Return of the Goal Machine

While our semi-final opponents in this year’s Connacht championship were making themselves known over at soggy Ruislip this afternoon, closer to home our challenge match campaign continued apace. Today’s official reopening of Ballaghaderreen’s GAA pitch was the excuse for today’s run-out as James Horan had  another look at his options ahead of our championship opener.

I’m sure the irony wasn’t lost on our opponents today at Ballaghaderreen – Westmeath – that they’re already out of Leinster while we’ve yet to raise a gallop in Connacht. I know there are many things to love about the summer football but, for me, the ludicrous scheduling of matches that the lopsided provincial system throws up sure isn’t one of them.

I’m not sure if our respective positions in the scheme of things as far as this year’s championship is concerned was in in any way significant in explaining today’s result. What is clear, though, is that – thanks to a glut of goals – we won the match very decisively.

Last spring, Jason Doherty and Alan Freeman were the main men in our attack with the former in particular showing a keen eye for goal, raising seven green flags over the course of that league campaign. Neither of them have had a particularly happy time of it since then so it was good to see both of them wreaking a bit of havoc up front today.

Jason bagged three goals this afternoon and Alan ended up with 1-2 to his credit, with both lads showing well in the forward line. The other goal came late on from second half sub, Michael Conroy.

The main talking point in the team that was named to start was sure to have been Ronan McGarrity’s welcome inclusion at midfield alongside Barry Moran. Shane McHale started at 3, with Ger Cafferkey switching across to 4. Donal Vaughan was on the bench and so Keith Higgins lined out a centre-back.

We hit the Lakesiders right from the throw-in, with the Doc notching 1-1 to get us going and then a free from Cillian and one from play from Ronan following before the Goal Machine banged in his second major of the afternoon.

After that opening barrage, Westmeath finally got going with a point but we then responded with a third goal, this one scored by Alan Freeman. Another Cillian free added to our tally but the visitors then reeled off three points without reply. Andy Moran got us going again by claiming a point on his home pitch and they replied with a point before Cillian pointed his third free to send us in ten points to the good at the break.

This being a challenge match, it was obvious that there’d be major changes for the second half and that there were. Six replacements – Robbie Hennelly, Chris Barrett, Lee Keegan, Donal Vaughan, Michael Conroy and Danny Kirby – trotted out after the interval, with a seventh – Michael Forde – having come on for the injured Kevin McLoughlin during the first half.

The Ballycastle man was the first to raise a white flag after the break and Alan Freeman followed this up with one that @MayoGAA (great scores updates on Twitter again, lads) described as an excellent effort from out on the sideline. The visitors then hit back with two points but their task was made even more hopeless when Danny Kirby set up Jason for his third goal of the afternoon.

In fairness to the Lakesiders, they immediately cancelled out that goal with three points on the spin but the final one of that trio was also the last contribution they made to the scoreboard. We continued to pile on the pain at the other end, with further points from Alan Freeman (a free) and Michael Conroy before the Davitts man added a goal to complete the rout.

It was obviously a good win but equally clearly the fact that it was a challenge match means that the result counts for very little. PJ, who was there (and who took the two photos I’ve used here), reckoned we were good at the back and he liked what he saw of Barry Moran at midfield but he felt we were lacking in invention in the half-forward line. Indeed he felt that on today’s performance any of the top teams in the country would have had little bother in snuffing out whatever offensive threat we could come up with. In particular, he reckoned that our inability to score regularly from distance – which isn’t a new problem for us but is a problem nonetheless – is a real concern and one that was painfully obvious again today.

That said, it’s good to see Jason and Alan put in a productive day’s work and that both were able to do some damage on the scoreboard. Both players will surely have given James Horan something to think about as the manager starts to turn his thoughts to the team sheet for the Leitrim game in three weeks time, when the lads will finally get to play a match that counts for something after a ridiculously long break from competitive action.

Mayo: David Clarke; Kevin Keane, Shane McHale, Ger Cafferkey; Richie Feeney, Keith Higgins, Colm Boyle; Ronan McGarrity (0-1), Barry Moran; Kevin McLoughlin, Cillian O’Connor (0-3, frees), Pat Harte; Alan Freeman (1-2, one free), Andy Moran (0-1), Jason Doherty (3-1). Subs: Michael Forde (0-1) for McLoughlin, Robert Hennelly for Clarke, Chris Barrett for Cafferkey, Lee Keegan for Feeney, Donal Vaughan for McGarrity, Michael Conroy (1-1) for O’Connor, Danny Kirby for Barry Moran.


20 thoughts on “Return of the Goal Machine

  1. Glad to see they worked a few goals anyway – interesting that Higgins lined out at CB, and Vaughan came on at midfield. Any word on how McGarrity got on?

  2. One point in the championship (the games that matter) last year.I for one am delighted to have a goal machine like that back.Unreal!

  3. WJ ‘he felt we were lacking in invention in the half-forward line’…I thought this line was poor to pick up the breaking ball from the midfielders too on numerous occasions so this could be a slight worry

  4. The champiopnship format is so frustrating having to wait so long for your county to get going.
    It’s also very harsh the amount of time guys spend training from the weaker counties to only get two games in the entire championship.
    The sooner the format changes the better.
    8 groups of 4 with 16 qualifying for the last 16 would be great. Knockout from there on in. The groups would be seeded depending how you get on in the league.
    7 games to win Sam for all counties. Every county guaranteed 3 games.
    The current structure is a complete joke even though it favours us.
    Meanwhile the wait continues ……

  5. Was anybody watching Comórtas Peile na Gaeltachta over the weekend? Kiltane put on a great show. The played three games on Saturday, amassing 15 goals over the three games. Michael Sweeney scored five of those goals. On Sunday they played the final against Gweedore who had only played one game to get to the final. Not surprisingly they lost but only by a point. Michael Sweeney added another goal to his tally. Some scoring.

  6. i taped it on TG4 grainne, will have a look tomorrow night , mikey has been in a few league squads for us but hasnt seemed to make the grade at all , shame as i always like to see an erris man on the mayo team , its good to see barrett was back on sunday

  7. Sweeney looked really good, in the final, he is super quick and Gweedore targeted him for heavy treatment. The time wasting was shocking in the last 10 mins. Kevin Cassidy twice refused to use the ball he had for frees and insisted on getting a different ball from the other end of pitch.
    The host club always gets a soft draw and home town reffing.
    Well done to Kiltane who nearly won despite the bias.

  8. Would disagree with you completely facetheball! For one there are 33 teams (Kilkenny dont enter the football championship and New York (or North America possibly in the next few years) and London.
    New York can only play in New York and I think its great teams going out there to play games as it promotes the game in the US.
    Secondly, provinical titles still mean a lot so wouldnt scrap them.
    Number 3, the 4 group system will be a disaster for crowd turnout and people in the current climate cannot afford to be going to these extra games and venues. At least in the provincial finals people dont have that far to travel and Croke Park is the reward for winning your provincial title…usually!

    So I think your suggestion is a load of nonsense and with player burnout being such an issue will not and cannot work…players dont need the extra games!

  9. pk – a new system doesn’t mean that teams can’t go out to play New York anymore. You could easily have a pre-championship qualifier game in NY between, say, New York and the 32nd-ranked team (based on championship and league results) to eliminate one of them. Hey presto, 32 teams. Should New York win, then more teams will have the expense of going out there in the group stage, but you run that risk in the current championship structure anyway.

    You say ‘provincial titles still mean a lot’. Maybe they do to teams who’ve never won one, or who haven’t won one in years, but anyone thinking about winning Sam can take it or leave it. That’s the legacy of the back-door system. Watch the body language of whoever loses the Kerry-Cork game next Sunday. They won’t be too worried about going out of the Munster championship.

    As for crowds… compare the miserable crowd that was at Roscommon v Galway last month with the turnout for the same fixture (and replay) in 1998, when it was knockout. (And that was BEFORE Galway made the AI breakthrough.)

    The current system is not helping crowds in provincial games because people know there’s another day out for their teams if they lose. How would a round-robin group system be any worse?

    Regarding ‘extra games’ – it would be 3 games in the group, then 4 knockout games to win Sam. So 7 games (assuming no replays). In the current system, if Donegal win Ulster this year, it will have taken them at least 4 games (assuming no replays) to do it. Then they’re only as far as the quarters. So 7 games to Sam for Donegal.

    It’s not that huge a change, and it puts every county in Ireland on a level playing field. Plus, there’s no back-door messing anymore. When the championship is knockout, it’s knockout. I think facetheball is spot on.

  10. spot on DavyJ. 7 games is not that many. Play the pool games in July and knockouts in August and Final in September. Playing in a group say with Armagh, Wicklow and Limerick for example and meeting galway in last 16 or quarters would be great. Don’t tell me you would not get a big crowd for that game. It has to be the way forward. Maybe Willie Joe could conduct a poll on it.

  11. Gonna come right back at you 🙂 Now like most Mayo men I was/am fairly sickened when we lose to Galway…just look at the game where we lost by a point and Mortimer could have equalised. I talk to Sligo people who are still sickened by their defeat to Ros and the last time we won a Connacht final in Salthill the Mayo people were going mental and rightly so…so yes I stand by that comment. Talk to any Kildare man and they will tell you this is their year for Leinster and I dont think the Dubs will give it up too easily. And as for Ulster, that is a hard title to win so look at the other 3 provinces outside Munster…and even still Cork and Kerry hate losing to each other at a provincial level so yes they still mean alot.

    Do you not think the crowds will get worse with a group system so?????? And imagine a draw where you have Waterford, Carlow, London and Clare…that would be some crowd puller!!!! Seed the groups and I cant see that drawing huge crowds either. Tyrone fans are not going to travel to see a game against Waterford. In addition, what if Kerry draw Antrim in their group…fans are not going to travel that far to watch the game and wouldnt to a neutral venue like Portlaoise either! SO THE SYSTEM YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT WILL ONLY KILL CROWDS MORE! People dont have the money to be going to 7 games!!!! Thats the luck of the draw, we could do it in 5 others 7…it changes every year…less games more rest or less championship practice….old argument of the half full or half empty glass.

    I cant see this coming up in congress so concentrate more on the 24th of June or else running for the Connacht council and putting the motion in 🙂

  12. True, according to the Connaught Telegraph.. but the panel as it stands has over 30 fully fit. I dont know whats our real panel will be when the cull comes as it must. Good to see Ronan McGarrity back think he can play a real part in Mayo’s championship. I believe James Horan’s has the strongest panel of players that I can remember with if fully fit only 6 or 7 players sure of starting.Hopefully A O Shea will fully recover in time for the real battle’s ahead. I’d be pretty optimistic about our chances this year but you,would need great foresight to name 10 of our first 15 when we entertain Leitrim in a few weeks. Not much between alot of our players in the battle for championship places, great to have it that way, given the injurys to both O’Shea’s brothers how many could anyone name between numbers 8 &15 ???

  13. As for crowds… compare the miserable crowd that was at Roscommon v Galway last month with the turnout for the same fixture (and replay) in 1998, when it was knockout. (And that was BEFORE Galway made the AI breakthrough.)

    Last year we played Galway in front of another “miserable crowd” but the Connacht final this July will be sell out or close to it.

  14. pk, Kerry travelled up to play Antrim in a back-door game a couple of years ago in the championship. I remember them going up to Longford on another occasion. Neither trip was an attractive one for the regular Kerry supporter but the games went ahead anyway.

    The point is that these types of games already happen in the current system. A round-robin group followed by a knockout phase is not going to kill off crowds. It can only make for a much fairer and better championship, one where we don’t have this ridiculous situation where Sligo play their first game on 6th May and Mayo don’t play theirs until 24th June.

  15. Good to see McGarrity Back in the team, even if he does not start he will be a good impact sub. Hopefully Doherty and freeman will carry their form into the championship.
    As regards the debate on the championship structure i have to disagree with PK. The championship as it is currently structured is crap. look at the providential championship hho will win connacht this year, 99 times out a 100 it will be Mayo or Galway, in munster it will be Cork or Kerry, in leinster it will be Dublin, Kildare or Meath. Ulster is the only competitive Provence. Under the current championship all teams play Sam even though 70% of them have no hope of winning it, this is ridiculous. Look at the county championship in Mayo, Castlebar play in the senior championship due to their large population base, where as a team like The Neale are in the Junior championship as they are a small rural club with smaller playing resources, if you apply the logic of the inter county championship to the club championship you have senior and junior teams playing in he same competition. I think that the inter county championship should copy the club one with senior, intermediate and junior competitions. his could be easily achieved with a seeded group type system separate from the Provençal championship.

  16. all the talk is about mayo getting into croke park in august we hant got past galway yet providing we beat letrim and galway will have had two chship games under their belt before connaught final comes around mayo teams have a bad habit of losing when big things are expected of them one thing is certain it will be one of the hardest connaught finals mayo will have being involed in god help us if we have to go the backdoor route our record isnt good in that regard

  17. I`d like to see Ronan played at No. 12 he could double as a midfielder and he can kick points from out the field.
    What`s the story with left footed players should they be playing on the right wing or the left?I always thought lefties should be on the right and right footed players on the left or does it matter?

  18. While few teams can expect to win a provencial championship in any given year it is a far more atttainable goal than the All Ireland. Several counties can expect to be competitive on the provencial scene at some time in any decade.
    Part of the excitement of the current chanpionship is the local rivalries – Mayo v Galway / Rosc; Leitrim v Sligo / Rosc and Sligo v Rosc. For the weaker counties just getting one over the more illustrious neighbour is as good as a championship won. Even if, say, Leitrim beat teams from the other provences to win their group there would be little excitement unless there was an outing to Croke Park as a result and there would be little reason to have a Leitrim game there when there are better crowd pullers available.
    A better option to even up the number of games would be to switch a few counties between provences if counties were agreeable.
    The option off a junior championship for weaker counties was tried a few years ago in the form of the Tommy Murphy Cup much to the disgust of those same weaker counties and quickly abandoned.

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