Moving on

Pre-match huddle

While we’re still only a few days on from last weekend’s match, the qualifiers – as we’re finding out – don’t allow time to sit and ruminate for too long about what’s just happened. With our next do-or-die battle facing us in the shape of Kildare in just four days time, the focus has to be on what what’s up ahead rather than what’s behind us.

Given the hysterical – to the point of comical – overreaction to the Aidan O’Shea penalty incident (by the way, I’m coming round to the conclusion that it was a penalty after all – for the shirt tug – and even it wasn’t given I’m convinced we’d still have won such was the momentum we had at that stage) it’s no harm that we’ve been able to put some distance at a smart pace between us and all that. Time to move on, onwards and upwards.

I’m already looking forward with anticipation to Saturday, for selfish personal reasons as well as the game. Ever since the Galway defeat I was cursing these blasted qualifiers as I could see that the Round 3B date (should we be so fortunate to still be in it then etc. etc.) clashed with that for the Westportif cycle.

That date clash is still there but the home draw allied to the 7pm throw-in time means that I’ll be able to get the 120km route done, though sadly not the full 160km one. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day to cover than kind of distance, given the 9am start time in Westport and then the logistics afterwards of getting back to base, refuelled and over again to Castlebar in time for throw-in.

I may have emptied the tank on Lally’s Mountain well before throw-in the next day but we’ll all be expecting the lads to pitch up at MacHale Park on Saturday evening primed and ready for another dog-eat-dog tussle. With the safety net stripped away, there really is an element of old-fashioned championship football to the qualifiers, something we’ve only experienced in recent years when we’ve got to Croke Park. There was definitely a different air to MacHale Park last Saturday, with our whole year in the balance for pretty much all of the seventy minutes, and we can expect this and more next Saturday evening when the Lilies come to town.

I touched on this yesterday but it’s worth repeating again (even if those stats on their backdoor record remain maddeningly out of reach) that Kildare know a hell of a lot more about negotiating their way through the qualifiers than we do. They were able to pick themselves up last year following an unmerciful hiding by Dublin in the Leinster semi-final to navigate their way through the backdoor, first overcoming Offaly by two points in a nervy Round 2A clash at O’Connor Park, then dispatching Longford with ease a week later in Mullingar, winning by 2-24 to 0-11. By the time they got hold of Cork in Round 4 the rejuvenated Lilies were once more flying. Cork had come off second best after two tough Munster final jousts with Kerry in Killarney and, forced to take the field again only a week after losing the replay, ended up getting blitzed down in Semple Stadium, Kildare winning by 1-21 to 1-14.

The Kildare 2015 story didn’t, of course, have a happy ending, with Kerry blasting seven goals past them in the All-Ireland quarter-finals as they handed out a 7-16 to 0-10 pasting to the Lilywhites. That horrific dénouement doesn’t take away from the fact that, not for the first time, underperformance in Leinster proved no bar to Kildare getting back to Croke Park and you can be sure that this is what they’re intent on doing this year too.

As, of course, are we. With no new injuries to report from Saturday, things finally seem to be looking up on that front for us. The Mayo News (paper and digital variants) reports today that Chris Barrett and Conor Loftus, who have both been out with hamstring trouble, are back in training and may be in the frame for selection on Saturday. Tom Parsons, though, is still on the road to recovery but, if we get past this next hurdle, he could well be good to go in Round 4B. That’s if there is to be a Round 4B for us. One game at a time and all that.

There’s loads, as ever, in the Mayo News this week on the football. I particularly enjoyed Billy Joe Padden’s tactics column and Stephen Rochford’s calm rejection of the OTT pundit reaction to the Aidan O’Shea incident – in an interview with Mike Finnerty he calls it “unhelpful and unnecessary” – was good to see as well. He says we’ve already moved on and that we have. How long until Saturday?

44 thoughts on “Moving on

  1. Good stuff there Willie Joe.

    BTW does anyone have a list of the subs as named in the programme on Saturday last? One of the cruel frustrations of missing the real thing

  2. Agree with you that Kildare have used the qualifier route well down through the years. We must exercise caution given some of the teams that are now out. I feel if we approach this with a focused attitude that we should prevail. I am concerned with our shape and structure at times though Fermanagh are a well drilled outfit and we negotiated the task with some of the running and tackling that made us formidable last year. Aidan O’Shea answered his critics and I was one that said a spell on the bench might not be any harm after a poor league and defeat to Galway. It shows that management are usually better placed than supporters to make these decisions. That said I will give my opinion on what team I would put out to face Kildare: Clarke, Harrison, Keane, Nally, Keegan, Boyle, Higgins, S O Shea, B Moran, McLoughlin, A O Shea, D O Connor, E Regan, A Moran, C O Connor. Bench important and I feel Coen, Vaughan, Durcan, Dillon, Doherty and Loftus if fit could have a part to play. Rochford used bench well the last day and was less effective with his decision making v Galway. As I said in earlier post, these mistakes could well shape him. Though Andy missed three chances, he looked eager, took up great positions and having him on at the start and Dillon later may well give that balance and guile needed.

  3. Bench last Saturday in order 16 to 26 Hennelly, Hall, Drake, Vaughan, B Moran, Nally, Dillon Conor O Shea, Andy Moran, Freeman (Doherty wore 14 and came on) Carolan

  4. drake seems to be very much on the fringes, got minimal game time in the league and zero in the championship.

    He will be lucky to make the bench if we progress and all injuries clear up

  5. There is an excellent Jim McGuinness article in the Irish times today. Its a thought provoking article.
    Just as a taster of the depth of some of the good bits:
    Because our pitches are mostly on the coast in Donegal and we are exposed to the Atlantic winds, it made sense for Donegal to retain possession and look to develop a slick running game.

  6. Great to hear Barrett and Loftus are on the road to recovery and might be in the frame for selection for Saturday. Two guys that are well able to take w score. Whilst I’m afraid to look past next Saturday I keep thinking these qualifiers are a blessing in disguise nothing like a few tough games to sharpen a team of we get through to a quarter final we will know our strengths and weakness and how to work on them

  7. Thanks a million to Joet and NearHandin for list of subs.

    Yes interesting that Drake has had no game time, Hall too, Carolan and Conor O’Shea all twiddling their thumbs. Maybe this tells us of a management in crisis mode who are not ready to experiment with new faces just yet.

  8. Was listening to the first few minutes of the SportsJoe podcast last night – ignoring that the whole is would appear to be pure clickbait, which is an argument for another day – they’ve added wooly Parkinson there’s an element of credibility about them now at least.
    Mossy Quinn commented that there doesn’t appear to be a gameplan and given what I’ve seen I find it hard to disagree with him. The only gameplan might have been duiring the first half the plan (if there was one) was more one of containment but to be honest, that didn’t really work that well. I did see us finish with our most experienced team, whether that ended up being the case by accident or design is another matter. The subs when they came on, to be fair, were the right decisions and at the right times. When you consider those subs,Vaughan, Barry, Alan, Andy and Jason, it’s not a bad bench to be able to select from, nor a bad team to be ending the game with either when things are in the melting pot.
    I did think in the second half when we had the more experienced heads on the natural tendency was to attack and while we had a boat load of missed chances, we did create them and to be honest, even going in 6 points down at half time I figured we would be able to make that up in the second, and that we did. You know things are going our way when you see Keegan and Boyler scoring. I did see an interesting graphic by Rob Carroll on Twitter showing the position of AOS and Cillian during the game – it looked very defensive, and while you might allow for AOS to drop back more often, I just think it’s too much defensiveness is what is causing the current look on the team. Things do look confused and there does appear to be an uncertainty about who should be doing what. Jim McGuinness might well be right in what he says there are many bad versions of the Donegal gameplan out there, I’m perhaps being optimistic that ours might be going to come good at the right time.

    While I’m personally not sold on the notion of Kevin Mc as Sweeper, he did a fine job there and if the role of the sweeper involves collecting dirty ball, you’d be hard pressed to find someone other than Kevin for that job. The problem it leaves us with is that he is sorely missed at the other end of the pitch, and the quality of ball to the forwards is suffering as a result. I think that Jason Doc is the one to replace Kevin in the forward Unit when Kevin is sweeping. As for Keith in the forwards, that did work well the last day, and he certainly would have been my number 2 for MOM after Kevin. Again, I’m not entirely sold on this positional switch but I’m hopeful there is more in it than I’m seeing and that it just needs more game time for it to come to fruition. I strongly suspect that it’s a plan for games later down the line, which brings me to the point of fitness. We certainly looked less “leggy” in the second half than we did at any point during the game against Galway – I’m hoping that the S&C coaching is about to come good at the right time and that we’ll have the appropriate mix of both for this Saturday and any games we might have after that.

    For the next day, given Andy and Alan’s age profile and how long they can realistically be in a game for, I don’t think they can start, but the other 3 could certainly argue for a starting place if they are fit. I do think Durcan and Coen are doing OK, although neither shot the lights out the last day either, but a bit more experience and improved confidence is what they need I believe. Freeman certainly appears to be a bit off the boil but he was playing quite deep and the quality of ball into the forward line while he was on was very poor.

    I’ve not seen much of Kildare this year but to be honest, and I think we will have the edge and with home advantage, I think we will have enough. I’ll take a 1 point win as the margin of victory is academic once you’re into the next round.
    If we are to overcome Kildare, which I do expect we will (Caveat – I thought We’d beat Galway too) we will need to avoid injuries and also have those that are still on the physio’s bench still to come back – Loftus, Parsons and Barrett will be needed should we get to play in Croker this year at any stage.

    Anyway – onwards and upwards. Doubtful I’ll make Castlebar this weekend either, so for those that are there, please make sure you roar on the boys for me too.

  9. give me the qualifiers any time , a championship do or die game every week !
    whats not to like ?

    the most important outcome of winning this game and then perhaps winning the next would be the end of this whole “mayo are no good in the qualifers “story.

    that alone would be a great achievement for Rochford in his first year.

  10. Is it me WJ or are the country’s media/public turning slowly against us? Don’t think we’re everyone’s second team anymore? No that we should give a shite

  11. There has been an element of cargo-cult defensiveness seeping into Gaelic football for quite some time now. For the highest scoring team in the league to play the way they did on Sunday beggars belief and shows a massive lack of confidence in their own abilities. Even in the last minute when the game was there to be won with a kick of the ball no-one stepped up to take the shot. The defensive game seemed to drain the life out of Roscommon. For a team to deploy a defensive shield in that manner you need complete buy-in from the entire squad and practice, practice, practice. Roscommon played it too safe and almost got caught-out. I expect a far more open game on Sunday.

    I cannot see Mayo ever deploying such a system, not with this current squad of players. They are too wedded to their running game. The sweeper-system will probably be as good as we’ll get.

  12. I think they are, Clonee Man, and I don’t think there’s anything slow about. Like you, I couldn’t care less either. As others have said, I’d prefer we were hated rather than patronised.

  13. The other thing I thought was telling about Sunday’s game was that all those brilliant forwards that Galway and Roscommon are supposed to have were all very reluctant to shoot when the pressure was really on!

  14. The big difference between the first half and the second half the last day was a nice s.w wind, force about 6 on the Beaufort alone it was,that determined the tactics/ strategies/plans. And if any of these were emminating from the line,woe be they cos didn’t we nearly get caught out but for the excellent Clarke and the ever so cool Vaughan with the clearence.

  15. mayo’s game plan is developing and to me it’s quite easy see what Mayo for this year is all about. And hopefully these extra games will help fine tune it. It’s a game plan to tackle the dubs or any top team head on, play 5 defenders and a sweeper, high press on their kickouts, force turnovers, quick transition from defence to attack, as we saw with McLaughlin the last day. Higgins and D O’connor provide extra cover as required and counter attack quickly.
    So if Mayo can keep improving this plan, keep giving as many of the panel game time and of course keep winning they’ll hit Croker in great shape. And I bet Jim Gavin has already considered the prospect of getting Mayo in the QF and won’t like that one bit! We need luck with injuries for sure but it’s still all there for this team !

  16. Puckout I imagine Jim Gavin is relishing the thoughts of putting an end to our dreams for the foreseeable future by thrashing us.

    I fear that is what awaits us if we are lucky to get that far because defensively we are at sea at the moment.

    A step up on the Galway game the last day was welcome. We need to keep winning and improving and then, maybe just, we can have a decent shot at a big gun in a quarter final. However it would be a huge ask given the state of our full back line who are down to the bare bones and without protection

  17. Its an inevitable backlash in irish society that anyone who has been seen to get above their station should be given a good kicking and brought back down to earth (‘scuse the pun). AOS is a target for that because he has quiet a high profile with some ads and the like and more power to him, and of course “The Toughest Trade” documentary. People mock the whole “arragha, we played ok, and its not about me, its about the team, and we’ll be lucky to beat the Kilkenny B football team the next day as they are a fine side” interviews from players but that’s what they want to hear. Anything else and the player is considered to be getting too big for his boots. Remember Conor Mort on Mid west after beating Galway in the Connacht semi one year, “will ye beat Roscommon” “ah now if we cant we’re at nothing, they are not up to much” we did beat them as we know but the outrage that followed!!!

    Similarly the team themselves had the temerity to not be happy with their lot with the honour of giving up their lives to play football for their county for free, and actually wanted some say. There are two outcomes from that, if you manage to come back out the next year, blitz everyone and win the All Ireland, your a pack of geniuses. Anything less than that and its “sure who did they think they were” “that’ll teach them” and a whole host of people will take great glee from it.

    What we are probably also seeing is a certain amount of fatigue from Mayo about the neutral. And I can understand that. They have probably wished Mayo to win it but Mayo have let them down they feel, and now we’re only annoying them when we raise a gallop and look like we’re making another push. Because they invest in us then when they hope we win, and that investment has led to disappointment. Disappointment leads to disillusion and dislike over time.

    Trying being from the fecken county lads and it not being an option!!

  18. Good point Ger, full back line at present tackling brogan etc doesn’t bode well but hopefully the more games the tighter the defensive unit will get. We’re still one of the few teams that can match their pace and physicality. Hopefully we’ll get a rattle at them yet!

  19. Exactly East Cork, Farmilairty breeds contempt and that seems to be the case with some of our fans let alone the tv pundits and press, but I think its a good thing , rahter than being the sweet bridesmaids, lets win at any cost .

    Suited Kerry only 2 years ago when they set in the siege mentality, “Are you watching Joe Brolly”

  20. Great post East Cork Exile. Bang on the money on all fronts. Its important to give Stephen Rochford time. He needs to establish himself in the dressing room and with the team. That takes time and doesnt happen overnight. This could be a 3 year process. Generally it is with a new management. Its only supporters impatience that builds the pressure. The team will strenghten with new faces over the next couple of years and bingo we will cross the line. I reckon we will probably get beaten this year in quarter or semi and we will all be back again the next year, and the next , and the next, and the next, and the next

  21. In relation to our current set-up, its a very hard one to call, James Horan almost got us over the line with the running game, then Noel and Pat tried to tweak that slightly but we still didn’t quite get over the line. So the new lads in the management team have tried some radial things, which have not quite worked for us so far. Horan’s tactics ultimately didn’t work, Noel and Pat’s tactics also didn’t work fully so now the new lads are trying something different.

    I suppose your damned if you do and your damned if you don’t. If we played no sweeper in the Galway match and they scored a few early goals, then everyone would probably be saying why didn’t our new management team shore up our defence with a sweeper system. It’s a very hard balance to strike. In reality it has only been since early May that the management team have had most of the players available to them. For example last Saturday was Barry Moran’s first outing for us this year. So it must be very hard to get the preferred structures in place.

    It is hard to figure out sometimes what we are trying to do. In the Galway game we probably only produced about 10 minutes of real attacking football. In the Fermanagh game the amount of time that we played attacking football increased so hopefully in the Kildare game, that will increase again. Maybe the management team have been too radical in what they have been trying, it’s hard to get the balance right, we’ll see how it goes anyway. One game at a time, as the saying goes.

  22. The one thing that really disappointed me last Saturday was giving Fermanagh that late goal chance to snatch a draw. Having worked so hard throughout that second half and gotten ourselves into a winning position we let a Fermanagh guy solo past about four Mayo players and get a pass in to create a goal chance. Clarke made a great save but surely we need to be ruthless in closing out games when we get into a position like this.

    It has been a consistent failing of this team and one that we never seem to learn from – do whatever, take a black card but do not let them in for a goal chance. None of the top teams would let that happen and we need to wise up and be as cynical as the rest of them.

  23. East Cork they will always be knock until they have All Ireland medal, that’s just the way it is

  24. Don’t mean to keep talking about this but has anyone been watching the Dublin GAA fan pages on Facebook? They are seriously obsessed with the Aidan O’Shea incident. The lot of them talking about how Andy Moran is a disgrace for sticking up for Aido when Jim Gavin and Dublin fans turn a blind eye to any controversy they’re involved in. I wonder could something like this benefit our squad in a strange way? Since the Galway game we’ve been listening to rumours of discontent in the squad. Maybe this will help to build a tight bond between management and players.

    I would keep Higgins and Kev Mc in their new roles from now on. Partly because it’s too late to change everything again, but also I think both played very well last Saturday and will only improve further as they become accustomed to their new roles.

  25. Some info from Rochford’s interview in the Mayo News for anyone who didn’t see it:

    Barrett and Loftus will train fully this week and are in contention for Kildare game.

    Parsons will be involved in some running but unlikely to feature in the game.

    U21 winner Eoin O’Donoghue has been called into the squad as replacement for Caff.

  26. I can only see Mayo improve as the season, hopefully, goes on and the new system kicks in. I still don’t think Higgins, one of the best full backs in the business, is a scoring forward
    which is why I would have McLoughlin stay loosely in the half forward line while Higgins takes over the sweeper role.

    It’s taking time for the players to get used to the system as Lee Keegan said after the Fermanagh game: “At the end of the day we’ve to trust Stephen the way he’s setting up the structure, the process.” then he added tellingly: “We just came out in the second half and PUT THE FOOT DOWN” (my caps).

    Was it my imagination but I thought I saw Aidan O’Shea point to his knee shortly before he was taken off at the end. Glad to see no injury worries reported.

  27. Having watched the game twice now I don’t think we are as radically different this year as people think. We running game is still there, we really are just taking kevin McLoughlin and playing him as a sweeper. We gave up two goal chances against Fermanagh and 2 against Galway. This is a big improvement from previous seasons. I think Harrison and Keane have done quite well so far but with Kevin’s help but bigger challenges lie ahead

  28. Yes our fb line has to tighten – Harrison particularly, who can be turned very easily. Seems to be a bit of switch off at the back late on, which is serious for an experienced team.

    For instance All the Way mentions the near miss at the end, but there was also the end of the first half. I watched it again last night and it confirmed my first viewing impression (and indeed the bit I heard on Mid West at Santiago de Compostela, if I may name check): namely that we had done quite well up to 32 minutes, trailing by 3 against a storm. Then 3 points for Fermanagh turned things into a crisis for us. This happened also against Down, and Monaghan to a lesser extent near the end of both matches.

    This set up hasn’t yet developed a ruthless streak and we need to do so fast.

  29. Delighted to see young guy eoin o Donaghue drafted into squad. Great experience for him. Teak tough but sure being from belmullet he must be a hard root. One mans loss another mans gain although caff was playing well and will be missed but that’s life. A lot of talk about Higgins and kmac here today. Having watched Keith closely he not as tight a marker as he used to be. Apart from few slips he done well on sat. He will enjoy a galvin type roll in mopping up dirty ball and breaking at speed. He can distribute as well so all in all things ain’t to bad. They say nothing changes if nothing changes. So we did need change to get that bit extra. A few tweets here and there might be all it takes. Time will tell.

  30. I’d have to agree with you All the Way. That save from Clarke towards the end proved vital. A goal for them at that stage would have ensured a very nervy finish indeed.

    Brolly [the snide little #*%+] did make one interesting point recently when he noted how Kerry systematically foul once a runner breaks through the middle to threaten a major. It never warrants a card but they make sure the danger is snuffed out before a goal is coughed up.

    I’m not advocating we pursue a policy of strategic fouling but we do need to invoke a little more nous at times. If we’re up by a couple and the clock is running down, no runner should get next nor near our goal.

  31. Here’s what Kieran Shannon had to say in de Paper today – interesting:

    “The qualifiers too, for the exploits of Longford and the presence of Mayo, haven’t been this intriguing since at least the 2012 Kerry-Tyrone showdown in Killarney. In the first-half last Saturday, Mayo looked like a side caught between two eras and two stools and identities, with the over-stifling and defensive tactics, the absence of Donie Vaughan, and what was with wearing that black-and-lime kit at home?

    It’s fine to dare to be different and to have the option of setting up a bit different defensively against a Dublin and wear the alternative gear on the road, but against Fermanagh, at home?

    In the second-half, they went back to what they knew best. A big part of what made Mayo Mayo the last five years was a thoroughbred like Vaughan breaking through the middle, popping it off to a shooter on the loop or going on to score himself. Any shackles Mayo have tend to be shaken off when he’s on the field because he just breaks through them. They’d do worse than to start him next Saturday against Kildare in Castlebar and to ditch the shackles and black-and-lime gear while they’re at it.

    It could be a good and long summer for them yet. And for all us neutrals”.

  32. Mayodan, the dublin fans are annoyed with us because they thought we were out of the race and one less headache for them. You should take them with a grain of salt, and I’m certain aos is laughing about it, dublin giving out about cheating or thuggery, how rich?

  33. Mayo have two basic problems that have not gone away (i) loose defending that costs us goals at crucial stages in games (and almost did at the end of last week’s game) and (ii) our forwards don’t score enough from general play. Both of these aspects of our game were the reason for the loss against Dublin last year. if you remember we were generally on top in the ‘third quarter’ of both games against Dublin last year but on both occasions we failed to put enough scores on the board. The we conceded two soft goals late in the second game and they got a scoring burst late in the first game (from which we recovered). It was the same thing in the 2013 final – dominated the first half but failed to put scores on the board……and then gave away a soft goal that turned the whole game. Unless Evan Regan or Conor Loftus can start finding the scores I can’t see this part of our game improving (i.e. scoring from general play). Therefore, we can only hope for it to be compensated by scores from midfield and the half-backs (Keegan x 2 and Boyle got good points in the second half last weekend).

    One other thing worth mentioning: Fermanagh were quite a decent team and a hard nut to crack. They were well organised and held on to the ball very well. After all, we were still a point down when we got the penalty. I’m not sure people appreciate how ‘sticky’ they were as opposition. We should beat Kildare though.

  34. You know a Corkmans biggest nightmare is to beat Kerry in the Munster final and wake up the next morning and realise they are still in the competition !!!!

  35. My team for Kildare. Clarke
    Harrison Keane Coen
    Mc Loughlin
    Keegan Vaughan Boyle
    S O Shea B Moran
    Higgins A O Shea D O Conner
    Regan C O Conner

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