Mayo for Sam 2016?

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It’s a New Year and it’s time for a new voice in the guest slot on the site. Here’s Darragh Berry with some thoughts about a new Mayo GAA year.  

There I sat, my head in my hands in an Irish bar in Tenerife, five points down to Dublin with as many minutes remaining. Then I remembered, this is what the Mayo team live for and just as I lifted my head, they lifted the tempo. Just like I left my voice in that bar in Tenerife, the Mayo lads left everything in Croker that day.

The following week, once again, I sat in a bar to watch the replay. I swear I’m not an alcoholic (even though being a Mayo fan would drive you to drink sometimes) but the replay clashed with a family wedding. I missed most of the dinner, even though, I hadn’t much of an appetite after the final result. Just as I had been spurred on by the mountain that faced Mayo in the final few minutes of the first game, I was wary of the four-point lead we had chalked up mid-way through the second half of the replay. As the game wore down to its curtain call, a Dub who was sitting nearby sighed “Poor Mayo”. He wasn’t being sarcastic, he was genuinely sorry that we had endured another ‘oh so near’.

Being beaten in the penultimate match by the eventual winners in the last two years has been little consolation and a bitter pill to swallow. It was déjà vu, Dublin were Kerry in disguise. A year previous, Mayo were one kick away from heading to the final. I grabbed my buddy’s green and red shirt in the Gaelic Grounds as Hennelly’s impossible free kick seemed to be swirling over the bar. Storm Desmond would have come in handy that day but alas the free fell short like Mayo’s dreams. Horan felt he could not bring the team any further while Holmes and Connelly didn’t get the chance to fulfil their potential, facing heavy scrutiny from the get-go.

With the New Year came a new manager in Stephen Rochford. He is a proven winner with an All- Ireland medal as both a player and manager. He hit the ground running on Sunday with the win over NUIG but it’s inevitable what his main goal is and I’m sure it coincides with the beliefs of Mayo players and supporters alike: Bring Sam back.

It just shows the hunger of Mayo football in the last few years. A Connaught title isn’t good enough, a semi-final bow out to the eventual champions isn’t good enough and as Mickey Moran found out rapidly in ‘06 a final appearance isn’t good enough. It is relatively easy to inherit a winning team, how easy is it to inherit a team that has been the bridesmaid but never the bride?

Mayo v NUIG

Photo: MichaelMaye.com

The FBD is nothing to go by but it was nice to see the inclusion of Ballintubber man Jason Gibbons back in the frame. The midfield is a strong area of the Mayo team and to be able to call on Gibbons, Parsons, O’ Shea and Moran is a huge boost. Despite all this, Rochford needs to go into his reign with a clean sheet. Don’t be afraid to make the big calls and leave out the big names if needs be, don’t be afraid to call up some Mitchels players (they are the county champions after all), don’t be afraid to mark your territory.

How can one team bounce back year after year following heartbreak after heartbreak? There is one thing that keeps the flame lit in the Mayo camp and that is desire. It is a crying shame that the likes of McDonald, Mortimer, Padden, Nallen and Horan have no All-Ireland county medals to their names. There is just as many big names if not bigger in this current team and they are determined to leave a fulfilled legacy.

Old Moore’s Almanac predicted that both Liam and Sam would be returning back to the twisting, turning, winding roads of Galway and Mayo. The ‘curse’ has been used as an excuse for the ‘oh so nears’ of the Mayo team of late. This tied in with the terrifying prospect of stepping out in Croke Park. If superstitions are a part of the Mayo team, hopefully this year they will focus on Old Moore’s prediction and not old excuses that have haunted them for years.

Regardless, we will still turn up in our droves, from FBD days right through, God willing, to the third Sunday in September. We keep the faith, because we are Mayo fans and although we have no All-Ireland (as of yet) we do have faith.

25 thoughts on “Mayo for Sam 2016?

  1. “terrifying prospect of stepping out in Croke Park”? I presume you are being sarcastic. We’ve been in Croke Park more often than any other county bar Dublin over the past 5 years and generally acquit ourselves well there. There is no fear from Mayo in Croke Park.
    It annoys the shite outta me (and I don’t believe this is what you are saying) when the one day a year lads rock up with their perls of wisdom such as “but ye just cant do it in Croke Park”. How do you get to 2 finals and 3 semi finals, two of which we drew without “being able to do it in Croke Park”??

  2. Had a rewatch of Dublin games. They are for me always a good barometer of what needs to improve to win it out. Few things in no order.
    1. Midfield. Lack of scores and lack of bread and butter assists or even second last assist.
    Our midfield has been probably the best nationally defensively.
    Take away SOS long ball to AOS and from quarter finals on there is not much attacking play to point to.
    Barry Moran has been doing well helping in attack for Castlebar, he could be a solution.
    2. Defense. Lack of size. Dublin forwards bowled some of our lads off 50:50 ball. Think Andrews/Kilkenny/Connolly/Flynn/Brogan is strong as well.
    New lads like Coen/Durcan/Nally can bring something later in the summer. Theyre solid lads getting stronger all the time.
    3. Attack. Lack of pace and a lack of size.
    Kevin McGloughlin the only forward with any pace. We couldnt get open or over power the Dublin backs.
    I expect two new faces in attack. Cillian will hopefully be properly fit also.
    4. Counter attack.
    Way too many handpasses in the middle third.
    Overall all are possible to solve.

  3. Agree with the above think we need a change in goal too, terrible mistakes at crucial times.

    AOS needs to be utilized correctly and a plan b devised when he is double or treble marked as was the case both days against Dublin.

    I think Rochford and mcEntee will devise a plan.

  4. lookin forward to sunday and get another look at newcomers. jp i enjoyed your post. though its early in the year these guys will be burstin a gut to impress. its there big chance with alot of guys unavailable due to club and other commitments. jp do u see many guys from hollymount making the grade ?

  5. Who exactly is on the injured / unavailable list and what is there timeline for coming back ?

  6. Good stuff there JP. Added to this is a weakness all over the field in fetching high ball. Opposition nearly always win these whether against our attack or defence. Aldo, Barry, Seamie and Tom P excepted, but they are midfielders.

    Freezer would be an exception to this; when he is good he is very good…

  7. Have to disagree with you there catcol I think the biggest weakness freeman has and what is keeping him off team is his ability to win and hang onto high ball

  8. Never mind the team or the squad. Or our fanatical support. Big problem is that we’re just far too quiet when we concede a goal. It’s been our real achilles heel for over a decade now.

    This is the gospel according to the Examiner. Pray for us!

  9. @ toughnup Regarding Hollymount players. Stephen Coen will come close to starting at corner back or half back. But half backs on form is Keegan/Boyle/Durcan. I’d personally pick him corner back to add size back there.
    Darren McHugh was going well till he got a knee injury. Darren Coen/Keelan McNamara will find it tough to get in. It’s a better panel than last year. Will be some tough calls for the 34.
    @ catcol I would agree, we are probably the poorest top team in the air. Our half backs/half Forwards catch very few kickouts.

  10. Quick question for you expects out there. I’m trying to organise some summer hols, while not wanting to get a head of ourselves just wondering what date you think the Connacht Final would be on?

  11. Seen Dublin game again on sun in full really hard to look at. B Moran taken a Hugh turning point but time to move on as they say.

  12. Tommyk – re Freezer, when he’s on his game as I said, he can do anything, but opponents seem to have a knack of getting to him. One for John McEntee!

  13. jp thanks for that. it takes a good while playin at intercounty level to get up to speed with the game as it is played these days. fitness levels are so high. its also a highly intense game that leaves u with little time to think. Id love to see mayo draft in a few natural scoring forwards this year. Quick guys who are alert and can turn fast. ruttledge from knockmore is lively but time will tell with all the newcomers.

  14. Some interesting points been made about where we need to improve in 2016 to finally make the breakthrough. For me one area that we really need to concentrate on, is making better use of our squad. In the last two years, the final nails in our coffin have been driven in by the subs that our opposition have brought on late in games. Our introductions have failed to make the same impact.

    Last year it was A Brogan, McMenamin and MaCauley who made a major impact when introduced for Dublin in the replay. While for us losing Seamie O’Shea, Barry Moran and Tom Parsons had the opposite effect, we didn’t have adequate replacements on the bench.

    In 2014, it was Donaghy in the drawn game who proved to be our nemesis while in the replay in extra-time Kerry had a few more options like Jonathan Lyne to come on and kick crucial scores. Even going back to the 2013 All-Ireland final, Eoghan O’Gara who scored two points when he came on for the injured Paul Mannion, made much more of an impact for Dublin than any of the players introduced for us. Getting much more of an impact from our bench will be vital for us this year. Andy Moran is probably the main player who has pulled us out of a hole in the past when introduced, like against Roscommon in 2014 in Hyde Park.

    Another aspect to look at is, when a nasty element entered the fray, we came out second best. Both Dublin and Kerry intimidated us at vital times in the last two years. It was like as if they were saying: We are Kerry, We are Dublin and We will not let someone like Mayo beat us. We’ll have to turn the tables in this regard in 2016 to come out on top of the pile.

  15. Nephin
    Is it as early as the 10th ? Where’d you get that info as I couldn’t find anything online for final only semi. My guess was 17th going by previous years but 10th would suit plans better ?

  16. In my opinion Alan Freeman is our best forward with ball in hand. The problem sometimes has been getting him to win and hold onto the ball. However Big Aiden found it very hard to get hold of the ball when the big boys came out to play by fair means or foul, foul and foul again. But it makes me wonder if the quality of ball going into ball winning full forwards is good enough. Anyhow for the League I sincerely hope Stephen Rockford persists with Freeman , 2 main reasons for this No 1 we will be missing out regular free taker Cillian, Freeman’s stricking of a dead ball is up there with the very best. I certainly believe he’s better at the dead ball than either Jason Docherty, or Kevin McLoughlin. Not only will we without Cillian but also the Castlebar contingent for a few months, I expect some very close games in that time that extra free or two scored in matches can mean the difference between zero points or enough to make the Semis! Number 2 reason to persist with Freeman is I believe he’s a confidence player as almost any forward is, I think if gets a good League season out of himself, he will be there competing for a starting berth on the championship team that would also include Cillian. I have no doubt about his natural scoring ability. I think he’s simply to good of a player for is NOT to give every chance to get the best out of himself and Mayo. A few years ago who would have taught that Tom Parsons would have made such a brilliant return to the Mayo fold. Just a reminder that Class is permanent!

  17. I don’t believe in curses and I don’t think we are afraid in croke park, the days we lost were days we were simply not good enough. I do think we are quiet in matches when things don’t go our way, I know mayo 51 were trying to do something about that last year but we all need to roar our heads off when the lads need it most, to believe we can do it in every game. Let the players do their job, let the manager and his team do theirs and we must do ours – support, shout, roar, believe

  18. HSE agree on the point of making better use of the squad.

    Our squad is as good as any. In the drawn game we made better use of it. One of the great moments of the season for me was Barry coming on at 65 mins or thereabouts in the drawn match, making a sublime first catch and getting rid of Bastick in the process. Wow! Add in Andy, Freezer and we won that aspect hands down.

    Dublin were unlucky in the drawn match – they lost Macauley and Bastick to black cards and nearly paid the price. We lost Seamie to black in the replay, didn’t use Barry effectively and lost another big man in Donie and had Tom P playing with a broken thumb. We did pay the price.

  19. I would say though in fairness that Dublin had a much better bench. No arrangement of subs could have altered that.
    McManamon/Mccauley/Brogan would have all made the Mayo team quite comfortably.
    This year looks different. Young lads a year on and some new faces.

  20. Interesting discussion here. I will be looking for signs of a much improved approach to forward play and movement from this management team. On the basis of their previous involvement in high level Gaelic football, they should have far more to offer in this regard than both of the previous management teams.
    Unlike many Mayo fans last season I was never convinced by Aido at full forward. The attacking football we played at times against dublin, particularly on day one, was caveman stuff. Kicking aimless high balls into big men inside is old school football that simply won’t be good enough to beat this dublin team. Some people talking about Barry at FF – no way!! Midfield is his place IMO. Instead of looking back at mayos performance against dublin last year, I’d much rather focus on Dublin’s style of football that day. Particularly in the replay. The movement of brogan, Andrews and kilkenny was phenomenal, and created multiple shots at points for dublin WITHIN THE SCORING ZONE. We played well in the first half of the replay too, but our scores were coming from much further out the field – indeed some top notch shooting. In any shootout however the team who creates most scoring chances in that 30 meter semicircle around the opposition goal will eventually win. I’m hoping mcentee in particular can improve this aspect of our forward play, as the old “drive it in on top of big Aido and Barry” approach will look great in connacht, but inevitable fall short again at the highest level.

  21. Drive it on top of Aido might have worked if the ball was kicked earlier and lower. As it was the passes were coming in late and high. Dublins defense were in place when the ball was arriving. He needs to show a bit of patience as well. He still has a habit of going down the pitch trying to get involved. It’s only wearing himself out.
    There were very few runners in our attack coming at pace. We were defending deep while still giving up scores to Dublin.

  22. More than anything else we need to learn how to defend. We need a system that everybody understands and that the team are comfortable with. Without that we will manage to beat most teams but the Dubs will carve us open for goals and that will be our downfall. Last year the Dubs hit us for 5 goals over the two games and it could have been more. Even Galway created 4 goal scoring chances against us and managed to convert 2.

    Goals have killed us in the big games over the last 4 years and until we put a team on the field that will concede at most one goal in a game Sam will be going somewhere else.

    The Dubs ( with the best forward line in the country ) understood this after their defeat to Donegal in 2014 and they adjusted accordingly. We need to learn that lesson and implement a solid defensive system during the league and be ready when the championship comes.

    Our first priority must be to defend, anything less and we’re fooling ourselves.

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