Offaly nick challenge win with last-minute goal

We lost this afternoon’s challenge match against Offaly in Ballintubber on a scoreline of 2-12 to 0-15.  Leading by 0-8 to 0-5 at half-time, the Faithful hit us with two second half goals and it was the second of these, scored right at the end, that sealed the three-point win for them.

I’ve very little else in the way of detail on the game, I’m afraid, and what I’ve got has come from the ever-reliable Mayo GAA Twitter account as well as a very brief mention of the game on  For the record, here’s the team that started for us today:

Mayo (SF Challenge v Offaly, 14/5/2011): David Clarke (Ballina Stephenites), Ronan Rochford (Crossmolina), Ger Cafferkey (Ballina Stephenites), Cathal Hallinan (Ballintubber); Chris Barrett (Belmullet), Tom Cunniffe (Castlebar Mitchels), Donal Vaughan (Ballinrobe); Jason Gibbons (Ballintubber), James Kilcullen (Ballaghaderreen); Aidan Campbell (Swinford), Aidan O’Shea (Breaffy), Alan Dillon (Ballintubber); Trevor Howley (Knockmore), Alan Freeman (Aghamore), Enda Varley (Garrymore).

There would have been a fair few subs introduced over the course of the game as well, I suppose, but I don’t have any details on that front.

I’m loathe to read anything into team selections or, indeed, results from challenge games but the the most noticeable fact to leap out from the above line-out is that Ger Cafferkey played at 3 while Tom Cunniffe replaced him at 6.  Tom is, for sure, a more natural half-back than he is a corner man but I hope this experiment doesn’t mean that we’re entering Johnno 2007 territory (think James Kilcullen, think BJP) this close to the start of the championship.

And it’s not just the fear of tinkering I’d have either.  Don’t forget that Tom’s one and only outing for us in the championship at centre-back was against Sligo last year and while he was just back from a long lay-off when playing there that day, his sub-standard performance then should make James Horan think long and hard before considering placing him at 6 again in a championship match.

Trevor Howley’s placing at 13 obviously means that he was being given a run-out for the position of seventh defender, where he now appears to be in direct competition with his Knockmore clubmate Kevin McLoughlin.  You’d have to think that Trevor could do alright in such a role but the fact that we shipped 2-12 to a team like Offaly does kinda hint that all wasn’t well in the defence this afternoon, seven backs or no seven backs.

The other point of note from today’s game is that despite fielding a forward line missing only Andy Moran and Jason Doherty from the sextet we can expect to see starting in the championship, we only managed to post a total of fifteen points. No Jason, so no goals is the obvious (perhaps too obvious) observation here but, despite the Goal Machine’s absence,  you’d still expect a forward line like today’s to put up a more respectable tally than the one they managed.

But it was only a challenge and I don’t know how seriously we took it, in particular how much chopping and changing we did on the day. If anyone was at the match today and would care to provide their thoughts on it, any info you have would be greatly appreciated.

11 thoughts on “Offaly nick challenge win with last-minute goal

  1. Cafferkey back at No.3 and Cunniffe at No. 6 (their same positions againt Sligo last year)
    and Spailpin will still argue that we have a settled backline. Anyone like to hazard a guess at the staring 6 against London. Back in ’96 and ’97 we knew coming into the championship that Cahill was No.3 and Nallen No. 6. We just don’t have that quality or certainity any more. To say otherwise is ridiculous.

  2. most of the subs got a run, seamie o shea lasted about 30 sec went of with shoulder injury ,operation howley didnt seem to work that well, our delivery to ff line with the wind in first half was very poor. mort playerd second half in half back line did fairly well there. plenty of fellas thet need to up their game for championship big time , offaly deserved their win..

  3. Thanks for that, H51. There’s more info as well on the match on the Mayo GAA Facebook page (and thanks too guys for alerting me to this), which relates to scorers and subs. The scorers were Alan Dillon (0-6), Aidan Campbell (0-4), Alan Freeman (0-2), Chris Barrett, Enda Varley and Peadar Gardiner (0-1 each). The subs who came on were Eoghan Reilly, Alan Feeney, Peadar Gardiner, Dermot Geraghty, Trevor Mortimer, Seamus O’Shea, Neil Douglas, Kevin McLoughlin and Kevin Dolan. No info on who went off, apart from the injured SO’S.

  4. Rochford, Kilcullen, Barrett, Howley, S O’Shea, definitely came off-not sure about the rest. Completely outmuscled and outthought for most of the game, our defence is im afraid to say in complete disarray. Full back line turned by their direct opponent at will throughout-sounds harsh but you would be hard pressed to pick anyone who could say they had a decent perfomance. Freeman looked as stylish as ever up front but was living of scraps, Dillon kicked a couple of nice points but other than that our forwards were poor. We were beaten at midfield pretty much from start to finish. Kilcullen did put up some resistance but went off, reportedly injured at halftime. Of the returning pair Mortimer and Geraghty, Trevor did ok certainly no better or worse then those around him. Geraghty unfortunately had to return to take up a place in a shables of a defence at that stage and im afraid although he battled manfully he got a roasting same as most of his colleagues around him. In a word I would describe this performance as bleak.

  5. Just like we didnt read too much into the Antrim game we wont read too much into this.
    however putting the league and these challenges into perspective there are some worrying trends developing:

    – we appear far too loose at the back and likely to conced soft goals
    – the above implies it but its worth sayingour defence does appear to be very disorganised.
    – Without jason Doherty there doesnt appear to be a goal scoring threat, Freeman is another good scoring forward, Dillon perhaps so also on his day. thats a bit concerning, we need at least 2 more to be able to outscore the damage that will occur against stronger teams that at this late stage we might not be able to fix.
    – The spine of our team still isnt settled. This was my big criticism of Johnno’s reign (i’m sure he was worried by it;) ) that, come the high stool talk pre first championship match lads could be putting whatever players they wanted on the back of beer mats regarding 3, 6, 8, 9, 11 and 14 and they had as much chance as being right as wrong.
    As someone else mentioned, 3 and 6 are the big ones, I’d get over not being sure about our 11 and 14, less so 8 and 9 but 3 and 6 have to be well settled by the time the hard ground of summer comes around.
    One thing I was sure we’d get from the James Horgan era was a hard working, tight backline a la Ballintubber, concerning that in some ways we’re almost seeing the opposite of it. Its concerning but as WJ says, sadly we’re acustomed to not having a clue where we’re at in the greater scheme of things come Championship time over the last 7 or 8 years.

  6. Like air leaking from a balloon we are deflating. Thats a poor result, Antrim are rubbish, just saw a boring Donegal side eventually finish them off. Offaly are a poor outfit. We should stop copying other sides. This crap about a seventh defender is just that…crap. Better to go down like men trying our best then go down like wimps trying to be a poor mans Tyrone or Cork. Mayo know only one way, give it a lash, we might actually succeed. Howley cannot make it as a regular defender, why think he is going to make it in a role alien to us as a county?

  7. The best full back line I saw all year was the one we used against Kerry,the two Feeneys and Tom Cunniffe.They just picked up the men that they each could handle and did pretty well on the day I thought,with none of them a full back as such but all committed to defend.There seemed to be some sort of understanding between them two of them being brothers and Tom being a fellow club man.
    I couldn`t understand why ,in the very next game,Richie Feeney was picked in the half back line only to play a la Gardnier mostly in the half foreward line.
    The problem seems to be that most of our backs could make it as midfielders or half forewards on their club teams and are not inclined to stick to the knittin`ie to mark their men as their number one job.
    Then I hear Trever Mortimer was brought on as a half back the last day!Surely at this stage we could probally sell nearly half a dozen of that type of player ie half backs that want to be going for glory up front because they are not natural defenders.
    I was talking to a man that spent a good few years during the eighties in the Mayo foreward recently,and he said that it`s space a foreward needs when he`s on the ball not the whole half back line all around him because it`s a foreward he would want to offload the ball to as he would be much more likely to score than a back.
    Simple enough really, backs play in their own half of the field because most of them,with the exception of a few like Mark O`Shea,couldn`t score in a brothal!

  8. pj, your comment makes for interesting reading, notably the point about Feeney. I agree with you on that, and to think how much better our centre back line would be with Keith Higgins. There are two main worries for me and that would be at no.6 where in my opinion Donal Vaughan is perfectly suited with his athleticism and physique. The other worry is the idea of playing with an extra defender in the forwards. It’s not down to what anyone who played in the 80’s say, because in all honestly football hs moved on so much since then.I feel James has a lack of faith in our defense and probably rightly so,i just hope he gets it sorted between now and Galway which I feel he will.

  9. Just back Spailpin from the West and can I nod in my admiration for you, you know that.But I honestly believe that whilst we might have a settled back six , we have not got a reliable back six. From the days of the Prendergasts, through Ford and Cahill we were safe at 3. I cannot name a solid Mayo full back since Kevin went.

    Heaney had a great career blighted at 3, good for most games, scorched on the big Sunday. Not his fault. He was a mid or half back. Again we went for the easy option, use and abuse the Heaney’s and BJ’s of this world.

    Our defending is pathetic even if the players are settled. Settled does not mean safe. We conceded the most in the league. That stat, and I hate stats, tells a cautionary tale.

    What are the underage coaches at in Mayo? mass producing 5′-8″ fast wing backs but unable to give us a 3, 6, 8/9,11.

    You come to a stage where although you love your county you kinda admit that you’ve been around long enough to say it as it is. Collectively this set of Mayo backs are poor. Pretending otherwise does ourselves a disservice. but James should try something different. Try front loading the forward line for a change. Its not in our psyche to grind at the back, we cannot. But on a given day the sight of rampant Mayo forwards is a joy.

    The next team to break the Kerry, Tyrone and Cork stranglehold will do it by NOT copying them. I agree 100% with Spailpin. I fear no team especially Tyrone, we got a great record v them. What I do fear is the lack of real belief in ourselves, our grovelling and cowardly respect for Galway and a county board that are permenantly out of synch with the real world out there.

    God gave us a 21 spell 1989-2010 and in that spell we were like the economy…we wasted a lot of talent and chances. Now the chickens are roosting and we seem threadbare. However a bold coach with nothing to lose will throw off the shackles, ditch daft defensive drills and go for it.

    I would rather lose two straight championship games fighting like a man than struggle with tactics like that awful tripe Donegal served yesterday.

    Finally Spailpin, as said early, you I nod to, I read you avidly and its great WJs site gives us the chance to let the steam flow and the vents widened.

  10. Hi Ontheroad. Indeed what you have said may very well be true regards our backs as a unit, the seventh defender gameplan, our overall attitude about groveling and towards Galway.

    But at the end of the day we still have to play in the championship and I would rather win ugly (ala Donegal) than lose consecutive matches. My reasoning is twofold. I would hold that winning builds confidence and also Donegal might come out the next day against Cavan and play like masters of the sport. We’ll wait and see.

    W.r.t 3 and 6 well right now we can only play with the cards we have been dealt. As An Spáilpin said Ger C has been on duty at 6 throughout the entire League campaign. To change it now for the championship seems rather ludicrous. Maybe though because it was only a challenge that he was dispatched back to 3 and Tom was moved out to 6. Reasoning might be to judge the possible scenario of Ger C getting injured?? We have to have some sort of cover for the number 6 position after all.

    My own 2 cents worth would be we should be aiming to start with roughly the same team that lined out and beat the AI champs in Castlebar. That was the best Mayo performance of the
    League. Also it seemed to be a reasonably balanced team although it possibly could include a few changes especially Ronan McG and maybe Jason Gibbons.

    The only other point I would make is that we need to be more physical in our approach. The reason Kerry and Cork (and up to more recently Tyrone) were on the winners stand was because they could mix it when they had to.
    Dara O’Shea summed it up in one of his opinion pieces last year re Cork and Kerry. He said the first 10 to 15 minutes were always like a whirlwind with enormous hits coming in from all sides. The gist of it was that nice guys win nothing. Ergo that’s the physicality and intensity we need to be displaying as well.

  11. Regarding the full back issue, I coach alot of rugby (Godforgive me) and even in the most technical of positions, if your stuck you can take any talented player who has the physical attributes for that position and as long as they are willing, over timetrain them into being pretty good at that position. Full back on a football team, while not an easy position, is also not that technical. I cant see why instead of chopping and changing, they havent taken someone with the phyiscal attributes (in my opinion a talented 6 footer, good in the air, with intelligence) and put them there, get a specialist to work with them, and leave them there. At the very least come championship time you’d have someone who knows the position pretty well and is learning game over game. Sure you’d probably have some games where they were roasted but its all part of the learning curve. We’ll get nowhere chopping and changing and expecting a great 3 to fall out of the sky.

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