the future..i have no doubt about it. His brother has the bragging rights in the house at the moment….but that will change in the future for sure!!!

  21. Mc Garitty and SOS midfield, AOS CHF, Big Barry FF – would be a long time since we had size like that from midfield up!

  22. and no Parsons Tubberman. Im not convinced by him JUST YET either! I think he will come good but needs to get stuck in a bit more. He could learn a bit from Seamie O Shea thats for sure. What age is Ronan McGarrity? He must be thirty at this stage if not more??

  23. I think he’s still out injured long-term but I know he’s also based on Liverpool where he’s studying at the moment. It’d be good to have him back alright, hopefully in time for the summer.

  24. I think JOM would have given Aidan a rest by now if B Moran was fit.
    As you said Ted, he does seem to prefer having a big man up top.
    And so do I to be fair. I spent too long watching us land high balls in on top of Conor Mort, Dillon etc. When that failed, we simply tried to run the ball all the time, playing into the hands of ‘blanket defences’.
    It’s always good to have options in how we play, which I think we now have.
    Any news on when the team is out?

  25. Tom Cunniffe could be the difference between us having a good back line or a dodgy one.
    Ronan 28!?? Im amazed at that…he was midfield in 2004 and im was sure he was more than 22 when he first lined out for us. Hope im wrong about this…..that would be great news indeed.

  26. That info on Ronan’s age is according to the official stats, which Club Mayo published last summer, so I think it’s correct alright.

    The Mayo News said earlier this week that Barry Moran is close enough to being fit again so maybe we’ll see that formation soon, Dan. The only concern I’d have, though, is how injury-prone Barry is and we’ve already seen from last year what problems arise if he’s an integral part of the first fifteen and then gets injured again. It’s difficult to see him as more than a useful addition to the squad, for now at least. Then, of course, there’s Aidan Kilcoyne to think about too – if he comes back showing the form he did last year, he’d have to be close to a starting spot.

    No news yet on when the team will be out, but I might hear something later. I’d reckon it’ll be Sunday, though – after all, this ploy hasn’t done us any harm for the last two matches so why change a winning formula?

  27. Agree with you there. I wouldn’t have both O’Shea and Moran in that FF line.
    It worked well enough last year, but as with Donaghy/Walsh, teams soon cop on to it. Other players just tend to take the easy option and lump it in, hoping for the best.
    Our forward line has such strength in depth that I can’t see both making the team.
    Killer’s injury was a real sickner. He was finally showing signs of his early promise. And he seems to be the only player we have who can hit long range frees.

  28. Poor Barry Moran. I feel for him. He has spent a heap of his career recovering from bad injuries. Hopefully O Mahoney will feed him back gradually , the same with Cunniffe. Two years ago he was the future for us, then injury and he is almost forgotten. Same with Aiden O Shea last season and all the talk about losing him to Australia. Like others he should be given time to find his feet. Second season syndrome has hit him but we have options. For me the bonus has been the long awaited placing of Varley and Seamus O Shea on the team. What took so long…it wasnt as if they were touring Australia.

  29. Can’t see Barry Moran realistically coming back into the reckoning for the first 15. I agree with Willie Joe at best he’ll be a squad player.

    We seem to have great strength in depth this year in the forward line which is great, but our problems last year were at the back and as far as I can see they haven’t been addressed. Workrate from the entire team against teams like Kerry in the league who are very undercooked and doing a lot of training at the moment is probably making the backline look a bit better at the moment but I’d have serious concerns come championship.

    But no point in over analysing it, J’O’M can only work with what he has, Let’s see how we go.

  30. I think the biggest problem with aos is metal fatigue. Maybe a few weeks away would do him could, there is no way of keeping that hunger playing all year round every year, especially at his age.. Hes a full forward, to put him anywhere else would be stupid really and as for ronan mc going in at full forward, i really cant see how anybody come to that been a option.

    As for b flynn the less said about him the better the fact that hes a gaa pundit is laughable.. Irf Conor mortimer is good enough to start he should, same for anybody else, why only use one of your best forwards for 15-25% of a game it makes no sense!

  31. Would have a worry about full back, dont think we have sorted that out yet. Cork will be a true test of our defence. Would worry about Sunday as monaghan will come to tough it out. Saw Paidi O Shea saw in Sundays Indo that he thinks either Cork or Mayo are his choice of been there in Sept. Been an exile in Cork it would be good to beat Cork in Cork, and the last week has been quite enjoyable with all the Kerry boys around.

  32. JJ I can see how you might think of Ronan McGarrity at FF as a bit daft.
    But then nobody thought of Donaghy as a FF……that is until he actually played there……or Sean Kavanagh last year.
    If O Shea and Parsons are doing well why not leave that alone (it will be a good long term solution). Ronan has a superb catch and his basketball skills could be lethal in bringing others into dangerous scoring positions ………like Donaghy. You could always bring him out as a third midfielder if all was not going too well out there.
    AOS is under too much pressure at FF ……CHF might answer this until he gets his confidence back. But then I have been wrong before and no doubt will again.

  33. Everyone focusing on the positives this week North mayo, but its hard to be as positive about the backs. Higgins, Gardiner (once fit), McLoughlin and Howley are well up to standard, but I think most Mayo followers’ biggest worry will be how our full back line will fare when the going gets tough in the middle of the summer.

  34. Think I’d feel better with Conroy at full. Never over confident with Cafferkey. Any word on team for this weekend. It should be announced tonight…

  35. what the verdict on Vaughan. he looked good against Galway but have only seen bits of him since.

  36. i really like donal vaughan, hes a proper athlete, hes tall fast and strong, still room for improvement but bright future. Big worry would be trevor howley,hopefully tom cunniffe can slot in there when he comes back, too early to judge kevin mc loughlin but he does look good.
    Diehard i know what your saying but they re slightly different, ronan is a very good fielder but he also is a very hard worker, whereas donaghy is direct and he strikes the ball well, donaghy scores alot of goals.. anyway ronans our best mid fielder and in my opinion thats where is should be with pat harte

  37. Yes, it is right to deflect the focus on to the back division. No good in getting loads of scores from our improving forward line if we are going to ship more scores at the other end, especially soft or late goals, as seen often in the last 2 years. In my opinion we have 4 very likely c’ship starters in Higgins, Howley, Vaughan and McLaughlin. Conroy looks like he might make a strong claim ahead of Caff (not to be written off though) and the experience of LOMalley might be sought in the right corner.

    But the idea of 6 backs V 6 forwards is old hat nowadays. You will see Trevor, Andy, Ronaldo and Varley closing down attacks and recieving out balls deep within the Mayo Half as often as you will see Vaughan and McLaughlin flying up the wings on overlaps deep into the enemy territory. We are evolving into the Tyrone model somewhat, in that numbers on shirts are not confined to particular roles or positions. Fitness, ball skills and athleticism from 1 to 15 is now needed for success in the modern game, and I think Mayo are making great progress in this area. The workrate of the mayo half-forwards tracking back and forcing Kerry across the pitch and turning over their ball a number of times with good strong hits was quite impressive. It’s about hard graft, heart and fitness as a starting point, but if you can add skill and tactical nous to that, well anything is possible. We are begining to tick some more of those boxes as the league progresses.

    I think that it could be another good day for the green and red on Sunday, it looks like the rain and wind will not materialise, and hopefully we wont get caught up in a dog fight with the farney boys! But in fairness, these are the games we have to win if we are going to push on, losing is not an option. If we win on Sunday and Galway do a number on the Dubs (very possible), then we could have the luxury of putting out an experimental team against the rebels in Cork, with qualification already assured, probably to meet them again in the final! Exciting times!!

  38. Very impressed with Vaughan so far this year. He’s much better suited to the wing than last year when he was in the corner. As jj said, he’s strong, tall and fast, and well able to play too.
    I was worried about Howley, but he has looked more assured of late. But if he’s up against a big man at CHF, it could all go wrong again (as against Meath last year). This is where Tom Cunniffe would be a great option, so let’s hope he makes it back for the Championship.
    Johnno has said he will pick full back on a horses-for-courses basis, and that’s probably the most sensible thing he can do, when we don’t have a 100% out-and-out full back available. I’d say it will be Cafferkey more often than not though.
    Someone mentioned playing McGarrity and Pat Harte midfield. Harte can be excellent on his day, but isn’t dependable enough. Besides, I’d prefer to see him in the half-forwards than midfield.
    McGarrity alongside Parsons or SOS for me. Parsons has it in him to be a great player, but drifts out of games far too often. I wonder would it be worth putting him to CHF and leaving SOS in midfield alongside McGarrity?
    I’d leave AOS in FF. He’s finding it tough at the moment, but I’d have faith he’ll come good. Plus the big man inside gives us a lot more options. With Barry Moran still out, AOS is our best option, and he probably still would be if Moran was fit.

  39. Can I echo JJs sentiments. Liam O Malley is a squad player, good to bring in if a sub is needed. The forwrds with the exception of the Dublin game are keeping the scoreboard ticking but the defence is leaking too many scores for my liking. We are still weak at full and centre back. Howley is a great defender but not a great centre back.

  40. I personally think Liam O’Malleys good days have out-shone his bad days. He’s an experienced head and you need that. He was our top defender for the league last year until he got hit with injury. As for Tom Cuniffe, I don’t understand how people can be shouting for him in a starting position when come championship, it will almost be 12 months since we have seen him play. At the end of the day, johnno is watching these lads training on a weekly basis. We have to trust his judgement. From today, I’m not running down a player again… I’ve come to the conclusion that we have what we have so let’s be positive about it. Each if these lads are giving up there lifes at present to represent their countys. At the minute the pros are outweighing the cons.

  41. Liam O Malleys good days?? Was it when he was turned inside out by an average nicky joyce in salthill last year, i cannot remember his last good day, i dont want to be blunt and i know hes commited to the cause but hes plain and simply poor at best.

  42. I agree the number you wear on your back doesn’t mean a whole lot anymore. The game is evolving. The teams that have adapted the game in a way that the opposition could not cope with are always the ones that have been successful…….
    Running and passing……….massed defence…….twin towers…………attacking half backs…….
    Maybe the next ‘adaptation’ is flexibility in selection and unpredictability. And on this score Mayo have an advantage ….they are now capable of putting out a very varied selection capable of playing lots of different types of game depending on what is demanded on any occasion.

  43. JJ – apologies but I accidentally deleted your last comment: I was looking at it on my iPhone, with a cup of tea in the other hand, and I hit the wrong key by accident. BTW, if you provide an email address (which won’t be published here) with your comments, they’ll go straight up and won’t go into moderation.

    On the Liam O’Malley debate, I’d share a bit of concern expressed about his return to the first fifteen, given that it could mean he’ll be there in the summer. He was repeatedly taken to the cleaners in the championship in 2007, it happened again last summer and there’s every danger it’ll happen once again this year if he starts in the corner for us when the serious stuff gets underway. That said, as North Mayo says, he was our best defender in the NFL last year and he deserves to be in the squad but I can’t see that he’d be first fifteen material on the hard ground.

    On the backs in general, I did some digging on the stats front. Last year, I did a piece on points scored and conceded after five rounds and compared this with the state of play in 2008 (the post in question is here). It’s interesting to add the figures for the first five NFL games in 2010 to this and what it shows is that our scores for this year (which stand at 7-58 or 79 pts) are very close to 2008 (4-68, 80 pts) and well up on 2009 (2-56, 62 pts). Our scores against (5-52, 67 pts) are better than 2008 (8-53, 77 pts) but worse than last year (3-49, 58 pts).

    While it’s no surprise to see the scoring levels back up, it’s disappointing that our scores conceded rate is climbing again. Sure, those two late goals conceded don’t help but those goals stood (even if the Kerry one definitely shouldn’t) so they have to be counted.

    My worry is that we’re not overly strong across the board at the back and, with the no.3 issue now a live one once again and what seems to be an ongoing ability of our backs to stick to their men like glue, my fear is that we’re going to continue to struggle in big games as we’re always going to leave ourselves open to conceding scores (in particular goals) at precisely the wrong time.

  44. I accept the points in relation to LOM, and I would share concerns, but have we not seen a number of other mayo lads taken to the cleaners in the corner back positions, I’m thinking of Keith and Donal last year against Meath in particular. I have seen LOM defend very well in league encounters, but I suppose the jury is out still when it comes to the white heat of the c’ship – it was sooooo wrong to have played him on a couple of occasions in the fb position, its not his fault that he does not have the height!

    Vaughan is definitely much more potent at wing back, and wouldn’t it be great to be able to move Keith forward a notch as well, we know all about his ability to turn defence into attack in a heartbeat. McLaughlin has some experience playing in the corner and might be a realistic option there as well, but he too is a teriffic counter-attacker. Come c’ship time, a fit again (hopefully) Gardiner on the left wing, Vaughan on the right, with Higgins and McLaughlin operating in the corners behind them – maybe ??? It’s between Howley, Caff, Cuniffe (if fit) and Conroy for the 2 central positions, at present. No shortage of pace down the flanks, but the art of high fielding and limpet-like marking is the worrying piece that needs to be improved. It would appear that we don’t have as many options in defence as we do in attack, how times have changed!!!!

  45. Agree with your points there topo. OMalley actually did ok when he came on against Meath taking away the penalty insident which actually turned out to be a bad call. This weekend will tell a lot. The pressure is on now for the lads to get to a league final. I know it’s not every supporters cup of tea but I wouldn’t say no to taking a national league title! In fact… Gonna provisionally book the Monday off just in case!!!

  46. No problem wj, i think you said almost what i was trying to say anyway.. Lads its very admirable that you do not want to criticize but in some cases its just fact.Liam was marking nicky joyce and cormac bane in his last two visits to salthill,two average footballers, he did not finish the game last year anyway and they had racked up a combined score of 2-8, its fact, he is in no way good enough for mayo.. he gave away a penalty vs meath, i know it was harsh but the position he had got himself into was ridiculous.. To say the jury is out is an understatement.

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