Waking up to the return of the snow in Dublin this morning, I was unsure about whether or not I’d make it to Castlebar at all today. The word from the west, though, was that conditions were fine if a bit on the cold side. We decided to chance it.
The country was white all the way to Athlone but the roads were fine most of the way, even if I did briefly question my sanity such were the slushy conditions on the M50. I was to wonder about my mental state of health later on in the day, however, after what befell us at MacHale Park.
We made three changes ahead of throw-in. As was the case in Newbridge, Tom Parsons and Cillian O’Connor started for Michael Hall and Seamus O’Shea, while David Clarke returned between the sticks in place of Robbie Hennelly.
The opening few minutes were ragged enough. Tyrone opened the scoring with a point from play by Mattie Donnelly but we responded in kind, a nice, nonsense move from the kick-out ending with Tom Parsons firing over.
Tom had a hand in the next score, though it was one for Tyrone. Tom picked up a yellow for the foul and McAliskey fired over the resultant free.
We suffered a blow in the next attack, Cillian O’Connor falling heavily and limping off with what looked like a leg injury. Conor Loftus came on for the unlucky Ballintubber man.
Andy then shot wide and from the restart Tyrone broke forward, Sludden firing over. The visitors got the next two as well, Mattie Donnelly thumping both over to stretch their lead to four.
It could have got worse soon after when Stephen Coen undercooked a pass and it was intercepted by McNulty. The Tyrone man shot under pressure, though, and put it well wide.
Colm Boyle was booked for a challenge that ended McGeary’s involvement in the game. We handled the ball on the ground at the other end just after and, following a long break in play as the injured player was stretchered off, Brennan fired over the free to put Tyrone five clear. We were now in real bother.
David Clarke then miscued his restart and Burns shot over smartly from long range. This was all too easy for the visitors.
Colm Cavanagh departed on a black card for an off-the-ball infringement on Kevin McLoughlin. We still failed to get moving.
Things soon went from bad to worse. Boyler, already on yellow, got man rather than ball in a despairing attempt at a tackle and was off on a second yellow. Brennan pointed the free.
Lee Keegan, attempting to claim possession from a poor Tom Parsons pass, got poleaxed by Tyrone’s McNulty. The Tyrone midfielder went on a straight red but Lee went too, helped off with what appeared to be a serious shoulder injury. Paddy Durcan came on for Lee.
Ten minutes of additional time ahead of the break was then signalled. Further indignation was heaped on us when Andy Moran was ordered off on a black card, for what looked like giving lip to the ref. It’s on the list of black card offences if that’s what it was but not one you see invoked every day. Seamus O’Shea came on for Andy.
Eventually, deep into stoppage time and following a scoreless spell for us that had lasted over forty minutes, Diarmuid O’Connor was fouled within range. Conor Loftus knocked over the free. Right before the short whistle, Diarmuid bore down on goal and was hauled down. From the free, Conor cut the gap to five with the last kick of what had been in every sense a calamitous opening half for us.
Conor got our first after the break too. He started it with a long range free that he launched in garryowen-style and it was claimed by Aidan O’Shea who returned it to the Crossmolina man to fire over.
Tyrone, however, responded emphatically at the other end, a rapid thrust ending with Brennan finding the net. Our goose was rightly cooked now.
Our next rather frantic attack got swallowed up by the blanket. Tyrone broke with languid ease, tossing the ball around the park before eventually it was fed to sub McClure who fired over with confidence.
Jason Doherty got booked for a foul close to our posts and McAliskey knocked over the free nonchalantly. Nine in arrears now, this was becoming an absolute shambles for us.
McAliskey got the next one too, another free, a score that stretched their lead to double digits. It was clear now that this was going to be a bit of a paddling for us.
Perhaps in an effort to inject some kind of life to our tepid efforts – or perhaps it was just to give a few other lads a run – we made a double substitution midway through the half. Fergal Boland and Neil Douglas came on for Diarmuid O’Connor and Jason Doherty.
Two further Tyrone scores, both from play, stretched the gap to twelve. Aidan O’Shea then departed the scene, replaced by his younger brother Conor. Eventually, after several attacks ending with us repeatedly running into the blanket and getting turned over, Fergal Boland shot from distance to bag our second point of the half. Brennan put over a quality score at the other end, though, in response.
A point from play by Neil Douglas and a long-range free from Conor Loftus brought the gap back to ten.
A second goal for them completed the rout. We got a penalty when Tom Parsons was fouled but Conor Loftus spooned his effort high and wide. The same player got our final point of the day from a free.
Our display today was nothing short of an embarrassment. Devoid of any tactical smarts, we gave Tyrone the perfect start and then were unable to make any headway against them after that. The visitors were full value for their twelve-point margin of victory.
Where we go from here is anyone’s guess. Donegal next weekend is the obvious answer to that one but, after today’s shambolic display, it’d be a brave person now who’d predict we’ll be able to gain a first ever win up there to preserve our Division One status.
Mayo: David Clarke; Caolan Crowe, Ger Cafferkey, Eoin O’Donoghue; Colm Boyle, Lee Keegan, Tom Parsons (0-1); Stephen Coen, Cillian O’Connor; Kevin McLoughlin, Aidan O’Shea, Diarmuid O’Connor; Jason Doherty, Andy Moran, Adam Gallagher. Subs: Conor Loftus (0-5, three frees) for Cillian O’Connor, Paddy Durcan for Keegan, Seamus O’Shea for Moran (black card), Fergal Boland (0-1) for Diarmuid O’Connor, Neil Douglas (0-1) for Doherty, Conor O’Shea for Aidan O’Shea.
PS: Well done to the hurlers on a superb win over Down at Breffni Park today. More on that later on.
Post-match audio report:
Man of the Match poll (okay, a bit pointless today, but sure fire ahead on it all the same):
Who was our MOTM against Tyrone? Vote for your top three performers
- Conor Loftus (19%, 112 Votes)
- Diarmuid O'Connor (15%, 90 Votes)
- Tom Parsons (8%, 45 Votes)
- Paddy Durcan (7%, 41 Votes)
- Eoin O'Donoghue (6%, 35 Votes)
- David Clarke (6%, 33 Votes)
- Ger Cafferkey (5%, 30 Votes)
- Fergal Boland (5%, 29 Votes)
- Kevin McLoughlin (5%, 29 Votes)
- Adam Gallagher (4%, 23 Votes)
- Conor O'Shea (3%, 19 Votes)
- Aidan O'Shea (3%, 15 Votes)
- Colm Boyle (3%, 15 Votes)
- Neil Douglas (2%, 14 Votes)
- Cillian O'Connor (2%, 13 Votes)
- Andy Moran (2%, 11 Votes)
- Seamus O'Shea (2%, 9 Votes)
- Caolan Crowe (1%, 8 Votes)
- Stephen Coen (1%, 7 Votes)
- Lee Keegan (1%, 4 Votes)
- Jason Doherty (0%, 1 Votes)
Total Voters: 669