The weekend’s action

No inter-county action for us yesterday but Kiltane’s cracking win ensures that there’s a bit of coverage worth looking at in this morning’s papers. The Irish Independent and the Irish Examiner both have decent-sized match reports from Ballinasloe as does the Mayo Advertiser. On the subject of match reports, my thanks once again to long-standing friend of this site and proud Kiltane man, Roger Milla, who managed to keep his celebrations on ice long enough yesterday afternoon to enable him to get his match report with accompanying photos to me for inclusion on the site yesterday evening. Well done, Roger – you’ll be on duty for the final too, won’t you?

Kiltane’s big day out at HQ is on 9th February and, of course, this will mean a clash of dates as our league match with Tyrone in Healy Park takes place that same afternoon. This isn’t the first time such a conflict has occurred –  the county side were also in action in Healy Park back on Valentine’s Day in February 2010 when Kiltimagh played their All-Ireland Junior final against Castlegregory at Croke Park and Davitts’ Intermediate final against Castlemaine in 2012 was on the same weekend as our fog-abandoned league match with the Dubs – and so while this is unfortunate there’s precedent for it and there’s nothing that can be done about it at this stage (though the suggestion flying around on Twitter yesterday that the league match should be re-fixed as the curtain-raiser at Croke Park sounds like a neat tongue-in-cheek solution).

There was inter-county action on in the province yesterday and fair play to Leitrim who retained their FBD crown with a 2-5 to 1-7 victory over Roscommon at Páirc Seán in Carrick. As I noted yesterday on Twitter, it’s easy (too easy – that’s the thing about Twitter, isn’t it?) to scoff at how the Ridge County have once again managed to peak in January but for a county of their size and resources it’s not an inconsiderable achievement to win back-to-back FBD titles. In doing so, they’ve beaten the whole lot of us (twice in some cases) and it’d be great to see them kick on from this win this year, in a way that they didn’t do last year.


Photo: (Sportsfile) 

I did the lazy man on it yesterday, watching the O’Byrne Cup final which was live on TG4 from the comfort of my sofa. This one – an entertaining enough clash between Kildare and Meath, which was played at Newbridge – was of obvious interest to us, given that we’ll be facing the Lilywhites ourselves at the same horrible little venue next Sunday.

That jibe about peaking in spring was one that could, with a fair bit of justification, have been levelled at Kildare under its previous management but I’ve a feeling that Jason Ryan will be more interested in getting his charges well primed for the summer. The Short Grass lads had their work cut out yesterday against what is clearly an improving Meath team – it’ll be very interesting to see how Mick O’Dowd’s lads fare out in Division Two this year – and if the Royals hadn’t spurned all those goal-scoring opportunities they managed to create, the contest could easily have gone the other way. That said, I thought Kildare looked in decent enough shape yesterday and we’ll definitely need to up our performance levels a few notches if we’re to come away from St. Conleth’s Park with the spoils next Sunday.

Speaking of which, I guess it’s time for a poll on this issue. A word of caution first, though – the last two polls on here resulted in very clear majorities for a win for us against the Rossies (and we all know how that one went) and then for a Sheepstealers’ win over Leitrim yesterday (ditto). So be careful with that vote now, y’hear?

How will our NFL opener v. Kildare go?

  • Lose (51%, 86 Votes)
  • Win (40%, 67 Votes)
  • Draw (9%, 15 Votes)

Total Voters: 168

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47 thoughts on “The weekend’s action

  1. Glad for Leitrim, hopefully they can push on and have a decent summer.

    Found Kildare Manager, Jason Ryan’s comments odd this morning on radio, who kinda said every team will be out to knock Kildare now cause they won the O’Byrne Cup, my god who cares.

  2. First time for Leitrim to retain a title at any level unless I am very much mistaken. Hoipefully they will keep it all together this time as it can only benefit Connacht football overall.
    Regards Kildare next Sunday I am not too hopeful as I don’t think we have enough work done yet whereas Kildare will have two months under their belt. Half of the Mayo team have not had a match yet and I presume none of the Castlebar players will be available.

  3. Good quotes here in the Western which gives Horan’s view of the squad at the moment. The trimming of the squad before championship will be interesting.

    Speaking to the Western People last night (Sunday), Horan said: “You’ve got the Castlebar lads obviously, but as well as them you’ve Seamie O’Shea and Chris Barrett out, you’ve Donie Vaughan out, Kenneth O’Malley is out, Alan Dillon is out, Conor Loftus is out. Cillian (O’Connor) is out, Conor O’Shea too… so we’ve quite a list, probably 13 or 14 players unavailable for one reason or another. But that’s a huge incentive for other guys to stake a claim. “We’re very excited this year with some of the new guys that have come in.

    We’ve Diarmuid O’Connor, Adam Gallagher, Stephen Coen, Conor Loftus in with us, really top-level players. Tom Parsons has come back onto the panel, he’s playing great football. We’ve Shane McHale, who really stood up in the FBD, Brendan Harrison, and David Drake has come in and really shown a great appetite for improvement and development at this level. That’s a lot of guys that have come into the mix, and that’s essential for this team to keep evolving. Then we have the Castlebar guys to come in and we’ve Mikie Sweeney to come back after Kiltane’s success.

  4. Its actually quite amazing the number of semi-finals that Mayo teams have won in the recent past. Probably over the last 25 years, Mayo must be right up there in terms of the number of finals reached, with Kerry I would think, having won the most. If they could actually start winning these finals, that would be the icing on the cake! You’d just wonder, why is it, that Mayo teams cannot perform at there best, when it comes to the final hurdle? Even our Minors, last year, their first-half display was probably their poorest of the campaign but in fairness and to their great credit, they really turned it on in the second-half, especially in the opening ten minutes. Why can Mayo teams not play to their full potential on the biggest stage? I was reading an interesting article over the week-end, that talked about, feeling at ease among the elite. For some reason Mayo teams have not felt at ease among the elite and have not produced their best, when it has been needed most. Can this be changed? Before the Mayo minors beat Tyrone in 2013, Tyrone had played in and won 10 All-Ireland finals in a row at various grades since 2003. Before this, they had never won an All-Ireland title. Can Mayo change this losing habit and finally start producing their best performances on the biggest stage? That is the really big challenge facing Mayo football….

  5. Heard Maugha n on radio last night saying that some of the minors are not ready to be brought into senior but look what davey fitz did with Clare and Jim gavin did what do yes think its worth the risk

  6. HopeSpringsEternal, what do you think we’ve all been discussing and tearing our hair out over this past two years and more ? Why, why, why, indeed we may well ask, but finding the answer is for sure the big conundrum with Mayo football. As you say, so many big semi-final wins and then, the big freeze or whatever one likes to called it…..

  7. I’m inclined to agree with Maughan. What Davy Fitz did was exceptionally rare if not unique. This would only work with a hugely talented player.
    Very few minors make the breakthrough at senior level. And even with those good enough to do so it normally takes them a few years to make a significant impact at senior IC level. Cillian o Connor is an exception to that of course. I’m not sure that any of last minors would make such an impact at senior level just yet. They need to prove themselves at club and U21 level first in my opinion.

  8. We will unfreeze when we are way better than the opposition. That’s the only answer I have……….become the best and winning will take care of itself as it always does.

  9. Yeah Mayo Mchale, I probably should have just asked, What is the meaning of life?, that would probably have been an easier question to answer!

  10. Diehard if what you say is true, we may never win the thing – way better is asking a lot. Learning to win against the head or when your team is seen as no hoper’s, that’s the secret.

  11. We dont have to do what others do for the sake of it.Talent on its own will not get you over the line.Far too often in our own county we’ve thrown lads in at the deep end,only to be swept away on the tide of expectation.It takes an EXCEPTIONAL mix of talent,combined with strength of character and determination, to make it at the top table.Cillian had what it takes at a young age and carried it through to senior but it is rare enough to see.It is a popular thing to say,to “throw them in”but I’d be with Maughan on this one(for once!)

  12. Thats an amazing stat, in this article, it is Mayo’s 16th consecutive season in Division 1. When you think that Donegal were in Division 1 for just one year in 2012 and won the All-Ireland title that year…

  13. Sorry Diehard,you’re comment wasn’t up when I started-if it was all I’d have to write was “+ 1”!!

  14. Cillian is such a good footballer why was overlooked for ypoty last year mccaffery was lucky to get it but I think young lads should get there chance.

  15. Thats one area we need to look at too, we never seem to manage to get a settled first 15. In fairness, injuries have played a big part in this. If you look at all of the successful teams, the manager always seems to know who his preferred options are. Donegal had McBrearty, Murphy and McFadden in their full-forward line. McGuinness knew who his preferred first 15 was. Although their greatest strength in 2012 turned into their greatest weakness in 2013, when some of their key players were injured. Jim Gavin had settled on Flynn, Kilkenny, Connolly, Mannion, Andrews and Brogan as his first choice six forwards from very early in the season. Even if you go back to the great Meath team in the late eighties, O’Rouke, Stafford and Flynn were the full-forward line for a number of years. We still don’t know who our first choice no. 11 is or no. 12, 13, 14 or 15 for that matter. A lot of different players have been tried, the last few years, without any of them nailing down these positions. Our half-back line is probably our only settled line. I know we need to experiment but it would be nice by the end of the league, if we knew who our first choice 15 is.

  16. Mayo McHale don’t worry……We’ll win…..we’ll win. Some day we will be the best and that might be sooner than we think. But striving to be the best is really the only way……faster, stronger, fitter, more determined, more skillful, meaner, cuter, harder, better organised etc etc….that’s the only magic I know. It’s bloody hard work but I think we have the players capable of pulling this off. Hopefully they have the appetite for another rattle at it.

  17. Yeah, I heard one Kerry player that said on the big days in Croke Park, he would watch some of the minor match to check out how the free takers handle the wind etc. Check out if a certain area of the pitch was wet etc. not to bounce the ball there. Simple things really that a relaxed and fully focused player will look out for, to be able to perform to his optimum on the big occasion. While I heard one Mayo player say that they didn’t know that the Mayo minors had won their All-Ireland semi-final last year before the senior game. Maybe its just the small but very important details too that need to be prepared for….

  18. I know he hasn’t featured yet for the seniors this season, but the fact that Evan Regan wasn’t mentioned here makes me feel a little uneasy…

  19. I fully agree with Maughan at this stage. Let the minors play U21, hopefully till the end of their championship and let them be judged on their performances there. We have lots of players for James to run the rule over in the meantime. It will be much fairer to bring the young lads into the picture when the sods will have [hopefully] have dried out in summer than have them trying to slog their way trough wet pitches which is normal for the league, Comparring Clare and Davy’s achievements last year is not of much relevance in that hurling is a much faster game with less physical confrontation [at least with Kilkenny out of the picture as last year].
    And, Mayo MacHale, when did you see a “no hoper” last win the All Ireland? We were within a whisker of a few of the finals we lost and it was not difficult to identify the reasons we lost. It wasn’t just a matter of freezing although it may have been a problem for one or two players. Or it may have been that they met better opponents on the day or were identified as players for special attention from the opposition. At least one was lost because of bad luck with injuries to key players. Others we lost because we just were not good enough and our weaknesses were identified and targeted by the opposition. What can also be said is that occasionally there is a year when winning is a little bit easier because of a general drop in standard and we have not had the luck to be involved on those occasions. I identify a year with a drop in standard as one when one of the finalists, usually the loser, does not make it back to a second attempt within a few years. Most of the teams who beat us in finals were good enough to win a second final [Cork 1989 & 1990, Kerry 1997 & 2000, Kerry 2004, 2006, & 2007, 2009 and Dublin 2011 & 2013]. Donegal have yet to match that but do not rule them out just yet.

  20. It makes it a bit easier to have a settled team if you are lucky enough to avoid injuries.I believe James had settled on Cillian as his centre forward until his injury. One injury to a key player can upset an entire section of a team unless you are lucky enough to have somebody who can slot directly into the vacant position. There are lots of instances where the loss of one key player has been the decisive factor in a team’s performance,even in the best of teams.Last year we not only had the problem of Cillian’s injuries, among others, but we were also trying to reintegrate Andy Moran back into the team as well. There was no way we could have a settled forward line in those circumstances. Regards Dublin last year, had Alan Brogan returned to full fitness in mid summer it is more than likely that Dublin’s forward line might not have been as settled as it looked.

  21. Yeah AndyD, you’d think that our luck has to change sometime, in terms of our injury problems. Hopefully by the end of the league, all of the pieces of the jigsaw will be starting to fall into place……. The first couple of rounds of the league will be very interesting………. Best of luck to Kiltane as well, I’m sure that they will do their parish and county proud too!

  22. Injuries dictate that there’s no way we will know the first 15 by championship. For example – Cillian O’Connor is due back towards the end of the league, but someone else may have put their stamp on centre-forward by then (maybe Keith Higgins, maybe Andy Moran, or Richie Feeney, or Adam Gallagher…) So where does Cillian go then?

    And there’s the question that not too many are asking – is Alan Dillon going to be first-choice for Mayo in 2014? He has given more than most in the cause throughout his career – but should he be first-choice now?

    I wouldn’t switch our backs, keeper or midfield for anyone else’s. That’s not a bad base to work from. Should James Horan find a suitable alternative at corner-back, the move of Keith Higgins to the forwards could become permanent.

    After that, it’s a case of try every half-decent forward we can get our hands on to see if we can find new leaders in those lines. We have any number of ‘handy’ forwards with good technique. But it has been demonstrated – twice – that that’s not enough in the All-Ireland final.

    In short – forwards with character are required. James Horan, I hope, will use the League to try and find them.

  23. I watched, on tv the Kildare v Meath O’Byrne cup on Sunday last.If I were the coach of the winners I wouldnt be accepting my travel and subsistence. Despite leading by three points in the closing stages they didnt have the cop-on to keep the ball but instead kept giving it back to Meath who didnt have the wit to exploit the situation. Amazingly not one report of the match aluded to the Kildare naievty – its a GAA scribes thing aparently that you have to keep pursuing more and more scores (and invariably giving the ball away in the process)
    If Mayo cannot beat them by six or more points next Sunday they can forget about it – or maybe its the naive versus the naive.

  24. The 6 backs we had starting the final last year were excellent however you need replacements over 70 minutes. Colm Boyle looked out on his feet towards the end of the second half and clearly struggled when Dublin brought on fresh legs and big guys ala Dean Rock. Also lets not forget that Tom Cuniffe (who marked Mannion out of it) also had to go off with hamstring resulting in the recall of Higgins.

    I believe the bottom line is you need a panel who you can rely on if things are not going exactly to plan for a single individual. Dublin had it in O’Gara and Rock to replace Mannion and Kilkenny.

    We need the likes of Shane McHale, Kevin Keane (and a few more) to prove (more or less) they can be used as first choice inter county standard defenders. Similarly we need guys in the forwards who can slot in easily when someone (invariably) gets injured or is off their game.

    Fellas have opportunities now with what JH said and all that will be missing for the start of the League. It will be interesting to see who decides to step up.

  25. Good one Mayo Exile. Has anyone noticed how Kerry are masters of holding the ball when needed? They hold it and keep passing it until someone is in a position to score, no matter how many passes or how much time it takes. Surely we can, and should, learn from that. It is only common sense.

  26. Yeah, you need a settled forward line in the game now, and the NFL is where you build it. I honestly believe this is the reason why Mayo lost last years AI final, Moran was thrown in with Mikey Conroy and O’Connor and they played like complete strangers.

    Gavin had persisted with Brogan and Mannion for the league and it payed off handsomely. Horan needs to settle on his full forward line. I think there’s real potential in the Freeman-Moran partnership. Here’s hoping.

  27. Yeah, I heard Jose Mourinho say, that what he tries to do, is decide on what his first choice 11 is, quite quickly when he joins a club. He then decides on his second choice 11 for each position. If any of his first choice players are injured or not playing well, he then has a ready made replacement to come on and be perfectly comfortable in the position they are brought on in. This will be very important this year in gaelic football games, with the black card been implemented. Mourinho said he also likes to have a couple of utility players, that can play in a number of different positions, in case of an injury crisis. A Richie Feeney type player in gaa terms. So a combination of knowing your first choice players, their best positions, having ready made replacements and a couple of back-up utility players, is the ideal situation to be in….. Then again, a soccer manager can sign a few players if he needs some reinforcements in certain positions or sell a few players as well, even sell a player for over 30 million, if he wants too…

  28. Mayo Exile
    I think I would settle for a 1 point victory and a good showing from one or two of the new lads who might get a start.

  29. So who do you reckon we should go for then Joe Mc? Maybe Emlyn Mulligan, the Leitrim sharpshooter! (the Luis Suarez of Gaelic Football)…….

  30. What about leaving Keith Higgins at center forward and leaving cillian in corner where is dangerous am sure he would do okay at center but Higgins is faster what your opinion I hope Dublin beat Kerry.

  31. Many reasons have been discussed here since September last about our final failures in 2012 and 2013. During an preview of 2014 on RTE a few weeks back Enda McNulty suggested that Mayo lacked leaders on some lines. He may have a point as we definitely have leaders in the half back line and on the FF line when Andy plays but the other lines ?. Who was the designated captain when Andy was subbed in the AIF ?. Anyhow we will have a better idea where we stand after the first 4 league games. In the meantime best of luck to Kiltane, Mitchels and of course Mayo.

  32. HopeSpringsEternal – To be serious for a minute; Emlyn’s a player who was badly injured last year and it is great to see him back again playing for Leitrim. He is some talent. He was almost Donegal. He is a Guard in Longford and has a Donegal accent.
    Four of their best players misbehaved last year and were dropped straight away. So with Emlyn injured and the other four gone it was a tough year for Leitrim, a County I would love to see doing well. When they beat Mayo in the Connacht final some years ago, it was as if they had won the All Ireland.

  33. Wouldn’t agree with ya there JPM regarding Boyle. For me he was the outstanding mayo player in the AI final last year. particularly in the second half. himself, Keith Higgins and ger cafferkey lifted their game to a new level that we had not seen them play at before. Boyle was everywhere in that second half, winning interceptions and possessions he had no right to win. Aside from his first half brain freeze free kick to Connolly, cafferkeys performance was as close to perfect as you could find. Neither of brogans goals were his fault. I remember with ten minutes left he made a ridiculously difficult block on brogan, then scrambled to win possession that wasn’t his to win, and set mayo on the attack. It reminded me of conor gormleys famous block on Stevie mc Donnell in the 2003 AI which won Tyrone the title. Higgins was also outstanding all through the game. When you win a game by a point or two it’s little moments like that which define the victory. Our defence set the platform to push on and win last September and our forwards/ midfield were found wanting. I believe to win that AI final we needed 2 or 3 others to rise to a level previously unseen, like cafferkey and Boyle and Higgins. No one in the forwards has delivered a performance like that in an AI final for mayo since James Horan in 1996. In my opinion that’s the main reason for our shortcomings in finals since then.

  34. Mayo3G, All three, Moran, Conroy and O’Connor had injury issues at some stage during last summer, Moran and Conroy recovering and O’Connor suffering repeated injuries. Then, apparently, we had Freeman suffering from some big before the final. IThey did very well in the circumstances.
    At this stage it is impossible to predict who will be in form next summer [Sept with luck] and any player no matter how certain of a position they may appear now could be hit with injuries or loss of form. But all going well my FF line would be O’Connor, Freeman & Moran. Hopefully Kevin McLoughlin will bbe back to his best and if so he and Higgins would be two of the half forward line with the third position up for grabs. We need to work on the mobility of our midfield but there are sufficient candidates to do that. It will be very hard to improve on last years defence but we need replacements who can be depended on without bringing the likes of Higgins back to plug gaps. I think Kevin Keane can be one of these. I felt that his confidence was badly hit last year after Donegal but he looked renewed in the FBD. Shane MacHale should be another and Harrison and Drake look very promising also.

  35. Emlyn Mulligan is fine at Div 4 but when marked closely, as any “marque” player always is, he does not feature, Example, in 2012 he started well against Mayo in the championship but when Lee Keegan was given a man marking job on him he did not feature. If there is a player on the Leitrim team which Mayo could use it is Wayne McKeon, a class wing back who can place a ball in front of a forward from distance or take a score just as easily. Leitrim’s collapse that day against Mayo began when McKeon was injured. Another quality Leitrim player I saw playing this year in the FBD game against NUIG was Shane Moran, He was also injured in the first half in that championship game with Mayo adding to their collapse.
    Incidentally in last Sunday’s FBD final McKeon scored 0 = 2 of 2 = 5, Mulljgan 0 = 1.

  36. PS. I should have added in my last post that McKeon and Moran were two of the players who were dropped on a disciplinary issue last year. The other two were the Beirne brothers, probably the other two best players available to them.

  37. Yeah Joe Mc, I was reading an article about him at the week-end, it stated that he has never played in Croke Park. I suppose its amazing what we take for granted too, the amount of times we have been there in the recent past. He said that he would love to play there someday and I’d say everyone would love to see a player of his talent playing there as well…. It would be great if the Interprovincial competition games were played in Croke Park. It would be a great chance for players from weaker counties to get to play on the biggest stage. A Connaught forward-line containing Andy Moran, Emlyn Mulligan, Cillian O’Connor, Adrian Marren, Michael Meehan and Donie Shine, would be very interesting to see in action…..

  38. In fairness AndyD, Mulligan had Vaughan bet up a stick before Keegan was switched onto him. Keegan did get the better of him eventually but such was Mulligans early performance that day that it erquired the switch.

  39. Andy, it was mentioned that he had a great game with brilliant passing and laying on ball to others. That it often more important as it gives others the chance to score.

  40. Yeah, I didn’t comment on the injuries but you can see the chemistry and understanding between Brogan and debutant Mannion – that was forged in the league and it allowed Dublin to use the long-ball to great effect. The NFL is where you fine tune your tactics, it’s longer a lab to experiment in.

    Which begs the question, why isn’t Freeman starting against Kildare?

  41. Better yet, field regional teams in the championship, a north west side featuring the best of Sligo, Leitrim and maybe Fermanagh would give most teams a serious challenge, it would also allow a lot of fine footballers a real chance of an All-Ireland medal, never mind a ‘big day out’ in Croke Park.

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