Following Mayo's footballers

Tyrone 1-11 Mayo 1-12: Ronaldo the star as we edge it in Omagh

markronaldsonOur positive start to the footballing year continued unabated up at Healy Park in Omagh this afternoon where the lads came away with a deserved one-point win and two important NFL points on a day that certainly wasn’t made for champagne football.  Four points up with ten minutes to go, it looked as if we might even win with a bit to spare but a characteristically determined Tyrone fightback late on meant that we had to battle to dig out the win.  But battle we did and win we eventually did too.

I didn’t make the trip North today myself and instead remained back at base listening to events from both Omagh and Croke Park on Midwest.  I also caught most of the game on TG4 where it was shown in full on deferred coverage and from the off on the TV broadcast you could see clearly what an impact the pelting rain had on proceedings.  By the match’s end, the pitch was so ploughed up it was like a herd of cattle had broken into the place, with the heavy underfoot conditions having militated strongly against the fast running style that both teams often favour.

Andy Moran – who put in another strong performance today – got us on our way with the afternoon’s opening point but this was soon answered by two Tyrone scores, the second a free by Tommy McGuigan.  Mark Ronaldson – our Man of the Match by some distance today, scorer of a blistering 1-6 – then opened his account with a tap-over free following a foul handpass by Tyrone ‘keeper Pascal McConnell.

It was a goal from the home team that brought the match to life, though, with newcomer Eoin McCusker ending a slick handpassing move by palming the ball to the net.  Is such a finish legal nowadays or should he have punched it?  I’m not sure but whatever about that, at least half of those handpasses leading up to the goal were (like the layoff for Paul Kerrigan’s goal for Cork last night) clearly of the now illegal, open-handed variety.

The goal spurred us into action with Kevin McLoughlin bursting through and his stinging drive was palmed over by McConnell.  Mark Ronaldson then took centre-stage, knocking over three points (two from frees) before sending Alan Freeman in on goal with a superb outside-of-the-boot pass.  The Aghamore man was bundled to the ground inside the square by Ryan McMenamin and Ronaldo calmly slotted the resultant penalty beyond McConnell to put us two points clear.  Tyrone pulled one back before the break but we looked full value for the narrow lead we took into half-time.

It was, though, the home team that emerged the more determined and they quickly tacked on three points without reply to go 1-8 to 1-6 ahead.  An Enda Varley free marked the first of a half-dozen unanswered scores for us and it was this period of dominance – in which we kept the home team scoreless for all of 23 minutes – that won the match for us.

Tom Parsons barged forward from midfield to knock over a classy leveller and then, after a superb block at the other end by the impressive Donal Vaughan, Enda Varley worked hard to win a free and then slammed it over to give us a lead we would hold – just about – ‘till the end.  We continued to work hard all over the pitch, with Andy Moran tangling with Ricey in the middle of the park and then Keith working like a demon to dispossess his man and clear his lines.

Forward we came again with sub Barry Kelly (who came on for a subdued Aidan O’Shea) taking what looked like an age to control the ball in the gluepot conditions but then laying it off to Ronaldo who thumped a glorious 30-yarder over the bar.  Two minutes later, it was Alan Freeman doing the spadework as he teed up the Shrule-Glencorrib man for his final point of the day.

We were now bordering on rampant and were letting the ball do the work on a day when it looked like the players would have been better off playing in wellies.  Ronan sprayed a lovely cross-field pass over to Andy Moran who was in acres of space and who took plenty of time to take aim, swing his leg and put us four clear with ten to go.

Tyrone finally upped their game and came at us trying desperately to rescue something from the match.  We showed a bit of cuteness, conceding frees where goals looked on but two close-in frees and a Kevin Hughes point from play meant that our cushion was down to the minimum with three minutes and stoppage time still left to play.

Dogged and disciplined defending by our lads meant that we reached the end of normal time without conceding any further scores but then discipline broke down with a series of incidents that will, one fears, mean that the GAA’s Crime and Punishment brigade will be taking a close retrospective look at what happened in those last chaotic moments of the game.

One of our lads (Barry Kelly?) was bundled over by Joe McMahon, Ricey – a man with a keen nose for trouble – started to weigh in but a swift elbow from Ronaldo fairly softened his cough.  A bit of pushing and shoving got going and Peadar Gardiner dashed over to McMahon who put up his hands as the Crossmolina came bearing down on him.  Gardiner hit the deck and the ref – who was standing inches away – gave Joe Mac a straight red.

From what I could see on the telly, the sending-off was harsh: Joe seemed to put up his hands instinctively and just caught our man on the nose (and, let’s face it, there’s a fair bit of nose there to catch) but the ref had already pulled the Tyrone man aside for his earlier foul so he’d clearly had enough of him when the second incident occurred.

The issue for us, though, is the Ronaldo incident, for which ref Jimmy White gave him a yellow but it could easily have been red.  Will this incident be revisited and, like the Tyrone trio, will it be upgraded to red?  Will the fact that it was Ricey that he decked have any bearing on matters?  If that’s the case, then the way that McMenamin slyly dropped his knee into Enda Varley as two of his colleagues tried to wrestle the ball from the prone Garrymore man earlier in the second half might also be worthy of a second look.

Anyways.  All that argy-bargy dealt fairly effectively with the two minutes of injury time and we then had the satisfaction of seeing a bad pass from Ricey getting gobbled up by our rearguard as Tyrone blew their final chance to claim something tangible from the game.  With well over three minutes of stoppage time played, Andy Moran then had the good sense to hoof the ball out over the sideline and so produce the break in play that prompted the ref to blow the final whistle.  When he did so, it was to a backdrop of vociferous booing from the incensed home support and Ricey, showing what a classy gent he is, gave the ref a right earful on his way off the pitch.  The little lad, watching it all on the box with me, reckoned there must have been a fair few of those bad F words in that load of bile that the Tyrone man spewed out.

Not having been there and with the Mike and Billy Show otherwise engaged at Croke Park, it’s difficult to say much more in terms of today’s performance in Omagh but it’s obvious that the star of the show for us this afternoon was Mark Ronaldson.  He looked utterly unmarkeable, scored some wonderful points and nailed the penalty effortlessly.  It’ll take something to shift him from that position now.

In the other corner, Enda Varley put in another solid seventy minutes and he’s also becoming an important piece in the Team Mayo jigsaw.  The Garrymore man weighed in with another two points today and he put in another performance where he gave the opposition’s backs plenty to fret about.  Aidan O’Shea had, by contrast, another unhappy outing but, like Aidan Kilcoyne before him, I’d say the Breaffy youngster is a player more suited to the hard ground.  It’s a bit too early to be talking of second-season-syndrome and we’re in the happy position of having plenty of options in attack so that players like Aidan can, perhaps, be used sparingly in the coming weeks.

Andy put in another strong, commanding performance and Alan Freeman did well, as did Barry Kelly when he came on.  The midfield triumvirate of O’Shea, Parsons and McGarrity came out on top in that sector and, from my vantage point on the couch, Ronan looked particularly effective.  Once again, we made full use of the mark, winning some great, clean possession around the middle.  I must admit that I’m becoming a real fan of the mark (as well as of Mark).

Keith HigginsAnd the backs looked good too.  Keith had a cracking match and I’m more than happy to sit back and pig out on an extra-large helping of humble pie as a result of this.  That second-half dispossession of his was pure class – he waited and waited for the perfect moment to strike and relieve his man of the ball, leaving his opponent on his arse and the ball moving rapidly towards the Tyrone goal.  Donal Vaughan in the other corner was also to the fore, with that perfectly timed block in the second half the highlight of a confident and dogged performance by the Ballinrobe man.

The backs as a unit worked like hell, covering across the field like terriers and it was ironic that the team that has made a high workrate its defining characteristic struggled to deal with this intensity.  And it wasn’t just workrate – we fairly doled it out over the course of the seventy minutes too, with plenty of hard hits being administered all over the field.  It’s only February, I know, but if the lads are still working for and fighting for each other like this in high summer, we could yet go places dish ear.

For now, we’re sitting pretty – along with two other counties, Cork and Dublin, who also have plenty to prove in 2010 – at the top of Division 1 of the NFL.  Relegation still isn’t off the agenda, I suppose, but with four points already in the bag and two homes games still to come, we can, I think, be forgiven for having slightly more expansive notions about where this league campaign will lead us.

Where it leads us next, of course, is back to McHale Park for a top-of-the-table clash against Pat Gilroy’s raw but still unbeaten Dublin in two weeks time.  Myself and my own small Dub have already traded a few thinly veiled insults across the kitchen table about that one and we’re sure to trade a few more before the teams take the field for what could be a cracking contest in Castlebar.  I’m not 100% sure if I’ll take the small lad to that one (he does like to see his teams win, after all) but I’ll be there for sure.

MAYO: David Clarke; Donal Vaughan, Ger Cafferkey, Keith Higgins; Peadar Gardiner, Trevor Howley, Kevin McLoughlin (0-1); Tom Parsons (0-1), Ronan McGarrity; Andy Moran (0-2), Seamus O’Shea, Alan Freeman; Enda Varley (0-2, frees), Aidan O’Shea, Mark Ronaldson (1-6, penalty goal and two frees).  Subs: Barry Kelly for Aidan O’Shea, Ciaran Conroy for Seamus O’Shea, Neill Douglas for Kevin McLoughlin, Mikey Sweeney for Alan Freeman.

Comments

  1. A win is a win but it was sooooo close. Would the result have been the same if Tyrone had their full team out? The loss of the 3 lads for Tyrone had a big impact on them; both from a Physical impact and a mental one as well.

    However, as a Green & Red based in Galway, a win is a win and I am going to celebrate the win over Galway at the Mayo Mens Assoc Dinner Dance here in Galway Friday night!!!!

    “Up Mayo whereever you go
    Eggs and rashers for the Mayo slashers
    Barley and oats for the Galway goats”!!!!!!!!!1

  2. Winnienumber6 says:

    couldnt agree more. the closeness of it made the win even sweeter.

    thats a new one “Barley and Oats for Galway goats”….weve surely had our share of Barley and Oats in the days gone by. Heres to the finer days ahead.

    As a Green and Red based in London I look forward to seeing the Mayo Monaghan match 28th March.

  3. Mayo mens assoc. dinner – where’s it on Sam ? I’m also a Mayo man stranded (somewhat) in Galway city. Wouldn’t mind meeting a few other fellas sometome who are interested in Mayo football but are sidelined too far south.
    as for the game – watched it on TG4 and fair play to them. they may have got away with it but I think they did deserve it in the end. If Tyrone had snatched a draw we would have been gutted.
    I thought the referee was unbelievable. Couldn’t understand some of the descisions and both sets of players were dumbfounded I thought at his curious calls.
    On the players themselves well Ronaldo was obviously the star with the great points and what I have to say was a fabulously taken peno kick.
    I also thought Andy Moran was magnificant – marking Ryan Mac socring 2 points and in the end hitting the dirty f**ker the couple hard belts that fella deserves.
    Overall it was a great performance in difficult conditions. Have also to say that K higgins was fantastic – you guys who have complained will havee to take a bit of it back now. D Vaughan in other CB also played v. well.
    Only potential slip ups were in 2 positions – Goalkeeper and FB.
    Clarkey was good overall except when he decided to come off the line to… well I dunno what he was doing actually. Trying to be Schmeical and he cost us the first goal being in the wrong position and was lucky again 5 mins later coming 10 yards to punch when there already was a player therer to contest the ball.
    Ger C also was also poor I thought. The guy seems to either lack confidence or something. I’m sorry but he does not inspire me at all and he is in the pivotal position in the FB line. In my opinion the guy there should be shouting at this teammates and organising defences however any time I saw him again in the TV he was always looking at the Grouond !! Same as in Croker last year.
    But thats enough – the rest of the team made up for them and well … we looked great ! Omagh is no easy place to go. Looking forward now to making it 3 out of 3 in the next round.

  4. As Sam will, I’d say, no doubt confirm, that one certainly isn’t new – it’s forty years if it’s a day since I first heard it. Good to hear it again, though, after all those years!

  5. Was listening to the match on the radio. From the whinging by certain RTE pundits and at least one Tyrone player I expect one of our flock to be retrospectivly shafted if the CCCwhatever committee sits down to trawl through what the referees missed. Its wait and see but I expect news that may not be good. Still a great win…as predicted by the way!You see I am not all doom and gloom!

  6. I think it is on in the Galway Bay Hotel next Friday night the 19th.

    That was one of the first rhymes I ever learned and yes Willie Joe, it is well over 40 years old. My 2 kids loved reciting it during the week in a well known national school here in Galway. In fairness, I think the term “goats” should be kept for the rougher teams…. can you think of any!

  7. What is the word on the League Final.. when and where?

    I heard of this site and got the link from a Belmullet man last week as he sold tickets for the Mayo Mens Assoc dinner. And what a fine site it is too. Well done Willie Joe.

  8. Thanks for the kind words, Sam. Is it the FBD final you’re asking about? (I assume it is as it’d be a bit previous to be thinking about the league final). Assuming it is, that match is down for 2 pm next Sunday at a Mayo venue but that venue has still to be confirmed.

  9. Let`s hope Johnno rests most of the senior players for the FBD final (there were sugestions that he should send out the girls after how bad Galway were last Sunday!)would like to see Aiden o`Shea at midfield maybe ,he seems to have been bypassed at full foreward the last few games.The new guys like Freeman Varley Seamus o`Shea Mc Loughlin Vaughen should play but Mc Garrity Gardnier Clarke Andy etc. who we know about should be rested.The work rate of the team has been fantastic the last few games the full back line had their best day ever today.Looking foreward to kicking Dubs arses in a couple of weeks.Great win today lads.UP MAYO!

  10. answer to 2 questions maybe ….
    1- for all Mayo’s in Galway the Mayo Assoc Annual Dinner is defintely in Galway Bay Hotel on Friday next Feb 19th at 8 pm
    2- last weeks match program for MMayo v Galway had the FBD final listed on p 19 for McHale Park … but would suggest await confirmation of venue next few day.
    Football year is certyainly starting out with a fair bit of challenge and excitment – after Galway and Tyrone we have Galway (again) and the Dubs to look forward to on home turf over next 3 weeks.

  11. Thanks Wille Joe

  12. great result. We must have the best record in the country against them.Still though we cant really gloat until we beat them in an all ireland final at any level. I could clearly see Mcmeneman reminding mcgarrity of the all ireland medals he had!!! Can anyone answer why do we do so well against them????

  13. Now wj im back for some rubbing in on the keith issue, from reading this blog everyday i thought you would be the last man to jump on someones back early metophorically speaking… Keiths a class act and we should be hugely grateful to have him.. look at his record vs michael meehan… its incredible… im basking in it wj… well done mayo

  14. Good win but harder games to come, Tyrone were missing a number of players who would have made a difference, can we really say the same? May hav been lucky with the way games have fallen. Yesterday, Galway also improved on their showing against us.
    I think that we struggle against big physical midfields, look at our defeats to Kerry, Meath, Tyrone tend to play a faster game which suits our style of football. They win AI’s cos they have players that step up when required, a very shrewd manager and a hunger that is v strong, this attitude can also be seen in other 6 county teams & Kerry.

  15. I said to a Kerry lad at work today, If you want to know how to beat Tyrone, just talk to Mayo.
    It’s the only thing we got on them.

  16. Who do we ask on how to beat Kerry?

  17. It’s difficult to pinpoint why we’ve done so well against them, Ted – it’s just a pity we couldn’t have added 2008 to the list! The Sunday Times did a spread on the game yesterday (can’t find any link to it, I’m afraid) but while Michael Foley made a few interesting points in his article, the core argument about there being this big rivalry between us was a tad forced, I thought.

    I’ve no problem at all being held to account over what I said about Keith and I’m delighted about his display yesterday, as well as that of Donal Vaughan. I still believe we’re some way from discovering what our best options are in the backs and yesterday wasn’t all positive at the back but it was certainly encouraging.

    I’d say Tyrone’s missing trio could well have made the difference yesterday but two of the lads who came in – Eoin McCusker and Colm Cavanagh – featured strongly for them. But it wasn’t a full-strength Tyrone team and our pick was undoubtedly much closer to our first team than was theirs. Plus it’s only February so anyone who reads anything significant into the result would be a bit foolish to do so.

  18. Well we would be missing Tom Cunniffe ( Key man in my opionion), Alan Dillon, Barry Moran, Killer, Mort snr, mort jnr, Aidan O Shea didnt play yesterday either u could argue. ….so to say that it was just TY that were under strength would be a little unfair to our boys!

  19. I agree with Willie Joe. Tyrone were missing some very significant names who would have made a big difference. I am not sure that we have cracked the no 3 or no 6 positions. Would Cafferky or Trevor be able for Stephen O Neill or Sean Kavanagh?

  20. Those players have never troubled a lower standard of mayo player so i dont see why they would those two, just looking at what ted says and add pat harte.. apart from gormely(not great anyway) o neil, cavanagh, how far were tyrone from their first team?

  21. We hear a lot about who Tyrone are missing. Lets not forget we were minus Alan Dillon, Conor Mortimer (Both former All-Stars), Pat Harte, Trevor Mortimer, Aiden Kilcoyne and Tom Cunniffe. Billy Joe is banished, Heaney who was a regulsr up to the meath match and Nallen are gone. Time we gave ourselves credit, too many false perceptions about Mayo. We know our own weaknesses but lets not forget we too were missing what would be considered at least six first team starters.

  22. Is billy joe banished or not making himself available as he is living too far away ?

  23. and i agree with ontheroad and ted , we were down players as well and little is made of it.

  24. That’s all very true, ontheroad, but I guess we’re all wary (too wary, perhaps) of heralding what could prove to be yet another false dawn. But make no mistake: it was a significant win and, for me at any rate, the hard-working and tough exterior we showed (just like we’d done against Galway) was the most heartening point to be taken from the game.

    I don’t know what the story is with BJ. I think I read somewhere that he’s working up the North but I’m not even sure about that. He’s not on the panel for now but that could change, I suppose, before the serious stuff cranks up.

    By the way, I see that Dillon and Mort are due home this week. It’ll be a bit of a Rip Van Winkle experience for both of them as a few players gave laid claims to their places in their absence!

    I might be out and about on Sunday afternoon, Roger, and so may not be tuning into Midwest for the FBD final but if I hear any score updates during the afternoon, I’ll tweet them (but not while driving, as the AA Roadwatch people say).

  25. cheers willie joe , the tweets are vital for us lads overseas..

  26. Agreed Willie Joe, far be it from me to get codded by false dawns, but; and its this but; too often we are judged in a way no other team are judged. An example? In 2004 QFs McGarrity cleaned out Tyrones Sean Cavanagh. End of season for Cavanagh. McGarrity played three more matches including an All-Irelland final. Who got the All Star, Sean did, Ronan was judged on a poor final, Sean wasn’t judged on a poor QF. In 1997 the Press made no effort to highlight that Mayo had lost the spine of their team, out through injury were full back Kevin Cahill, centre field Dave Brady, along with broken leg of Kevin O Neill. Flanagan and Sheridan carried obvious injuries into the final. For a second succesive All-Ireland final apperance Mayo got 2 All Stars. Kildare (Mickos ) got three All Stars for reaching , wait for it….the Leinster semi-final…which they lost! So the press will cerainly do us no favours, read last weeks Sunday Indo. Leitrim man but Meath ex player Colm O Rourke described Mayo thus “Even Mayo saw the emperor had no clothing” referring to Dublins inability to progress beyond Leinster.. “Even Mayo”! wrote Colm, shows what he really thinks about us. We need ask no more.

  27. I’m not sure its that we’re judged badly ontheroad. Every team has its good days and bad. We just seem to want to do 90% of the job and not finish it. Kevin Mcstay does shout our corner but no one takes him seriously – in fact i don’t either. I think he is a poor analyst and actually harms the county in terms of what he says. As for the others Pat Spillane, O’Rourke, Brolly, Tohill, Tony Davis and Dara O’Cinneide all have the winners medals and at the end of the day i believe they deserve more respect because of it.

  28. innocentbystander says:

    Have to disagree with you there jpm, the fact that Joe Brolly has an All-Ireland medal does not automatically make his opinion valid! When an argument is reduced to “show us your medals” rather than the merits of each side it’s no use.

  29. Coilltemach says:

    Just to answer Ted’s earlier question – Mayo don’t have a mental block with Tyrone. They do with Kerry and Meath.

    We lost by 2 points btw in extra time.

  30. lads i have to say i really enjoy joe brolly on RTE , he raises the level of punditry massively

  31. Fair enuf innocent – w.r.t Brolly I wasn’t trying to say his opinion was valid every time. Plus I do think he uses his opinion to be controversionalist. My point was that I don’t think overall we’re judged badly by pundits or other people outside the county. The reason for this is because they have seen (so many times) the failings Mayo have had when it comes to finishing the job and I think they are correct to treat us with a certain “pass off” or “disregard” attitude as a result.

  32. Actually I have to revise that last comment just in case you all think i have no faith left in the county. i actually don’t think they are “correct” – but I can understand where they come from.

  33. Conard Magreavzie says:

    Wall Uhh…. A Chairde,
    The Maigh Eo Diaspora is strong. We did possess such individuals as Jack Dempsey who smashed up individuals much larger than his own self. Fortunately I did not experience all of the agony since 1996. But personally having only played Gaelic since I was 15, I did find that having a punch up with the scumbag opposition teams in Dublin was a team bonding experience which ended up in our first Adult Hurling team.
    But basically speakingwise, all of the crap that those nonces in the Sunday Independent do write that criticises the mental health of Mayo Squad when they come off the worst in a Crunch Match can be said of other top athletes… Laois, Limerick, Waterford. There is nothing wrong with these people, it is merely a matter of motor function.
    Personally when Mayo were playing in 2006, I advised against Ball Work. My suggestion was to go to a respectable Boxing Club for four weeks and when Kerry spin away 20 points ahead… just let go and bust them up, take the Sam Maguire, fight your way to Heuston Station and go home early to Mayo and let the likes of Gerald Kean and those solicitor creatures sort it out. Some times it has to done the Hard Way.
    Your Chairde,
    Conard Magreavzie

  34. i see from the above post that some one has escaped from the hogan stand and decided to post here.

  35. Seems to be something like that but, as there was nothing overtly libellous in it, I decided to let it run!

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