What do we expect from this Mayo team?

We all know the phrase: ‘Don’t count your chickens before they hatch’.

The last time I attempted to write something for the blog was just a couple of days after the League final win. I had scribbled down several paragraphs which remained in my drafts since the start of February for a couple of weeks.

The first hundred words described the euphoria of winning in Croke Park, hearing that song play at full-time and seeing that group of lads lifting a piece of national silverware in GAA HQ. It was the words that followed – that I struggled with. There was lots of typing at speed about how this win would propel us back into the big time and that football in August and September was a definite this year. 

That was erased and replaced with words about how it would be great to finally win a Connacht title again after so many years of looking at our noisy neighbours taking control of the west. 

Scrap that, I thought. ‘It would just be great to get to the Super 8s at any cost possible’, I bashed out at the third time of writing, but even that was probably thinking too far, too much, too soon.

I remember it was about 11pm on the Tuesday or Wednesday after the final. My backspace button was fairly worn out at that stage as was I and I closed down the laptop and told myself I’d get back to it tomorrow. 

I never did.

 When you write for a living, it’s hard to find the time to motivate yourself to write something in your spare time, even if you feel as passionate about it as I do about Mayo. 

By the time I opened the laptop again, it was too late to talk about the league and come May, I felt there was enough hype about Mayo as thousands headed to New York. So I promised myself that I would write something for the blog again when we were preparing to face Galway in the Connacht final in the middle of June. 

Bad move.

It is this mindset that has become the problem of most Mayo fans in the past few years. I remember last year, when we were in the qualifiers, I booked off all the dates for the Super 8s from work because it was unfathomable to think that we wouldn’t be there. 

I had the dates pencilled in on my calendar – including the All-Ireland semis and final dates and who we would probably meet – and that blue ink haunted me throughout the rest of the GAA season. I told myself that I would never think like that again but it’s almost impossible to do so for me and I assume for a lot of fans like me.

Before we had even taken a bite out of the Big Apple, I had booked the Sunday and Monday off work for the Connacht final. Now an ‘O’ stands beside my name on the rota as I contemplate whether to just work those dates and save them for another time or go to the final with Herself – a Galway woman – and watch either the Tribesmen or the Rossies be crowned champions. 

Like being lined up against a wall by a gunman in Pearse Stadium and being asked which kneecap you’d rather keep. Just take them both. The pain is going to be so bad, I’d rather not walk again anyway. 

And I still haven’t learned my lesson. Luckily, and by chance, I have the dates off work for Rounds 2 and 3 of the qualifiers but I’m still keeping an eye out for July. Seriously, what’s wrong with me?

It’s not even July that’s the problem. Someone floated the idea of a lad’s holiday in Spain in August and before the dates were even mentioned, men were chiming in and saying not to book anything for the first two weekends “just in case”.

Are we allowed to think like this? Especially after the last 12 months? Especially after four years of qualifiers? I honestly ask the question as a Mayo fan: should we be optimistic? Pessimistic? Or realistic?

 I am the first one, I try to be the second one but that way of thinking is always overridden by my head and I don’t know what realism entails when it comes to this team. I suppose it falls somewhere in between. But then you must ask yourself, is it realistic to suggest that we’d make the Super 8s at this moment in time? It’s not impossible but it’s in no way certain either. 

Being realistic is saying this: no matter who Mayo play from Round 2 onward, there’s a chance that they won’t make it out the other side. It goes without saying that we want to avoid the winners of Monaghan v Fermanagh, which will probably be the former. But, that’s the game that the neutrals would want, that the GAA, RTÉ and Sky Sports would want. 

Brolly, Breheny and co. wouldn’t be able to type the words ‘Early exit for big dogs’ quick enough in their draft headline. There’d be a capital M lying unfinished at the end and they’d know that if it was to end in ‘ayo’, their paper would sell 10,000 more copies and get thousands more hits online. 

Those same columnists couldn’t wait to add their two cents to the Mayo defeat a few weeks back. It doesn’t matter whether they’re slamming the boys or saying that they’re still as much contenders as ever, they know that once the words Mayo are at the top, it’s going to be looked at by Green and Red supporters.

And always, it’s the columns of criticism that will get the most eyes. Breheny’s article days after the Roscommon defeat angered lots of Mayo fans with a headline that read: ‘Mayo players must ask themselves if they’re the real problem’.

It touched on the infamous revolt and compared it to that of Galway’s in the same year which saw the current Rossie manager face the same action for the hurlers as Holmes and Connolly did for us. Breheny’s argument was that Mayo had talked the talk in 2015, but had not yet walked the walk up the steps in Croke Park to lift Sam (it wasn’t for the want of trying, Martin) … unlike the Galway hurlers.

Despite the offence that it caused to a lot of fans, Breheny’s headline wasn’t wrong. And each and every player did probably ask themselves after that game if they had cost their team a point or two that would have made the difference.  But, if you’re going to have a dig at the players, surely you must look at the manager too. After all, it’s not a foreign concept for Mayo fans to do this, with recent years providing as a firm example.

But before I pick at James Horan’s contribution that day, I want to say this.

Warning: Sidenote – The default setting for James Horan for me is ultimate love and I think I speak for most Mayo fans when I say this. No matter what he does. The man could take off his hat and beat me with it to within an inch of my life and my lasting memory of him would be that he is ‘The King’ of Mayo GAA. Why is that? Because similar to a certain song or a certain place or a certain time of year, his name associates nothing but good times for me. It was my first time experiencing full-on domination in Connacht and my first memories of heading to Croke Park on the train while drinking with my friends. That era was all feel-good times, even the final losses, because we thought it was better to have experienced the pain than to not have lived the dream at all.You can even say that’s why those who followed received such a hard time. ‘Oh great, another final loss. At least if it was James, we’d have a Connacht title to look at’. He’s been that paper-perfect, ex-boyfriend that nobody could compare to, no matter how hard they tried. And he was the perfect announcement for the job after such an early exit last year. He lifted everyone in the county up when they were down simply because he’s automatically associated with good times. Nobody remembers Kenny Dalglish’s second spell with Liverpool. If we got dumped out of the qualifiers and Horan stepped down at the end of the month, we would all just blank it from our memories and remember the 2011-2014 years only – fact.

But, even The King must face criticism.

Why take off Darren Coen, our top scorer for the day? Why take off two free takers in Doherty and Regan?

The sideline lost us the game against the Rossies as much as the players who misplaced passes, made easy mistakes and kicked any of the 15 wides did. In this instance, it’s easy to point the finger at a few people when in reality, it needs to be pointed at people on and off the pitch. But realism is not an easy thing to grasp. 

I get teased in the office for supporting Mayo. ‘We’re too cocky, there’s too much hype surrounding us and for what?’ The usual. 

Maybe we are too cocky, but we’ve become accustomed to the lifestyle of summer days in Croker so we think of it as the norm.

So I ask the question again: For the rest of this campaign, what do we expect from this Mayo team? 

I’m working at 6am on Monday morning which means I’ll be sipping on a cup of tea in the office while Morning Ireland is on the television and the radio.  

If Monaghan or Fermanagh come out of the draw beside us, it will be all talk about taking it one game at a time for me. But if it’s someone like Offaly or Longford I’ll immediately but secretly start calculating our possible opponents for Round 3.

I can’t help it, it’s a disease.

79 thoughts on “What do we expect from this Mayo team?

  1. Horan brings players on, Rochford is a massive man at the set up / side line, Rochford has said publicly he only ever wanted to be a coach and is back coaching…. Is this not a very obvious one where Rochford falls in under Horan and we have a dream coaching set up.

  2. Great article, Darragh and an entertaining read to boot. There’s nothing wrong with having the odd disease or two. Keeps you human!

  3. If its Longford I certainly won’t be planning anything!!! They are our kryptonite……gulp ??

  4. Anyone of Derry/Down/Westmeath away could be a very tricky game. People will say – if we can’t beat teams comfortably we are going nowhere. I don’t agree. Beating every team we play by a point Will do for me. How many people said after the Derry game a few years ago when we got out of jail that it was only delaying our elimination – but we gradually built momentum and ended up so close to lifting the big one.

  5. i never understood people calling for Rochford’s head. it was highly likely that we were going back to Horan if he went.

    Horan was a disaster tactically the last time.12 Murphy on Keane,almost lost the semin by playing wide open at the end against the Dubs after being 8pts up.
    13 playing all out attack’s against the Dubs which played into their hands and going man to man on Brogan etc.
    14 the Donaghy on Cafferkey fiasco and
    again man to man with no sweeper.
    he also benefited from being up against the worst Galway team i can remember in Connacht and Ros going badly also.

    Reality is every manager knows how Horan is going to setup and therefore knows where the weaknesses are or how to create mismatches because there will no tactical reaction from Horan and that will simply not work at the highest level

  6. Good read Darragh. Keep away from round 3 until you have to look at it. We have plenty on our plate for the next round. Most Mayo football people see James as a leader. Everybody is looking for a leader conscientious or sub-conscientious.

  7. Very entertaining piece Darragh ! … Personally I’d be as well pleased drawing the hardest possible opponent….We know plenty about Monaghan, I’d prefer Castlebar as the venue… Monaghan were a serious nut to crack in Clones last year as Kerry found out, even if Kerry did grab last ditch Goal by the Boy Wonder, David Clifford at the Death.. It didn’t mean death to Monaghan, as they beat Galway very well in Salthill afterwards… but it meant Death to Kerry who exited the Championship prematurely…In fact Monaghan were very unlucky not to make the All Ireland Final…. So let’s see exactly what we are up to! I won’t be praying for an easy (easy in someone’s head) draw . . But beat a big dog next, and then we will all begin to believe once again!

  8. In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs he states that most people never will self actualise. To realise ones full potential, maximise what you can achieve is very difficult.

    What do we expect of Mayo, this team, squad, manager, selectors. Like Maximus declared in Gladiator “are you not entertained”. I have no doubt that the talent is there and the potential but we as fans have become acustomed to walking up Ballybough to take our familiar seats in the lower Cusack, glancing around at familiar faces wearing the green and red but not knowing names.

    This is massive burden on the older players and to JH, and to a lesser extent the younger players. We expect them to bring us to Croker every August and into September. To be the final 4 and then 2. It’s 50/50 then. The width of a post even.

    The highs of being a Mayo fan are incredible, the lows are shattering. Imagine being a player for a second, it’s nothing to do with being entertained, yes we’ve great fans but what do we want and not expect?

    Sure it’s have been great to best Ros, we didn’t. Round 2 starts soon and we could be anywhere. Is there any reason to think we can’t or won’t go all the way, none at all.

    It’s now 1 game at a time.

    Let’s get back to basics and start believing again but let’s all be realistic and see where we go.

    Then we can be entertained again.

  9. I think the very thing we need on the mayo team is 2 or 3 cocky players.

    A mayo free is something akin to a NATO delegation these days.

    Is the ball placement 6 inches to the left of the goal or 6 inches to the right ?

    Do we need a left footed free taker or a right footed free taker ?

    We don’t have either, so let’s bring out the goalkeeper. At least he can drive the ball to Bonniconlon.

    After deliberating how many different ways any given player can miss the said free, the ball usually ends up with someone that looks more like they are facing a firing squad than a free kick.

    By fuck, hand a ball to Conor Mortimer and he knew what to do with the friggen thing. Conor was one lad that came across to me as cocky. He wanted the job, and the more people looking on the better. You could smell the confidence from the lad. He enjoyed that time it took from looking at the posts, with his head at that slight angle, until the ball left his boot.

    The ball itself was almost too afraid not to go over the bar such was his confidence. I loved his confidence and the confidence he had in himself.

    What made his cockiness okay I suppose was that he had the ability to back it up.

    It used to be lovely to see C McDonald going to take a sideline kick. Invariably the head would rise, and the snipers eyes focused only on the uprights and that black spot on the bar. It didn’t matter much which sideline it was. For those brief seconds the only things on McDonald’s mind were the boot the ball and the bar.

    He backed himself to deliver. I loved his belief in himself.

    Now, the mayo fan can never be described as cocky. Sure. We might say we should win such and such a game, but do we ever really believe we have a game won and put to bed ? Never. There is always a dread that we are going to let a lead slip.

    What we need more than anything else is a little more cockiness from a few of our players. Let them be confident in themselves. Let them know it’s okay to go for the score. Let them wag that finger at the sky or the crowd or their marker when they hit the target. Let them know it’s alright to miss and be cocky enough to try again. Let them off their leashes and let’s see a little more cockiness from this team during the summer.

  10. Excellent post on free taking Revellino. There is that sense we’re getting that players are thinking please God dont let it be on my side. No one wants the responsibility. That worries generally me when outfield players are feeling like that and its not today or yesterday that we’ve seen it.

    We absolutely need to forget about Hennelly taking the frees. It’s not so much a slight against him but its putting it back to the forwards on the pitch. Its simply not good enough that at this level we haven’t at least one other guy than Cillian who is confident with frees, and at the very least that there’s a crystal clear plan of who’s taking what even deep into match when subs are on, and even of black cards/red cards are factored in. I’d expect no less in an under 16 match. It’s an embarrassment.

    In fact it’s such an important issue that I’d nearly outright start picking Conor loftus from now on.
    He was the only man who did seem to want it the last day, so put him in. Give him a chance. While his outfield form has slipped a but, we know he has what it takes. Give him his head again. He deserves this at least.

  11. Very good post Darragh.

    I’ll pull you up on a couple of points though. Coen was taken off because he was out on his feet. He was visibly exhausted so that was the right call. Doherty picked up a bad knock in the first half and I’d argue he should have been pulled ashore much earlier, maybe even at half-time.

    I wouldn’t necessarily criticise James for the changes he made, in fact I reckon he was a little slow to make more of them.

  12. I expect to see lads heading over to the US long before the championship here finishes if I’m honest , unless there is some serious change to the management mindset . More I look at the Roscommon highlights the more depressed I become .

    I’ve now read all the local media too and I’m even more depressed , too soft the relationship with media in Mayo , it’s ridiculous ,lines like , ” it might of made sense to put a sweeper in front of Cox but ….. ” I’m sorry there should be no but

  13. Sean Burke, we didn’t necessarily need a sweeper v Ros, we needed the hb line to be more disciplined and stay in position cutting out the space in front of the fb line. Having a cavalier, attacking hb line was great 5 years ago when no one knew how to counter it. Now very team knows how to beat Mayo. Set up defensive wall on 45, let Keegan, Durcan run and run at you, force turnover and attack the vast space in behind them. Until mayo can add variation to their play, alternate running with fast long balls in early to ff line we will not win when it matters. Right now Mayo are predictable, Horan is predictable (it’s the exact same game plan as 5 years ago). Can Horan change and adapt to make Mayo more unpredictable? The answer to that question will determine the season and indeed to the second coming of Horan.

  14. But would ya not get more out of our unit of paddy and Lee Keegan could still motor up when the opportunity arouse but having cover in front of Harry for said situation v Ros ,ie because they had a go to man on form inside .

  15. Great piece Darragh well done. All we expect from this Mayo team is to be able to convert frees cut down on the number of wides concentrate fully when taking kick outs and do themselves justice because they are doing savage work in training and behind the scenes but it’s just not translating on the scoreboard. What we expect from management is to be able to read the game motivate players and make timely switches and substitutions and be not afraid to sub big name players when the need arises. In my opinion the dream of landing Sam is dead in the water for another year maybe that’s no bad thing and will take pressure off the players as we look to rebuild and traverse through the backdoor

  16. I think I have to agree with Sean. We would surely have beaten Roscommon playing with a sweeper.

    As regards the half backs belting forward I still think it’s a live option. That’s providing you have the legs and stamina in the backs to do it. Colm might not have the engine anymore for that game but Durkan keegan and higgins do. Maybe not constantly, but 5 or 6 raids during a game making sure the sweeper is in to help mind the house.

    It’s good to still have it in the arsenal and be able to change our attacking options during a game and keep the opposing defense off balance.

    Where is Eoin o’donoghue ? That lad was the top new prospect 10 or 11 months ago.

  17. For the Horan system II to work by pushing very high up the field as has already been said you have to put great faith in your defenders in the one on one situations and in my mind he dosn’t have as good a defenders as he had in Horan I. Maybe after the Ros game this will have dawned on him. A good defender will get a paw in, break the ball, force his man out, stop him from off loading a quick ball etc.. It may not look like much but what it does do is bide time. Against Ros our defenders did none of these things to break up play and they ran through us at ease. Not to pick out one defender, as they were all poor, but I thought Harry in particular had a bad day at the office.. I just don’t think he is either comfortable or suited to the position he is playing at the minute. It’s strange how things change but right now our midfield and forwards are streets ahead of our defense. I would agree that using a sweeper may not be the solution either as we are sacrificing a player to cover an ineffective defence or in other.. is this what we are saying now? Our defence is not good enough so we need to give them cover with a sweeper!

  18. If we play a sweeper then the opposition will have a spare defender to cover our full forward line. It’s pointless especially when we have some of the best defenders in the country. We were too open the last day but that can be solved by 1 or 2 backs holding position when there man goes outfield.

    With Aidan playing midfield now we have the potential of playing 6 scoring forwards now unlike previous years. Add Matty Ruane to the equation and there is enough attacking threat to allow the backs focus on their primary job.

  19. Unfortunately Wide ball, it’s almost pointless or makes any sense us playing with the full compliment of forwards. When was the last time you saw 3 or more forwards playing well in the same game. The player less in the forwards could be far better utilised either in midfield or in the backs.

    The more forwards we play the more we seem to clutter that area of the pitch up, and to be honest our scoring return from the forwards doesn’t really justify having 6 of them start every game.

    How about we clutter up the defense where Roscommon seemed to run riot 2 weeks ago.

  20. The pitch only gets cluttered by backs carrying the ball upfield and their marker following them. It’s impossible for forwards to play well when that’s the strategy. A lot of people are making football more complicated than it actually is.

    We’ve seen how accurate Darren Coen is the last day and Diarmuid/James Carr in the league final. They’re the guys that need to be shooting, not backs.

  21. That’s true Sean but we will also find it very hard to win games especially against teams we should be beating comfortably and this will be more so the case than not in the qualifers. I understand the need for playing safe but playing a sweeper could actually work against us

  22. In the first half against Ros when we had the wind – Ros had no blanket defence. Coen Mc L and Regan were one on one with there markers for long periods. Yet I can’t remember even one ball pumped in long from the half backs on top of Coen who it was obvious was on his game and had the beating of the full back.
    Had we an observer/selector in the stand getting the message to Horan and onto the players on the field. I thaught against Tyrone in league we were changing our style of play with more foot passing- but we back to old way again which isn’t good enough.

  23. Can’t believe someone said Horan was a disaster on sideline and we only dominated Connacht because Galway were poor. Somehow I remember Mayo beating Dublin under his watch. Yeah Mayo beating Dublin Imagine that. I remember Mayo hammering Donegal when he was manager. Come to think of it I remember them beating Tyrone and Cork x 2 when they were a damn sight better than they are now. The only big team I don’t remember them beating was Kerry but I do remember them putting in a ferocious performance with 14 men and coming back from quite a deficit to lead by 4 before Horan forgot to mark Donaghy and then I remember an epic performance in the replay when the referee was atrocious and Cillian and AOS had a sickening clash of heads which severely impacted the influence of both. I also remember the dynamism we played with under him as our half backs rampaged up the field scoring frequently. Not bad memories bearing in mind we were coached by a disaster Of course it was his fault that we failed v Kerry in 2011 and 2014 and Donegal in 2012 and Dublin in 2013. A team who haven’t won an AI since 1951 shouldn’t be expecting these things to happen. I am not blind to Horans faults but to be so critical of the man based on one point defeat to Roscommon after us winning the league is a tad harsh I think.

  24. Revellino, half backs can be an effective to be attacking weapon if used correctly. As you said5 or 6 times a match. Not every time as v Ros. South Mayo Exile, I agree we need more kick passing from our if line into the forwards, good early ball. With Coen, Cillian, Carr, Reape, Diskin we have real options in there to do serious damage, but only if they get early ball. Players running from deep plus opposition players filing back just clogs up the space for our forwards to operate. Mayo forwards rarely click as a unit because they never really have the space and supply to operate. Example is League final. In the second half we got good early ball into the forwards and the likes of Carr and Coen came alive.

    I’m not convinced that a sweeper suits Mayo, we all know Horan doesn’t play with one and it’s too late in the year to start experimenting with one. I would however like to see a CHB with a good range of passing being introduced/given licence to kick long, is Plunkett or McCormack capable of playing accurate long balls or is it worth playing kMc at CHB with him holding position when mayo on offensive. Mayo have all the tools available to play a quick counter attacking game. If we continue to play the predictable “Mayo Way” style that everyone knows about, we can forget about All Ireland’s and we quiet possibly will get embarrassed by a half decent team who are drilled and prepared for the predictable way Mayo will play. Mayo desperately need variation in their play be dangerous.

  25. Mayomad. You say it’s too late to implement a sweeper system this year. You may be right. We do however have to implement a different system than what the Rossies faced.

    I know there were several issues on the day, but 17 points should be enough to win any game.

    How could we beat Kerry twice in the league and suddenly come up short against Roscommon ? Are Roscommon a better team than Kerry ?

    I’d say you would go back a long way to get a game where a mayo defender has not scored in a game. I don’t think that’s going to change. We have to cover in defense when some of our defenders are in attack mode otherwise we face the prospect of been opened up again by another opposition. Aside from a sweeper, I’m not to sure of what other options are out there.

  26. I was curious Revellino so I decided to check. The last game where none of our defenders scored was the league game against Kerry in Tralee. Funnily enough we only conceded 11 points that night and never looked like giving up a goal from what I remember.

    We didn’t play a sweeper that night either but our backs were focused on defending and left the attacking to the midfielders and forwards. As I said, football isn’t that complicated.

  27. If our half backline sit more, well it means we need better kickpassers with the ability to kick through the ball like James McCormack or Keith Higgins or Michael Plunkett.
    It may sound like heresy, but neither of Lee Keegan or Paddy Durcan have the ability to drive through the ball delivering an accurate, long and catchable pass.
    The only kickpass they take on is a side of the foot slow lobbed ball out to the wings. It doesn’t eat up much ground and it’s a bit telegraphed.
    A line of Plunkett Diarmuid McCormack might be what we need. Diarmuid has been successful at 6 for Ballintubber.
    But, that then means we need a return of the likes of James Carr, Fionn McDonagh and Brian Reape type of players that were options earlier in the year. Diarmuid hits a 40 yard pass, it’s won, then either laid off or the player has the ability to take on his man.
    Too many of our forwards lack the size or pace to take on their man. With inevitably there being numbers back we end up playing laterally or backwards.
    It might make more sense to have JDoc starting and Kevin McLoughlin comes on for him on 50 mins. In that way you finish out the game with an injection of pace. As it stands JDoc and Kevin McLoughlin no longer in my view have a good pace in the last 20 mins. Two very experienced and good players that play a similar role.
    We could also be looking at getting Donie, Mikey Murray and SOS all in fresh over the last twenty minutes. Tactical man markers brought in fresh like David Drake and Chris Barrett another angle.
    I just feel we have never fully committed to a strategy that wins convincingly the last 20 mins of the game.
    In my view the biggest thing Mayo have are athletic tall players. It pains me to see us tog and us having to ask permission to get past a defender. Well over six foot and a decent footballer is exceedingly common in Mayo.
    On matchday have a look at the typical height of The Mayo man. Six foot is truly nothing to write home about in Mayo.
    I think we should go with what suits us well. Finishing out games jam packed with big athletic players driving us across the line to victory.

  28. We now know one of the teams that Mayo could be playing. Offaly have just beaten London 1.21 to 1.11.

  29. Goodman wideball.

    Our defenders did not score that night in kerry. That is correct.
    They did set up scores however and they did kick wides so its not like they didn’t venture up the pitch.

    I would venture to say that the starting backs that night were more traditional non scoring defenders.

    Don’t think Durkan, Keegan or Boyle started that night.

    Vaughan, Harrison, Coen, Barret, Plunkett or even Higgins wouldn’t be considered regular scorers for mayo.

    Vaughan started and was involved in 2 or 3 scores for us and Plunkett had a couple of attempts that didn’t result in scores.

    Would you go back to starting those 6 defenders that started in tralee in the upcoming games if available ? They did seem a bit less adventurous than (keegan, Durkan and boyle). In fairness they did a good job as well.

  30. Of course Wide ball, with a defender scoring and our attacking half backs, back in the team, we went on to beat Kerry in the league final and by a wider margin than the tralee encounter.

    I’m pasting in an excerpt from WJ from his match day report. It describes what I wanted to say better than I could myself.

    “Increasingly, we started to drive hard at them, Lee and Paddy leading the charge from half-back. Kerry, so threatening themselves earlier on, began to wilt in the face of what now became a sustained assault, one given further potency by the amount of ball we were winning out around the middle”.

    So it may be easy to say defenders need to stay home and mind the house and that football is a simple game, but different teams need to play to their different strengths.

    No defensive set up will prepare a team for an errant kick to an opposing forward. Mistakes like this have absolutely nothing to do with attacking scoring half backs but did result in us losing to Roscommon.

  31. Donegal so far proving a few people on this blog are correct and some are incorrect.

  32. I’m all for James setting his team up in the all attacking all running way that he does. There is so much merit to it and changing that now isn’t likely to work. Its blissful when it works.
    However there are improvements he can make, Game management being the biggy but he can work on that so its not all doom and gloom. To be fair, we had a shed load of lads missing for the Ross match and given our league win perhaps benefit of the doubt should be given.

    As I always feel, the most NB thing for us and indeed any team is squad unity and belief. We simply don’t know where that’s at, but at the end of the day, that is all that matters. If its strong now, then with lads returning from injury we’re bound to get a bounce coming into the qualifiers.
    Pace in our full backline might be an issue but it’s an incredibly hard line to pick and I couldn’t really criticise James too much here. While Keith’s best man marking days are behind him I still feel he needs to start somewhere. Number 6 perhaps. Neither Coen nor Plunkett have categorically nailed it down. Plunkett would be unlucky to lose out but Keith is Keith. He still has far too much quality which still comes through in most matches. Another very viable option is Drake who did well in FBD but fell out of favour for the league. He’d bring a bit if zip and power to FB line.
    But who’d lose out? It would be very hard to drop barrett evidenced by the way he handled Tommy Walsh in the league final, the Kerry man towering over him. It was a joy to see the sheer power of the belmullett man coming out on top.
    Perhaps it’s the old cliche of horses for courses approach but at least there are options for James.

  33. Donegal are a team that will ruffle a few feathers before this Summer is over.
    I’d also hazard a guess that Tyrone are a better team than they looked today.

  34. I told ye donegal would win today.
    Make no mistake they are genuine all Ireland contenders. Rochford isn’t travelling all that distance for the craic.

    They have outstanding natural forwards, pace, height. An accurate goalkeeper. They will take some stopping. The only weakness I can see is a declining Neil mcgee at fb

    Wouldn’t be overly worried about meeting Tyrone in back door. The nature of that defeat will really rock them. They just don’t have any class up front

  35. I’m not so sure Supermac. Consider this.. Tyrone are a team that got well beat by Dublin in last year’s final. Since then they have been trying to change their approach to make themselves more competitive at the later stages of the competition. Today they looked like a team lost in transition and I don’t think Mikey Harte is the man to bring them to where they need to be. Done gal in contrast looked very reassured in there style of play. Tyrone were poor like they were against us in the league. But like the league there will be a backlash from them where they beat Dublin and if they get there game plan together they can beat anyone outside of Championship Dublin on their day. If we get that far I’d like to steer clear

  36. Revellino – Yes the league final had a wider margin on the scoreboard but in reality it was probably a less comfortable finish with the Hennelly save and Treacy’s last minute goal. Of course Lee and Paddy give great dynamism when they attack but are they providing a net contribution if our full back line is left exposed? We were far more open in the league final than the game in Tralee.

  37. No class up front , are you serious , mcshane and Mattie Donnelly are top forwards. Get a grip man

  38. We can’t meet Tyrone in the next round anyway….Oh ‘To win just once’. . Past glories going back a few years now are as irrelevant as the taking off of Alan Freeman in the 2013 All Ireland Final… I remember year’s back, John Maughan’s Mayo beating Kerry in 96, beating the then All Ireland Champions, Tyrone in 2004, Mickey Moran and John Morrison’s Mayo coming back from 7 point’s down to beat Dublin in 2006, (what ever happened to them?). It’s 5 year’s since James Horan won a Connacht, when we were the only Div One team in Connacht. We won’t be in the Connacht Final this year, and that’s down at least in part to the bewildering decisions and lack of decisions on the sideline by our management….We did win the League and that was magnificent, it reflects very well on James Horan, especially as we seemed to find some very good new player’s as well… But past glories cannot defend the managnent against Roscommon….We won’t beat any serious team in the Championship with a repeat of that particular managnent performance!

  39. Antrim look like beating the wee county , trip to Belfast on the cards , along with tullamore, Carrick, the bog so far .

  40. Do Antrim play their home game in Armagh this year ? Casement out of action ?

  41. I went to the Loch Garman v Doire. Was very impressed with Derry team scored 4.16 to 10p against a young inexperienced Wexford team. Derry were awesome and took their scores well and only missed a few shots. They were able to shoot from all angles! Foireann brea ata acu i Co Doire. Would not fancy getting them in Monday draw!
    Mhuigheo abu

  42. @Wide ball.
    I certainly won’t be advising Lee keegan how to play football. The 4 time all star is either the highest or 2nd highest scoring defender of all time. I don’t think I will request him to stay back in the backs and quit going forward especially given the number of times he has managed to defuse the oppositions main threat as well as keeping the score keeper busy.

    Colm Boyle and Keith Higgins, another couple of attacking defenders also have 4 all stars apiece. I won’t be advising them either how the game should be played.

    We still have great players. All the ingredients are there but everything has to be put together correctly to get the best out of these guys.

    Mayo have played some decent football in the league but are nowhere near the levels they played to in recent years, with the exception of A o’shea and M Ruane who have been out standing. The talent and capabilities are there. It’s up to the managment to get their team moving.

  43. Sean they play their league games in Antrim but ground has no stand or seating so not suitable for championship. They played Tyrone in Armagh so they will probably play qualifiers there if gaa allow it. Hopefully we get something closer to home.

  44. Antrim don’t have home games this year so it would probably be in Armagh or Newry if we draw them.

  45. Revellino, Leeroy is probably the best man marker in the country, his number one job should be nullifying the opposition’s main playmaker. Of course he should attack a couple of times during a game but that can’t be his primary objective, defending should be.
    Mayos forwards will never achieve their potential if the main attacking strategy is an attacking hb line, they will always be living off scraps, shooting off of recycled ball, not primary possession. If we want to see what this crop of young attackers can really do then they need to be the focal point of the attack not defenders.

  46. Would really like to get Leitrim on Monday morning. Keep it simple and move onto the next game. We want all players fit and keep the injuries down.

  47. Derry are in the process of having a good season Unbeaten in league I think and Div 4 champions. Decent performance v Tyrone and very impressive today? Even if it was a Wexford team on a steep decline. Would prefer not to meet them in draw on Monday but beggars can’t be choosers .There are a few handier draws than that. No point saying if we can’t hammer Team X or Team Y then we have no business dreaming about August. But these early games are the tricky ones with our struggles v Fermanagh in 2016 and Derry the following year. Once we got over those hurdles we made it all the way to the final both years.

  48. I would hope that players are not immune from managerial advice just because they won an all star 2 or 3 years ago…

    That would be my view on it as well Mayomad. To be fair, I think Keegan and Durcan could play a more conservative role with ease. They’ve spent time in the full back line previously. I feel the last few times we’ve played Galway the contrast in the half back lines have been stark. Bradshaw and Gary O’Donnell hold position and we’ve found it very difficult to break down.

  49. @to win just once
    Indeed derry away suddenly looks a potentially very tricky tie

    Monaghan obviously the other standout but everyone else in the draw would be dispatched with minimal fuss

    @sean Burke yes obviously I believe mattie donnelly and mcshane are brilliant all round footballers but they are not instinctive deadly forwards like mcbrearty, brennan etc. They are more suited to playing in middle of park

  50. Mayne this is well known but have our bucks sneaked away to play a challenge game this weekend?

  51. I don’t think it’s down to instinct, Supermac. The big difference between Donegal and Tyrone today was speed of transition. Tyrone took forever to get up the field so that when they eventually reached Donegal’s 45 there was a massed wall facing them and over and back they went with lateral passes. Donegal, by contrast, broke rapidly, with hard running down the middle and long, varied kick passes inside (Rochford’s fingerprints?). Also they backed their midfield on restarts, which invariably went long and from which they won loads of marks. I think they took something like six marks in a row from restarts hit long in the final quarter.

    These contrasting styles meant that the impact their forwards were able to have was very different. Donnelly got bottled up and, aside from bagging the first point of the day, did little thereafter. McShane’s scores were, bar one, from frees and he too was unable to get any space inside. McCurry did well when he came on in the second half but by then Tyrone were chasing the game and had at last a bit more urgency about them. Jamie Brennan got great great ball pumped into him and he did all the damage for Donegal in the first half – he had 1-2 to his name with only ten minutes played. Murphy led from the front throughout, even if he had a poor day by his standards from placed balls. McBrearty didn’t do a whole in the first half – aside from a defence-splitting pass from which Jamie Brennan rattled the post – but he came into his own well in the second and kicked two lovely points from play, as well as one from a free.

  52. @Mayomad
    Of course defending should be a defenders primary target. I agree.

    How many times though have our half backs had to come to the rescue because there were little or no scores coming from our forwards. There are countless threads on the blog of people bemoaning the return from our forwards.
    You cannot blame backs for our forwards not scoring. For years we just haven’t had enough forwards to outscore good opposition.

    The backs have had to change tact during games and go into attack mode on numerous occasions in the past just to keep us in games.

    If as you say defenders soley defended and waited back and scoring was left to the forwards we would not have been to any of our recent all Ireland finals.

    We played that kind of way as an example against Roscommon 2 or 3 years ago. Our forwards were doing very little up front. The game was saved by a comeback started by a Lee Keegan goal. We drew after been 8 or 9 behind.

    Our half backs went full throttle at the rossies in the replay from the whistle and we beat them by 18 points.

    The recent Rossies win was mainly due to Mayo mistakes one which gifted Roscommon an easy goal. The other Roscommon goal was a brilliantly taken goal. Half back positioning or an attacking Mayo defense couldn’t be blamed for either goal or this loss.

    Our backs and the way they have played over the past 7 or 8 years have brought us alot closer to an all Ireland than we have for a long long time.

    If you think by playing a man marking game in any of these seasons would have won us these all Irelands I would disagree. How did the man marking against Donegal and Dublin go in the first Horan tenure. Fiasco goals. Don’t blame any of this on attacking defenders.

    If you think by instructing backs not to push forward somehow helps create marquee forwards then you don’t remeber back to the years where backs defended, there were no marquee forwards magically appearing due to this tactic and we pretty much had our asses handed to us every year on a plate.

  53. And while your at it Mayomad as you claim “defenders defend and our forwards will never fulfill their potential until this happens”.

    Let me give you a time span in mayo football history where defenders defended.

    Start at 1952 and go to 1988.

    Can you tell me the potential the Mayo forwards fulfilled in this 36 year span.

    Can you list the marquee forwards that were created in this 36 years of our defenders defending.

    You are not going to need too much paper to write your list of names on.

  54. Donegal look impressive. They are maybe not quite the finished article, but very much getting there. They got their match ups right, players won their individual battles, the goalkeeper is accurate and confident. Michael Murphy showing once again why he’s one of the best to ever play the game.
    The style of play they are going with now looks to have plenty of Rochford influence…would be nervous about a potential meeting with them down the line if we were to get that far…there would be something a little too poetic about meeting the team being coached by the man we decided we didn’t want to back anymore

  55. Some Mayo forwards 1952-88. Peter Solon. Jimmy Curran (1-7 v Dublin AI SF 1955, one point defeat. Curran all our scores). Joe Corcoran. Mick Ruane. Mick Connaughton. John Nealon. Séamus O Dowd. Joe Langsn. Willie McGee. JJ Cribben. Sean Kilbride. Tom Fitzgerald. Ted Webb. Ritchie Bell. JP Kean. WJ Padden. Martin Carney. Jimmy Burke. Mick Gannon. Ger Feeney. Jim Smith. Liam Donoghue. Billy Fitzpatrick .Joe McGrath Padraig Brogan. Football in Mayo existed pre 1988. Defenders weren’t bad either. John McAndrew retired 1960 last of 1951 team, Willie Casey, Ray Prendergast, Johhny Carey, Séamus O Conner, John Morley, Martin Flatley, Joe Earley, Brian O Reilly, John Maughan, Frank None, Peter Ford, Denis Kearney (made shite out of Meaths Hayes once), John Finn, . Regarding keepers in that era they seemed to be able to complete a season without too much fuss. John McGuiness, Malachy Gallagher, Eugene Rooney ( as good as any I personally ever saw), JJ Costelloe, Mick Webb, Eugene Levin, Ivan Heffernan and Young Irwin from Glenamoy. Many of those individuals were recognised nation wide as top class players. Little bit of respect mightn’t go amiss. I have lived through Nayo meltdowns post 1988. Cork 93, Kerry 97, Sligo 00, Fermanagh 03, Kerry 04/06, take your pick of O Mahhonys 2007/10 vintage. No back door for the pre 88 era but don’t try telling me that Morley, Casey, Corcoran, Dan O Neill, Seamus O Donnell, J J Cribben, Rsy Prendergast, Johnny Carey or Joe Langan wouldn’t hold their own with today’s men.

  56. @Revellino, have you not considered that our defenders soloing forward results in our forwards being outnumbered.
    One doesn’t need outstanding forwards. Dublin take almost all of their shots from within 25 yards of goal.
    What we did from 1952 -1988 has no relevance.
    Btw, yes, our halfbacks sitting back would have meant at least one defender could cut back on a straighter and shorter line to goal to intercept, Cregg started wide on the wing.

  57. Delighted for Donegal yesterday playing good football at times. Couldn’t believe how Tyrone were trying to win by defending a deficit. What were your thoughts on this WJ. Does he not trust his defenders to do their job. I watched it on tv. At least 2 red cards could have been handed to Tyrone.

  58. In the mid to late 60’s ..Mayo were unfortunate to lose three young players to injury that ended their careers . Mick Connaughton ..Johnny Farragher.and Pat Kilbane all still U21.. Add the two other players who should have been wearing the Green and Red at that time.. Jimmy Duggan who won a All Ireland with Galway in 66 …but played with Claremorris .. Not forgetting the great Dermot Earley who’s boyhood ambition was to play for his native county . I’m certain if those 5 players had had been available for us we would have capurted Sam in the 60’s.

  59. I think JP, Dublin take most of their shots from 25 meters exactly because they have outstanding forwards.

    I also think that attacking defenders more often than not get chased up the pitch by their marker.

    @ John you named some outstanding players there and unfortunately we did not get to compete in an AI final between 51 and 89.

    Our current team going back to 2012 have competed in several.

    Why ?

    Is it because of our goalie / goalies ?
    Is it because of our full back ?
    Is it because we have a litany of free scoring forwards ?


    It is primarily because of our outstanding attack minded defenders.

    Give Dublin our 6 starting forwards and subs from any of the past 8 years and ask them to win the all Ireland with them. I don’t think they could.

    Why have we contested so many AI’s since 2012. I believe it’s because of our attacking defenders.
    They have been brilliant in defense and in attack. They have been the Rolls Royce engine of this Mayo team for the past 8 or 9 year’s.

    As a combined defending and attacking unit they are the most gifted unit of players I have ever seen play the game. They have been lauded for their brilliance across the country for years.
    And yet we have people saying they are not playing the game correctly. Mind boggling.

    I would find it almost sacreligious to ask these men to limit themselves to chasing opposing forwards over and back the pitch and stick their attacking brilliance in to a dark cupboard.

    Does Jim Gavin need a phone call to tell him that Philly Mcmahon or any of his other defenders should be defending and they have no business forward rattling the opponents net or knocking over points. I don’t think so.

    It would be like telling Lewis Hamilton that he is a brilliant formulae 1 driver but from now on you want him to deliver pizzas instead.

  60. @Revellino.
    2011 quarter v Cork, primarily won by our half forward line and midfield.
    2012-2013 we had a fitness advantage on most teams. But our running half backs game did not do any damage to Donegal or Dublin when we came up agsinst fit and prepared teams.
    2014 semi, again, our attritional half backline attacking game plan wilted badly against Kerry in the replay.
    2015, Holmes Connelly implemented Barry Moran sweeper and he went medium distance on the wing for our kickout. One of our most well balanced controlled wins, the 2015 quarter v Donegal. We abandoned it against Dublin. Members of the full backline staring dramatically pissed off at the end when frankly Kevin McManamon and Bernard Brogan were there problem to deal with. Bernard Brogan coming in along the endline, he should have been put in across the endline.
    2016-2018 I felt good tactics but we either didn’t have the depth or didn’t commit to having the depth developed.
    2019, current tactics, if we face a Dublin or Donegal or Kerry we’ll get taken for three goals.

  61. As a kid Dermot Earley was the greatest visiting player to McHale Park and there were many.
    I used to be afraid when Earley got the ball but could sense also the huge appreciation of his ability from both sets of fans. He seemed to always do the right thing. Tony McManus from Ros was another along with a few Galway corner forwards who broke our hearts such as Gay McManus and Stephen Joyce.

  62. @JP.

    At least you don’t have to worry about me picking the mayo team.

    It’s strange. As I think back to 12 and 13, well I remeber in the Donegal game been 7 points down after a few minutes. It was down to man marking. Nothing to do with marauding defensive backs out of position.

    I remember B brogan nonchalantly palming 2 soft goals in to the Mayo net when another goalkeeper would have come full tilt and knocked brogan half way up the croke park pitch.

    These are only my opinions.

    I’m of the opinon that mayo got to the top of the pile, mainly due to their attacking defenders mind you not just because of them.

    When I look at some of the other players we had on these teams. I would have described them as good footballers but not outstanding.

    So yes, I think we achieved what we achieved mainly due to how our attacking backs played the game and I don’t believe we would have reached these all Irelands had our attacking defenders stayed in their own half of the pitch man marking.

  63. Regarding defensive tactics the 2016 draw bizarre first half saw Dublin score nothing from play or frees for maybe 20 or 25. In that game every line was playing deep. Andy on his own up there as Cillian often played deep Andy somehow winning ball in the middle of 2 or 3 defenders even outfielding them. Diarmaid and Kevin Mc were a lot of the time back helping the backs. We were caught out for one of the 2 own goals from a high press on their kickout ( brilliant Cluxton laser guided punt). The other one was caused by improvised free in by Connolly albeit a high risk one.
    Our 5 points after half time that day were from the team as a whole including half backs driving into Dublin. We played without fear of them for that spell.

  64. I agree with whoever said Higgins should play. He’s loose for corner back without cover. Against Ros goal Chris Barrett came over to cover but both Cregg’s initial line and Chris’ blocked Keith’s line of recovery. That said it was a top class finish. We saw an on fire Costello slip him in the league. He can usually recover but maybe EOD or Drake would be tighter. CHB maybe Keith’s best position in 2019 as he could still attack but also as a good reader of the game he’d be a bigger asset other there. Plunkett and Mccormack are hopefully the future but will maybe need to bide their time. Donie and Boyler still probably have more to add than the young guns too. Higgins also a good kick passer with low fast trajectory when he uses that option.

  65. Caolan Crowe is a player that has been treated very harshly by JH.I remember the great job he done on Paddy McBrearty in Ballybofey last year in our last League game he kept him to just 1 super point which was out near the endline he could have nothing about.He Kept Paddy Andrews scoreless in a league game in Castlebar 2 or 3 years ago.Hes an out an out man marker not like Barrett or Higgins does his job nothing spectacular, thats whats expected from a good Full back.I would like to see him get a chance at full back in our next match as he has the size in comparison to Harrison who much prefers the corner back role.Chrissy Barrett I thought looked abit exposed in corner back against Roscommon and will have to be released to centre back his best position if hes to have any game time again this year.

    My Team for qualifiers game Round 2
    1.David Clarke
    2.Brendan Harrison
    3.Caolan Crowe
    4.Keith Higgins
    5.Donal Vaughan
    6.Lee Keegan
    7.Paddy Durcan
    8.Matty Ruane
    9.Aidan O’Shea
    10.Diarmuid O’Connor
    11.Jason Doherty
    12.Ciaran Treacy/ Fionn McDonagh
    13.James Carr
    14.Darren Coen
    15.Cillian O’Connor/ Conor Diskin

  66. The thought of getting Derry in Celtic Park in the draw tomorrow will give me nightmares of our 2007 qualifier exit up there,the Oak leafers are one team who don’t fear Mayo.It was Pearce Hanleys, Ciaran Mac and Kevin O”Neills last game in the Green and Red, the 3 most skillful forwards we produced in the last 30 years with O’Mahony only bringing Mac on as a sub up there when the game was over as a contest.O’Mahonys second spell of management was a disaster for some of the players he had at that time, but a huge mistake by County Board to put a sitting TD as County Manager.We have come a long way since then!!

  67. @Revellino, I agree with you, we lacked man markers especially a full back.
    Someone mentioned Caolan Crowe. The man got no credit for keeping us in div 1. McBrearty would have ate our current three in the full back line.

  68. Would love to see Caolan Crowe get his run in the team. I had forgotten about him and he was excellent last year as TH pointed out.

    We will all have the game hats on again tomorrow once we know how the draw goes.

  69. TH why would you drop Evan Regan? He had a good game against Roscommon and was probably a bit unlucky to be taken off and we are badly stuck for a free taker. Can’t see Cillian starting the next day he probably needs to be gradually eased back into it but hopefully he’s getting close to playing again

  70. And in the other world we see the unstoppable machine March on by fifteen points . Championship is a foregone conclusion . They won’t be stopped .

  71. That’s exactly the margin I went for in my mini-league prediction, Sean. It’s also the reason why I was willing to drive up to Cavan to see yesterday evening’s Ulster semi-final but wouldn’t have gone to Croke Park today if you’d paid me. Once any doubts are removed about the outcome of a sporting contest there’s nothing left.

  72. I have to agree with JP and wide ball in this debate. Defenders blocking up the forward half of the pitch by laboriously carrying the ball forward are a disaster for any natural forward looking to make a bit of space for himself. Scoring then becomes more diffucult and wide counts increase because players end up taking on shots under ferocious pressure from non ideal angles. Mayo have played a lot of football in this style for many years now. Have you ever noticed how much “hard work” many of our scores involve? The Dublin comparison above about easy tap over scores from 25m out is very valid. I’ve always said if Cillian o Connor played in the Dublin full forward line for the last 8 years he’d go down as one of the greatest forwards of all time, with the chances they create.
    The best football I’ve seen Mayo play was under Rochford in 2017 – the last 3 games of that championship should be used as the template for how Mayo move the ball. A nice balance between attacking half backs and long foot passing.

  73. I just find it a bit depressing if I’m honest . The enjoyment is gone from the championship ,I suppose it’s also sickening to think how close we were to them at our peak if I’m honest.We could so easily of got at least one , think it will haunt me to my grave .

    Im starting to think should a buck just sit back and enjoy their greatness . It’s difficult to remove your true feelings from such a situation of wanting to see them beat, but when you take that away they really are superb . I suppose what I’m trying to say , one always has a gra for the great sides even our rivals like Galway , team that won two I’d have a fondness for them , Joyce , donnellan , Sean og etc , Kerry in the 80s, Tyrone etc etc , even teams I didn’t witness like the three in a row Galway because of stories told but I just can’t get that gra for this Dublin era . Perhaps I’m a bitter man.

  74. Well, we’re all a bit too close to it. But, there is no other endgame than splitting Dublin.
    The GAA at an Inter county level and stadium investment level falls apart without ticket revenue and tv revenue.
    Unlike most global sports the ticket revenue is larger than the tv revenue. But, even if the tv revenue was a higher proportion, tv viewing figures are falling.
    The super 8s will be into its second year. But, it misses the key ingredient of championship knockout and on occasion has dead rubber matches. It may also have several one sided matches. But it also suffers another major problem. Most of these global sports can reach out and get interest in the playoffs. We don’t really have that even locally. If Monaghan are playing Roscommon on a super 8 game, that’s not office talk pre and post match for most neutrals. In GAA we really only care about our own team.
    The trend line of ticket sales and tv viewing figures is disastrous. They will try a sales pitch of the B championship, some New A championship. But, put yourself at the negotiation table.
    “Hello Mr. Sky Sports, now, I know the super 8s was slightly disappointing, but we have a whole new concept for you with those upper tier teams”
    Sky sports will simply refer to the odds of Dublin winning and the tv figures and not be in the business of losing money on a second deal.
    Sport is only interesting when the result is in doubt. That requires North Dublin being 3/1 for the championship, Kerry 4/1, Donegal 7/1, Mayo 9/1 etc.
    If they want to be really ambitious go three teams North West South. Geographically East doesn’t quite work in terms of available Inter county players from what would be East clubs.

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