Back into the guest slot comes Edwin McGreal who provides this account of tonight’s 1-14 to 0-11 win over NUIG in the FBD ‘Home’ Final.
The subdued nature of Andy Moran’s acceptance speech told you plenty. Andy is a very enthusiastic Mayo footballer and was honoured to captain his county for the FBD Final. But he was far from getting excited upon accepting the cup. And it is hard to see why he should after what was as lacklustre a game as one might see in McHale Park.
A trip to New York may have been the carrot for the winners – together with the trophy – but it would appear neither side was fully focused on the task at hand. NUI Galway open their Sigerson Cup campaign away to Sligo IT next Thursday and they can be forgiven a certain lack of intensity in their play but their management – John Maughan and Tomas Tierney – will worry about their decision making in this game and the lack of any urgency at all in their play. There’s a fine line between saving yourself for an upcoming game and allowing the pace of your game dip to an extent that is hard to recover from. Time will tell how close NUI Galway came to the latter tonight.
For Mayo it is hard to be too critical – they stayed with NUIG in the first half, started the second half with 1-3 without reply and cruised home from there without ever looking like being hauled in. But for a few of their players who could be considered still ‘on trial’, they might have wanted a greater thrust to the play – both of themselves as individuals and the team as a whole.
As said, Mayo kept with NUI Galway, who had more of the ball, in a very shapeless first half. The sides were level at the break, 0-7 apiece. The students had a strong Mayo presence in their ranks. Along with the two Mayo men on the line (okay, Tierney might have started out with Galway but he’s been adopted a Mayo man at this stage), there were six Mayo men among the starting line up. Crossmolina duo Ronan Rochford and Peadar Gardiner lined out in defence with Shrule’s Ciaran Conroy while Mayo captain Alan Dillon lined out at centre half-forward against his county with Castlebar’s Neil Douglas and Burrishoole’s Jason Doherty in the corners.
Gardiner started off with a superb point from out the field – the first score of the game – while Doherty kicked six frees over the hour. Dillon was somewhat subdued but we’ll forgive him not being in top gear against his own county while Neil Douglas was a constant threat for the college but there wasn’t enough end product to his play. Ronan Rochford was solid at corner-back although Ciaran Conroy did have his hands full with an energetic opponent in Andy Moran – in fairness who would like to mark Andy with his perpetual motion?
The students had opened up a 0-5 to 0-2 lead after 12 minutes but two good points from play from Moran and a free from Ronaldson levelled things. Doherty would then exchange points with Enda Varley and Mark Ronaldson to leave the sides level at the break. In what the host of this site identified as a trend, Mayo’s indifferent first-half display gave way to a stronger second half – see the Down, GMIT and the Roscommon games as other examples with only the game against Leitrim showing a strong first half display for James Horan’s men.
And by the 41st minute of this game it was essentially game over. Ronaldson and Aidan Kilcoyne both struck a free apiece before Jason Gibbons set up Kilcoyne for a well-taken goal. Andrew Farrell followed up with a point and Mayo led by six.
The closest NUI Galway would get after that was when Peadar Gardiner followed up a Jason Doherty point to leave the gap at four minutes with time running out but Robert Hennelly’s goal never looked under threat. As it was Mayo finished off the scoring – Aidan Campbell and a fine ’45 from Aidan Kilcoyne stretching the gap to six once more.
So what to take from this for James Horan? He was forced into making two late changes – Jason Gibbons and Ronan McGarrity both coming in at midfield for Barry Moran and Tom Parsons (injured and ineligible respectively) and while we know plenty about McGarrity, Gibbons gave us a further demonstration of his own ability with a solid performance around the middle, an area where Mayo dominated.
In defence Ruaidhri O’Connor was given the unenviable task of marking clubmate Alan Dillon at centre half-back but acquitted himself well – although we should point to Dillon’s lack of urgency too. Keith Higgins prospered attacking from wing-back – a position many feel would be his best.
Both Lee Keegan and David Killeen are probably frustrated men this evening. They hardly touched the ball – mainly because their opponents didn’t either. What to do if you are a defender trying to impress if you don’t get the chance to do so? The same can be said of Robbie Hennelly in goal who dealt well with a couple of high balls but had little else to do. Cathal Hallinan did reasonably well on Jason Doherty as did Chris Barrett on Neil Douglas.
In attack for Mayo, Aidan Campbell continues to improve and has shown enough to be persisted with while Andrew Farrell worked hard but probably didn’t get on as much ball as he would have liked. Andy Moran was his usual self on the forty while Aidan Kilcoyne mixed the good with some bad decision making. In the corners, Mark Ronaldson and Enda Varley were both lively but Varley was taken off with what looked like a shoulder injury before half-time – hopefully it will be nothing too serious.
Horan ran his bench too – James Moran, Cathal Freeman, Alan Feeney, James Burke and Richie Feeney all seeing decent chunks of action. None of them starred but did little wrong either. It was that type of night, a game played in second gear with little enough to be read into it.
A nice trip to New York awaits the Mayo team later in the year, something hardly likely to be music to the ears of the Mayo County Board, especially the treasurer. He’s probably be the most disappointed man leaving McHale Park. Everyone else just seemed indifferent.
Mayo: Robert Hennelly (Breaffy); Cathal Hallinan (Ballintubber), David Killeen (Ballinrobe), Chris Barrett (Belmullet); Lee Keegan (Westport), Ruaidhrí O’Connor (Ballintubber), Keith Higgins (Ballyhaunis); Ronan McGarrity (Ballina), Jason Gibbons (Ballintubber); Aidan Campbell (Swinford, 0-1, f), Andy Moran (Ballaghaderreen, 0-2), Andrew Farrell (Killala, 0-1); Enda Varley (Garrymore, 0-1), Aidan Kilcoyne (Knockmore, 1-3, 1f, 1 ’45), Mark Ronaldson (Shrule/Glencorrib, 0-6, 3fs). Subs: Cathal Freeman (Aghamore) for Varley (inj. 32mins); James Moran (Burrishoole) for McGarrity (half-time); James Burke (Ballymun) for O’Connor and Alan Feeney (Castlebar) for Hallinan (both 36mins); Richie Feeney (Castlebar) for Keegan (45mins).
NUI Galway (Mayo players with their clubs in brackets): Nathan King; Ciaran McDonald, Kieran O’Connor, Ronan Rochford (Crossmolina); Peadar Gardiner (Crossmolina, 0-2), Ciaran Conroy (Shrule/Glencorrib), Josh Moore; Stephen Gilmartin (0-1), Denis Coroon (0-1); Mark McHugh, Alan Dillon
(Ballintubber), Aidan Mullin (0-1); Neil Douglas (Castlebar), Greg Higgins, Jason Doherty (Burrishoole, 0-6, fs). Subs: Shane McHale (Knockmore) for
O’Connor (half-time); Kevin Conlan (Leitrim) for Higgins; Kevin Conlon (Galway) for Conroy.
Referee: Ollie Kelly (Roscommon).