Westmeath 3-9 Mayo 2-17: a win is a win

Final score

Photo: Mayo Mick

As we were coming into the outskirts of Mullingar early this afternoon, The Brother all of a sudden broke into song, specifically a number extolling the virtues of the town we were about to enter and how poorly other places of note – Brussels, Constantinople, Madrid and The City of the Russian Tsar among others being name-checked in this context – compared to Joe Dolan’s birthplace. Come half-time at Cusack Park, however, we weren’t exactly singing the praises of the place.

It wasn’t just the damp, misty rain that fell most of the afternoon that had us muttering darkly at the break, nor the fact that we found ourselves slumming it out in the open on the terrace across from the teentsy-tiny stand that was full half an hour and more before throw-in. Instead it was what we had just witnessed in that opening half, which had seen us race into a nine-point lead and seemingly heading out the gate and over the hills only for the home team to reel us right back in to lead by a point at the break.

It took Westmeath a full five minutes to get the ball past half-way and in that time we already had 1-1 on the board. The opener – a goal from Lee Keegan – was created by the quick-thinking Mikie Sweeney who spotted the captain roaming forward and popped a swiftly-taken free over the cover to him. Lee buried it and we were off and running.

Lee Keegan goal

Photo: Mayo Mick

Kevin McLoughlin added a point from play before Westmeath got their opener from a free but we then surged clear with a flurry of scores. Three points from play in rapid succession from Alan Freeman, Enda Varley and Aidan O’Shea was followed by a second goal, this one from Mikie Sweeney.  The Kiltane man grabbed a loose ball that the Westmeath backline couldn’t deal with, which had emanated from a pot-shot by Donal Vaughan, and rifled it to the net.

2-4 to 0-1 up and rampant, we should, without doubt, have gone on and buried them before the break. We were on top all over the field and just needed to keep the foot on the accelerator for another ten or fifteen minutes and the thing would have descended into a duck shoot.

Instead, we allowed them back into it and the catalyst for this fairly incredible turn of events was their opening goal. A ball lofted into the square, Robbie rashly going to claim it and the forward nicking in and flicking it over him to the net. Two pointed frees followed for them – with Kevin Keane seeing yellow for the second one – as they cut the gap to four.

Two points in reply for us, the first another Aidan O’Shea one and the second by Lee Keegan following a trademark surging run forward, should have righted us but they then responded with two at the other end, the second a free awarded when Dessie Dolan went down a tad too easily.

Alan Freeman then bashed over a long-range free but that was our final score of the half. In that frantic ten-minute spell before the break, the home side completely dominated, winning everything at midfield, claiming all the breaks and passing and moving with increasing confidence. They hit us with 1-3 without reply over the course of that purple patch, their second goal of the game being the highlight as James Dolan got on the end of a flowing move and crashed the ball home.


Photo: Mayo Mick

I’d say our lads would have been far happier to see the dressing room at half-time than they were as it gave us a chance to calm down and regroup. We’d lost all shape in that period of Westmeath dominance but while it was galling to end up going in behind having been so far ahead, we still looked to have enough quality to win the match once we got going again.

David Drake for Kevin Keane, with Colm Boyle reverting to the corner, was the only change we made at the half-way mark. In truth, any one of at least six players could have been hauled ashore at that stage but, perhaps mindful of the atrocious playing conditions, James opted against wholesale changes prior to the start of the second half.

Cillian O'Connor coming on

Photo: Mayo Mick

The first change we made, ten minutes or so after half-time, was a hugely significant one. To a thunderous cheer from the large travelling support, Cillian O’Connor made his comeback entrance and immediately set about stamping his influence on the game.

We had already drawn level by then – Heslin pointed a free for them soon after the restart but frees from Kevin McLoughlin and Alan Freeman brought the match back to parity – but our increased intensity in that third quarter saw us open up a decisive four-point lead on the Lake County.

Action shot

Photo: Mayo Mick

Kevin McLoughlin got the first of these from play, then came another placed ball from Freeman – when a rapid move forward ended with Jason Doherty getting hauled down – and another from play by Lee Keegan, off a ’45 that was played short. Another ’45 produced another point, with Alan Freeman teeing up David Drake for a lovely curling effort that sailed over to send us four clear.

The subs were coming thick and fast now, with Seamus O’Shea on for Jason Gibbons (the Ballintubber man having put in another good, hard-working shift), Mickey Conroy on for Mikie Sweeney (whose influence had faded after that explosive start) and Brian Gallagher on for Jason Doherty (for whom little went right in the first half but who continued plugging away until he was withdrawn).

Conroy had an assist for a Freeman point soon after, following an astute long-range pass in by Keith Higgins but the biggest roar of the day came after that, when Cillian O’Connor boomed over a massive free from out on the sideline. Seamus O’Shea then won the kickout following that one and fed Brian Gallagher for a smartly taken point and, following Westmeath’s scrambled third goal, the Claremorris man then notched another to seal the five-point win.

It wasn’t a classic performance, for sure, but neither was it one to be unduly concerned about. We got from this match what we came for – the two League points on offer – and, despite that second quarter meltdown, we still won the game with plenty to spare.

The conditions were abysmal today and it was difficult for us to continue executing our fast-moving, high tempo approach in that kind of weather. But when the chips were down in the second half, we upped the gas very effectively and had the game in the bag well before the end.

Best for us today were Colm Boyle, the ever excellent Lee Keegan, Aidan O’Shea, Jason Gibbons (for sheer workrate alone), Kevin McLoughlin, Keith Higgins, Alan Freeman and, in the first half, Mikie Sweeney. David Drake, Seamus O’Shea and Brian Gallagher also performed well off the bench but special mention has to go to Cillian O’Connor who oozed class throughout his second half cameo.

With Cillian back in business, we’re a different team so anyone thinking of writing us off after today’s somewhat erratic performance needs to think again. We’ve much to work on, for sure, but we’ve plenty to work with and we’re only getting going this year.

Cork will be a big step up next weekend but, their good league form notwithstanding, they’re not a team that we should be quaking in our boots about. Instead, we need to view this one as the match in which we can cement our Division One place, while building further for the summer that’s coming ever closer.

Mayo: Robbie Hennelly; Brendan Harrison, Ger Cafferkey, Kevin Keane; Lee Keegan (1-2), Donal Vaughan, Colm Boyle; Aidan O’Shea (0-2), Jason Gibbons; Kevin McLoughlin (0-3, two frees), Jason Doherty, Keith Higgins; Enda Varley (0-1), Alan Freeman (0-5, three frees), Mikie Sweeney (1-0). Subs: David Drake (0-1) for Keane, Cillian O’Connor (0-1, free) for Varley, Seamus O’Shea for Gibbons, Michael Conroy for Sweeney, Brian Gallagher (0-2) for Doherty, Cathal Carolan for Higgins.

123 thoughts on “Westmeath 3-9 Mayo 2-17: a win is a win

  1. Our full back line is getting caught out far to easy for soft goals this will kill us against quality sides. Westmeath are a division 2 team to be fair

  2. Yeah WJ, as you said, a win is a win. Relief is the first word that comes to mind. You’d reckon at this stage that there are certain players that are just not good enough. Well done to the subs that came on, turned the game for us again like last week. Great to see Cillian back. Super display by Lee Keegan. Alan Freeman did well too. You’d think at this stage that Keith Higgins will resume his corner-back duties. All tough games ahead, hopefully with the win today, we’ll play with a bit more freedom rather than with a fear of losing. A big battle ahead against Cork, we should have a better idea of where we are at, this time next-week.

  3. Good win in the end. Full back line is certainly a problem but once Cunniffe and Barrett come back in it should tighten things up a lot. The priority coming into the league was to improve up front and score more and at least we are doing that. I would put Higgins back at corner back to look after Colm O Neill next week but wouldn’t abandon the half forward experiment just yet. Also, Freeman and Cillian will be a handful for any defence. Up Mayo!

  4. Didn’t see it but by following updates alone it certainly doesn’t sound pretty.

    Call me harsh but you really should be going out hammering teams like Westmeath who as Brogans boy points out are a d2 outfit. The worst part is letting them back into the game in the first half.

    Now obviously I can’t really comment on it as I saw nothing, but it really doesn’t sound great. That’s 4 games now and we are MILES off our level from last summer.

    Very feasible we could go down, given Kerry’s demolition job of Tyrone today. You can put Kerry on two wins now, with all respect to Westmeath they haven’t a hope of getting anything off the Kingdom. That’s the same as ourselves and their points difference surely looks a lot prettier today too

    We need to beat either Derry or Cork now and maybe even both?? We haven’t a hope v the Dubs as things stand

    That loss to Kildare could well prove more detrimental than we originally thought

    I’m really disappointed, I fully expected us to kick on big time from last week and send out a real statement of intent. Cork are flying, I really cannot see us beating them next week, we are not playing near consistent/good enough

  5. But of course saying all of this, a win is a win and that’s the important thing.

    I’d be a lot happier if Tyrone beat Kerry but sure there’s nothing we can do about that we can only control the controllables

    Could that Paddy Brophy wonder-score be the difference in survival/relegation? jeepers I REALLY hope not

  6. Yeah a win is a win, but the Kerry result means our relegation fears haven’t gone.

    A win next week against Cork and I reckon that’s us safe. Kildare play Kerry, we’d be 4 points clear of the loser (if there is one) with 2 games left.

    But a massive challenge against Cork. They’re hitting some almighty high scores and we’re conceding way too much. Letting in 3 goals against a limited Westmeath side is poor.

    Agree with Romeo above about moving Higgins back for the Cork game. He’ll be needed against that attack.

    But I do have some sympathy for the full back line, they’re constantly left isolated and in one on one situations with the attacker. The half backs need to offer them more support.
    It’s great having such attacking half backs that can create and score, but they can’t continue to all bomb forward at the same time, it leaves our full back line far too exposed.

  7. Lookit we needed the two Points from this and for them. Were we ever going to learn anything from this game? Not a lot IMO however , shipping 3 goals against a div 2 team, seriously!!!
    Just not good enough for a team with All Ireland final aspirations.
    Scoring doesn’t seems to be a problem for us now, 2-17, 2-18 will win the vast majority of games for you, providing you concede less. The full back line is and has been our problem when if comes to winning big games. Like I said before, you’ll get away with it with lesser teams, but NOT in September against the better/best teams.
    We are like like Swiss cheese at the back, and the numbers prove it. The sooner we cop on and admit it, maybe then we can fix it.
    Having said that, Leroy and freezer did well, as did AOS. He must have read the blog comments from last week 🙂
    Great to see Cillian back too!
    We’ll need to close ranks against cork next weekend, otherwise it could be awful.

  8. Lots of comments about Westmeath being a Div 2 team. That’s unfair and arrogant They are in Div 1 on merit. . Yes they will probably be a Div 2 team next season but so might we. Hoped Mayo would be more convincing today but at least they won. Nothing in sport is certain so saying we have no chance next week v cork is nonsense. Who would have thought that galway and meath would have got good results today after their performances last week and what about kerrys massive win after us beating them last week. Youre only as good as your next result and we have 2 games at home to come so have a good chance of picking up more points. Agree that last minute winner by Kildare could yet make life difficult

  9. The playing conditions today were horrible.. so it wasn’t ever going to be a great spectacle with a lot of broken play. It was good to see Mikey Sweeney get a run out and he got on the end of some good ball.. I felt sorry for Gibbons having to come off when he did caus he had done a lot of the donkey work and had joined up well with a lot of link play, but having said that all the substitutions that came on made an impact and no one more so than Cillian. The free taking for me will be a combo effort this year with McLoughlan and Cillian left and right respectively out of the hands.. freezer a little further out of the ground and more to the centre.. while hennelly for long range pile drivers (this will take the pressure off any one individual). We still have a problem with the high ball and dominating the square which needs to be sorted out asap. Im afraid Kevin Keane and Mickey C are running out of string and will find it very difficult to nail down a championship place when all players are back and with existing competition around them.. Yes., as much as today was about the win, next week will be all about where we are at.. The coat is hanging by the range, should be well dry by next sunday

  10. I agree with you there, to win just once. Westmeath were level with Cork at half-time, and were level with Dublin mid-way through the second-half in their game in Mullingar. Dublin eventually won that game by four points and Cork beat them by eight points, Cork were at home. Going by those results alone, we should have nothing to fear against Cork next week. Yes, Cork are going very well at the moment. They are playing some great football and with Tyrone getting beaten today, they are now the only unbeaten team in the country so far in 2014. They will come to Castlebar with eight points in the bag. Even already they have pretty much guaranteed their semi-final spot. We have a very big incentive to get the win, as we could still be dragged into a relegation battle. Very tight margins have decided most of the big games so far. You’d just be a bit worried that we continue to give away sloppy goals, we really need to eradicate this from our play. At least we are scoring more up-front but there is still room for improvement up there as well.

  11. Look it, kevin keane and harrison will not be starters when barrett and cuniffe are back-plus we have the best corner back in higgins if we are badly stuck, though i prefer to see his half forward experiment continue. Okay today we were ragged at the back but its better to be exploited now rather than August/September. We have 3/4 months to sort it out, and im sure when our FIRST choice full back line is back available we will sort it. Imo its the lack of scoring in our forwards which has cost us in finals, so to see us starting to rack up big scores is pleasing and i think we are heading in the right direction, despite off the poor defensive displays.

  12. I knew was going to be closer than most in here expected, 3-9 conceded to a div 2 side (which Westmeath will be) is poor however Mayo will improve and its only mid March yet. Semi final place still up for grabs.

  13. If we want to be serious all ireland contenders we hav to be putting teams like Westmeath away. And not let them off the hook with soft goals

  14. Three goals conceded today. This will simply not be good enough.
    The next eight days will largely determine whether or not Pat Holmes is our leader in waiting.
    At this stage the starting FB line should not be starting for us any more.
    It is well past time to move on. The selection of at least 2 of our starting forwards is no longer acceptable. It is way past time to move on.
    Sorry to be so negative but I have to call it as I see it.
    This is not based on one game but on repeated opportunities for the players involved.
    We need to get to the pace of the modern game.

  15. I like Kevin Keane but he is playing with so little self confidence it wouldn’t be right to put the lad out again. He has been roasted in all three of his outings. Tyrone game by far the worst

  16. We did what we had to do……win! We had the game won after 10 blistering minutes of great football. We then eased off and treated the rest of the half as a training session which of course we shouldn’t.
    There was never any doubt as to who was going to win. We were in a different class when we chose to and I would have no fear of Cork.
    When we have to do it we have the goods. No need for pessimism.
    Tactically I thought we should have had a sweeper in front of Dolan and Glennon. The FB line were left very exposed. On the other hand we learned a lot as a result.
    Oh and the high ball into the goalmouth is a real problem that needs sorting out.

  17. Not sure how much blame can be apportioned to the black card, but conceding 8goals and 56points in our four League matches is not good enough. Allowing defenders to be isolated one on one, with the black card in operation is asking for trouble. What is a defender supposed to do when faced with a forward coming at pace? If we hope to get anything from our next League match, Horan needs to take a long hard look at his defence before Cork’s visit to MacHale Park, otherwise it could be curtains !

  18. Spot on, To Win Just Once. Lots that wasn’t pretty today but we got the win, and we are in no position to be looking down on our competitors at this point. Just glad we came away with the win. Christ, but we don’t make it easy for ourselves. 🙂

  19. Agree re forwards though I’m not convinced just yet that we have improved greatly in this area. Westmeath were able to bottle us up quite easily at times. Varley not up to it imo. The doc is hot and cold but has more potential. The lad Gallagher looked decent when he arrived. 2 points. Looked comfortable on the ball..

  20. Reasons to be cheerfully Part 1
    ? we looked a class act for a few short minutes at the start.
    ?when all was pear shaped at start of second half, nothing sticking, every bounce wrong, enough players lead us to what looked a long way away at the time
    ?Alan Freeman
    ?Cillian’s back
    ?Kevin Mac is settling nicely
    ?the three thou of us there made as much noise as half the county last September

    Creid é

  21. Got the 2 points today

    However, I think it’s now I’m really starting to feel disappointed with that result in Kildare

    At the time it didn’t seem that bad given it was our first outing and all that, but Kildare haven’t won a game since and the guy who nearly beat us on his own, Paddy Brophy, was by all accounts kept remarkably quiet by an Offaly under 21 defence during the week

    We conceded a good lot of needless scores that day imo. While it’s in the past now, it really could be the game that relegates us, particularly as Kildare themselves are right in the mix

    Hopefully we can go out and put up a good show next week and beat Cork but even that mightn’t be enough if we fail to win our last two! You’d have to fancy both Kildare and Kerry to beat W.meath and if there is a winner in the clash between the two it means we’d have to hope Kildare (if they lose to Kerry) won’t beat Derry or Kerry (if they lose to Kildare) don’t beat Cork who could be already through.

    Next week really is a big, big game as a result. If we lose, we may need to beat BOTH Derry and Dublin. If we win at least we know another win and we’ll be sound

    Don’t care about playoffs right now at all, I’m really, really worried about the prospect of possibly sharing a league with two of our Connacht rivals next year, two we annihilated last summer

  22. I’d imagine our points diff won’t be enough if it comes down to it? Kerry’s result today should be enough for them and we haven’t beaten anyone by much, including Westmeath

  23. Good points:-
    We won.

    O Connor is back and makes a difference.

    That Gallagher fella looked decent…. Who is he??age?

    Not so good:-
    We only scored 2 goals and didn’t create half as much goal opp’s as we should have.

    We didn’t get enough good ball into freeman… He is a big awkward 14…send it into him and see what he can do, isolate him and if it breaks have someone off him.

    At times we play like a rugby team laterally zig zagging up the pitch…way WAY Too slow!!!

    James Horan said it post match… We were naive… At the back we opened up like the Red Sea. Better teams will destroy us if we don’t get cuter tougher and tighter in defence.

    Varley is a sub at best. It’s worrying when he is starting.

    Mickey C looks way off the pace:/ i was always a very big fan of his but he looked wrecked when he came on in last 15 mins! He needs to lose a few pounds too. He is a very talented
    scorer …but no use to the team unless he gets sorted soon.

    Where is Darren coen these days?

  24. A win is a win even if it was a Dog’s dinner of a match. From the sublime (first 10 mins) to the ridiculous (2 of the 3 goals conceded were in-excusable). Conditions were very poor, it was very wet so made it difficult to control the ball. I would like to see Mayo focus on 1) dealing with high balls into square 2) dealing with rebounds off the posts 3)pacey players needed in full back line. Experiments fail and this one has Imo. 4) stop feeble shots at goal. All to play for with our U21 and Mitchells lads back in the fold next week. Finally welcome back Cillian we need you. Well done Colm Boyle for your sheer relentless workrate and bravery.

  25. I wouldn’t worry about the backs and wouldn’t rush to judge them just yet. These new rules make life difficult for backs and now that we are fairly safe in the table id say they will get more physical in defence against the langers.

  26. Ciaran,

    Of course we’re miles off where we were last summer. We are miles of where we will be this summer if three months training and games count for anything. It wasn’t pretty but the first 15 minutes were so ridiculously easy that complacency crept in. But in the second half there was no doubt of Mayo’s supremacy. We still have key players to come back into the picture and when they do we will be much stronger. However we still have much work to do in the league.

  27. I agree about the cover from half backs. Was I imagining things or did Lee Keegan stay closer to home in the second half. No doubt he is great going forward, but at times in the first half the gap between our half backs and fullbacks could be seen from space.

    The quicker Chris Barrett and a Tom Cunniffe come back , the better.

    AOS put everything into today , and showed how good he can be at times. I thought the half forward line all put in a great shift , and it was great to see Villian back. He gave one lad a shoulder that makes it clear that he’s not worried about it popping again !

    In the conditions I thought we did ok. Roll on Cork.

    One major complaint I would have today was the level if stewarding. I was sitting in the back row of the stand near a line of steps, which were crowded with people standing on them for the entire game, making it almost impossible to see one end of the pitch. They had no consideration for some elderly fans who couldn’t be getting and down from the seats to see what was happening, nor for kids who hadn’t a hope of seeing things. When asked to move by those around them , the rude and aggressive response was shocking. One steward did move them just before throw in but they were back once he left and we didn’t see him again for the afternoon. I know it was wet and people wanted cover , but frankly if you’re not in time to get a seat them bring a coat or an umbrella and feck off to the terraces.

  28. Agree to a certain point about the cover young fella, but not the cover with the full backs. I was at the game 40mins before throw in and for you to say ‘feck off to the terraces’ is a bit OTT. Terrible conditions and if there is no room in the stand people should have been stopped going into it. It is human nature that none of us wanted to get wet, all we kept hearing was the ‘Main stand is now full’

    Onto the game, yes it was disastrous to let a poor team into it when we were six points up but that stage we were cruising it and took the foot off the pedal, look what the lads did in the second half, two points down and then to turn around to seven up before Westmeath scored a scrappy goal. Give them a break today was a terrible day for football but we still came out with loads to spare

  29. I didn’t care either way bout getting wet or not but the stands “roof” didn’t seem to stretch to a second line of sheeting & the towns parking options weren’t great!

  30. oh yes mayonaze, you been reading my mail, spot on on all counts, gallagher looked good in mchale park too but was subbed i think for Varley who is just too small, fact, carolan work rate always good, someone ask keith higgins where he would like to play, corner back or forward, doesnt matter cause when he gets the ball he will carry it up the field anyway thats his instinct, and leave him there,whether back or forward, Boyler is just all heart, hope he doesnt get killed making some of those tackles, lots to do but i’m strangely bullish about cork next week , keep the subs coming off the bench and may the best man win his place, As Jack O Connor said you would like to keep your best football for Aug and Sept, McHale park here we come to welcome the rebels #seaofgreenandred maigheu abú

  31. Was down in the terrace as well today – horrendous conditions.
    Overall, I took more positives than negatives – it’s easy to be negative but the conditions were absolutely awful so one does need to bear that mind.
    Midfield was good today but only in fits and starts. Aidan O’Shea was outstanding for long periods but anonymous for other periods. I worry still about the mobility of that particular pairing as I thought it was Paul Sharry that pulled them into it and neither Gibbons nor O’Shea could stick with him. Harrison and Keane looked less than secure for long periods of the first half though Dolan’s playing for frees won him frees he shouldn’t have got. Still Keane looks completely shorn of confidence at this stage and his summer prospects look bleak. Bleak too look the prospects of Varley who, aside from a great point, slowed the play up time and time again. His lack of pace was evident. Sweeney on the other hand looked very enterprising and caused endless problems for his man.
    Our half back line was probably the winning of the game. Boyle, Vaughan, Drake and the peerless Keegan, got forward at every opportunity and were the reason for the win, in my book. I thought some of the play in the second half when they were running at pace with intricate passing was excellent. Some of it didn’t pay dividend today but in the summer, with dry ball and more work done, it is the way to unlock mass defences. For those not present, Westmeath had 12 men back constantly, leaving just their full forward line (which bizarrely included their wing back) up front. Once Mayo went about it in the second half, Westmeath had no answer.
    I don’t agree that O’Connor was the catalyst for the win at all, I have to say. Thought Mayo were already pulling away at that stage and with McLoughlin and Freeman becoming more prominent as the game went on, the writing was on the wall by the time O’Connor got on. Great free though. Magic.
    Thought Cafferkey too did very well when it looked as if Glennon was going to do damage in the first half. He did well. Hennelly, whilst excellent with his distribution and that, was completely at fault for the first goal (though Boyle showed why he’s not a corner back – he just watched it unfold instead of either challenging or getting back on the line) and now has to be looking over his shoulder nervously awaiting the arrival of Clarke. For while I think Hennelly is actually a better goalkeeper overall in terms of shot stopping and distribution and even the odd free, Clarke is definitely better under a high ball.
    Still, good to get the win – 1 more win from the next 3 matches should see us secure. Which was always the priority. Horan knows that a League is really meaningless. Castlebar lads back will help as will the return of Barrett and Dillon (any word on either, by the way?). This time last year, we were in a far worse position, so all is not lost yet!!

  32. Great read Willie Joe!

    Hennelly caught out again under the high ball – that is troubling though I still think Horan is right to persist with him. He’s a hugely talented ‘keeper.

    Please stop writing off talented footballers like Enda Varley. He needs to be more consistent if he’s to win a starting place but he was excellent when sprung from the bench against Kerry. Nonsense suggesting he’s too small. We may very well see Andy Moran playing closer to goal come Summer but for the time being Horan can run the rule over a number of forwards, like Sweeney and Gallagher and see what they can bring to the table.

    A semi-final place would give huge impetus at this early stage of the season. Here’s hoping.

  33. Three points there were people on here during the week raving about the demolition job we’d do today! Yes we won but it was no run away!secondly Kevin Keane is only making up numbers til the rest of the boys are fully fit! Finally if Robbie Hennelly doesn’t start taking man and ball(as Clarke can do) when those high balls come in we’ll concede a lot more! From where I stood the one that went in was a carbon copy of last Septembers one!!

  34. Brian Gallagher is from Claremorris,only a young lad,19 or 20.Darren Coen was on the bench today.Andy Moran was named on the bench today but watched the game from the stand,injured his shoulder last week,he doesn’t think he will be fit for cork game next week.Great to see Cillian back,lee Keegan brilliant today,two great points from Gallagher.Full back line crying out for Barrett and Tom Cuniffe.Horan has to bring Keith Higgings back into the corner for Cork game or they will walk through the present back line.Jason gibbons did a lot of donkey work today and was doing well when taken off.We really need to tighten up at the back for cork game and take our goal chances when they come.Hennelly is very dodgy under the high ball and I feel Cork will exploit this

  35. We have two problems in defence. One is the high ball into the square and there is not much we can do with that given present personnel.Two is that we give far to much space to opposing forwards letting them get to the ball yards ahead of us. In that situation our defenders are on a hiding to nothing with the present rules as opponents turn and run at them. Westmeath defenders were not giving our forwards the same liberty, often getting a hand in to break the ball away as it came to the forward. We need a major tightening up in that area.
    I would hope to see Higgins back in the corner for the Cork game and would like to see Jason Gibbons tried on the 40, assuming that Seamus O’Shea is fit to start and Doherty on the wing.

  36. Mayo need to sustain momentum and bury opponents who hand them the shovel. Difficult conditions today make it well difficult to give a concise opinion of where Mayo are at, in terms of developemnt. Corks immenient arrival will give Mayo a more realistic perspective of where we actually stand. I wouldn’t write Mayo off based on what I have seen nor would I write them in. Mayo are winning and that will do well enough for now

  37. The new rules and black card don’t make them slower to the ball,Kevin Keane has never been the same player since the final v Donegal,sadly.

  38. When you think about it, Kildare were 5 points up last week and Tyrone got two goals in the last couple of minutes against them to win, so that’s a game Kildare really should have won. Also last week Kerry hit the crossbar against us and Hennelly made a great save in that game too. If those goals had went in, Kerry might have beaten us. There are just such tight margins in these games, especially in such high scoring games, a win or a loss is almost like a toss of a coin in some of these games. At the moment Tyrone and Derry are just one point ahead of us so I’d prefer to be looking at the teams above us rather than below us. Although Tyrone are playing Westmeath at home next, so you’d expect Tyrone to win that. With Derry playing Dublin at home, both teams who are ahead of us in the table, will mean either one could be within reach of us too, depending who loses (if there is a loser). Whoever loses between Kerry and Kildare (Kildare are at home) next week will be favourites to go down along with Westmeath. It’s all to play for really and should make for a few very interesting week-ends ahead.

  39. Just in the door from Mullingar.Missed bus back to Galway.Had to call girlfriend.That didn’t go down well .Yes a win is a win.However some bad stuff was on play.On a shite wet day away we got a win and that’s the main thing.However to give away a big lead twice is a major issue.We need to sort out the high ball and we are far too loose on our markers on our full back lone
    Keane had a bad day.Maybe should have been taken off earlier.Aidan fielded well today but again he is carrying too much into tackles as did a lot of our players.But i do believe that we can step up against Cork and beat them.Keegan was my man of match today.

  40. I dunno what the fear factor is in taking a black card for the team or county’s division 1 safety.We have a trio of lads warming up at all times.Anything is better than leaking scores like this.
    I hate being pessimistic but the incoming Cunnife & Barrett are no giants either in height under the high ball…I like Hennelly BUT Clarke may be an upgrade in height & dominance

  41. Jesus Christ I’d hate to see the negativity if we lost! Did anyone consider that Westmeath were actually at home? Did anyone consider that they put the Dubs to the pin of their collar to beat them earlier this season? Did anyone consider that they were in effect playing for their division 1 survival? As for some of the comments saying “we’re nowhere near where were we last Summer”!! Why don’t we try this for size. Plan to hit peak optimum fitness for the Dublin league game so we are absolutely flying and show everyone how great we are. Then the Rossies put us out of the Connaught because we are burned out!!!
    However it must be said, deja vu time. High ball in, Hennelly comes out, GOAL. Ball to Mickey C, Mickey C collects ball, Mickey C falls on his hole. Some things never change.
    As for our terrible defense, well they kept Westmeath scoreless for 32 mins of the second half. And in Brendan Harrison we have found an excellent defender who is looking more and more comfortable at this level. He may not dislodge Cunniffe or Barrett but he certainly will add competition and cover to the right side of our defense.

  42. i think its a disgrace to say feck off into the terraces we were in the ground 40 minutes before the start and the stand was full then,so we got soaked in the terraces that you told us to feck off to.

  43. I hear ya.But ya still cannot say that it was a good mayo performance.Next week will tell how good we are and Cork are due a beating.

  44. Did’t see the game and had to listen via MWR so only comments I can make are limited.
    Thought after the first few minutes it would be a cakewalk, at half time was disappointed that we let such a lead slip but was looking forward as to how we’d respond so by the end was glad of the 2 points .
    That we did have the ability to comeback says a lot and while keeping an ear on how other matches were unfolding was left in greater anticipation for the match next week as Cork, although flying it, shipped 3 goals at home to Derry.
    Now that’s one to look forward to and a better pointer to where we’re at than this afternoon in Mullingar.
    Great to have Cillian back and by all accounts Leroy gave a captains performance.
    MaighEo Abú

  45. And, we were all ranting about finding a natural scoring forward and another option in our attack? High ball in to Freeman, ball breaks and Sweeney nips in and buries to the net. A sniper. He had a very impressive first half as he constantly showed for the ball, was always out in front of his man and laid off some cute hand passes to incoming colleagues. Well worth another look. An assist for Keegans goal also.
    Drake performed very well too I think. Tackled and tracked his man with aggression and took his point wonderfully. Like Harrison, Adam Gallagher and Sweeney, I think he has added to the depth of talent and cover in the squad. Throw in Brian Gallagher and Horan had plenty of options at his disposal.
    Conroy, Varley and Keane certainly have reason to be worried.

  46. I see that the Mayo U21 team has been named, looks like a strong team, best of luck to them on Wednesday night:

    The Mayo U-21 Football Team open their 2014 campaign this Wednesday evening 12th March at 7.30p.m. in Elverys MacHale Park, Castlebar where they face neighbours Roscommon. Manager Niall Heffernan in his first year in charge will be hoping to get off to a winning start and has a very strong squad to choose from. The Mayo U-21 Football Team to face Roscommon is as follows:

    1) Matthew Flanagan – Balla
    2) Kevin Lynch – Mayo Gaels
    3) Liam Kitterick – Westport
    4) Aidan Butler – Claremorris
    5) Cian Burke – Ballymun Kickhams
    6) Stephen Coen – Hollymount/Carramore
    7) Padraig O’Hora – Ballina Stephenites
    8) Padraic Prendergast – Louisburgh
    9) Diarmuid O’Connor – Ballintubber
    10) Gareth O’Donnell – Charlestown Sarsfields
    11) Michael Plunkett – Ballintubber
    12) Adam Gallagher – Mayo Gaels (Captain)
    13) James Shaughnessy – Claremorris
    14) Evan Regan – Ballina Stephenites
    15) Conor O’Shea – Breaffy

    16) Shane Keane – Crossmolina Deel Rovers
    17) Eoghan Collins – Ballyhaunis
    18) Michael Hall – Breaffy
    19) Brian Murphy – Ballintubber
    20) Darragh Ruane – Bohola Moy Davitts
    21) Sean Regan – Ballina Stephenites
    22) Steven Conroy – The Neale
    23) Anthony Jordan – Bohola Moy Davitts
    24) Liam Irwin – Breaffy

    Niall Haffernan – Manager

  47. I was looking for a solid 70 mins and what I think I saw was this…
    A brilliant opening 10 mins, 2 wides in the first minute and 2-4 to 0-1 after 9 mins.
    Us crowded out at midfield by their retreating half forward line and then us slackening off to allow them space to play. And they can play. That stinging cross-field pass for their second goal was a peach and their no.10 punished the 4 cheap frees we coughed up. As Brent Pope says, “never give a sucker a chance” and we gave them their chance, and, to be fair the took it.
    A rocket up the ass at half time and when the game had to be grabbed by the scruff of the neck and won, we did it. Aidan O’Shea was to the fore with Keegan and Freeman kept the scoreboard ticking over also.
    Speaking of rockets up the ass, I got one when I got back to the car and the 3 kids and myself like drowned rats! Herself not too impressed. The young lad thought it was funny that his toes squelched in his shoes when he walked! I told him don’t mind his mother, she’s a fair weather supporter!

  48. Seems to be a little confusion re points difference etc…

    Kerry, with Kildare and Westmeath look like they will finish with a few more wins.

    If mayo finish level on points with Kildare, scoring difference will not decide who gets relegated. It is decided on head to head which means we go down.

    If 3 teams finish level on points it is decided by score difference.

    Still, with 4 points on the board and 2/3 remaining games in castlebar (although league record in castlebar under JH has actually been quite poor over the previous 3 years) we should be looking up the table rather than down!

  49. OK , maybe a bit strong, but my point is why should people be allowed to stand on the steps in the stand blocking the view of those who had been in situ before the stand was full? Do you think that’s fair ? We paid our money to watch the game too, we should be entitled to see it. It’s not our fault the stand was small. Once it was full, I agree that the stewarding was poor letting more people in…..my first point was stewarding was poor. But once you’ve been let in and can’t find a seat, why block the view of others?

  50. Yeah I thought Harrison looked fine (amazing take in the 2nd half – great reaction),He must be highly regarded to be trusted marking a wily Dessie Dolan

  51. Yeah, sliding on his side and he still plucked the ball from the air and held it. He was initially used as a wing back in the FBD and earlier league games but looks at home at no.2. The Aghamore men tell me that the corner is his best position.

  52. Like has been said, got the points, played well for spells and played shite for spells .

    Hennelly to keen to make a blunder , you can make several dramatic saves during a game but one blunder and your weakening the teams chances of progress, it’s the nature of the position same as the full back line , you have to have safe ,solid men in these positions who are confident and assured in their ability and execute it accordingly . Clarke, o Malley , Barrett, Cunnife, Higgans, Caff and Shane McHale are the seven I’d be choosing from come the summer heat . Just my opinion and I respect yours to those who are making a case for Harrison and would rather we stuck with hennelly between the sticks.

    I thought AOS showed what he’s about today in periods, he did fade out a lot too but when he gets to full tilt he will be vital to our plans and that goes for a lot of our bigger more established lads, Vaughan, Cillian ( great to see him back , powerful buck , he’s the future too) , Keegan , Boyle etc all top class ,finest in the country , sometimes we tend to forget stuff like that and take it for granted ,well I do anyway.

    Forward play nothing to get ourselves excited about , Varley only less than middlin, Doc was good at times , Freeman good, Conroy , needs something to be pinned to his arse so as when he hits the deck with it he gets a belt of electRicity , the man can’t stop hittin the deck , it’s a quare style I ever seen. Kevin mcgloughlin did all right but actual forward play again only less than middlin in this department.

    Cork game has come at the right time , it’s in Castlebar , we should have a lot learned these past few games and sharpness has to be improving . Need to tighten up by next Sunday and have a friggin plan for the high ball coming in, most coaches will tell you it’s the easiest tactic to defend . Command command command take man ball and child and clear your lines . Black card me hole, sure what about it even if you do get one , isn’t there bucks there to replace you.

  53. The lad Gallagher who scored two pts tday…if he was 19/20 then he’d b in the u21 squad. He isn’t, so I’m guessing he’s older?? Like I said he looked like a natural forward… Does anyone have more info on him?

  54. The lad Gallagher who scored two pts tday…if he was 19/20 then he’d b in the u21 squad. He isn’t, so I’m guessing he’s older?? Like I said he looked like a natural forward… Does anyone have more info on him

  55. Hope Springs Eternal,

    Leitrim are also unbeaten, after 8 games [FBD & NFL] which is more than Cork.
    As a Leitrim man would say “hope springs eternal.”
    We may beware of an ambush in June.

  56. Mayomad, I actually just copied these details from the Mayo GAA Official Website, they only listed the Manager’s name. It’s great to have Kevin O’Neill involved with them too.

  57. Sorry AndyD! I actually had Leitrim in my head too. I knew that they had won the FBD League and were unbeaten in the NFL so far. I thought that they might have lost one of their group games in the FBD League, I was too lazy to google their results in that competition! Are they at home to Roscommon in the championship? In fairness both Leitrim and Roscommon are showing great form so far in the NFL and are in with a great chance of getting promotion.

  58. Make up our minds. ” half backs winning of the game”. Or ” half backs too loose and not covering full backs”.

    Personally I think the full back land keeper are average and results over the years prove it. Doesn’t matter if keeper makes a miracle save, one mistake is all he needs. Our man makes too many, and full back possibly better out the field not on edge of square. We have our points now, zilch from next 3 games. Will it keep us up? Possibly but 8 goals leaked from 4 games has to be addressed. Same problems remain all over the place and won’t be addressed.

  59. I also love how our biggest problem *all along* has suddenly changed from our full forward line to our full back line…. yes, we’d all be mad not to acknowledge the threat under the high ball, but what full back line wouldn’t be under threat under a high ball? We just need to wake up to it a bit more.

    After sleeping on it I’m with WJ on this one. I’m not unduly concerned about it yet – yes, it was sloppy, no, it wasn’t pretty, and I hope those three goals don’t come back to haunt us but I never felt at any point in that game that the lads got out of third gear and I wasn’t worried at half time that we wouldn’t get the win. But we definitely don’t make it easy for ourselves.

    Anyway, the biggest loser there yesterday in that place was anyone who got their arse soaked sitting on a plank – I’ll never give out about McHale Park again 😉

  60. The full back is an all star.

    Defence is now all about a system and that starts further out the field. I don’t think it’s particularly fair to be pinning the entire blame for goals conceded on one or two players.

    The current rules make it a dream for inside forwards. Oisin McConville said over the weekend that it kills him not to have played under the black card system. He reckons it gives every forward at least two or three extra yards of space.

    There are big scores being run up across the entire NFL. It’s taking everyone time to acclimatise but come the summer it’ll even out. Certainly no need to panic yet.

    We won away from home by five points. And yet we’re berating ourselves??

  61. I don’t think it’s a case of making up our minds on the issue, John, as I think both are valid. The attacking threat our half-back line poses is one of our real positives but when we bomb forward and attacks break down that leaves gaping holes and our much maligned (unfairly in my view) full-back line exposed when the opposition comes at us. When we were up to championship pitch last year, we covered this with midfield and/or half-forwards providing protection when the lads were on the gallop and I’m sure this will happen again as we get up to that pace again this year. We’re not anything near that level yet but we will be when we need to be.

    Also, how can you possibly say “we have our points now” with three matches left to play, two of them at home? Last year we had only two wins from five, with All-Ireland champions Donegal and Cork left to play and we still did the business. In fact with ten minutes to go in Pairc Ui Chaoimh we were still being relegated but ended that day in the semis. The previous year we faced the mighty Dubs (All-Ireland champions then too) in our sixth match of the campaign at which point we only had four points in the bag as well, with a tough trip to Kerry to come after that. Semis that year too. Personally, I think we could win all three of our remaining fixtures and even if we don’t we can certainly get enough from them to stay up. Again.

  62. Bearing in mind that this is the middle weekend of 3 weekends of action and the wet and heavy pitch, it is understandable that Mayo tried to conserve some energy and win with as little energy expended as possible in the first half. However, they found it difficult to put the foot back on the gas and take over again when Westmeath pulled level. Half time, and a couple of necessary changes to the backs, allowed us to get back in control again.

    It was my first time seeing Mikey Sweeney in action, I hoped he would be a little taller. However, he made some intelligent runs and reminded me of Andy the way he could feed the man bursting through. Had the smarts to take the quick free to Keegan as well. Faded, but this fitness levels will improve, brains are permanent.

    Somebody asked to look at a run of games rather than over-react to each game individually. At this stage, the midpoint in the league, we have a new man for the full back line (Harrison), half back line(Drake), half forward line(2 Gallaghers) and full forward line(Sweeney but we need to see more to be sure), as well as Jason Gibbons really putting his hand up for a midfield spot. Mitchells players still to come back as well.

    Its always great to see Keegan and Boyler in action, both leaders but very different players. Keegan caused all sorts of problems right through the match but Boyle was very effective at removing Glennon from the game in the second half. Also, haven’t seen it mentioned above, but that shoulder in the first half where he sent the man flying over the line, was a thing of beauty.

  63. Spot on about attacking 1/2 backs and 1/2 fws covering back WJ. I assume this is one of the reasons JH is pursuing the Higgins 1/2 fw swap. If we have guys like McLoughlin, Higgins and say Feeney who can move effortlessly between each of the 40s then you have a lot of coverage in that area. And it offers more protection to FB line.

    Cork beat Dublin in Croker using this blueprint. One of their paciest and athletic fws P. Kerrigan is playing now at centre-half fw. But he spent as much (if not most) of the game against Dublin covering back in defense and orchestrating quick counter attacking plays when Dublin attacks were broken up.

    Received justified MOTM as a result.

  64. Three goals conceded today and we blame the fullback line? From my looking at the game the half back line were more at fault. As I stated in other blogs and it proved it again today David Vaughan is not a CHB. His marker caused all the trouble. As is usual our half backs were playing in our half forward positions and when we lost the ball it was kicked long it to Westmeath’s forward line. Their forward line just broke the ball and their half forward line were their to crucify us. Where was Vaughan and rest of half backs running back when damage was done. Its a simple game, ball does the work when played correctly. Again Jason Gibbons was a work horse and as usual he was replaced. Aiden was good the first 10 mins and after that not in the game. Seamus did not add much either but he needed the run. Cilian brought his trade mark to with the best score of the day. Cork will test our mettle next week.
    In the meantime our under 21’s will know their fate. I think they can win even if Ros are hot favourites. After that the Mitchells?

  65. He is 22 I think. Horan spoke very highly about him at the start of last season but injury curtailed his involvement at the business end of the season. He is technically very good and can shift with the ball in hand. Maybe a touch light yet but he can do damage with that left foot. Played in midfield for a game in the FBD but I think the half forward line is where he would be most effective as he can hit a pass, a score from distance and can certainly cover the ground in open space.

  66. Well Anne-Marie I suppose you gotta be grateful it was only a soaking and not splinters you came away with 😉 Thanks again for the lift offering and apologies for email mix-up and thank you Willie Joe for the lift back to the east – much appreciated.

    On the game side we weren’t the only team to blow a lead as Cork were 11 points up on Derry and just managed to scrape it by a point. Of course we should have let it happen and to me it was more a mix of complacency, the weather and the fact that Westmeath only woke up after 10 minutes, what matters more is that when the game was in the balance in the second we took it by the scruff of the neck and brought it home!

    Joe brolly called us pigs last year defensively as we were absolutely intense and hungry to win ball back – that for me is still missing here but it is only March and we still have some important players to come back to the defensive line.

    So bring Cork on I hope its a dry day so that we can get a good crack at them!

  67. I think to be fair to Donal Vaughan, True Grit, he looked a bit off the pace yesterday, which is understandable given that it was his first full match back and with the going out there so heavy. Like you, I was a bit surprised Jason Gibbons was withdrawn when he was – Shane McHale for Donie might have been a better switch at that stage. I think you’re doing the two O’Sheas a bit of a disservice, though – Aidan worked hard all day and did plenty after the first ten minutes while Seamus helped us push on in the second half.

  68. Excellent post there Deel Rovers Return & we are going to have some panel to work with when the Castlebar contingent return shortly. Have we ever had such a panel ?
    All our headaches will be happy ones like who do we leave out.
    I think it will shortly be hugely important to give emerging players a chance.
    We all know what the likes of Varley, Conroy, Andy Moran, Doherty & McLoughlin bring to the party but we may be better served to give others a chance soon to see if they can challenge for those spots. We can always revert to the ‘tried & trusted’ at a later stage if needs be.

  69. Points difference only counts if you are in a 3-way tie, otherwise it’s head to head. It would most likely only come into play in the event of Mayo winning 1 match and Kerry and Kildare both winning 2.

    For what it’s worth, predicting the last 3 games, I reckon the table could end up thus:

    Cork 10
    Dublin 10
    Tyrone 9
    Mayo 8
    Kerry 8
    Derry 7
    Kildare 4
    Westmeath 0

    Mayo to qualify for the semi-finals on the basis on our head to head against Kerry :p

    We have always dug out wins when necessary in the league, against Donegal and Cork last year, against Dublin the year before, against Cork the year before that.

    Then again, who knows, depending on how results go, even Derry could be coming to MacHale Park in the last round for a “loser is relegated” match.

  70. John, who has rattled your cage? You are not normally so pessimistic. I have to agree with you on the goalkeeper issue though. It is becoming more and more obvious than Robbie has a difficulty in commanding his area and if we can see it well, you can be damn sure that the opposition can see it also. Any manager worth his salt will make a play out of it and, at some stage in the game, park a big lad in there and let a few long high balls in and see what happens. At this stage it is not a coincidence that against Dublin last year, Roscommon in the FBD, Kildare, Tyrone and now Westmeath in the league we have conceeded goals from that tactic. It needs to be sorted now.
    Robbie is a fine keeper and is capable of pulling off saves that Clarke is not, e.g. one-on-ones and diving athletic saves that require greater flexibility and reactions, but, unfortunately keepers are the last line of defense and their mistakes stand out much more than a centre back missing a run, or, a full back misreading a ball.
    As for conceeding the big scores? Can anyone remember back 3 seasons ago when we were kicking big scores and also conceeding big scores? It was eventually sorted and I believe it will be again.
    Cork next Sunday will be a real test but one that I believe we will rise to and win. I wouldn’t be shaking in my boots going in against them as I think we are progressing nicely in terms of our fitness and stamina, plenty of players are getting game time and minutes on the pitch and a chance to impress the management, we are fairly efficient in front of goal in that our wide tally is not high, we have senior experienced players to come back in to the squad over the next few weeks and, I firmly believe and you heard it here first, that this years All Ireland winners will come from Tyrone, Donegal or Mayo.

  71. Maybe Horan is making sure of our division 1 status first, and then playing Coen, B. Gallagher, Carolan etc. in the latter games? I didn’t believe him at the start of the season when he said that he was targetting the league to win it. That was more a case of diversionary tactics. As Deel Rovers said above, this league was always about finding and blooding new players (particularly in the forwards), trying things out in the attack (Moran at no.11, continuing with Higgins in the forwards, Sweeney in the corner etc) and maintaining our division 1 place. We are motoring nicely.

  72. Good win in tough conditions. Have to agree with Keegan being man if the match , but I also think that himself and Boyle yesterday actually caused a lot of the problems for Mayo going forward. They pushed up too much and held on to the ball too long with the FF line screaming for the ball , by the time the ball was eventually let in the space was gone and the forwards were receiving the ball in a static position with no space as the half forward line is also getting in their way by this time.By all means Keegan should use his attacking abilities but not ALL the time, the ball has to be given quick if the forwards are to have any chance. Also re defending duties S.O’Brien scored 1-2 of him against Kerry. Bottom line ………let the defenders defend and the forwards attack

  73. Very worrying that our keeper is still making mistakes. A full back line need to be confident in his ability. Any chance of Clarke coming back. A three point mistake cost us in September and made yesterday very difficult.

    Time to bring Keith Higgins back too. He is the best corner back in the country and not contributing enough up front. We need to tidy that one up.

    All in all though we are beginning to up the gears and looking good.

  74. Glad to see Hennelly’s short kickouts to the wings, very dodgy under the high ball, 8 goals let in the league campaign. I said after the last game he was a one trip pony with his kickouts down the middle. I will be happy to see Clarke back in goals to steady the ship and direct the backs from the goal line. On the plus side, sweeney played well, O Connors sideline point was a cracker, varley & keane wern’t at the races and shouldn’t start come championship. I thought Gibbons was ok but drifted out, and if seamus o shea hadn’t come on we would have lost the midfield battle and possibly the game as a result. The entertainment in cusack park was pretty poor aswell, it was like listening to a banschee while still getting soaked.

  75. Yes our FB line was loose and yes we gave away a couple of bad goals and a host of soft frees but I’m not too worried about it. Caff was good, Harrison showed plenty of potential and we have Cunniffe and Barrett to come back there along with Higgins as an option. A win is a win, a few have struggled against Westmeath and they’ve got on ok. One more win from 3 games should see us ok. Derry and Cork at home and Dublin away, on our day I think we are capable of winning any of those. We just have to get on our day.

    Our midfield and GK spots have plenty of good competition and our half back line is really good (Drake and Feeney as cover give us more options there). In forwards I’m much more concerned. The way I see it we have 3 confirmed starters there (Freeman, Cillian and McL) everything else is up for contention. However I think our FF line has enough options to be ok. If we say Freeman at FF plus Cillian and one other from Doc, Mikey C, Sweeney, Dillion, Andy. Then it looks fairly strong.

    What I’m really concerned about is CHF. We need one. We don’t have a proper one as of yet. It cost us in Sept when Keith moved back to the corner. I’d love to see either Andy or Cillian being given the spot long term (although I have to say Gallagher looked good when he came on). It’s not Higgins’ best position or Dillon or Doc or McL or Freemans. Only one of those two can give us the leadership and shape we require there.

  76. Jacket was still wet coming in to work this morning!

    You’ve summed it up WJ – a win is a win. Just a shame that we had to win it twice. Against better teams… etc. etc.

    I too enjoyed the ‘delights’ of the Mullingar terracing. But at least I was up high on the halfway line so I had a decent view.

    My €0.02:

    – The first 10 minutes were surreal. Westmeath looked starstruck. Little did we know.

    – Westmeath’s first goal was not ‘sloppy’, ‘unfortunate’ or ‘something to be worked on’. It was an embarrassment. It was not a goal that Kerry, Dublin, Donegal or Cork would ever concede. The ball dropped into the Mayo net so limply that the home fans couldn’t even muster a decent cheer.

    – Westmeath’s second goal came from a free that they should never have got.

    – If James Horan is going to continue using Enda Varley, he should use him as a sub. Ditto Jason Doherty. Ditto Michael Conroy (sadly, as he had real potential). We’re either moving forward or we’re not.

    – Mikie Sweeney showed really well for ball in the first half. He’s small, but he’s brave and time and again he won ball and offloaded to incoming runners to great effect. Smart quick free for Keegan’s goal too, and when his own chance came he stuck it. Hope he keeps this up.

    – Comedy moment #1: the announcer announcing ‘a substitution on the Mayo team – Number 18 David Drake replaces Number Kevin Keane’!

    – We know about the commentator’s curse. Here’s the supporter’s curse: I turned to the man beside me as Freeman lined up a 45 and said ‘great to see Freeman solving the problem with 45s’. Result: Freezer puts the next three wide.

    – Harrison looks solid and tough in the corner. A real option.

    – Vaughan needed that 70 minutes. Looks well short of fitness. Caught forward more than once and anonymous for most of the second half.

    – Impressive cameo from Drake.

    – Keith Duggan was right: Lee Keegan is becoming the new Tomás O Sé.

    – Comedy moment #2: Mickey Conroy is on the ball, at a tight enough angle. Shapes to shoot, then doesn’t. Mayo fan behind me shouts: ‘No, go further into the corner, THEN shoot!’

    – Super free from Cillian. Didn’t do much else but great to see him togged.

    – Whopper of a shoulder from Boyle to put his man over the end line. Fantastic.

    – Keith Higgins is an outstanding defender. But it’s not happening for him in the forwards. He made an exhilarating burst in the second half, got in on goal… and gave a telegraphed handpass across goal straight to a Westmeath defender. Let the man play his natural game at the back. He’s got the legs to burst forward from time to time anyway.

    – Kevin McLoughlin is slowly, but surely, finding his form.

    – Nice couple of points from Gallagher when he came in. Looks big enough to mind himself too.

    – Cut out the soft goals and we’re going places.

    – One more win and we’re safe from the drop. Please God we’ll get it next Sunday.

  77. I don’t think I was ever as soaked leaving a pitch as yesterday. I could hardly handle my phone so imagine the players holding the ball :-).
    Regarding Robbie Hennelly. I think he is a very very good keeper. His kick outs in the main are spot on, he can pick a man out on the wings easily. Very accurate. Good shot stopper. He can kick a 45 too which has been a huge problem over the years. I’m aware of his off day v Kerry but we are all allowed one! If he learns to take man and ball in his square he will be No 1 come the summer.
    I though Kevin Keane stayed off his man way too much all day. In fairness to himself and Caff, at times they along with their men were the only 4 in Mayo’s half, plenty of space for attackers to roam. But Kevin HAS TO start getting out in front and winning the call. It’s just too difficult to let a forward to gather then ball then try dispossess him all the time. Asking for trouble.
    Lee Keegan was excellent as Captain for the day and lead by example. He is some athlete. I was close enough to him in the first half and he has some engine on him.
    Aidan and Jason were very good for spells and it was clear Aidan was eager to shake off last weeks poor performance.
    Kevin McLoughlin worked his socks off as did Keith Higgins. Nice for Keegan and Sweeney to get 2 early goals, becoming a habit. 2nd game in a row our first score was a goal! (Tactic?)
    Disappointed we went to sleep after the good start but we got the win that we required.
    Absolutely delighted to see Cillian back in action and he rattled a WH lad a shoulder so he has no worried about himself (as always!)
    The staff in The Greville Arms were excellent and provided me with much needed sustenance after a late one on Saturday! Pity I missed Willie Joe again but Anne-Marie Flynn has promised to introduce me next time!!
    Onwards and upwards

  78. With regard to Higgins at Centre forward/Corner back were a lot of us not puzzled when JH put him in the latter at half time in the AIF?

    And wouldn’t most of us agree he showed very well v Donegal in the role, carried great ball v Tyrone and was a real threat running at Dublin in the first half?

    I’d actually say he was our best player in the first half of the AIF Freeman aside. And I thought, and still think, it was madness putting him back

    In all fairness, we can’t really have it both ways. Yes I know we are missing Cunniffe and Barrett at the moment and our full back line isn’t showing well but maybe James is sticking with Keith at HF and that’s that? And he’ll have the 3 from last year in the FB line when all are fit

    Call me daft but I’d have Higgins half forward all day long come champ, occasionally dropping back to sweep up ball. I thought he was a revelation in the role last summer and once we get playing on faster and dryer pitches, with championship intensity, I think he’ll be a huge threat running at opposition.

    Lets be honest we aren’t blessed with HF options. I expect plenty to disagree in fairness but just remember his performances last August/Sept. Barrett and Cunniffe are plenty good enough in the corners IMO

  79. “One more win and we’re safe from the drop. Please God we’ll get it next Sunday.”

    You’d hope so but it is not set in stone I don’t think

    If we beat Cork and no-one else (finish on 3 wins) we could still drop if the following occurs (Correct me if I’m wrong) I think:

    – Kerry beat Westmeath (a certainty imo)
    – Kerry beat Kildare (likely)

    – Kildare beat Westmeath (a certainty again imo)
    – Kildare beat Derry (tough one to call)

    – Derry beat ourselves

    That scenario would have us all (Derry,Kerry,Kildare, ourselveson 3 wins I think. Lets be honest it’s not all that unlikely to occur. You’re then going down the road of PD. I can’t see ours being great, we could have done with a bigger win yesterday.

    However if Kerry win all their remaining games then it gets worse. We would end up on 3 wins with both kildare and Derry who in this secnario would have both beaten us. We’d drop then guaranteed

    So just to be safe we could really do with two wins. Not only would we be safe we’d also have a decent shout at a play-off surely?

    While there definitely isn’t need to panic yet next Sunday really is big. A win and we’re definitely breathing easier given we have two games left to pick up 1 more

    A loss and things might start getting tricky

    There’s a long way to go of course but my general point is one more win mightn’t be sufficient (sorry for being negative 🙁 )

    The fact Westmeath are likely to pick up nothing could be problematic. At least last year there was no team who was guaranteed to cough up 2 points to everyone

  80. On another note as far as I know Dub/Derry have gotten billing next sunday. Strange one surely, I’d have thought the form team in league playing AI Finalists away in what’s a tough game to call and important one for Mayo would be the best bet

    Can’t see Dublin/Derry result being in much doubt. Maybe each team gets at least one live match or something and it’s Derry’s turn? Fair enough if so

  81. I hear you Ciaran, but Kildare have been in freefall since their second game. The Tyrone defeat in particular really took the wind out of them, that was a shocker from their point of view.

    I wouldn’t trust Kildare when the pressure is on. They may account for Westmeath but I would be very surprised if they get past Derry.

    And despite all my reservations about Mayo, I don’t see Derry having enough to take us in Castlebar. Particularly if we need something out of the game to stay up. Bear in mind we’ll have animals like Cunniffe, Barry Moran and Richie Feeney back on the scene at that stage.

  82. Think you’re right. Also TG4 have a (very welcome) tendency to broadcast games from the western seaboard e.g. Mayo v Kerry, Kerry v Tyrone etc. so I’m guessing that they’re giving Dublin their token live game.

    Mind you a quick look at TG4’s website doesn’t show anything confirmed yet. Also, last night RTE’s ‘League Sunday’ advertised Mayo v Cork as its main football game for next Sunday’s edition.

  83. Cheers!

    We’ll see what happens I guess. I suppose we have been shown twice so far- one deferred!

  84. All Dublin’s games are usually on Setanta. But this weekend they are showing Dublin Hurling instead on Saturday night. So TG4 got the option then for Dublin on a Sunday.

  85. I agree WJ a win is a win!
    ~A lot criticizing the backs, I think this is unfair. The full back line played well, apart from Keane but I think he just needs to get his confidence back up. Harrison has a ,lot to offer yet if I remember him from minor and U21. Yes he did not get off to a great start but he is surely making up for it with each new game now. I had my child at the match and when he made that jump for the ball my son called him ‘Superman’.
    Keegan played outstanding. Well deserved that MOTM. Alot saying we need Barret and Cunniffe back but I fear those Castlebar players will take longer to come back after barely getting a Winter break. Correct me if Im wrong but I dont think they will come back all guns blazing.
    Forward line needs some work but they are coping. As for AOS, he should have been replaced instead of Gibbons nearly every match so far. He played a lot better yesterday than he has all year so far.
    Saying this, it is a long year yet and by the looks of it, we have 2 full teams ready to be thrown out there not just one!!!

  86. I thought the stewarding at the game was very poor. Over crowded walkways. People sitting on walkways making it impossible for people to get about. More stewards should have directed people away from the main stand. The conditions in the stand were also poor but at least we did not get wet. The overcrowding was dangerous and people were cranky. Also difficult on Westmeath people who came to watch the hurling and had to contend with a steady stream of people standing up blocking their view of what was quite a good game of hurling. Kerry unreal lucky at the end of the day.

  87. As a long time follower and supported of this blog I have to share my disappointment at some of the comments posted here recently. What happened to number 11 of the house rules WIllie Joe? Look, I’m the first to pass comment at these games when certain players play well below parr time and time again. Its frustrating to say the least. However, I think many of the commenters on this blog would do well to remenber that these lads are giving their all to the sport to try and ensure that our county are still in contention for Sam come September.
    Sure everyone is entitled to their opinion but just remember that every one of these lads are someones son, brother, nephew etc and I’m sure many of those families read these blogs. I know I’d hate for some of the recent comments to be directed towards my son. Is a bit of sensitivity and confining comments to their footballing abilities too much to ask? And before you all go saying that I have a family member involved I honestly dont. I’m just a genuine Mayo fan like the rest of ye.
    But its not nice to see people on here tearing strips off certain players and commenting about them personally ( the Mickey C weight comment by Mayonaze and Kevin Keane just ‘making up numbres until other boys are fit’ by Wensam Suun to name just two are digs way below the belt IMO).
    Remember these guys work endlessly, train 6 maybe 7 nights a week and give up a hell of a lot for Mayo GAA with very little thanks. Spare a thought and try to treat them with respect next time you comment. Thanks.

  88. Think Gallagher may be a bit over 22 Pebbles. Took his points very well yesterday and began to show the class JH has mentioned.

    I watched him and a few others do a wind down afterwards, or really some extra sprints/ball play down at the Westmeath goal end. He looked bulky enough up close and I’d say his conditioning has come on a lot.

  89. jonnym, if your that sensitive, maybe you shouldn’t read this blog, people are entitled to give their opinions, and if players aren’t upto the mark, they should be replaced. A dose of reality is needed.

  90. Sensitivity is a massive trait amongst Mayo folk I’m afraid , afraid of their shadow in the main to criticise .

  91. THis weeks match could be a draw cork are really good also I think Kildare will beat Kerry and put Kerry down I think

  92. That’s a fair point, Jonnym. House rule no. 11 hasn’t gone away and I do invoke it where I feel it’s necessary to do so but it’s no harm for others to issue a reminder about it too so thanks for doing so. I don’t think those commenting set out to cause personal hurt in what they say and problematic comments are very much in the minority but what’s written on the site can sometimes cause offence to those being written about so it’s important that everyone (and I’d include myself in this too) bears this in mind when making reference to individual players.

  93. My squad for championship would be
    Gk he nelly and Clarke
    Rcb Barrett and Harrison
    FB caff and Mchale
    Lcb cunnife and oreilly
    Hb Keegan Vaughan Boyle drake Higgins
    Mf osheas x 2 Moran gibbons
    Hf Mcloughlin Moran carolan Gallagher feeney
    Cf Cillian Sweeney Kirby
    Ff freeman b Moran
    Cf Doherty dillon king

  94. No player for Mayo goes out and busts his ass training and playing gets paid for it. They do it to try and deliver where hundreds before them have failed for Mayo
    It’s too easy to be an armchair general, telling others they aren’t good enough, why don’t you go and tell them to their face after a game?

    Or else the gaaboard site is a great place to talk trash about your own players.

  95. Trash talk or constructive criticism ? There’s where the question lies.

    Where is the line , I get awful confused on the issue .

  96. Very negative this year John. You picked Kildare (not your favourite team) to beat us handily. They sneaked it with last kick of game. You picked Kerry to beat us last week. They didn’t but look what they did to Tyrone. And now no more points for us in the league. I think we have been in worse positions other years. When Donegal beat us in ballyshannon 2 years ago there was serious angst here and losing 4 in a row last year was close to the end of the world but we didn’t do too badly overall in those years and you d never know, we might have a reasonable year this year as well.

  97. I think the trick, Sean, is not to stray too close to the line! I’ve tried to make it clear in the house rules as to where the line is and, to be fair, most of those posting comments have little difficulty in keeping the right side of it. That doesn’t mean that criticism isn’t allowed, by the way, it’s just that a bit of thought needs to be given to the way it’s framed.

  98. Catcol, I will defer to your better judgement. I like the lad and technically he certainly has something to offer. I think at this stage we know what Conroy and Varley can do and I don ‘t see the point in playing them whilst failing to take the opportunity to test B. Gallagher for a full 70+ minutes. I believe the management think highly of him so hopefully we will see more of him.

  99. Going in to the AIF last year, Caff was in pole position in most peoples minds for the All Star No.3 shirt. And the rest agreed that at worst, he was one of two in contention for it. Now lots of people seem to think that he’s a bad player all of a sudden. He’s no such thing.

    Jason Ryan engineered a player to pull him out the field against Kildare and it’s been copied by each opposing manager since, including last Sunday in the first half. It was only when Boyler went back in the corner and took over the chase that Caff stayed back in front of the square and you could see the first signs of normal business and structure return to our defence.

    I believe it has been a bigger problem for the defence than Keith being moved up to the forwards. Caff chasing runners and lost between wanting to cover back or follow his man has been made worse by management by necessity being engaged in trying different players as well as the experienced TC, Chris and Keith not been there. All this has also left Hennelly expose to more shots at his goal.

    I believe that our leaky defence will be sorted by out by keeping Caff back, and getting our missing links back.

    That said I want to acknowledge that Harrison, McHale, and Drake have all now given us serious additional options, and I predict our defence will be the most miserly around in two or three more weeks and right through the summer.

    Let’s get back to getting what we didn’t have last year, a functioning forward line that can perform whither our backs are driving forward or not. Remember last year, what happen in the first half against Tyrone and for up to 50 minutes against Dublin – our half backs couldn’t or didn’t come forward – and our forwards couldn’t function on their own. That has to be fixed – that’s the priority.

    I was delighted with the smart and unselfish play of Mikey Sweeney last Sunday. Won ball and moved it very efficiently. A class quick free to Lee for the goal and a good finish for his own. I hope he gets more opportunities to prove what he has to offer. Great to see Cillian return.

    I thought Doc was forcing himself too much last Sunday – like he feels he has a window to impress or he’ll lose out. And I think he needs to be closer in because he has a good eye for goal. Hope he’s given every chance.

    And it’s a pity that Andy has a shoulder injury – he needs all of football he can get.

  100. I think in general, the supporters who come on here and comment are respectful of the players and the amount of time and effort they give to the county’s cause. I can only imagine it being difficult and maybe hurtful for a friend or relation of a player to come on here, and read negative comments about their friend/brother/son, whatever….thats only human.

    But as Mayo ppl, we must remember, this team, this effort, the criticusm and the praise! is all for the greater good.
    Nobody likes to take a shot at a player but if I think a player has unperformed or is perhaps a liability to the team, then its fair to call it out, but only with examples, and/or facts to back it up. If thats not reasonable, then I’m not sure why we bother at all?
    Having said that we must also remember, a bit of humor goes a long way.

  101. Championship football is cruel, and no occasion is crueller in sport than the All-Ireland final. The fact is that we have now gone home empty-handed seven times out of seven. I think this is what has got the level of commentary on individuals to where it is at now.

    There really isn’t much point in having a discussion board if all we’re going to say is ‘ah sure aren’t they great that they try so hard’ and ‘they could have done better but at the end of the day they give everything they have and we shouldn’t be too hard on them’. That kind of stuff is fine if you’re Leitrim or Wicklow and you know your county will never win an All-Ireland.

    But this is Mayo. We aspire to be the best in the land and it is incredibly frustrating that we were not the best on any of the seven occasions since 1989. Particularly when we lose finals by a single point.

    When you get that close, it’s the little things that will swing it one way or the other – such as individual performances. And if an individual is not performing, well then someone has to say so or we’re not getting anywhere. Is that cruel? Yes! So is elite sport!

    All-Irelands are not won on sentiment.

  102. DavyJ – a wonderful post. Unfortunately it is so true. I sometimes feel for all those teams who are bursting their asses in training, putting in just as many hours as the Mayo lads with not a hope in hell of any success.
    I know one particular team who celebrate their “heros” for winning the league final in 1966 and the Leinster final in 1968.

  103. I think you’re missing the point somewhat, DavyJ. The rules for providing comments on the site (and by the way the site’s purpose never was to be a “discussion board” in the way that the likes of gaaboard.com and boards.ie are) quite clearly state that players’ performances may be criticised but the key point is how this is done and the house rules provides guidance on this. A prime example of what isn’t okay to say is that laziest of lazy charges – “he’s just not good enough” – but it’s perfectly fine to critique aspects of a player’s performance on a given day (or days), citing specifics that others can if they want challenge you on. I appreciate that this can prove a challenge for some in posting comments especially in a social media-driven world where everyone seems to be falling over themselves to give their opinions on everything, more often than not without taking time to think about what they’re putting out there. This absence of thought may be fine when posting on the likes of Facebook or Twitter but it’s not okay here and I make no apology for that.

  104. Fair point WJ, and it is a fine line as you say between criticising the individual’s performance and criticising the individual himself. I hope that in my own posts I’m consistently staying the right side of that line and will continue to do so. (That’s certainly my intention.)

    For the record, I agree with Jonnym that personal comments such as those he quoted re. Mickey Conroy and Kevin Keane are out of order. That kind of stuff belongs on the barstool.

    It was more that I was agreeing with Sean Burke and Mister Mayor that when performances are substandard, home truths are required – rather than the old ‘but they’re so dedicated’ argument that gets trotted out every so often (as if footballers in Louth or Antrim are not just as dedicated).

  105. Criticism is fine and indeed natural. It’s HOW it’s done that matters. You have to deliver criticism in a way that does not leave the individual flattened. My experience is that you criticise the actions but leave the man alone.

  106. Agreed completely, DavyJ. It is a fine line and one that I get wrong at times too – for instance that reference I made to Michael Conroy in the Tyrone game a few weeks back was, in retrospect, uncalled for and is something I now regret having included in that match report. Diehard has summed it up perfectly – criticism shouldn’t be of the kind that leaves the individual flattened. Good advice, I think.

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