Another dose of the January blues

So, three FBD League games played in five days and we’re still awaiting our first win of the year. Whatever about the Leitrim and Galway games we never looked remotely like prevailing in this afternoon’s pre-season joust with the Rossies at Hyde Park. Despite playing with fourteen men for most of the second half, Kevin McStay’s charges were full value for their 0-14 to 0-11 victory.

I had the sunglasses on for a good bit of the drive down from Dublin for this afternoon’s tie. The morning was clear and bright up here in the capital – perfect conditions for a quick spin out to Howth on the bike before swapping two wheels for four to undertake the trip west – but we encountered the first of the rain before we’d crossed the Shannon.

It was a cold, dank afternoon by the time the ball was thrown in. Once the rain began to fall early in the first half it did so with intent, turning the resplendent new Hyde Park sward into a bit of a skating rink.

We didn’t announce our starting team for today’s match until this morning. Mindful, I’d say, of the fact that the opposition had by then revealed that they’d be sending out pretty much the strongest fifteen available to them we bulked up our pick with a good smattering of the squad fresh off the plane from Kuala Lumpur.

Rob Hennelly was in goals, his first start for the county since the corresponding pre-season match against today’s opponents twelve months ago. Eoin O’Donoghue, Ger Cafferkey and Caolan Crowe were deployed in the full-back line, Colm Boyle and Paddy Durcan (captain for the day) in the half-backs, Stephen Coen and Danny Kirby at midfield, with Diarmuid O’Connor, Conor O’Shea and Jason Doherty in attack.

The stand was more empty than full when we took our seats there a bit over 30 minutes or so ahead of throw-in. By the time the match got underway, though, a decent crowd had assembled and, by the sounds of it, most of them were our lot.

The first half was played at a decent clip. Roscommon were to the fore for the most part – opening up a three-point lead as early as ten minutes in – but we finished well and went in at the break only one adrift.

The home team got the afternoon’s first score, an effort from play by Conor Daly. This was cancelled out by a close-in free converted by Fionn McDonagh. Three Rossie points followed in quick succession – their slickness on the ball and efficiency in shooting already apparent – before Paddy Durcan, a real attacking livewire from centre-back, started and finished a fine flowing move to bag our second of the day.

Tit for tat scores followed. They got one, we responded with a Jason Doherty free. They got another and a nice one off his left from Diarmuid O’Connor once more cut the gap back to two.

Fionn McDonagh – already marking himself out as a player to watch – then fired over two points in quick succession to haul us level. Murtagh edged them back in front and then Ciaran Treacy, who minutes before made a complete hash of a fourteen-yard free, thumped over a glorious equaliser. They had the last say of the half, though, via a free from Diarmuid Murtagh.

Both sides found the going tougher as the weather continued to deteriorate after the break. Players from both teams were slipping and sliding and mistakes were inevitable in the treacherous underfoot conditions.

I’d say this had a fair bit to do with Ian Kilbride’s clumsy challenge on Fionn McDonagh minutes after the restart, which earned the Roscommon midfielder a rather harsh red, reducing the home side to fourteen men for virtually the whole of the second half. The first yellow had also been for a rough tackle on the same player – who, for someone with a slight frame, lacked nothing in the area of bravery in the physical stakes – but, to be honest, neither infractions would even have merited in a free in the white heat of championship football at Croke Park.

With the opposition now a man down we should have been able to assert control on proceedings. Instead, however, we shrank into our shell and from then to the finish it often looked as if it were the lads in primrose and blue who enjoyed the numerical advantage.

At first blush following the sending-off we briefly got our noses in front. Fionn dusted himself down and pointed the free as Kilbride was trooping off the field and then Conor O’Shea squeezed over a lovely point from out on the right to put us a point up.

The lead was, though, short-lived. Points into the town end from Enda Smith and Diarmuid Murtagh restored the home side’s advantage and it was a lead they’d never surrender from there to the finish.

Daly put them two up before Ciaran Treacy bagged his second of the day for us. As we increasingly lost our way in this pre-season contest, however, they kept tacking on the points, three frees from Murtagh extending their lead to four points.

With time now running out, it was abundantly clear which way this one was going to go. Truth be told, we looked a beaten docket today a good twenty minutes out from the final whistle.

The large away following endured a long scoreless spell – over twenty minutes in duration – before Neil Douglas finally landed one over the posts at the graveyard end. By then, though, we were already dead and buried in this one.

Roscommon could have won by a bigger margin. A rather charitable penalty award in injury time gave Ciaran Murtagh the chance to send the home support home in high spirits but although he struck the spot-kick well, Robbie was equal to it, diving brilliantly to his left to deflect it away to safety.

The final whistle sounded seconds later and I’d say few in the large away following were grumbling too much about the result on their way home. It was a patchy pre-season performance from our lads played in difficult conditions against a team fielding a far stronger line-up, whose greater cohesion and sense of purpose were apparent pretty much all day.

The main letdown from our point of view was that, yet again, we were unable to make any use of our numerical advantage. Roscommon started playing keep-ball at one stage late in the second half and in a two-minute spell the player in possession always had an easy option for laying off the ball. That cameo kinda summed up our inability to make the extra man pay.

Looking at the positives, a few players stood out well for us today. Chief amongst these was young Fionn McDonagh who really put his hand up with a super performance. Never afraid to get stuck in, always showing for possession and ultra-confident on the ball, the young Westport man was our leading scorer today with four points. I’d love to see him get a proper run in the team over the spring.

Ciaran Treacy also showed well – knocking over two rather glorious scores, one in each half – while James Stretton was another of the newbies to stand out. Of the 2017 squad, Eoin O’Donoghue was prominent in the backs and Danny Kirby – frequently found by Robbie’s well-directed restarts – worked hard at midfield. Paddy Durcan and Diarmuid O’Connor – the former at 6 and the latter at 11 – combined nicely up the middle, though both faded a bit as the afternoon wore on.

Another positive today was Robbie Hennelly’s good performance between the sticks. He had great velocity and a lovely low trajectory on his kickouts, with good variety to them too. While one short one was intercepted – and a Rossie point resulted from this – he got the rest of them away without any trouble. And his penalty save, while doing nothing to alter the outcome of the game, was a superb stop.

So, that’s almost it for this year’s FBD campaign. All that’s left now is the dead-rubber fixture against Sligo – at a venue yet to be revealed – next Sunday. But the Sunday beyond that is our first League match of the year and, with this trip to Monaghan in mind, I’d say we could see a more experienced outfit taking the field for us when we face the Magpies next weekend. You’d never know, we could yet finish this pre-season campaign with a bit of a flourish.

Mayo: Robbie Hennelly; Eoin O’Donoghue, Ger Cafferkey, Caolan Crowe; Colm Boyle, Paddy Durcan (0-1), James Stretton; Stephen Coen, Danny Kirby; Fionn McDonagh (0-4, two frees), Diarmuid O’Connor (0-1), Conor O’Shea (0-1); Neil Douglas (0-1), Jason Doherty (0-1, free), Ciaran Treacy (0-2). Subs: Kevin McLoughlin for O’Connor, Jason Gibbons for Boyle, Shairoze Akram for O’Shea, Peter Naughton for McDonagh, Jamie Oates for Crowe, James McCormack for Kirby.

The audio app I normally use malfunctioned on me today but I recorded a post-match piece on another app and here it is:

74 thoughts on “Another dose of the January blues

  1. You can split our performance in 2. Up to Treacy’s second point we were good. Cleaned up in midfield and created loads of chances but missed too many. The last 25 minutes were not good at all. Roscommon played keep ball and despite being a man down outscored us 3-1. Could have been much worse if Robbie did not save the pen.

  2. Some good performances from new players are the only positive. Eoin O’Donoghue, Stretton and Fionn McDonagh were very good. Treacy recovered from his missed free to have a solid game. Kicked 2 quality points and he has a serious burst of speed that our current inside forwards lack. Dougie battled hard and got his point in the end.

    Some of the existing panel looked leggy. Hopefully that can be rectified before the trip to Monaghan.

  3. Can I just jump in here before anybody gets too irate…. these 3 games mean absolutely nothing. Not a thing. It will have zero impact on our league, let alone championship performances. People trying to analyse these are wasting their time…. all 3 played in poor conditions and experimental teams… and any of the main panal were on holidays till last weekend. Impossible for new comers to make an impression in these games.. in my honest opinion… they are a waste of time.

  4. I think that the players most under pressure in the squad are those that played in FBD but were only bit players last year–the cull has to come soon. We need fresh players & to those that are dropped thanks for your efforts.

  5. Didn’t hear any of the game but Mayo’s line up contained 7 or 8 of the 2017 players and panelists. I agree that Mid West radio should cover those matches, one thing I don’t miss about Mayo living here in Dublin, is all the old fashioned Country music that’s constantly played every day. Good to see Robbie Hennelly given a game, along time now since the replayed final of 2016.

  6. That was a novel midfield pairing today… Not a complete success given the result but can anyone comment on how it worked out?

  7. Take your point Wayne Scales – up to a point. Rochy has given a lot of players a go and some have shone through. He’ll be looking at things like durability and decision-making and we won’t know what the stats men show up. So he will learn something I think. Results don’t matter a damn.

  8. Wayne Scales, you are dead on there. These games are utterly meaningless, a training exercise, nothing more. Im not at all suprised by any of the results and im sure Rochford doesnt care too much about them either.

  9. Not too worried about result. Rob mixed the good and bad. Eoin always looking for the ball, pretty good. Ger really looks short on confidence, struggled. Caolan done ok, but needs to get more involved. Colm struggled on Devaney who was probably MOM. Paddy good first half but faded. James was steady all through. Danny started poorly but grew into game. Stephen was anonymous. Fionn our best player kicked two points. Diarmuid worked hard needs to get more shots in. Conor plays too lateral. Neil always showing but pushed off ball a lot. Jason good first half but not much show in second. Ciaran scored two nice points after a horror miss, showed character

  10. 10e to get in. Midfield did well first half. We lost our shape 2nd half. Scored just one point 2nd half!!

  11. – Great sumnary REDCOL, agree fully with you.
    – The Rossies were fitter but that is what u would expect as they have the self declared best coach in the Country.
    – The pitch looked very good, McHale park will have to have the same work done sooner rather than later.

  12. What we do know is that for nos. 1-17 Mayo have the required material. The thing is, are nos. 18-20 out there? And here I am looking for “attacking” players! To me Reaped is a definite. I think, potentially, there is still one big year left in Freeman – he must be fresh! So who’s left? Can the manager instill a “Do or Die” attitude into Dougie – just for one year? Small margins…

  13. We were very patchy today .Thought Durcan and Fionn Mc looked good.Other than that we didnt look like we knew how to break them down. Referee made a mess of thr game looked very unsure of his decisions I have to say he baffled me with a few .Anyway not much else to report pitch in great condition.

  14. The rossies won both halves and found the scores easier to come all in all a deserved the win but Mayo got what they mostly needed from todays game which was another competitive contest before the NFL which is only 2 weeks away now and a very tricky start away to Monaghan remember. I’d expect more first teamers will be given run outs next weekend v Sligo.

  15. REDCOL and Mayomaningalway. From my looking at game you both are 100% in your blogs. The ref was S…e. The only good thing about today was the pitch. After the game you would think that anybody had walked on it. Whoever were the contractors they deserve praise for the BRILLIANT state of the ground. I hope our lads at the top of Mayo County Board have a chat with the contractors for Hyde Park, and then get something done with the disgrace of a pitch in McHale Park as it showed both last Friday and Wednesday last.

  16. True Grit – MacHale Park has been absolutely immaculate for the championship since 2015. As far as I know the pitch in the Hyde has been used once since October. This was the first game since then. Ours, in comparison, has been played on at least 10 times since that.

    Pitch will be in good shape again for May.

  17. A lot of potential in Fionn McDonagh. Good footballer, bit o height and you could see him being a stone heavier in 2019.
    I’v championed Ciaran Treacy on here. Hope he somehow gets retained as again, think he can be strong for us over the next number of years.
    Good to hear about Eoin ODonoghue. One of the best young defenders we have.
    I actually think it’s next year we have our strongest panel of options. But a very strong panel it would seem this year also.
    I say next year as a lot of new guys we have seen in this influx will have a full year of skill and fitness development. They’ll be far more senior ready.

  18. These games are certainly not meaningless for the newbies trying to stamp a claim on the broader Mayo panel for the coming year. Despite atrocious conditions it is to their credit how seriously they are taking their opportunity. And some players have shown a potential spark that suggests they may be more than ordinary.
    The only thing that doesn’t matter is the result.
    I am glad to see Rochford giving these lads a try.
    It is the one of the areas where Rochford himself has to step up to the plate in developing a bench. I think he is going the right way about it. The pattern of blending experienced players with hungry new players has to continue throughout the league

  19. Mayo Mark. All pitches are good come championship time. The pitch in McHale Park on Wednesday and Friday night was a disgrace. Seeing stewards going around trying to get rid of puddles of water was a joke. Its pitches like we seen today is now required for winter football. I don’t buy this bit of McHale Park being good for summer football. The monies they spent on McHale Park it should have the pitch good all year around. I for one is not swallowing this excuse you trot out. The Mayo County Board better get something done with McHale Park pitch, or in the coming years there wont be any winter football played on it either in League and maybe championship. Hyde Park pitch today looked better than McHale Park pitch in summer.

  20. Boland would be involved with Toureen hurlers still. Would love to know what the deal is with Irwin and if he’s burned all bridges at this point or not.

  21. How did Conor o Shea play today? I don’t know is he contributing enough to stay in the panel. R me he plays too much safe handpassing across the field and goes on loop to take the return. I call it going nowhere football. Hasn’t the pace to go pass defenders. Might be worth a try as a target man full forward. What about James Carr? Would love to see what he has to offer.

  22. Some of the new fellas not previously involved in the panel but who have been really putting their hands up to date are James Stretton, Fionn McDonagh and Ciaran Treacy. Throw in Jason Gibbons, Ger McDonagh, Brian Reape and possibly Kevin Keane who are also pushing hard for a return and it all leaves Stephen Rochford with a few tough calls to make over the coming weeks. Good problem to have !!

  23. Tried following the match on twitter but lost interest when we were not told (as usual) which team had wind advantage for 1st half. – pathetic

  24. South Mayo Exile- he played poorly today in my opinion. Adam Gallagher and Matthew Ruane were both more impressive during the week. James Carr has trouble with his 2 hips and probably won’t feature this year unfortunately.

  25. True Grit, All pitches will be in good shape if not played on. MacHale has, if I’m not mistaken, been used in horrendous conditions for two games 48 hours apart. The worst thing which can be done to a pitch is play on it in heavy rain as happened to MacHale. In addition comparing it to Hyde which was completely relaid only a year or two ago is hardly a fair comparison. Have Mayo played any County game at a venue other than MacHale in the past few years? I do recall Ballina making a fuss about two years ago for a game or games [and putting on a fine show for the game they got] but in the hellish conditions of the post Christmas nobody seems to have wanted a game.

  26. That’s a bit harsh, Mayo Exile – Mayo GAA, Connacht GAA and Roscommon GAA provided constant updates over Twitter and other platforms on the scores as they came. The wind wasn’t a factor at all, it wasn’t blowing very strongly and, from what I recall, blew largely crossways.

  27. Well done to Rob Hennelly today. Didn’t feature in league or championship last year. I think he played a game last year in FBD too but showed today why SR has kept faith in him.

  28. Good man WJ and thanks for that audio. It sums it up really. I thought Roscommon looked fit and well conditioned and they will have a good league in Div 2 I think. They are playing smart football also. They could have scored more. It was a better game than the previous 2 and Rochford will take something from it. Stretton got on a lot of ball. Great save from Hennelly. McHale Park need to talk to those guys who relay football pitches.

  29. That’s correct, Done Deal – I’ve altered the match report accordingly (as I’d incorrectly said it was his first start since the 2016 final replay).

  30. Very well said Wayne scales you bet me to it.
    I think Treacy has that bit of x-factor to him and would love to see him get a chance in the league.
    Thought Mcormack had a great game on Wednesday was disappointed not to see him today. I’ve seen loads of Fionn Mc and he has a lot of great attributes can take a score and he’s brave as a lion. He needs another stone on his frame and needs to work on his weak foot (can be predictable).
    A lot of dirty diesel to get out of players against Sligo next week before Monaghan (who conceded a huge score against Donegal today)

  31. Dont expect to see the lads next week, I’m hearing they have a challenge lined up for next weekend for the First Team.

  32. That’s a great goal by liam Irwin in the Twitter link on this page. Where the heck did he go to? It’ll be a shame if he doesn’t use the talent if he has the health and drive to use it.

  33. Even allowing for the experimental personnel and shocking weather at times,was the Peter Naughton goal the only shot at goal we’ve had thus far…fierce slow lateral football in contrast to the high tempo stuff we’re usually treated to.

  34. @Mayomark why are so many games played in MacHale park in the winter months? for example did the Leitrim game need to played there last week? heavy rain before the NFL games and MacHale Park pitch will near unplayable again and could cause injury. Roscommon had this same problem with Hyde Park before it was relaid.

  35. Mayomagic. If only the Connacht council had some facility that was lit and had all weather pitches….
    While not ideal for fans least be safe and playable in the centre give new lads chance to show their wares on decent pitch

  36. mayomagic. It was a midweek game. No lights anywhere else with appropriate facilities to host such a crowd. The reason there was such a large number of games was purely due to the fact there were a number of replays in all championships and it just happened that Mayo teams had home advantage in Connacht more often than not. I said ten games earlier, actually it must be between 20 and 30. It’s perfectly understandable that the pitch is cut up.

    If the game was held in Bekan, there would be a shitstorm because people would have to be turned away

    Just can’t win

  37. It ment to be blue Monday tomorrow but I think it’s really blue Sunday we want to see mayo win every game but it’s only January put the young guns out again against sligo they need game time because we will need them in the next year or two they will only get better with game time

  38. Unfortunately think it might be Hennellys only game for mayo this year , we have in my opinion Mayo’s Best goalkeeper of all time in Clarke

  39. @TrueGrit, an excuse? Yeah. Maybe. 20 games more played since October on MacHale Park than the Hyde. Apples and oranges. Stewarts clearing off water on Friday, in what sense was it a joke? Because the game went ahead? It rained buckets. There is only so much you can maintain a pitch without spending hundreds of thousands, which the rossies did. But their pitch has been in poor condition for years. Ours has not. When the time comes we will lay a new pitch. But nobody deserves to be criticised, or their efforts be labelled a disgrace. It is incredible the condition our pitch has been in throughout December all considered.

  40. Mayo have 3 excellent goalkeepers in O Malley, Clarke and Hennelly, best selection available to Mayo in a long time, hopefully they can finally win the Sam Maguire in 2018

  41. That’s interesting, Whitey.
    I have always wondered why more clubs/counties don’t use them.
    I’m sure they’re not great for the pitch if used every day but surely when there’s vast amounts of rain, such as in the spring months, they’d greatly help maintain the surface?
    Are there more cons to them, does anyone know?

  42. Clark kickouts may be an issue this year. Kickouts must go past the 21 yard line.
    Most teams will push up & force Clarke to go long.
    Short, high, slow & loopy kickouts will cause any teams undue pressure.

  43. Of the new faces so far, i think Fionn McDonagh and Treacy have showed well in the forwards (given the conditions). Douglas looked better at centre forward, he’s a ball player, great passing off two feet. Think he struggles a bit at corner forward at county level, maybe lacking a yard of pace for the inside forward line. Need to see more of Reape, will probably play against Sligo at the weekend. Maybe 3 of these 4 will get some time in the league. I think its more difficult to judge the new defenders in these conditions , think they will have to show it in training against the established players.

  44. The same contractor did both MacHale Park and The Hyde. The same materials (which is as important) were used in both venues also. However, The Hyde was a complete relay job, including drainage system and sub soil. Also the level of the pitch was raised significantly. Bear in mind, 2 years ago Roscommon GAA were the laughing stock of the country when they had to move their home league games to Carrick-on-Shannon as their pitch was unplayable. Anyone that was in The Hyde for our league game (the one where they were going to relegate us!) will remember the swimming pools in the corners. The big difference in the two venues is the amount of games, and the conditions those games were played in.
    Criticism of the ground staff at MacHale park is over the top, what are they meant to do? have frost proof soil? have an under-soil drainage system that can take the river Shannon away? If anything the condition of the MacHale Park pitch highlights, again, the need for the Center of Excellence facility for our county teams as MacHale Park has to cope with all training of senior, underage and development squads PLUS games. I know there is a county board pitch at the back of MacHale Park but it is not to the same specification and cannot take the rain as well as the main pitch. Also, the Hyde was only completed last Summer.
    On another point, I didn’t notice the same social media storm on Friday night when the programs for the Galway game were free of charge, as a measure of goodwill for the previous Sunday?

  45. League games could be moved around the county—when the Mitchels owned McHale Park it very seldom got a league game. Now that the County Board owns it everything has to be played there.

  46. Depends on what the capacity of James Stephens Park is. I’d imagine not big enough. Our home games this year will be Dublin, kerry and Tyrone. They will bring anywhere between 8000 and 13000

  47. Mayo NFL home games are usually about the 10k mark or higher.That can’t be catered for anywhere else in the county…….half that couldn’t be. Fbd should have been played around the county.

  48. JR does everything have to be played there?. I understand from a practical perspective that as the CB owns it, it makes a lot more sense to play games there, but is it mandatory, or just a self imposed requirement by the CB?.

    As an aside – I do think the pitch there looks like it needs some work but that is to be expected given the number of Club games played in the last quarter and 2 games on Wednesday and Friday in fairly atrocious conditions. That’s particularly compared to Hyde Park pitch which is quite shiny and new and has barely been used. Machale was certainly very soft underfoot after the league games I attended there last year, having walked on the pitch a few times after the games. It may be vastly improved by the summer however.

  49. FDB mine was an ironic remark–Castlebar had to maintain the pitch on their proceeds of a lot less gates then now.

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