Photo: NASA/Getty Images
It was 20th July 1969. I was just weeks short of my tenth birthday and we were leaving Pearse Stadium having drawn with Galway in the Connaught Final. The memory of game itself is a blur but I vividly remember the adults talking in amazed tones on the way back to the car. That evening, for the first time in history, men would walk on the moon and in the days that followed we would all see the grainy TV footage accompanied by Neil Armstrong’s immortal words: “Just one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”.
To me, it seemed that Mayo needed to take just a small step to equal Galway’s great feats earlier that decade and for the next two weeks I played out the replay in the field in front of the house. Like all Mayo-mad kids, I was every player, making the crucial block, the spectacular high catch, the incisive pass, getting the seemingly impossible score and always winning the day for Mayo. And in childhood fashion, the accompanying commentary was part of the experience, Carey to Morley, to Corcoran, to Langan, to McGee and a GOAL for Mayo. One small step needed, one giant leap in waiting. But while the Connaught Final that followed would indeed go Mayo’s way, the giant leap did not materialise.
Almost 45 years on and having looked again at the recent Mayo matches against Dublin and Derry, the results would suggest that the giant leap might be beyond us again this year. The pundits agreed. The tanned one from Sligo suggested that three years of effort had been too much and that the team was now “leggy” (he also suggested that Kerry are Dublin’s greatest threat this year!). Another pointed to the goals we conceded in the league and said that Mayo has lost the ability to defend (despite having four All-Star backs between 2012 and 2013). The lack of a marquee forward was also hinted at but the general view was that none of that really mattered, because that cloud of dust we could see on the horizon was all that was still visible of an unbeatable Dublin team, as they disappeared to September glory, out of sight of the following pack.
In those two games, we were slow and ponderous in attack, we were predictable, we became defensive when we had the extra man, we faded when we should have been getting strong. Since then, JH expressed the view that these failings are all small things that have been analysed and are being worked on. In addition, the competition for places is stronger than ever and preparations are going well.
That all may be true, but the niggling reality is that we need to go up gear from last year if we are to go all the way.
Don’t get me wrong. Mayo are a formidable outfit. Like last year, I expect us to come roaring out of the blocks in Connaught. I expect a top drawer performance on the August Bank Holiday weekend and I expect us to win again a few weeks later too. But to do that and have a realistic chance of the big prize, we need one more small step.
JH has been criticised in the past for being over-conservative and relying too often on the same faces. For three years he has consistently brought us to the table, but the big celebration has eluded us. We seemed to be out-thought and out-fought on the big days. Something new is needed. We need to change the mindset, to be brave and to go for it!
Donegal did that in 2012, Dublin did it in 2013. Even the young Rossies did a bit of it when getting three goals in four minutes recently against the Dubs in the U21 final. Regrettably, the Rossie sideline had showed Dublin way too much respect and had allowed them to build up a lead of 19 points before the lads themselves threw caution to the wind and started playing, eventually losing by nine.
And will we get this change? Well, the appearance of Gavin Duffy could be showing that JH has contemplated the maxim “If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always got” and is realising that something has to change. There is no guarantee that Gavin will get any game time this year but can you imagine the consternation in the opposing manager’s head if he was sprung with fifteen minutes to go in a crucial game? Can you imagine the lift that the crowd would get? Can you imagine the unpredictability that could result?
Photo: Mayo GAA (via Facebook)
Could the one small step be a change of mindset in the manager to become more unpredictable? Could that carry through into how the team could approach the game? Could it result in a Mayo team finally cutting loose and burying the past?
Maybe, just maybe! As supporters, we can only wait and anticipate a long Summer.
Plenty of time to work on the small step.
Plenty of time to savour a giant leap.
Keep the Faith!
45 thoughts on “Just one small step”
On his debut as a pundit recently, Tomas O’Se was pretty forceful on his views of Mayo football. He can’t understand the negative and cliched view of this Mayo team and believes they are one of the few teams with genuine title aspirations.
His brother also spoke last week of the season ahead and the current perception of the Dubs as being close to unbackable. His take on this is that every team, every single player worth his salt should be itching for a crack at them.
I’m inclined to agree with both. We’re very hard on ourselves at times but one of the teams most will want to avoid. The Dubs are in peak form but are not the force of nature that some commentators believe they are. We’re a long way from an All-Ireland but it’s May so isn’t everyone? I see no reason to instil doubt until necessary.
remember last year? Donegal this, Donegal that!!!!!!
Dublin are being built up as gods and long may it last
We were after all only one point behind in last year’s final without having played to our potential for much of the game. One cannot expect to win an All Ireland without playing at your best, offensively and defensively, for the full game. It doesn’t mean that the opposition will not have periods of dominance but that is when the defence matters most.
One also needs a fair amount of luck which we did not have last year with Alan Freeman having to be withdrawn [whatever about the arguments about the timing etc. of that] followed by Keith’s return to defence. Two forwards down. Having spent some years in the backroom with a team which had some success and some disappointments I don’t buy the arguments that James Horan got the switches wrong. He, unlike the rest of us, knew the form of the players available. Had we won these would have been brilliant moves. It’s short distance between the slap on the back and a kick on the arse, afterall.
Nice piece FourGoal – I still think this year could be our year – it will be very difficult for Dublin to show the same hunger for success again this year and there is no other team among the list of contenders that we cannot go toe to toe with. We must show significant improvements from our league performances – that is a given – but if Buckley can get the defensive issues fixed on the training ground as well as get the forward lines buzzing we will be hard beat. We will certainly get a very good idea of where we are at in the Hyde in two weeks time – our biggest challenge year to date awaits us – its time to step up!
When we least expect it……………………..it’ll happen……….That’s my belief……………Like one of our big Qtr or Semi performances………..only a Final !
Maybe mayo and galway can cause a few surprises in the championship yet and hoping its a galway mayo connaught final.
The only surprise Mayo can cause this year is to either win the All Ireland or lose on the way to the final. For the past 3 years we have beaten the reigning champions, Cork 2011, Dublin 2012 and Donegal 2013. Here’s to Dublin in 2014.
As to Galway, I’d let Galway worry about Galway. It’s a matter of total indifference to me which of Galway or Sligo reach the Connacht final, so long as Roscommon do not get there. Agreed it would be nice to see other Connacht counties getting a good run in the qualifiers.
welcome back Willie Joe and welcome back Four Goal , a great read.
Enjoyed that Four Goals McGee … here’s hoping
Rock, I agree entirely with your post. I, for one, do not fear Dublin or am not looking to avoid them. They are far from unbeatable and in fact I believe we have shown the way to beat the Dubs and I think that they know we have their number too. The problem being in the drawn league game is that WE LET THEM IN when we should have been home and hosed. Dublin did nothing to actually trouble us, it was a case of us making errors to give them a sniff of a chance.
I said it here after the drawn league game, we have their measure and Jim Gavin knows it.
This Roscommon game will not be the yardstick by which we measure where Mayo stand today. If its a single point victory for us I’ll be happy, but nobody in the province can be used as a yardstick at the moment, Roscommon may in a year or two be stronger but who’s to say Mayo won’t be stronger too?
At this point I’d say cork,Kerry,Dublin and maybe Tyrone are our yardsticks
Well I got a funny feeling when I started at the Sam Maguire Cup glowing in the Bronx sun over 3 weeks ago….I looked at it and the Mayo players walked by it, most of them not even looking at it…..as the Mayo team and Sam made their seperate ways back across the Atlantic, I just thought wouldn’t it be nice if we meet later in September on the steps of the hogan….I know if that happens, Il briefly think back to that day in the Bronx.
Thanks for the very enjoyable reflection Four Goal, good positive vibe there, I often think we engage in far too much analysis in this county which has a tendency always to reflect our lack of success where it matters most..self fulfilling and all that.
Good to see Galway throw off the shackles in London I didnt expect Londain to have another surprise in them but still Galway put them away with conviction ,which can only bode well for Connaught and all who sail in her. As for ourselves, I was often more confident ,but where has that got me..
Welcome news that Chris Barrett made his return from injury, playing a half in Belmullet’s championship game at the weekend.
Also intriguing that it was reported that the intercounty referees were called into an unplanned meeting today over the latest refereeing controversies. I know it’s too much to hope for some “consistency”, but a step in the right direction perhaps.
Any news on injury concerns on county panelists following club championship games at weekend?
Ger Cafferkey played for Ballina at the weekend came through with no signs of injury. With Dillon fit again and Freeman due back James Horan could possibly start 14 of the 15 that started the All Ireland final only one missing would be Chris Barrett though Keith Higgins should fill in at corner back for him and Doherty could be given another start or Sweeney given a run out.
Personally wil be very disappointed if Sweeney does not start nevermind feature. he has done enough in this league imo.
From todays Irish Times – reads as James is happy with the state of readiness of of the panel and players for the campaign. Clarke back in contention ?
his point on referees having too much work for one man is the latest addition to that particular campaign that seems to have a growing lobby from a combination of players, managers and pundits – and there’s certainnly a strong case for it
Prepare for some disappointment so Roger….
I know he hasn’t fully rejoined the panel yet but David Clarke palyed yet another game for Ballina at the weekend along with Ger Caff.
He looked from the stands to be 100% fit and kicking freely from the ground or the hand. Also the way Ballina have been playing lately he is getting plenty of goalkeeping practise!!!!!
With him , Robbie and Kenneth O’ Malley we surely must have the best depth between the sticks in the country for this summer!!!!
I agree Roger. Sweeney has not put a foot wrong and has done all that could be expected when he has been given a chance. He has set up scores and taken scores and I believe that a full forward line of Sweeney, Freeman and O’Connor is our most productive.
Sweeney takes up very good positions to receive the ball and is a true sniper in that he will shoot on sight if the shot is on, if the shot is not on he will move the ball on to a better placed player QUICKLY. He is very efficient in his use of the ball and has set up 3 goals in the league this year as well as taking his own scores. His performances in the first half in Mullingar and in the league game against Dublin were particularly effective.
I know I have said it before, and I certainly mean no disrespect to the players named, but Sweeney is a more dangerous forward than either Conroy or Varley and offers our attack a better end product on a more consistent basis.
Fully agree Pebblesmeller. Sweeney has earned his shot. Lord knows we need something new, fresh and productive in our forward line. Sweeney has shown that if he’s given fast ball into space he’ll make scores happen.
The question is – will he, and Mayo’s other forwards, get that fast ball, or are we going running-and-offloading for the summer?
I have to say that I agree with Alf with regards Sweeney, not because he isn’t a good footballer, but because it’s the opinion of one man only who decides if he is capable of playing or not. I think all people who go to Mayo matches know what Varley and Conroy can offer at this stage, and in my opinion it isn’t good enough for what we all have eyes on. However, if the manager can see past this ‘bringing on Varley as the first sub in the forwards’ then we may be in with a better chance. Adam Gallagher’s treatment is terrible. Granted, he didn’t perform against Roscommon in the u-21 match, but then again nobody did that night. Has he even played for the seniors since?
This post might be deleted, so I’ll clarify…Varley can score a great point every time he comes on, but for every point he scores he misses 2 or 3. Conroy usually runs into blind alleys and cannot get past his man and loses the ball.
Farandeelin I think conroy has gone downhill from his peak in the Down game and the dublin Semi. it might be injuries but he has been nowhere near as effective. Sweeney should be ahead in the pecking order.
Enjoyed Four Goals piece, we are from the same vintage. The drawn game had one amazing feature in 1969, the ball landed on the Mayo goal line at the death, Liam Sammon lost his bearings and thought it on the end line, he backheeled the ball and saved us that day. All he needed to do was let the ball run or tap it over the line. That 1969 replay win was to see us exit stage left until 1981 in senior Connacht football. Despite winning two All Ireland minor titles,and an U21 and a national League, Mayo failed to clear the province at the senior level for 11 years. What a sad waste of greats.
History does repeat. In the 1974 European cup final Athletico Madrid led Bayern Munich in extra time 1-0. At the death big Scwrzenbeck hit an equaliser and the replay two days later (no penalties then) saw Atletico wiped 4-0. Forty years later history tapped them on the shoulder and gave them another kick in the rocks. What does history have for us this year? Deep down from reading Four Goals piece I think he sees reality slightly different than the positive vibe he puts out. If Gavin Duffy is the step , the leap we need to cross the line then I am afraid we are destined to be outside the winners enclosure.
The team v Kerry 2011 is the team in situ today more or less. That team wont win an All ireland no matter how much we try and gloss it. And its too late in the day for the radical surgery needed to freshen the side up. Conservative and predicable is our lot now, capable of either stumbling in the Hyde and then tripping in the back door. Of course we could make it back to September third Sunday but like the three in a row Galway team of 1940-42 we will lose that final.
Assuming Dublin are tired like Cork 2011, or themselves or Donegal last year is foolish. This Dublin team are ravenous, full of young hungry players and gnarled vets who see the fate and destiny will leave them ahead of the Dubs of 1974- 1985. What drives me insane (though I am self medicating) is that Mayo are one of the few counties that has the real depth to challenge and push them but we choose to play safe and predictable.
As most of you regulars have long guessed from my down beat missives, I have long given up on this outfit, Donegal 2011 was a mortal blow to me, Dublin last year was conformation. Nothing that I have seen since gives me the slightest bit of hope or confidence. Petty bullshit trashed out between various factions in local regional papers shows that the Mayo set up is not singing from the same sheet. If Mayo line up from 10 to 15 along those lines this year McLoughlin, Doherty, Dillon, COC, Moran and Varley or one of the OSheas in the half forward line, then its adios muchachas.
The return of Duffy may or may not reboot the outfit, I would love to have seen that Gallagher lad who started the league get a proper run, I would love to have seen Regan or Kirby freshen the outfit, Irwin or Tommy Conroy. But no, like the Irish rugby side of the world cup with Eddie O Sullivan or Mourinhos untouchables this outfit will grind on to its inevitable end. I wish I could bring May flowers and happy tidings and I don’t want to antagonize or be seen as anti us but your either true to your gut or not. Now that I am back in the work place again and its weekends I am confined to the radio for updates. I wish the Mayo wagon all Gods luck, they will need it.
tommy conroy isnt there yet john , simply too small , we’ll have plenty of days enjoying his skills in the future.
as always its a great read but we simply cannot be dismissing teams at this juncture, teams are made in the championship , an aul lucky penalty miss from david kelly in tralee and suddenly kerry go on and win the all ireland , monaghan sneak past cavan and then they go on and beat donegal well and take their first ulster title in nearly 30 years , mayo come out of a brutal day in the hyde and then shock cork in croke park , the only way to win the championship is to stay in it , galway may have lost 3 in a row but cork beat us in 89 to put two lost finals to bed. we are still in it and I wager we will be for a long time yet.
To John Cuffe – The odds are Mayo will lose this year (as has happened in the last 60 years) but what’s the point in being negative? That 5% chance that we might win it is enough for me to look forward to the summer. (And yes it is much higher that 5%!). You just can’t dismiss their chances that easily…
Agree with the comments on Sweeney. He has that forward guile that Doherty, Varley, Conroy & Coen don’t have. It would be frustrating to see any of them start ahead of him in the Hyde……
Thanks for all the comments so far on this one. As always, a lot of considered opinion has been put forward here, of both a positive and negative nature. I’m being positive but cautious about this year – burned too many times, but still can’t resist the flames, I suppose.
I think that we are not that far away but our forwards are just too predictable at present. I would love to see Mikey Sweeney getting a run against the Rossies as things happen around that guy that the opposition doesn’t expect. I’d also like to see Kevin Mc out at No 10 because he initiates so much from out there. Maybe Cillian at No 11 as well for good measure, with Andy and Alan fighting for the No 15 shirt and one subbed for the other when fresh legs are needed.
But realistically, we should be looking at the 21 that should play rather than the 15 that will start. Each man coming on should add something new rather than continue the same plan. Dublin adopt a 3-part game strategy – build up a 6 point lead, soak up the fightback and go for goals when the opposition tires.
We don’t seem to have a similarly layered game plan and once the opposition figures out what we our initial strategy is, they adapt and wear us down (as with Dublin and Derry). Overall we need to force the opposition to keep wondering what will happen next. Keep them guessing, pop up in unexpected places and do things they don’t expect. Of course, the trick is to weave it into a game plan so that our own guys are not also wondering!
I have tried, with some small success, to coach that into team play by getting midfielders and forwards (in particular) to work on two principles. Firstly, put the ball to where the man WILL be (not to where he now is) and secondly, run to where you want the ball to be (not to where it now is). Continual practice of these two principles results in forwards opening up opposition backlines a lot more than is usual. There is a bit of work that needs to be done to get lads thinking that way, but that is not very difficult either.
Hopefully, JH and Donie have worked out their own strategies. We will see we meet the Rossies.
Keep the Faith!
Enjoyed your piece here Fourgoals, well done. Very sensible advice you gave with regard to training players on how to use space for attacking purposes. If only we had this aspect of our football conquered once and for all we would surely win the AI. I believe we need to focus on this aspect of our game big time in 2014. Having one or 2 players on the team who can pass accurately is not going to work for us in 2014. The quick pass to the inside line is key to beating the Dubs. My fear is that we may have another summer of hand passing around long enough for a defender to run up and kick it over the bar
You say you have ‘long given up on this outfit.’ Could I ask you what ‘outfit’ you would like to see?
Sweeney will be used as impact sub as Horan will more than likely choose a forward line of McLoughlin,O’Connor,Doc,Dillion,Freeman and Andy Moran. Coen another impact forward not sure about Varley,Conroy tbh Sweeney,Coen should be ahead of those two however Horan may see different.
I agree with over conroy and varley they are tried and tested are not up to it but Sweeney and cillian ahead of them 2 anyday sorry sounds a bit harsh.
I think john, if you have ” given up on this outfit”, Its time to stay at home and stop annoying us, that have not!!
Three things on the comments made already-
1, Agree that Sweeney should start. Wins possession despite his size,intelligent decision making, great passer and can score.
2. Last year and the year before, I would argue that we had the better team all year but we had no game plan worth a toss. Both Donegal and Dublin had! I haven’t seen much sign of any game plan formulating itself so far this year, so it’s not looking great.
3. Dublin are deserving favourites, because Gavin has the best panel, he plays the form players – selection not based on past reputations, He’s tactically astute and all the big games are at home in front of the Hill to sweeten the mix. But wouldn’t you love to wipe the smile off his face.
PS – Great to hear Chris Barrett is back in action and David Clarke too!
In reply to John above I understand your negativity but for a county which has underachieved for 64 years I think you are extremely harsh on this crew. We may have had great players in the 1970s but they did not deliver one Connacht title. We had great players in 1967 and 1969 but they didn’t reach AI Final. We have great players now and a great team which have reached 2 AI Finals. This present team and manager have given me more pleasure in the last 2 years than the 70s team gave me in a decade. I would be surprised if we win the ultimate prize this year because I think its a huge ask of any team to get to 3 finals in a row.However that wont stop me supporting them or admiring their magnificent qualities. Those players are worthy representatives of our county and while some of the guys you mention will hopefully turn out to be great players they certainly are not there yet and its wishful thinking that young lads fresh out of minor can be the missing link. Those lads you mention are not as talented as the Dub u21 FF line yet any of those 3 chaps will do well to make the Dublin senior starting 15. Anyway roll on Ros and I for one wont be taking anything for granted in the Hyde.
Cloud9 i’m not sure what you are getting at to say Mayo had no game plan? without one Mayo wouldn’t have reached back to back AI finals and no game plan normally ends up with shock defeats like 2010 to Sligo,Longford. Also i wouldn’t read into league form as In last years league Mayo finished on 6 points sneaked into the semi final and lost it compared to this year finished on 9 points and lost the semi final again.
Good piese 4 goals, enjoyed it.
To win just once………………………Totally agree with all you said there, let’s enjoy what we have here because we’ve been without it for too long in the past.
As for Ros or any other side ahead of us, let’s not take anything or anyone for granted.
On the Sweeney issue I am definitely a fan and as some including myself has alluded to in previous posts, he is Goochlike in his reading and execution of the game, I also feel there’s still room for Doc as we haven’t seen the best of him yet (slow ball in and having to run and work too deep) denying him the chance to perform best in his position.
I also agree with many that Varley and Conroy have had their chance and time has run out for them, when compared to the work rate and the tracking back that the Doc does, both seem to be put in and stay up field and wait for the ball, then just too many wasted chances.
(May get in trouble for that last paragraph but hope not).
We also have to address the problems exposed in the backs in the league with regard to the amount of goals leaked.
The ‘give a dog a bad name’ syndrome has fairly kicked in here. When we faced Cork in ’89 the pundits all sung from the one hymn sheet… ” Cork will never lose three in a row”..put Mayo out there and there’s a complete reversal of sentiment….ochon, ochon and thrice woe….let’s do it!!!
MayoMagic, my point is that I contend that a game plan must include a strategy that encompasses defence, tackling, workrate, ball winning, ball retention, how you move the ball from defence to attack, and finishing/scoring.
In the last two years, we defended, we tackled, our backs delivered amazing workrate, we did well in ball winning. When we played teams we were much better than, our raiding/ over-lapping back created much of our scores and often finished them. Our forwards had no scavenging to do in those games.
However, when we played teams that were able for us, that attacked us and pinned our back back defending, our only attacking game, we were lost, and our forwards didn’t respond. The results were terrible ball retention from 50/50 back clearances/ passes and forwards with no work rate or structure or plan.
Contrast that with Donegal two years ago, who delivered all of the above and the ball to the inside forwards who finished.
So while I fully understand that we have a fitness structure that is designed to have us peak later this year, what has changed in structure and what signs are there of a game plan to include better ball retention, deliver early ball, and more clinical finishing?
Besides, messing with a winning back line that has developed leaks that haven’t existed in the last two years, and some sluggish performances from AOS in the middle of the park, the improvement in Hennelly’s short and long kick-out is one plus.
If we have 5 or 6 forwards similar to last year, and JH side-lines the likes of Sweeney, who could make a real difference, where are we going on early accurate delivery and finishing?
I think you’re doing the current team and management a great disservice there, John. You say you gave up on this “outfit” (which I suppose could mean players or management or both) after the Donegal defeat (which was in 2012, by the way, not 2011) but it’s just as well that the lads who actually played for the county and went through the heartbreak of losing that final didn’t give up then too. Instead, they battled all the way back to the final last year, playing anything but conservative and predictable football on the way, only to suffer further heartache then.
Personally, I have nothing but enormous admiration for a bunch of players (who, it should be noted are amateur sportsmen, which makes your crack about them resembling professional Irish rugby and Chelsea soccer teams so woefully wide of the mark to be distasteful) who are willing to dust themselves off and go again this year. What kind of courage and commitment does that take? More than most of us can imagine. More than enough to warrant a bit of respect, I would suggest.
The fact that James has used largely the same group of players since 2011 is presented as a criticism yet it’s this bunch of players who have taken us to an All-Ireland semi-final and two All-Ireland finals in successive years, beating the reigning champions on the way every year. Sure, these players haven’t yet claimed the prize we all crave but neither have they underperformed in the way that the team did under the previous manager. If what we’re doing now is “safe and predictable” then I’d have it any day over the chronic underperformance that occurred under John O’Mahony’s watch from 2007-10.
If that means losing more finals, then so be it – at least it’d mean we’re continuing to challenge for Sam, unlike relatively recent winners such as Armagh, Galway and Meath whose rapid fall shows that you can’t take periods at or close to the top for granted. Being close but not close enough to overall success isn’t a great place to be, for sure, but we’re fooling ourselves if we imagine that this is as bad as it can get.
There’s nothing to support the proposition either that bringing in the players referenced would make us better – maybe they would but it’s equally possible they wouldn’t, certainly not this year – and it simply isn’t the case that James hasn’t been willing to experiment since last September. In any event, as FourGoal has pointed out, we need to be thinking about the 21 players that could feature on any given day and not just the first fifteen.
And what of our prospects this year? Well, maybe we we won’t win it again, maybe we’ll make it back to the final again only to lose again (a very likely outcome in my mind, given that we’re arguably better than most other teams but arguably not as good as Dublin) but the great thing about this time of year is that we don’t know what will happen. Which is why I don’t see the point, at the end of May with the action only getting going, in posting doom-laden predictions about how we’re sure to fail this year. But, then again, I haven’t given up on us yet.
Sure WJ – a good defensive performance there of the players and management.
No problem with your assertion that we have a great squad of players and I agree JH has taken us a long way from a great low ebb for the Green and Red jersey. But there is much more in these players, and there is still no sign of new direction to fix what failed to get us over the line in the last two years.
Marathon runners don’t put in all the work for years to hit a wall before crossing the line. If we had (and I believe we have have) the players capable of winning it in the last two year, why didn’t we? Bad management decision making before and during the AIF, poor forward performances on the day and failure to have a plan to deal with Cluxton’s kick-outs!
We lacked direction and leadership (off and also on the field) to get over the final hurdle, and drive on in the final furlong across the line!
My main point is that there is little sign of a change of direction – the delivery of early accurate ball, giving forwards better chances of finishing. Then moving Kevin Mc in to a more confined position in the corner, just when he’s rediscovered his great 2012 form is baffling? I’m not even going to re-trash the Keith Higgins experiment. Sure we’re seeing new things but you’d see more new direction in Croker last weekend!
And it’s shaping up like getting more of the same old ‘loyalty trumps all’ and form isn’t given the preference it is in say Dublin. I hope I’m wrong but if JH doesn’t get a 15 man game plan shaping up soon, and if he doesn’t add in a meaningful way, the big league discoveries like Sweeney and Gibbons (when he returns from injury), then I’d say football in September could be a mirage.
The glass is still half full – just crying out for signs that we’ve learn from our mistakes, because these players and the greatest supporters in this sport don’t deserve to re-live them!
I don’t know who will win the AI final this year and neither does anyone else. That’s the joy (and sometimes the pain) of football.
What I do know is that if Mayo have the appetite for battle for the coming campaign then they certainly have the experience, the skill, the strength and conditioning, the pain and the hardness required to give it a real go.
Firstly, the issue of Kevin Mc and whether he plays in the corner or out on the 40. In assessing this I believe that you have to forget about the number on his back as positional numbers mean very little in the modern game anymore.
In the league to date Kevin Mc has lined out with 13 on his back but then played on the 40, and also lined out with 10 on his back but then switched with Andy Moran to go into the corner. His adaptability means Horan can select him in either position, depending on the opposition, in the knowledge that, when on form, he can do a job for him. Kevin Mc was one of our most accurate forwards in the league scoring with something like 82% of his shots. Therefore, if Kevin is close to goal and gets good quality ball there is an 82% chance that he will score. This ability cannot be ignored.
Now, if Kevin is selected on the 40 we all know about his ball winning ability out there and he has an accurate foot pass that can deliver good ball inside to the forwards. This cannot be ignored either. Horan has the option of selecting him where he best can do a job for the team whilst also assessing our opponents weaknesses with a view to Kevin exploiting them. Horses for courses.
Secondly, the issue of Keith in the forwards. Think back to last years All Ireland and particularly the first half performance. The best player on the pitch that half was Higgins in the half forward line. Dublin could not handle him when he was attacking and they couldn’t get their half back on Higgins’ side into the game because Keith had him shut down. Keith also had a point wrongly ruled out. In that half we had 9 wides and 6 of them were very poor. We should have gone in at half time 6 points up and that makes the second half an entirely different game. Now, think to the drawn league game this season. Granted from an attacking point of view Higgins didn’t do much but he helped us completely dominate Dublin in the middle third of the pitch and also played his part in our zonal marking right across the centre field area. I’d put my house on it that if we meet Dublin this September, Higgins will be in the half forward line. And in my opinion, rightly so.
I agree pebblesmeller bout Keith Higgins but can’t mayo really afford to take that risk he would make Kilbride and he is dangerous.
I have said since the 2012 final is the only thing we appear to be lacking is 1. A more astute tactical awareness on the line and 2. See 1 and make sure that awareness is applied quickly and effectively during games. Its what stopped us securing the cannister over the past 2 years and unfortunately I cant see that changing this year but sure who knows and that’s the joy of it.
As regards the players, this quote from Teddy Roosevelt has always summed it up best for me in relation to their unwavering dedication and determination:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.