On and off the road


I thought I’d got away with it there: it was only last night, by which time we’d returned to base here in Dublin, that anyone first remarked about my absence from the site. But absent I was, having spent a few activity-laden days down in Mayo with the laptop switched off.

It was only a short break, though, and we made it back home last night. There’s been plenty of chat going on while we were away and, with August just up ahead, it’s good to be thinking with increased confidence about our still being in the thick of things in the month to come.

The win over Kildare and our forthcoming qualifier clash with Westmeath (I’ll do a low-down piece on them, by the way, at some point over the next day or two like I did for Fermanagh and Kildare – the extra week between games has given me a bit more wiggle-room in this regard) is dealt with in detail in this week’s Mayo News podcast.

I’m in there again, doing a far less stressed Before/During/After chat with Rob Murphy, Billy Joe (and Abigail) are there too, so is Irish Independent writer Colm Keys and Mayo News regulars Edwin McGreal and Danny Carey. You can listen to the podcast here:

While I’m blowing my own trumpet, the ‘On the Road’ piece I did for this week’s Mayo News, where I talk about the Westportif and the Kildare match, is here.

One of the benefits of being temporarily located in the west this week was being able to pick up copies – real paper ones – of the local papers. It’s really handy, of course, being able to access the digital variants when based up here but you can’t beat the real thing.

Pieces of relevance in this week’s Mayo News that you can have a look at online include Billy Joe Padden’s tactics column and an analysis by Ger Flanagan of Stephen Rochford’s cool and calm demeanour at the Kildare match. The piece by Mike Finnerty about Kevin Keane (here) appears, thankfully, to have been since overtaken by events, with Stephen Rochford confirming last night at the press briefing for the Westmeath game that, aside from long-term absentee Ger Cafferkey, he’ll have full deck to pick from for Saturday week.

That press briefing was on surprisingly early but then, as has already been pointed out in the comments, equally early is today’s deadline for season ticket holders to avail of the Bring a Friend option for the Westmeath match. Why this particular curtain needs to come down nine days ahead of the game isn’t clear to me but I guess we should be happy that carping about ticketing details now relates to a match at Croke Park rather than one at MacHale Park.

Speaking of our next do-or-die match, Paddy Power clearly don’t think much of the Lake County’s much vaunted status as the second-best team in Leinster: we’re 1/16 to do the business on Saturday week, with the handicap set at -8. Let’s end for now with a poll – what do you reckon to those odds? Will we do it?

Will we beat Westmeath?

  • Yes (89%, 593 Votes)
  • No (11%, 71 Votes)

Total Voters: 664

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42 thoughts on “On and off the road

  1. Welcome back hope u enjoyed
    Your break. Wouldn’t completely write off westmeath. Will be a tight 1st half with our lads hopefully putting it to bed early in 2nd half. We dnt want a repeat of galway match.
    Great to hear everyone is back training be good to see parson back in midfield he has been missed.

  2. Good man Willie Joe, thought you had done a runner to America with the Dublin lads.

  3. Welcome back WJ, greenway is great,
    If the bum can take it!
    We went up to Beleek Castle on the hot
    Day, great to check out these beautiful
    Places on our doorstep, an for someone who put in the 35 year shift
    In London an now decovering my
    Roll on sat week!
    Maigheo Abu ???

  4. Does anyone know if it’s possible to set up a seating group between Cairde Maigh Eo and Croke Park season ticket holders?

  5. Ah that has to be the greenway just west of Mulranny? Just completed the cycle with the young ones from Newport to Achill, will do it again next month – its compulsive absorbing Mayo beauty where many an all Ireland has been won too.

  6. Have never forgiven Westmeath for
    Stopping me getting to Croker!
    Under21 hurling semi 1967!!
    Those question marks there replaced
    a green an red heart : ))

  7. The O’Shea penalty decision is still lingering on .What’s interesting is there has been no mention of Boylers black card incident against Kildare.I don’t bother engaging with these keyboard warriors anymore its a pointless exercise. Most of them know jack shite about GAA. Looking forward to day out in croker. Will be interesting to see what we are like on the bigger pitch with more space. I think we will get a win.I’m hoping for a further improvement ,not to concede goals .McLaughlin is starting to settle into his role Westmeath game should bring him on even more.

  8. Welcome back WJ, hope you enjoyed the scenery during the Westport Sportif race.

    I have been told but have not seen for myself that the Mayo GAA banter page had a fantastic picture of 1000 sheep leaving McHale Park on Sunday last at half time. I guess they had blue and yellow paint. It did not say whether they were leaving off their own free will or whether they were kidnapped aka stolen. !!!

  9. The Aidan O’Shea thing won’t die – that is to say, HoganStand and RTE won’t let it die. Round and round she goes.

    I made a suggestion earlier to some friends that we should change all our FB profile pics to that now infamous image of Aidan’s alleged dive. Lets embrace the hate and make them hate us even more!

  10. WJ – Don’t forget you can get the real copies of the regional newspapers in Easons every Thursday/Friday – that’s what I always do after the games.

    One quick point about the match date – I have never agreed with games on a bank holiday weekend, especially August. Lots of people are away on holidays etc. more so that your average summer weekend. I know several people not going Saturday week for that reason. I remember 2 years ago after the Cork Q/F win, the pubs in Drumcondra were very quiet. Still its a good complaint to have I guess.

  11. Don’t usually write too much on the site – someone else usually has made my point before I get round to it. But I feel the urge at the moment… we are at a key point in the season and crunch time is coming – can we get back to the intensity and dynamism we are used to from the past few summers, and will the tactical changes Rochford & Co are implementing come together in time?

    We are lucky to have two excellent shot stoppers but I’m still torn between who I’d prefer to see on the pitch. Clarke commands the square better under the high ball, but (Deep breath… where’s that flak jacket gone?) I think Hennelly is quicker and more varied/accurate with longer range kickouts. Not to mention the added option he presents for long range frees. Westmeath won’t press up like Kildare did, so I expect a lot of short kickouts next week, but I do hope to see a few long ones and some sort of pattern and movement in midfield to maximise our chances – which was missing last week.

    As ever we are stuck in the dilemma between properly protecting our goal and utilising the scoring threat we possess when our backline attacks at pace. Kevin McLoughlin is steadily improving in the sweeper role, but is still not quite there (ref Kildare’s goal chance just before half time). More than any other position I think sweeper depends on instinctive positioning and movement – it will be some achievement if he can fill this role seamlessly with just half a dozen games practice… here’s hoping he will, with Caff missing we need all the protection we can get.

    David Moran’s brilliance in 2014 excepted, I thought we had the best midfield in the country bar none until this year… a few injuries and layoffs and suddenly we are in big trouble. Here’s hoping Tom, Seamus, and Barry all get back to peak match fitness ASAP and stay healthy. Also looking for better support strategy and movement on kickouts.

    On the negative side Cillian still hasn’t quite found his mojo – here’s hoping that next week something sparks. On a more positive note – Diarmuid is just getting better and better, and Evan is coming along nicely – though I am still a little concerned how he will fare against a top class defence. Kildare match was the best off the ball movement I have seen from Andy since that QF v Down where the gods so cruelly stopped him in his prime. With Westmeath unlikely to push up like Kildare did, I don’t think he will get the space to repeat this next week, but IF we can get fast and early ball to him, it adds another option to our attack. Which brings me to my last point.

    Plan B
    James Horan developed a fantastic attacking style of play based on a high press and attacking half backs. But any drop in intensity, any failure to win primary possession around the middle left us vulnerable to quick counterattacking moves – particularly later on in games when we were trying to protect a lead.
    Contrary to common opinion on this site and elsewhere, AOS at full forward WAS a success – even when two-teamed against Donegal. It didn’t work against Dublin because he was two teamed AND we were denied the time and space outfield to measure good quality ball into him.
    So the issue is not that our tactics were wrong, but that they became too predictable. The only failing I ever saw with Horan as a manager was his game management – i.e. switching players or changing strategy late on to close out a game. Likewise last year we should have known that long ball to Aidan wouldn’t work at some point – where was the tactic to use him as a decoy to create space or block the ball down to oncoming runners? Here is my hope for this year, not just that we improve game by game, but can we change tactics mid game if (when) plan A isn’t working? Will positional changes and substitutions be made early enough? Signs were promising in the last two qualifiers – here’s hoping we can take a few more positives out of the next one!

  12. Joan no it’s not possible to set up a seating group between chairde and season tickets.i tried it earlier in year and emailed the season ticket office about it to but cannot remember the reason why not

  13. Cosa Bana, that’s the most balanced and insightful comment I think anyone has ever left on this blog!

  14. I agree with more or less everything your saying cosa bana. Especially with AOS keep him up at full forward and at times use him to drag space away from the goal mouth, where other forwards can thrive

  15. Id go along with a lot of that Cosa bana. I always felt that Aidan didn’t get enough quality ball played into him and when he was double teamed he had no one to break ball to.Our backs seem to play better as a unit than our forwards.Listening to the podcast I agree that Cillian should be playing closer to the square and feel he is wasted out the field unlike Duirmuid. Whether or not he will play closer to goal v Westmeath only time will tell.

  16. Good podcast WJ. Colm Keys certainly knows his stuff. Nice to see a journalist who actually knows the form of different players and can easily recall specific detail of matches a few months ago. He doesn’t just reel off from a clichéd script like some of the media pundits we see these days.

  17. Cosa Bana, that’s an unbelievable post. Fair play to you. I’m with you regarding our two goal keepers. To be honest, we’re blessed to have them both. Robbie won us the match up in Monaghan, a win that helped us retain our long held Div One status. Clarke with his sheer size means he can command his square & clean house when required. Both have made a mistake with a poor kick out in the cship but they’re human & they’re out doing their best for Mayo every time they play.

  18. A some good stuff there Cosa Bana fair play. Very hard to say at the present where this team and management are at. Time to be hopeful perhaps

  19. Cosa bana…an excellent post. Well done.

    Question…..can we meet Galway again in the championship?
    I think they are going to be a real force, sooner than many think..
    Up Mayo.

  20. Galway won’t be winning any All Irelands up mayo, no handy “Kildare ’98” teams around these days capable of reaching finals. Id even fancy Derry to turn them over in the Quarters, Roscomon were pathetic on Sunday, made them look unbeatable.

    Watched the Leinster final there tonite. Westmeath are no mugs, they’ve big men who can cause us plenty of problems, this won’t be easy at all. I expect Aido will spend alot of time in our fb line, may even act as a double sweeper.

  21. Success in taking/kicking points. That’s all that’s needed. For 5 years we’ve been the equal of all we met, but it wasn’t reflected on the score board. Against Kildare the kicking was beautiful. Focus on defence and denying goal chances by all means, but without scoring a team is hostage to the fortunes of the opposition.

  22. Can not wait for next week end going to the Donegal v cork then mayo v Westmeath with the woman from Donegal me from mayo I don’t have any doubt both teams will win I still think the back door will bring out the best out of this mayo team and Tyrone won’t stop us either

  23. Nice post Cosa bana. I agree with everything you say. I think as well that Rochford is playing the long game. I see Keith Higgins acting as a fourth half back filling space as Leroy, Boyler and Durcan surge forward.
    Cillian needs the games at the moment as he is a long way off his best in open play. That will come and he will be deadly. Andy improved the full forward line with his movement off the ball against Kildare. Against Fermanagh they were too static and we had few options out the field.

  24. We might need to throw Aido into FF during the game as the double sweeper may nullify Andy. I think Cillian will spend most of his time at 11 as his Bro, Keith, Kevin Mc and Aido will all be playing deep a lot of the time. Someone needs to fill the gap in HF line.
    GAA has become more like a game of chess these days and if opposition figure how to nullify one tactic, teams need good plan B and C. We have 3 players for FF position and a 4th Freeman on standby. Who knows which one will work but right now I’d say plan A Andy for high tempo and B Aido to lob over double sweeper or exchange them.
    I think Management’s main new tactic will be long shooting. Weather looks fairly good for Saturday which suits that. Management might actually play the same team 2 games in a row showing signs of stability.

  25. A lot of concern about the form of Cillian O’Connor. He’s such a key player for us so that’s entirely understandable.

    We do need more but I’m pretty confident that will come. One of his greatest assets is his composure and he’ll work his way into form. He thrives on pressure and I think Croker will bring him out of his shell.

  26. If you look at games this season Shuffly Deck everyone is doing long rang shooting. Its clearly a reaction from coaches to the massed/blanket defence. I don’t remember seeing as many long range/from angles points in a championship as I have seen so far this year, so we’re not alone there.

    I do agree with you regarding management having multiple gameplans, that appears to be the case and is a good thing. For too long we were very easy to figure out and we never appeared to have a plan B. Even AOS being put at full back, if that had happened against Kerry in 2014 when Donaghy came on we would have beaten them the first day, no doubt in my mind. That was James Horans one fault, Kieran Shannon said it before, there was a reluctance to do something like that because JH almost felt that it would be an insult to Ger Caff that he couldn’t sort it out. That is something that this management team is not afraid to do, and its very welcome, they seem to react to what is in front of them and that is refreshing.

    Even if we go no further, I am also encouraged by the fact that its clear that we now have a game plan. During the Galway game the biggest disappointment, outside of the loss, was that I didn’t know what the f*ck we were at.

    Its clear one of the main planks of our plan is to play a sweeper who is a good distributor of the ball with his foot. We’ll press around the 45 to try and turn it over and look for long fast kick pass or a quick lateral ball to change the point of attack. there are shades of both Corofin and Crossmaglen in that. I know people bemoan that we are now picking up less breaking ball because of the relocation of personnel to play this new system, but if we can win more primary possession from our midfield then it should be less of an issue. Besides you cant really do both in this system I think.

    People saying (as Tomas O Shea did last week) that we should reverse the personnel and play Zippy as a sweeper and KMc back in the forwards overlook the fact that Zippy, as good as he is, doesn’t have the same footpassing (or vision potentially) as KMc does. He cant do that role I think.

    Andy is a great asset to this system due to the runs he makes. As BJP said on the mayonews podcast, Evan Regan is learning from Andy runs and moving into the space that Andy frees up.

    So while it would be very disappointing if we didn’t proceed past Westmeath (I think we will) at least we now know we are working on a clearly defined system, its a very interesting one, one I think we do have the personnel to implement and its fairly unique so we could be quiet successful with it. However we might not see the best of it until next season.

  27. East Cork Exile while respecting everyone has their take on things this site I must disagree with you (while admiring your optimism). I cannot see how we have an easily identifiable gameplan. We are not getting anything out of Cillian (our main man), we’re neither getting the benefit of Keith Higgins’ defensive capabilities or his surging runs in the confused role he is currently playing, and Aiden is being pushed from pillar to post to little effect either. In my opinion these three guys are/should be our best players and none of the three of them have a defined role or seem to understand what their role is. The emergence of Diarmuid as potentially one of our best ever players has clouded judgement on a lot of our play, certainly against Kildare. Westmeath will be no pushovers for us with the way we are playing all year

  28. Agree with most of that East Cork apart from comparison of the 2 players. Zippy IMO is our best kick passer and also our best player offloading at pace. However I’m totally fine with Kevin Mc who is probably next best at kick passing and a very good and experienced player. I actually thought he was good vs Galway and mopped up a heap of ball especially in 1st half though missed Burns analysis.
    Also in anything happens Kevin Mc or opposition manage to stifle him it’s great that Zippy’s role this year is quite similar and he could easily adapt.
    On the midfield mopping I think sweeper could be abandoned for the 10 seconds of the kickout scramble and Kevin Mc could still be used to help secure possession though Zippy could also be sent in there in absence of J Doc starting games. Most of Kildare’s midfield possession was not clean caught. They had a clear plan. Barry might start ahead of Seamie the next day though Seamie did have a serious work rate vs Kildare. Donie at midfield will be abandoned and don’t think Coen ready for the role yet so it’s back to the big 4 including AOS to fill the roles as management sees the need.

  29. While I don’t see a set in stone game plan for us at the moment (which can be a plus in itself) I do feel there has been a change in approach by management whereby the players have been given the freedom or licence to play more. Not to be afraid to attack from any part of the field by any player who see’s his chance and crucially if you see someone making a play you join in in support or you fill that gap in defence. The plan from what I can see of it is a hugely interchangeable one which is designed to conserve energy for the long game while at the same time getting the most out of every single player that takes the field. The advantage of this fluid plan is that opposition can’t really set up against it and it’s exhausting to track.. the team with the greater stamina will win all day. Dublin have be using this with the bould Philly Mac turning up anywhere in the forwards causing trouble and it’s difficult to track.. likewise Kevin Keane. If we could get interchangeability between Kevin Mc and Keith both in foraging at midfield, defensive duty turnovers, attacking runs then that would be exceptionally difficult to disrupt and we should as a result get a lot more possession of the ball. I dont know about the rest of you but for me there is a wariness about this team.. an uncertainty that was always there before.. I don’t whether it comes from the style of game we are playing currently and not been used to it?, the fact that we were beaten by Galway? Are teams around us getting better or has our team as a whole gone back a bit? The uncertainty or the unfamiliarity of the qualifiers. There are two certain rocks that I can see in this current sea of turmoil and they Rochford himself and DOC and long may that continue. I for one would like see a little more land and calmer waters in the coming weeks it might help with this queexy feeling I have in the pit of my stomach.

  30. A certainty that was always there.. which I guess turned to hope more than anything whenever we reached a final

  31. @east cork exile
    Great analysis. I would agree with your assessment and I have felt all along that the reason McLoughlin is playing sweeper is because he is our most accurate foot passer, his cross field pass for Regans point after his goal was sublime. Higgins first reaction is to drop the head and explode at pace, as fast as he is, a kicked ball is always quicker than a runner.
    I will be forever greatful to James Horan for what he did for this counties football, but I always felt that his one weakness was his inability to make changes during a game, the biggest being Donaghy in 2014. His loyalty and belief in his players was the reason they would charge hell with a bucket of water if he asked them, but it also meant that his faith in them wouldn’t allow him to admit they were in trouble. Caff being left on in Limerick despite him being injured and struggling with Donaghy being an example and the fact that he refused to even practise countering a big full forward in the week between the replay as he felt it would insinuate Caff couldn’t do the job.

  32. Cillian getting a lot of stick, and I would have been in that band immediately after Kildare. However, on the bits of highlights I have seen, he was very industrious around the midfield area and HF. He really moved on that breaking ball from midfield and gave a great ball in which led to the first goal. And he did some more of that in the second half.

    Also, he was MOTM against Fermanagh – per Tom Carr! and John Melvin in the Connaught. He wasn’t mine, but still…

    And the real point of what management may be doing is to take the heat off both himself and Aido. Opposing management first moves I suspect is to nullify these players and then ask – where are the scores going to come from? Well, after last week, last least we know they can come from anywhere or anyone.

  33. Boyler pulling the guy down while going through on goal might be the best black card a Mayo man has ever got,I hope this kind of thinking spreads through the whole team.he took one for the team aka Roy Keane v juve.we’ve been on the receiving end of this for years and mc’entee’s thinking might be starting to get through to the boys

  34. Cosa Bana, very interesting post there, a very considered analysis agree with most of it. But I can’t agree with you AOS being a success in FF last year. Taught it became too predictable, plus Aiden didn’t get a fair crack of the whip at FF. Don’t think Michael Murphy gets a bit fair crack of the whip when he stays at FF for Donegal either. Persistent use of this tatic made a hero and All Star out of Philly McMahon. Even Kieran Donaghey came out the wrong side of Philly…. That’s the way it’s reffed these days. So I for One don’t see a future in it!…. What might be worth a try is to, maybe put Barry in there with Aiden and keep them 20 to 30 meters apart. Our opposition for the argument sake say that’s Tyrone or Dublin would have to commit numbers of big men back very deep. Give direct ball in there ever so often, but keep them guessing. I think defending so deep would give our attacking half backs loads of room to do what they do best, score. Of course you can only do that if you are win enough primary possession…. I heard complaints a few times by Mayo supporters at the Fermanagh and Kildare matches that they didn’t know what was the Mayo formation, who’s playing where and what’s each player role? That may not be such a bad thing, provided our opposition on the day don’t know what we’re doing either and our team does… . Truly I haven’t a clue what way we’re going to set up a V Westmeath. I see some posters are even picking the Mayo subs now. I doubt that the Stephen Rochford would know his 26 for the match day programme at this stage, with lads returning from injury (thankfully) there are going to be some awful tight calls.

  35. Along with the positivity that is being shown on the field by the players and by the management in the way that they are not afraid to ring the changes during the game, the level of analysis and comment here is also gone up a notch. I don’t know why we haven’t heard from Cosa Bana before, but that comment was top drawer.

    In relation to the style of play, that fact that we (as in us here on the blog) are still trying to figure some of the strategies out, means that our opposition have one hell of a task on their hands when they try to set out a game plan for playing us. For years we have asked for innovation in how we play – well we have it now!

    And I, for one, am not worried at Cillian’s relatively quiet performances in this year’s championship so far. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him burst back to prominence when he takes the stage in Croker.

    Just printed my ticket off and looking forward to watching/roaring from section 306.

    Keep the Faith!

  36. Yes Eddie K it’s been a persistent and very costly failing of this Mayo team, letting teams back into games by not defending properly or if that doesn’t work taking the man out by whatever means. Horan was a great manager but his stubbornness was both an asset and a liability and as Liam makes the point above, his failure to address the Donaghy issue in 2014 cost us the All-Ireland.

    Cynical play doesn’t seem to come naturally to Mayo teams but it’s needed to win tight games. I’d say they got their arses roasted after the Fermanagh match when they let them in for a late goal chance with the game won. Clarke was called upon to make a fine save but the situation should never have arisen. Hopefully they’ve learning a valuable lesson.

  37. also all the way, leaving keith higgins on o gara, when o garas pulled his hamstring and dublin out of subs with 15 minutes to go.

  38. I love reading through the posts it’s great way to pass a bit of time while next weekend arrives. The picture I’m getting is that we’re niw a bit unpredictable as to our game plan. Who plays where and what is his role. Sure it’s great. Keep the opposition guessing . Last year Aiden ran riot in connaught and some were deeming him unmarkable. Our plan was on the table for all to see. Not this year. I for one would love to have dublin in qf. Catch them cold. There sweating boys make no mistake as another injury to their back line and they are in bother. Have every one primed and ready for them and do a Boyler on them xxx

  39. Thanks for all your nice comments on my earlier post.

    @Leantimes I think we are actually in agreement on AOS at full forward. The tactic worked UNTIL it became predictable and one dimensional.

    @Fourgoal, I’ve been following the site for a few years and commented a few times, but clearly everything previously posted was rather forgettable!

  40. Toughen UP i believe you are all over the place there Re Dublin. They are in pole position, and I would not recommend any side take on their B team.

  41. I am surprised there aren’t lots of comments on “Thank GAA it’s Friday” and the one sided, ham fisted section on Aido and the penalty. RTE is getting worse with Lazy BS journalism. They must have shown a guy dive into a pool twenty times. No mention of the stonewall penalty ten minutes before on Cillian. Made my blood boil. If that was Dublin or Kerry there wouldn’t be a word. We should do a Mickey Harte and ban RTE from press conferences. Build a siege mentality and stick it to them.

  42. You’ve often heard the saying
    its a long road or the wheel turns full circle

    It’s down the road & it might not happen but if the the planets align correctly

    Mayo v Galway All Ireland semi final

    One Game at a time & all that
    If we come through against Westmeath
    & Donegal beat cork them we play Tyrone

    Semi final pairing
    Ulster v Connact in 2016

    If we overcome Tyrone & Galway beat Tipperary then it’s on.

    Now that would be a pairing.
    I can tell you a lot of Galway people wouldn’t fancy a re-match against us.

    Anyways I think while Galway did well to win Connacht this year it was against a Roscommon team who didn’t perform last week & looked poor & jaded against Clare which is why I think Tipperary will really fancy their chances against Galway next Sunday.

    I think Mayo v Westmeath 1st half next Saturday will be fairly tight but Mayo will win it by 7-8 points in the second half purely by the strength of opposition they play consistently in Division 1.

    Mayo completely off it against Galway.
    Improved second half performance against Fermanagh.

    Played with the old intensity at times against Kildare but will need to up this & keep it going if they are to progress beyond Westmeath.

    We are still there despite the topsy turvey season we’ve had so far.

    Mayo football is not boring that’s for sure & this blog is brilliant I have to say.
    You can’t beat Gaelic football to get the adrenilan going.
    Mayo Abu

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