I always find it amusing how different people can watch a game and come away with completely different views of it. The positives I took from the game against Sligo were as follows.
We set out to play in a different way to how we did previously in that we kick-passed the ball much more, we ran more from deep, we kept two (and sometimes three) forwards in the inside line more consistently and we rotated them continually. The running off the ball was much better.
We played an orthodox fifteen-man shaped team. When Sligo’s Marren went out the field, Keith Higgins stayed back in a sweeper role and cut out the long ball option. Combined with the return of Ger Cafferkey in a marking full-back role, Sligo never got near enough for David Clarke to be required to make a point-blank save. In fact, I don’t think that Sligo had any genuine goal chances.
We didn’t go out to blitz Sligo. Instead, we worked on a system of play that we need to develop further if we are to be in the shake-up later in the year. As a result, it sometimes looked like a challenge game rather than a championship game.
I liked the mix of young lads and the seasoned fraternity. Sheamie O’Shea looked lean, fit and full of energy. Fergal Boland continues to grow into the team. Conor O’Shea gave a good account of himself and was much more purposeful that previously. Paddy Durcan is getting better with every game and is now giving us the option of having another strong half-back (with Keegan) that can break with speed from deep.
We used the bench well and got stronger as the game entered the last quarter. Sligo coughed up the scores in the end because of the strength in depth that we introduced as the game progressed.
There were some “could do better” things.
We got cleaned at centrefield for a huge amount of the breaks from kick-outs. In the second half, we gave Sligo way too much possession. If we do that with a stronger team, we will be punished much more severely.
Kevin McLoughlin looked a bit lost in the corner. He is much more effective in the half-forward line where he drops back to hoover up loose ball around centrefield. Maybe swapping him and Boland would be an idea as Boland has an eye for a score and is particularly good from 30 metres in.
We had a few bad misses but I would put a lot of them down to the transition between doing something in training and transferring it to a championship match situation. That should improve with more work.
In relation to the number of steps taken before the first goal the Advantage Rule was applied. It states “When a foul is committed the referee may allow the play to continue if he considers it to be to the advantage of the offended team.” This is clearly what the ref did.
The question here is whether or not the ref considers the continuing play is effectively a ‘new’ play. If that is the correct interpretation, the decision not to pull for steps was correct. However, I do not know how the refs are briefed on this. Maybe someone with experience of refereeing at a high level could clarify.
All in all, I thought this was a workman like performance. Mayo played the game in a way that they would get the win but would try out a few things. Some things worked, some didn’t. But when the ref blew the final whistle, Mayo were ahead by nine and into the Connacht semi final.
Job done. Now attention can turn to the Galway game on 11th June.
Keep the Faith!