Photo: Mayo Mick
After last weekend’s results involving ourselves and Kildare, this match at McHale Park tonight was always going to be one that would reveal a few truths about ourselves. Win it and we’d at least be able to say that we weren’t the kind of team that would calf when faced by the challenge posed by a side that had been cut to ribbons at Croke Park a week ago but if we lost it then we’d really know that the tide had truly gone out on us in terms of our Division One status.
Donegal losing to Cork earlier in the evening gave us an added incentive to win tonight. Two points from this fixture would then mean that a victory next weekend over Donegal would secure our place in the top flight while at the same time pushing the All-Ireland champions all but over the precipice.
In other words, we had everything to play for tonight but sadly the team once again failed to perform in any kind of coherent fashion. Once again we had a period of dominance but yet again we failed to make the most of it, in particular through our inability to hit the net. And yet again we completely lost our way as the contest developed, showing once more our inability to take what was another painfully winnable contest by the proverbial scruff of the neck. And once more we paid the predictable price for our increasingly wretched failure to do so.
We started brightly with two points from play in as many minutes, the first from debutant Evan Regan and the second from Jason Doherty. A free from Kevin McLoughlin was followed with further points from play by Cathal Carolan, Colm Boyle and Carolan again as we took a firm early grip on proceedings.
The main concern at this stage – expressed vocally by the lads on Midwest – was that there was no sign of a goal, which, had we got one at that stage, would have put us out of sight. We had two chances for green flags in this period but, as we’ve been doing all year so far, neither of these openings ended up with the ball in the net.
It took Kildare twenty minutes to get their first score, a point from play by Niall Kelly, but we hit back with a screamer of a score from Colm Boyle following an audacious cross-field pass from Michael Conroy. With twenty-five minutes now gone, we looked as comfortable as could be, with Kildare posing no threat whatsoever.
But then, all of a sudden, the game turned on its head. The visitors hit us for 1-4 without reply, with the goal coming from Eoin Kelly and points from Seanie Johnston (three, two from frees) and Johnny Doyle (a free). All of which meant that despite all our early dominance we went in at the break a point behind.
We started the second half with Barry Moran in at full-forward, with Jason Doherty shifting to the corner and Evan Regan moving out to centre-forward. It was Evan who got the scoreboard moving in this half too, stroking over a free to level it up. Two points from play by the visitors – from Flynn and Johnston – were followed by another Regan free for us. They hit back with one from play from Brophy to go two clear once more.
We had plenty of chances to get back on terms but a succession of wides – putting that stat into double figures – meant once again that our dominance out the field wasn’t being translated into scores. Kildare exacted punishment for this failure with another Niall Kelly point pushing them three ahead, as we brought on Cillian O’Connor on for Evan Regan.
A missed free by Kevin McLoughlin followed as our scoreless stretch lengthened to fifteen minutes. We finally got going when Jason Doherty pointed a free and then Tom Cunniffe stormed forward to bag one from play to cut the gap to the minimum. But then another missed free – this one from Jason – was to follow, our thirteenth of the night.
Richie Feeney was on for Cathal Carolan at this stage with Enda Varley coming on in place of Mickey Conroy soon after but the scores still refused to come. Instead a fisted point from Dowling put Kildare two up, with Kevin McLoughlin screwing his effort wide at the other end to bring the wide count to fourteen. Jason Gibbons then came on in place of Aidan O’Shea.
A foul on Enda Varley saw Cillian O’Connor open his 2013 account from a free. O’Flaherty got one from play which was answered with another free from Cillian with time running out. But run out it did and when it did we’d crashed to our fourth league defeat in a row, this one surely the most galling of the lot.
I wasn’t at McHale Park tonight and so I can’t really say all that much about individual performances on the night. What I can say, though, is that you matter how you cut it our long run in Division One is now surely set to come to an end at the conclusion of this league campaign. And, let’s be honest, the utterly toothless manner in which we’ve performed over the last four games means that we deserve nothing less than this fate. I don’t know about the rest of you but I find it hard to see how we’re going to be able to make any kind of positive impact this coming summer after what has become a spring of discontent and quite alarming decline for us.
Mayo: David Clarke; Chris Barrett, Ger Cafferkey, Keith Higgins; Lee Keegan, Tom Cunniffe (0-1), Colm Boyle (0-2); Barry Moran, Seamus O’Shea; Kevin McLoughlin (0-1, free), Aidan O’Shea, Cathal Carolan (0-2); Evan Regan (0-3, two frees), Jason Doherty (0-2, one a free), Michael Conroy. Subs: Cillian O’Connor (0-2, frees) for Regan, Richie Feeney for Carolan, Enda Varley for Conroy, Jason Gibbons for Aidan O’Shea.