Mayo 0-11 Down 1-13: where’s the fog when you really need it?

Last time out at McHale Park, in a match where there was also a controversial first half sending-off, the common consensus appeared to be that the fog had allowed us to dodge a bullet. Backed into another difficult position today – where this time we were the ones down to fourteen men – we could have done with another delivery of the stuff to extricate us from the predicament we were in. The sky remained clear, however, and, when the full-time whistle sounded, it was instead our unbeaten start to 2012 that had disappeared into the ether.

I ended up listening to this one on Midwest – the first Mayo match I’d followed in this way since last year’s Connacht final – with my trip to Croker called off when the small lad decided this morning that he wanted to go to a party instead. I’ve been feeling a fair bit under the weather over the last few days and so was happy enough to pass up the trip to HQ and settle down to follow the match on the radio instead. And, once again, I have Mayo Mick to thank for the photos accompanying this report.

Whatever ideas we may have had in advance about how this match was going to pan out changed fairly quickly at McHale Park today when Aidan O’Shea got the line after just eight minutes. It was a straight red too, given following an altercation with Down’s Danny Hughes. I wasn’t there and so can’t pronounce on what happened but Aidan won’t need telling from me that he should have just taken the free that had been awarded to him and foregone the afters. Instead, his loss meant that we were faced with having to play over an hour with 14 men.

Whatever about the rights and wrongs of Aidan’s sending off, the clear consensus thereafter was that rookie ref Barry Cassidy from Derry had an absolute shocker. We were denied a clear penalty when Enda Varley was hauled down inside the square, Conor Mortimer had a converted free disallowed for some arcane reason and then Down had two legitimate points ruled out near the end. I think it’s fair to say that Barry Cassidy won’t be taking charge of his first All-Ireland final come September.

Whatever about the shite reffing, though, from what I can gather we were the architects of our own downfall today. Aidan’s sending off was pivotal, of course, but we also racked up nine or ten wides over the course of the afternoon, a number of them from scoreable frees (including a 14-yarder ballooned wide by Alan Freeman) and it’s transparently the case that when a team is in a match where they’re scrapping for their lives, they simply can’t afford to miss these kind of chances.

It’s also the case, I think, that of all the teams to find yourself a man down against, a tactically astute Northern team like Down is one that you can expect to be able to exploit the situation to the full. From what I can gather, the Mourne lads used their numerical advantage man cleverly, making it very difficult for us to make progress in attack and then using the extra man to break at speed and inflict damage on us at the other end.

Then, just to make sure, they threw the whole Nordie playbook – blocking runners, players falling down ‘injured’ at every opportunity, repeated cynical fouls (that went unpunished), lads running across freetakers to distract them (ditto) – at us in a situation where an inexperienced (Nordie) ref was, as @edmcgreal pointed out after the game, in way over his head. Seen in this light, the contest was only ever going to finish the one way.

We started nicely enough, with a point from play from Andy Moran and one from a free from record-chasing Conor Mortimer putting us 0-2 to 0-1 ahead before the red card incident. We stuck with them reasonably well for a while afterwards too – with Mort adding another free – but Down’s goal scored by Conor Maginn (our first conceded all year) knocked us back. In fairness to the lads, their immediate response was positive, with Alan Dillon pointing from play from well out on the right and then Conor levelling it up with his third free of the day.

Two points for the visitors followed, the first from play, before a fourth Mort point cut the margin back to the minimum. The lads on Midwest were insistent that that free should, however, have been a penalty as Enda Varley was hauled down well inside the square. Shortly before this, Jason Doherty had also been poleaxed and, with half time approaching, he was replaced by Seamus O’Shea.

Down finished the half stronger and three unanswered points – an Ambrose Rogers fifty, a long-ranger from play and one from a free – left the Mourne lads sitting pretty four to the good as they headed for the dressing room.

John Casey (who I thought was MOTM on Midwest – direct and to the point right throughout) reckoned our lads were playing like headless chickens towards the end of that chaotic half and he pointed to an incident where Rogers had outfielded Mort in midfield to show how tactically awry we were. It was a bit of a surprise, then, to see that James Horan decided not to shuffle the deck at that stage. The Brother reckoned that Pat Harte was the man to spring at that juncture – I think he had a point.

As it was, Down got the opening score of the second half but another Mort free followed by Alan Dillon’s second point from play got us back within a goal of the visitors. They then got one from play, Mort responded with his sixth free (but not before he had a converted free disallowed by the ref, which I think was either for taking too long or robbing too much ground in the run-up) and then Alan Freeman – who had an off-day on the freetaking front – cut the gap to two from another placed ball.

The Aghamore man’s difficulties in front of the posts this afternoon were starkly exemplified soon after when he hacked wide a routine 14-yarder – at a time when the lads on Midwest were getting increasingly bullish about our chances of digging out a result – and then the 2010 All-Ireland finalists went down to score straight from the kick-out, sub Benny Coulter getting this one from play, to pull a clear goal ahead again.

With time running out we had obviously run out of ideas on how to break down our numerically superior opponents. The only further score we got before Barry Cassidy raced off the field into the arms of the hi-vis attired stewards (photo by @p_cunnane) was another point from an Alan Freeman free as Down comfortably closed out the five-point win.

The result is a huge disappointment and while it’s easy to direct all of our ire at the hapless Barry Cassidy, it’s obvious that our own performance let us down as well today. We only scored three points from play over the entire seventy minutes and we hoofed a number of frees wides so it’s obvious that a bit more bite in attack plus some more accuracy from placed balls could of itself have made this a far closer contest than it was.

The Brother was incandescent when I spoke to him on the phone after the final whistle (I briefly considered asking him to try his hand at an audio report but then thought better of it!) and, with some justification, he was unable to see too far beyond the shite refereeing for our downfall (that’s a bad pun, I know). But shite refereeing is a constant in the GAA world (though I would once again question the correctness of putting a Nordie ref in charge of a game involving a Nordie team) and, at least where it came to Aidan’s sending-off, the ref may have been in the right.

PJ was a good deal more sanguine when I spoke with him a bit later and he pointed to our lack of punch in attack, bemoaning our lads’ inability either to win their own ball or score the kind of points that we routinely see forwards from other counties getting. (Did anyone see the way Cork peppered Laois last night, by the way? Now, that’s what I’d call shooting). He thought Andy, Dillon and Mort did well, along with Barry Moran in midfield, but was struggling to name any other strong performers for us. He wasn’t overly impressed with the backs but felt that Robbie Hennelly will be under particular pressure after today’s performance.

So, there goes our unbeaten status for 2012 and gone too are all those dreams about securing our place in the play-offs as early as next weekend. With Cork, Dublin and Kerry (who are all showing serious form right now) still to face, that play-off place isn’t exactly a gimme either and it needs to be borne in mind that we need to collect two more points from our remaining four games just to ensure we’re playing Division One football again next year.

Donegal, who got hammered down in Tralee today, are sure to be smarting next Sunday and, seeing as they’re closer to the relegation trapdoor than we are, they’ll also be desperate for the league points. Our lads owe it to themselves,however, to show that they can perform at a higher level than they did today and they also need to demonstrate that they’re able to bounce back from bad days like this one.

Any word on who’ll be reffing it, though?

Mayo: Robert Hennelly; Kevin Keane, Ger Cafferkey, Keith Higgins; Richie Feeney, Donal Vaughan, Lee Keegan; Aidan O’Shea, Barry Moran; Alan Dillon (0-2), Alan Freeman (0-2, frees), Jason Doherty; Conor Mortimer (0-6, frees), Andy Moran (0-1), Enda Varley. Subs: Seamus O’Shea for Doherty, Michael Conroy for Varley, Pat Harte for Freeman.

22 thoughts on “Mayo 0-11 Down 1-13: where’s the fog when you really need it?

  1. A disaster. I think the ref was correct. But then that is only one opinion. We fought hard and played reasonably well being a man down. Next Sunday Ballybofey (is it?) and that might get us bacxk again in the frame.

  2. A reality check..
    Could easily be a man down in the championship & we must learn to cope.
    Problems under the high ball are worrying–perhaps Clarke would have made a difference.

  3. Agree with jr. I feel its time to give clarke the no 1 jersey,Robery Hennelly is a good keeper but lacks presence.
    I’m not sure how anyone could think that aidan deserved to be sent off, it was a generous free, hughes went down theatrically. The referee has to be the worst referee I have ever seen in McHale park. He kept stopping Mayo from building continuity and let Down get away with murder. Alot of positives to take from it. James Nallen deserves alot of credit for the organisation of our defence over the past year.

  4. Very disappointed to lose this game but i guess having to play with 14 men all game doesn’t help.

    Need to beat Donegal side in poor form next.

  5. Aidan O’Shea-just playing good in the last while, went to his head, and then acts the hard man,gives the ref a chance to send him off. He has a lot to learn. Tough time for supporters,cost associated with going to mathces and then have a man sent off in the first few minutes….does O’Shea care ???

  6. A mark of how bad the referee was today – I had a word with one of the senior Down players (former All-Star) at the final whistle and he said ‘I’m an honest man, that referee was a joke’.

    Aidan lashed out with an elbow when he’d won a free – there have been a few incidents like that creeping in lately – he needed to keep his cool.

    Down didn’t win that match – a combination of the 14 men, the referee and our poor finishing lost it for us. We kicked 11 balls wide or short, all scoreable.

    Barry Moran had a good game in midfield essentially by himself, much improved performance from Dillon, Clarke back please, and why was Conor Mortimer playing around the middle today? I had to laugh when I saw him jumping for a kickout with Down’s big no.9 Kalum King.

    Food for thought indeed.

  7. It was always going to be a battle 15 v 15 but with a man down for 60 mins winning would have been a tall order.
    Whether Aidan O Shea deserved to be sent off or not I cannot say for sure. One thing for sure is that Down were totally cynical but Aidan has to learn a lesson form this and not be provoked.
    And yet we could have actually won the game but for a number of basic errors….. Keith Higgins and Robert Hennelly combining to give them a crucial goal. (Higgins went on to give an excellent display of defending). There was some awful passing and some really bad free taking.
    And why Conor Mortimor was playing so far form goals was a mystery to me and added nothing to our chances.
    Add to that a ref who was as bad as ever ran onto McHale Pk and all you can say the sooner this is put behind us the better.
    The next few weeks will tell a lot about Mayo. Lets hope they can respond in a really positive way.

  8. We can scream our heads off about the ref. all we like,and it`s true he was cat, but 3 points from play in 70 mins of football is not good enough.

    We didn`t know what to do when Aiden was sent off, we were chasing shadows for long periods of the game, but it`s a good lesson this time of the year rather than later in the championship, like what happened in 96 when McHale got the line and it cost us an All Ireland by a point.We will learn from this.

    The lads fought like dogs and couldn`t be faulted in defence, for the result.It was an awful game to watch.Connor Mort had one of his best games playing very deep (not perfect i might add but then who was perfect) never saw him tackle that hard before.
    I would have hoped that we should have had plan B for frees on the right hand side when Freemans radar was a bit off.. Dillon perhaps he scored two beauties from play.
    I wonder will Aiden be out the next day,he got a straight red .I suppose the CCCCCCCC will be called in to speak.

    Overall I`d say we will learn a good lot from this game, and there were plenty of positives to be taken from the game,but I do worry about our ability to take scores from out the field in games like this when our backs are up against the wall.
    And we can kick these scores in games where we`re on top, we just need to steady up a bit and not panic in these situations.

    Having said all that its still only the league and James and his team have a few very good games left to get our best 15 on the field for the championship.

  9. Very frustrating day. The referee was so bad all throughout. He destroyed what could have been a very good game. Aidan o Shea was unlucky to be sent off. It was very harsh. Why in the first place was a referee from put in charge of this game? It doesn’t make sense.

    There was good performances from Barry and Andy Moran. Dillon was very good today and Higgins got better as the game went on. While many worked hard I was disappointed in alot of performances from some players. I don’t know either why Conor was out the pitch from where he should be. In the first half Andy was roaring at him to stay in the forward line rather than playing deep. Conor just looked at him and stayed where he was. Horan too signalled for him to stay further up the pitch but he just jogged 10 yards and put his hands on his hips.

    A disappointing day but alot will have been learned about certain players. I believe that we can get a result against Donegal next weekend and cork at home. The Dublin and Kerry games will be tough but we are capable of beating anyone. Let’s hope we never see that referee again!

  10. Poor performance, Down made good use of the extra man but they are a limited team. Our forwards never got going and Down could have had a few goals late on. Next week is a big game, defeat and we are in a relegation battle. There remains a lack of leaders on the pitch, we lacked direction as we pushed on in the second half. Apart from both Moran’s, not too many impressed on the day. Finally, next few weeks will truly tell where we are at, this is a good test for all concerned, hope fully we can move on and out today’s performan

  11. yes pj AOS will miss the next to games i think if the new rules are applied.Look different people have different views on the sending off today but i still believe we had enough ball to gain something out of the game.While i must admit the reffing was one of the most baffling i have ever seen in over 30 years of watching gaa football alot of our problems we of our own making.3 points from play is not good enough and next weekend is a must win game if we are to put our season back on track

  12. @mayoaremagic … Not one of aidens biggest fans but he has been playing great lately …. He seemed very upset when we passed him on the pitch after match … Thought our lads got really stuck in after the sending off but Why can’t we score from play ?

  13. Aidan deserved to go end of discussion. You swing an elbow you walk unless ur ciaran whelan. Ref was a joke but we deserved to lose regardless. When I saw Conor trying to outfield the down midfield I gave up. Regardless of ref we were pathetic. Our worst display in mchale park? I honestly cant think of a worse one.

  14. I think o’shea needs to get a fair bit bit of cop on after today.He’s 6″4 so if he ever swings an elbow he’s going to nail them in the face. Danny hughes is no more than 5″9 so he was always going to hit him high up.But rather than take the red card he waits for Danny Hughes at the tunnel at half time and starts pushing him. Is this the leadership qualities that James Horan made him captain up in Armagh? He needs to concentrate on the match rather than talking back to the opposition and referees. Referees in mayo hate the sight of him for mouthing.

  15. Interesting last comment there John. You say there was an other altercation as such in the tunnel and you say AOS is always mouthing at referrees in Mayo football.
    Well if thats true then someone need to take him aside and inject some sens. The simple fact of it is that if you’re mouthing at the referee then your not concentrating on the game (but on the ref).

    Players should be conentrating on the game at all times (and not on the ref) – this is basic stuff fellas. The team is a reflection on the management so management have to step up to the mark here.

  16. Ok Some positives. In fairness to Conor he worked his odd little socks off. His free taking was superb. the sight of him going up to field a kickout at midfield between the 2 down midfielders was depressing though.Barry played to the maximum of his potential and will be our primary midfielder next week. Dillon was very good…he should be left on the wing now. Andy won practically everything that came into him and used it well. Caff did ok too and ketih mixed the good and bad. Feeling good again????? Neither am i…

  17. I agree the ref was very frustrating to watch, what must it have been like to play in, for the players.
    I did not think Aiden O Shea deserved to be sent off, A yellow would have been sufficient and hop the ball.
    The game was lost by us in our in- ability to take frees and scores from play, whats new.
    Conor Mortimer was trying hard , tackling and tracking back, and his free taking was good, (unlike Freeman)I believe Conor came out the field to get on the ball as it is easier to get possession out there and difficult nearer to goals where opposition defenders are more agressive and room is limited.
    I think Robert Hennelly does not commands his goals like David Clarke does, and his free taking is not as good. Clarke would be my first choice goalie, he is around a long time and I would consider making him captain.
    The Donegal game will tell a few tales and a win should steady the ship again, for the big guns ,Cork, Kerry and Dublin.

  18. I wouldnt take much heed of player reaction after an incident like that. Some of them are bloody good at ‘reacting’ innocently and indignintely. He deserved to be sent off for use of the elbow – end of story. He himself was to blame not the ref (who I agree was awful).

  19. EDIT to previous post, you have to skip to 1.44 to see the reaction of the stand when the ref leaves the pitch.

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