Winning start maintained over students



Mayo maintained their winning start to the season and placed almost both feet into the FBD final on Sunday when they overcame the students of IT Sligo in a cold and windy James Stephens Park in Ballina.

Noel Connelly and Pat Holmes made a number of changes from the side which lined out against NUIG last week and the standout name among the starting fifteen was that of former Ireland and Connacht rugby player Gavin Duffy.

Unfortunately for the large crowd in attendance Duffy was replaced by hometown midfielder Alex Corduff before the throw-in but the management assured the local press afterwards that the former professional athlete should be available for selection against Roscommon next weekend.

Of those who did line up from the throw-in against the students Steven Duffy (Crossmolina), Michael Hall (Breaffy), Patrick Durcan (Castlebar Mitchels), Morgan Lyons (Ballyhaunis) and Peter Dravins (Breaffy) were all wearing the green and red jersey in a senior competitive game for the first time, proof that Connelly and Holmes are more than willing to use the early part of the season to look at up and coming players in the county.

The game started pretty slowly with the students gaining the wind advantage in the first half but being unable to take advantage of it as the hosts ran into a three-point lead inside the first ten minutes. Alan Freeman, who had a great day on the edge of the square, Lyons and Evan Regan raising the white flags.

Cian Clinton replied with a free for the students before Lyons almost scored his first major as a Mayo player when he received the ball on the edge of the box but his shot fizzed just past the upright.

Freeman added another point a minute later when Mikey Sweeney’s shot dropped short and was only half cleared to the Aghamore man.

Claremorris native Brian Gallagher, whom we all remember from last year’s FBD and league campaigns, replied for IT Sligo before Regan and a Kevin McLoughlin free pushed Mayo further ahead coming towards half-time.

Two more Clinton frees sandwiched a good point from Freeman to end the half with Mayo leading by three points on a score of 0-7 to 0-4.

The second half started even slower than the first but Mayo almost had the ball in the net in the 33rd minute when a great run by Regan set up Sweeney on the edge of the small square but the Kiltane man’s snap shot was matched by Alvin McCallig in the goal and the keeper deflected the ball over the bar.

A minute later IT Sligo had their best chance of a goal when Ryan McHugh was taken down inside the box by Duffy and the referee awarded a penalty kick.

The reigning Young Player of the Year stood over the spot kick himself and faced down the massive frame of David Clarke in the Mayo goal, a prospect not too many forwards would enjoy.  Despite sending the Ballina man the wrong way, though, McHugh sent the ball outside the right-hand post and wide.

The Donegal man did add a point just a minute later to cancel out one from McLoughlin but with the penalty miss went any chance the students had of getting something out of this game.

Points from Corduff, a beauty from near the sideline, and Freeman extended Mayo’s lead before Durcan and Sweeney almost had the ball in the net. An attempted one-two in front of the goal was almost successful but McCallig managed to just get a touch on the ball before Durcan could flick it to the net and the defence cleared.

It looked for all the world like Mayo were bound to get a goal and that it was going to arrive in the very near future. On the 46th minute it came even closer to reality when Lyons gathered the ball 70 yards from goal and took off on a sprint, leaving defenders trailing in his wake.

The centre-forward let fly from about 20 yards and had McCallig beaten until the ball smacked off the bottom of the post and rebounded clear, much to the relief of the visiting side.

The students almost had the ball in the Mayo net shortly after but substitute Darren McHugh managed to clear the ball off the line before Mayo finished the game strongly in the last ten minutes.

Points from Sweeney, Regan, another McLoughlin beauty and Mark Ronaldson against a free from Clinton saw Mayo finish the game pulling up before the referee blew the full time whistle one minute into injury time to hand Mayo a nine-point win.

If the point of the FBD League is to blood new players and ease back the usual suspects then so far the 2015 version is working wonders for Mayo.

Morgan Lyons, Michael Hall, Patrick Durcan and Alex Corduff all gave the new management something to think about today while the returning David Clarke was immense in goals, Donal Vaughan looked strong in the unfamiliar full-back position while Evan Regan, Alan Freeman and Mikey Sweeney were all fantastic in the full-forward positions.

Next weekend Mayo take on Roscommon in Castlebar in the final group game and after the Rossies lost to NUIG all the green and red need from the game is a point and they set up a final meeting with Galway.

It may only be January, but right now the future looks bright for Mayo football, especially if some of the players performing well this month can continue to do so as the weather improves.

Mayo: David Clarke (Ballina); Kevin Keane (Westport), Donal Vaughan (Ballinrobe), Steven Duffy (Crossmolina); Michael Hall (Breaffy), Keith Rogers (Ballaghaderreen), Patrick Durcan (Castlebar); Alex Corduff (Ballina, 0-1), Barry Moran (Castlebar); Kevin McLoughlin (Knockmore, 0-3, 1f), Morgan Lyons (Ballyhaunis, 0-1), Peter Dravins (Breaffy, 0-1); Evan Regan (Ballina, 0-3), Alan Freeman (Aghamore 0-4, 1f), Mikey Sweeney (Kiltane 0-1).

Subs: Darren McHugh (Hollymount/Carramore) for Keane HT), Chris Barrett (Belmullet) for Durcan 44’, Jason Gibbons (Ballintubber) for Corduff 51’, Jason Doherty (Burrishoole) for Hall 51’, Mark Ronaldson (Shrule/Glencorrib 0-1) for Sweeney 53’.

IT Sligo: Alvin McCallig (Mayo/Claremorris); Stephen Doak (Donegal), Michael McWeeney (Leitrim), Darragh McConnon (Sligo); Noel Crowe (Cavan), Shane McManus (Sligo), Paul Varley(Galway); Stephen Henry (Mayo/Swinford), Brian Gallagher (Mayo/Claremorris, 0-1); Ryan McHugh (Donegal 0-1), Eoin Jordan (Mayo), Cathal Mulryan (Galway, capt); David Quinn (Sligo), Ciaran Thomson (Donegal), Cian Clinton (Leitrim 0-4, 4f).

Subs: Tony Taylor (Sligo) for Quinn 15’, Ross Gallagher (Donegal) for McConnon (Black Card) 39’, Jack Mannion (Galway) for McCallig 55’.

Referee: Michael Duffy

Other Results

Leitrim 1-9 Galway 0-13

Sligo 1-13 GMIT 0-8

Roscommon 0-9 NUIG 0-10.

35 thoughts on “Winning start maintained over students

  1. Excellent report Mike Well done to you. I was unable to make this one but I am sure conditions did not make it easy. Delighted to see David Clarke back between the posts. Looking forward to seeing G D play for Mayo again and I hope it can happen next week. An extra game will help the new guys settle in if we get the chance after next week.

  2. A good performance by Mayo today but before we get carried away the opposition was poor enough with a lot of poor shooting.ryan mchugh was really there only quality player of will be an interesting battle for the number 1 jersey this year Clarke is very commanding in the air.interesting to see Vaughan at number 3 did very well but would need to see him in a few national league games against few top players to judge as a full back.stephen duffy showed well at corner back as did our two wing backs durkan and hall.i thought durkan was my man of match today brings so much to the game.alex corduff showed a good improvement on last week and scored a great point.morgan Lyons also had a good debut today.evan regan got 3 great points today and def looks an option for us at corner man of match today was Patrick after 2 games I think we should see more of Neil Douglas patrick Durcan and Evan regan in the coming months.a lot of positives to take but it early days and I’m sure there a few more lads will look to stake a claim for a spot on the panel.onwards and upwards Maigh Eo Abu!

  3. Good report Mike. Thank you. It’s good to hear that the newbies are starting off on the right foot, so to speak.

  4. Thanks for this Mike. Only 3 players who played the last day started today, and 1 of those was only because of Duffy’s paperwork. I see one of Kildare’s players did his cruciate after playing 3 full matches in a week. Easy does it now. With the huge number of players in the squad, I really wouldn’t be expecting any sort of settled team until maybe after the Kerry and Tyrone league matches.

  5. Id say there may be 2 at a push 3 new faces making the starting line up come championship what ye reckon?

  6. Vaughan played great at full back. Looked in total command of the full back line. Sligos first ff was subbed after 20 mins. Sligo had to adopt a passing game across the middle because they couldn’t get any joy from sending in long balls with the wind. He’s now a real option for fb.

  7. Super report Mike. Between yourself and Digits, WJ won’t need to do any match reporting in 2015 at this rate!

    Great to see Noel and Pat experimenting away merrily, yet getting results at the same time. It’s hard to ask for more really, even though it’s only the FBD.

    Vaughan at full back? That’s interesting and innovative. It might work out and it mightn’t, but a serious physical option in that position would be no harm at all for when we meet the Michael Murphys and Kieran Donaghys of this world.

  8. I thought Donie did well at FB yesterday but you really can’t judge whether or not it was a success based purely on opposition of IT Sligo’s calibre. He undoubtedly was a strong presence though and looked very confident and comfortable so I’d really like to see him line out there again next week or the following week (if we get the result next week that is).

    Can’t remember if I mentioned it elsewhere, but did anyone else see the result of the Meath/Roscommon U-21 game on Sat? The Rossies went to Meath and hammered them 4-12 to 0-01 in their own back yard. Now there’s obviously something seriously amiss in the Meath setup (let’s not forget that they were in a All-Ireland minor in 2012, I think it was) but it suggests that we are up against serious opposition from the Sheepstealers at U21 level again this year.

  9. What I loved about yesterday is the intensity at which we played. Particularly Kevin Mc (who was head and shoulders the best player on the pitch. Just outstanding) and Donie Vaughan. A really enjoyable game, for the 2nd week in a row, which for FBD league is unusual!

    Looking forward to our first InterCounty game on Sunday and welcoming some away supporters too! Hopefully we get a nice crowd. Remember the days you’d barely break 2 or 300 at these games!

    Anyone know what happens if Ross beat us Sunday? Do they qualify due to head to head?

    If we get to a final, I would love the see us use as many fringe players as humanly possible, if not the whole team! A great start to the year for us.

  10. You mentioned that alright AM. That is a ridiculous scoreline, but that Meath team in 2012 were so far out of their depth in that game against Dublin. It was a damp squib of a final after Meath somehow overturned Dublin in Leinster!

    Something not right in Meath though, or else Ros are just a top, top quality side. Time will tell. We have strong U21s this year and thankfully they’ve started far better this year than they did last year. We could do with a Connacht title!

    Also, well done to the Hurlers on their win. 100% start for our senior and U21 footballers and our senior hurlers!

  11. With the usual caveat of it being only January and only FBD I enjoyed the show in Ballina.
    Vaughan looked hungry and his speed and strength were used to great effect.
    Fair play to Pat and Noel for giving fringe players a shot and by yesterdays and last Sunday’s evidence these bucks are keen to impress.
    Duffy,Durkin, Lyons, Dravins, Corduff,all looked comfortable and eager for battle.
    I thought Mickey Sweeney showed vision and guts which maybe makes up for height and pace, he worked tirelessly and laid some great passes for men in scoring positions.
    Freeman despite some poor handling(its only January) kicked sweetly and Regan , a little too dependent on self betimes showed very well, is strong and willing and appears to have the bits in the right places for a corner spot.
    Yes its early days but its great to be back at it.

  12. Thanks Mike – great stuff and great photos. But, who in the name of God designed the Sligo jersey? Never saw anything like it.

  13. Just a little confused on G Duffy not being cleared to play; does this mean he wasn’t cleared to play last year despite being with the panel 1/2 the year ?and what needs to happen for him to be cleared. paperwork?

  14. Have been saying all year that there was a problem with gavin Duffy playing legally with Mayo. Thought it was all sorted when i saw the team sheet on Sunday. can anyone explain why the paperwork was not complete in time or it is the original problem ie he has to play senior championship football with ballina or a mayo club to qualify. has everyone forgotten seanie johnston of cavan.

  15. MayoMark Dublin minors won the Leinster and All Ireland in 2012 pulling up against Meath. Mayo supporters will hardly forget that Meath minor team as they were very lucky to win the All Ireland semi final.

  16. As far as I know ( was told by an ex county board member) the issue was not with what county Gavin was playing with , it seems the Mayo county board never officially processed Gavin’s transfer from Ballina to Salthill which was requested all of 13 or 14 years ago and this seems to have suddenly come to light recently. I find this pretty ridiculous to be honest if it’s true and I don’t see how this would stop him playing for Mayo but I was assured by the ex official that this was the case and all I could think is how Ballina could have done with Gavin last season (and this season) in the middle of the park!!!!!

    To be brutally honest if I wasn’t been told by the person who said it to me( an ex member of the county executive) I would be deleting this comment myself before Willie Joe had the chance as a crazy rumour but the story in the papers pretty much confirms what I was told.

    Can anyone explain to me how Gavin’s transfer from Ballina to Salthill not been correctly processed prevent him from playing for Mayo?

    P.S. Being selfish I hope he returns to play for Ballina this year because of the admin cock up cause we could really do with him in the middle of the park!!

  17. Crete Boom,
    I could never understand why James Horan didn’t throw him in at some stage on Donaghy, in Limerick. Maybe, he had his reasons and as they say , currants for a cake and raisins for everything.

  18. He would certainly have been a tougher opponent for donaghy. Imagine in a game against Dublin this summer, O gara or Connolly with their superiority complexes trying to intimidate mr Duffy, planted on their asses in two seconds would be the outcome, similar to what Dave Brady would have done with them I think.
    Mayo need that string in their bow, every bit as much as cillian o Connor scoring goals. I hope Connelly and Holmes see that.

  19. MO2015 says:
    January 12, 2015 at 6:36 pm
    MayoMark Dublin minors won the Leinster and All Ireland in 2012 pulling up against Meath.

    I stand corrected 🙂

  20. Re Gavin Duffy. If Crete Boom is correct and I’m not disagreeing with him, it shows then how our GAA secretary was not doing his job then. Was this the same person who put his name forward for a top position in the county convention?

  21. @True Grit

    It was the secretary who preceded the man I think you are hinting at True Grit and from what I hear Gavin’s wasn’t the only transfer which was not dealt with properly!!! Gavin applied for a transfer from Ballina to Salthill when he signed on for Connacht on a developement contract in October 2000 as I believe he had the intention of trying to play U21’s with Mayo that year but he progressed straight into the Connacht first team squad and extended Ireland squad so was not able to continue playing county football.

    I still cannot believe this transfer could not have been processed properly and that this issue is still outstanding only for I was told directly by a former high ranking Co Board executive face to face!!

    Can anyone shed any light though on how exactly this prevents him playing for Mayo though as Gavin has not played ball for any other county and it seems now his only official senior club game was for Ballina back in 2000?? The only example I can think of is the dispute between Eamon Fennell and O’Tooles and he played for Dublin while effectively being in limbo in terms of playing club football??

  22. Regarding the full back position and our perceived weakness in our ability to defend a high ball, I think it is easy to get caught up in the personalities and individuals involved whilst at the same time missing the point. Defending is about shape and structure on the pitch. As a defensive unit your primary aim is to do reduce the time and space that your opponent has. Reduce the time he/she has on the ball thereby “rushing” them into poor passes, poor judgement, mistakes and turnovers, and also reduce the space inside your own ’45 to “squeeze” the attack laterally and into areas where it is much more difficult to score from.
    There is a myriad of ways that these objectives can be achieved e.g., withdrawn half forwards, swarm defenses, sweepers, using a high defensive line, using a deep lying full back line, using hard tackling forwards etc. etc. etc. Every method and system of play has advantages and disadvantages, there is no one perfect system to play football and you must always play the game to your strengths. The fact is at the highest level of the game where we are now, it is your shape and structure on the pitch that decides how well you defend and NEVER one individual.
    If we have a perceived weakness in defending a high ball, which I’m begining to think we have and more importantly our opponents believe we have and so will target it, I believe you must look at the shape and structure of the defense. To defend the direct high ball into a target man it is not just about selecting the tallest, strongest full back to counter that tactic. Your half backs and midfielders must be putting pressure on the kickers who are sending in the ball. If the kickers are under pressure, i.e. time & space is reduced, then the incoming ball will not be as accurate and therefore should favour the defense.
    Even if the incoming ball is accurate, as a manager, you must have plans B, C and D in how to deal with the target man. Do you simply leave your FB one-on-one to deal with him, which seems to have been our tactic under James Horan? Do you place your FB goalside of the target man with another defender sitting in front of the target man, the plan being for the FB to break the ball down to the free defender? Do you let the target man fetch the ball cleanly but have enough defenders around him so that when he lands with the ball he is completely surrounded with nowhere to go and hopefully fouls the ball? Do you play another defender behind your CB but in front of the FB thereby putting extra pressure on the kicker to get his kick perfect as if it drops short the extra defender will gain possession and if he kicks it too long it will go out over the endline?
    All of the above have advantages and disadvantages because the fact is that you can only ever have 15 men/women on the pitch and if you strengthen one area of the pitch with numbers then you are weakening another area. There is no one perfect system to play football and it primarily ends up with the manager and how he/she believes the game should be played. The facts of the matter are that only 13% of all shots at goal from play come in the full back area, granted with a success rate of 71%. The much more crucial area of the defensive unit, and an area I believe we are far more exposed in, is the centre back position. 23% of all shots at goal from play come in this area of the field with a 50% success rate.

  23. In the last 3 championships, having played all of the top teams, the only goals we conceded from high balls in were:

    A: Michael Murphy on Kevin Keane in 2012 Final
    B: Bernard Brogan in 2013 Final where Robbie came off his line when he shouldn’t have
    C: Against Kieran Donaghy

    If we accept that in the first instance, Keane shouldn’t have been in that position at that time, and in the second that Robbie made a mistake and should have had more sense, then it would appear that our “problem” is confined to Kerry, and even then only when they have Donaghy playing. Even then, it’s only an in-form Donaghy, as we have played against him before and cleaned him out.

    We have actually conceded most of our goals from teams running at us down the centre. I would be trying to solve that problem first!

  24. I agree digits, its our lack of awareness around the middle which has been our achilles heel last year. I’ll never know why the likes of barry moran wasnt just dropped back on donaghy during the replay…we cleaned them out with only 14 men the week before but for donaghy to again change that game. But if I and others can see that our defensive set up around thr middle last year was very poor, then surely noel and pat saw that aswell, and that gives me a sense of optimism heading into the new season, its only the tiniest tweak here and there needed to win the AI with this team, and sometimes a coach in their first year have watched the team they are coaching over a period of time (under a different coach) and know exactly what the team needs to achieve..and can turn the same squad of players into winners in their first season…think Declan Kidney ’09 and Joe Schmidt ’14, sometimes its just a different voice a player needs.

  25. That’s a good observation Digits. How often have we parted like the Red Sea!! I still feel we have a problem under a high ball though. I close my eyes every time a high ball goes in. Surely it can and will be corrected at last.

  26. Digits I agree.I made those same observations in another post.We are vulnerable under high ball and when teams run down the middle at us.Which is strange because we are a physical side teams shouldnt be able to get through that easy.So these 2 areas need to be looked at .Along with getting goo d at closing out games.How many games last year did we let teams back into the game.One other than thing.We need to get faster more direct ball and when we do that our forwards need to be clinical. I do believe we will do better this year than a lot of people who think and I stand by that.

  27. “The much more crucial area of the defensive unit, and an area I believe we are far more exposed in, is the centre back position. 23% of all shots at goal from play come in this area of the field with a 50% success rate”.

    “it would appear that our “problem” is confined to Kerry”, because they are the masters at foot passing. They trust their skills and abilities to foot pass accurately over 30m to 40m where other teams will cover the same distance by short foot or hand passes, thereby increasing the possession % and ball retention, but, slowing down the play.

  28. Pebblesmeller, i agree with you 100%. On my own observations I still feel we have a serious problem with the high ball for years; it happens time and time again. The big problem is that it panics the rest of the defence and then, they are all at sea.
    I have always screamed that we have no cover at the back to counteract this. Your analysis is correct. It’s all part of a larger picture.
    To throw another theory into the mix; is the day of man marking gone???? I think it is; too many runners, etc, coming from deep!!!!

  29. Take all the points about structure and closing down and so on.

    But, fielding a high ball comfortably and decisively is a skill that we don’t have either in FB or FF. Other teams do have and lash it in high to us, and on the flip side are delighted when we lash it in high because they can outfield us.

    We may be in a position where we have to rely on these skills. When Mayo had inferior teams they could outfield most opposition in the most important positions. This was our trademark – and we seem to have lost that art. We have gained a lot more of course, but no reason why that can’t be resurrected.

    Over to Donie Buckley!

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