Watching back, listening, and reading again through what has been said in the papers, online and other sources it would seem that we are progressing okay as a team since the Galway jolt. However I don’t buy that at all and below are the reasons why.
In my mind it is simple. We were soundly beaten by a better Galway team who were fitter, faster, hungrier and smarter on the day. After that it was the back door and we were then very fortunate to win at home against Fermanagh. Looking back at the Fermanagh game and the performance especially in the first half I wouldn’t hesitate to suggest that they would have beaten us on their home patch given the way the team played.
However on the day we got a bit of good fortune and progressed in the end. Having got through that we were handed another relatively generous home qualifier match. A Kildare team plying their trade this spring in Division Three who have no form in the championship for the past number of seasons. I thought that our Mayo team would be better but I was disappointed again. The match was turned on its head in the ten-minute spell with the goals but Kildare won the second half.
Yes, certain individuals did turn up but others I expected to have increasing impacts as the championship heats up were visibly absent. Perhaps it’s just in my head. Maybe Aidan O’Shea was subdued that night because of what happened the previous weekend versus Fermanagh. Others argue he had a more strategic role in defence to play and he did prosper somewhat in that role. But overall I was disappointed in his contributions for the three games in the championship this year. Hopefully he is saving himself for the big game as I think he has so much to offer this team when playing at his peak.
Also maybe Cillian had another low-key game because he is still recovering from injury and still getting back to speed? But he’s rapidly running outta time because at the top level (and it’s closer and closer we are getting to it) players are going to have to make an impact on the game with the correct decisions at a faster pace or else they simply won’t cut it.
And it will be the big players like Aido and Cillian that are expected to be making these impacts. But so far this year they have been at the very most haphazard if not alarmingly absent in all the championship games to date.
In their absence others have stood up. Colm Boyle has been wonderful but is now walking a fine line with the cards. Diarmuid O’Connor too has been a revelation since his debut season. But what of the rest? 1– 4 and 1– 5 from play says a lot for the two forwards. Evan Regan will be happy and possibly even a little disappointed he didn’t score a second goal against Kildare. Should we have scored a second goal?
In my opinion, yes. And it could well be down to this lack of ruthlessness and clinical cold bloodedness in front of goal that may cost us against better teams. But it’s unfair to pick on a newcomer. So let’s not forget that two others also had one-on-one opportunities to score goals in that game and failed to deliver.
Watching back on TV I heard the experts say that it was unusual for Mayo to be so well beaten at midfield with Barry Moran, Seamus O’Shea and Donal Vaughan all operating in that area. In my head I agreed. Why was that though? Okay, you can argue that Kildare have a fine midfield but surely our team are up there with the best of them and should have the wherewithal at this stage in their lifetime to be at least be on a par with a team from Division Three?
Stephen Rochford asked for patience at the start of the year. Where now is this team at because this week we are coming into Croke Park? I have been patient but to date in the both League and championship I haven’t seen anything dramatically different other than Kevin McLoughlin starting as sweeper.
Also why does the team, when attacking, have to take that extra solo or hop? Okay, it’s a possession game and patience is required but what is wrong with sometimes delivering it first time or at least a little bit earlier to give the forwards a fighting chance? The best score of the game the last day was from a long ball into Andy who duly played it to Diarmuid first time and he in turn played it to Evan who fired over the bar. That is the sort of transition football we need to get to. The penalty in the Fermanagh game also came from an early ball in and several of Evan Regan’s scores against Kildare came from early balls which gave him a chance to turn and run.
Let’s turn to the bench and look at the subs impact. Alan Dillon played well in the first ten minutes after coming on against Kildare but then he faded and by the end of the game I had forgotten he was there. Alan Freeman came on and scored a good point. Okay but what else was on offer? Did either consistently for the period they were on show and win any ball in front of their man? If they did I missed it.
Of all the subs who came on against Kildare possibly only Jason Doherty proved himself. The determination he showed in breaking the tackle to score his first point was exactly the sort of drive you expect when a fresh pair of legs is introduced and especially one who is supposedly hungry and fighting to get the starting nod in the first fifteen.
Overall when I add all this together it worries me. Because the simple reality is that form cannot be turned off and on like a tap. And right now the team is playing only in fits and starts for ten-minute spells. And if they are depending on playing like that to win it will simply not be good enough.
To have any chance to progress this year against the top teams they will have to get that team ethic and overall winning determination back. So this is my question for players and experts out there: is what I have seen so far the sum of what is on offer this year from our senior team?
Or is there something more that this panel of players offer together? Because if there is then from now on is really the time to show it.