Following Mayo's footballers

Tyrone 0-13 Mayo 1-9: we got what we deserved

“Ye were in hard luck, lads” said the guy on the bike that we met on Philibsburgh Avenue as we trudged wearily home from Croke Park this evening. “No we weren’t” the Brother and I answered in unison “we got what we deserved”. And we did, you know: we were shapeless, clueless and, apart from a few exceptions, leaderless against Tyrone today. They weren’t hectic either: a very poor imitation of the side that won two All-Irelands earlier in the decade and, with twenty minutes to go, we had them by the throat. We can have no excuses for the inept way we contrived to lose the game from this position. We got what we deserved alright and – you know what? – it’s just as well because I fear what kind of beating we’d have suffered from the likes of the Dubs had we managed to sneak through today.

It never felt like a big Croke Park day, even if it was championship football at HQ in August. The embarrassingly small crowd – just over 27,000 – had a lot to do with it, as the pre-match parade showed. Not exactly the kind of atmosphere you’d see in an All-Ireland final, is it?

This was carried through into what turned out to be a very lethargic first half. We were first off the mark with this Alan Dillon free after just 2 minutes but, although we saw plenty of ball in the first quarter, we shipped four points at the other end before Dillon popped over a second free on 15 minutes. BJ got our first from play straight away afterwards, following a wonderful catch from Tom Parsons, but Sean Cavanagh then boomed one over from play to edge Tyrone two ahead again.

David Clarke showed plenty of grey matter soon after by allowing a fisted effort from Cavanagh to sail into his net when, had he got a touch to it, the goal would have stood. That was about all the smarts we had shown by then, with four balls having already been hoofed out over the sideline at the Hogan Stand end and plenty of aimless punts being sent into our full-forward line which the Tyrone defence mopped up with ease.

We looked ill at ease at this point but Tyrone weren’t looking much better, as Tommy McGuigan missed an easy chance for a point and an easier one for a goal soon after and this profligacy was punished at the other end when Parsons and Pat Harte combined to put Conor Mortimor through for an easily palmed goal. So having played really poorly for the opening half hour, we were suddenly a point in front and this Mort free just after put us two clear. Ryan McMenamin fought his way through for a a score that the TV replays showed was illegal before BJ looped over another from play for us. Dooher, from play, closed out the scoring in the first half, a half which ended with us a point to the good, despite having performed indifferently.

When our lads reappeared for the second half, Pat Harte – who had been yellow carded late in the opening period – had given way to Trevor Mortimor. I’m not sure why this switch was made as Pat wasn’t our lowest-key performer in the first half (Killer and Andy Moran were well ahead in that particular queue) but, whatever the reason, the combative Shrule-Glencorrib man was in for the second half. His younger brother got the first two scores of a nervy opening twelve minutes to this second period, the first from a free and the second from play, following an excellent assist from Trevor Howley. This latter score put us three ahead and when Tommy McGuigan kicked an absolutely horrendous wide from only twenty yards out on 50 minutes, it began to look like it was going to be our day.

Mickey Harte had switched Sean Cavanagh to midfield on the restart but the move only began to pay real dividends just after that McGuigan miss when a surging run through the middle should have ended in a penalty for the Red Handers. That was a let-off for us but there was to be no respite over the next ten minutes as Tyrone reeled off six points without reply, three from frees and three from play, to run up what eventually proved to be a winning score of thirteen points. Three down with ten minutes to go, we battled frantically to try to save the match but frees from Dillon and Mort weren’t enough and so, for the second championship match in a row, we came up short by a point.

It was a poor enough performance today and the lack of fluidity and understanding the team showed on the pitch was easily explained – only three of today’s starting fifteen had the same number on their jersey as they had in the Connacht final. While the backs performed fairly well – including Tom Cunniffe at full-back – our attempts to pass our way out of defence from deep positions were always going to cause problems against a side like Tyrone and cheap turnovers cost us a few vital scores. We more than broke even at midfield – well, until Cavanagh moved there – and Tom Parsons had a good Croke Park debut, even if he did kick three bad wides. But we were poor in the forwards, both in terms of how the likes of how Killer and Andy Moran performed and in the aimless ball hoofed into the full-forward line. For the life of me, I cannot understand why we continue, match after match, to rain high ball into Mort.

In fairness to him, Mort did well today – contributing 1-4 to our total – and his marker Conor Gormley should have been red-carded at the end of the first half but the ref, Cormac Reilly from Meath, bottled the decision. I thought the ref was poor and pulled us for a number of pick-ups that replays showed were legal, as well as missing an utterly cynical job done on Andy Moran in the second half but, as noted earlier, Sean Cavanagh should have had a penalty for them midway through the second half and he also made a few other dodgy decisions in our favour.

But the bottom line today was that we weren’t good enough to put away a mediocre Tyrone side – only ten scores all day and a failure to raise a single flag from the 47th to 64th minute tells its own story – and, once again, we looked disorganised and shambolic for most of the seventy minutes. Johnno has to take the blame for this: in his two years in charge, he has presided over just two championship wins – last year over Cavan and this year’s victory over Sligo – as we’ve fallen back from being one of the top teams in the country to a bunch of also-rans. Bitter as it was to lose today – and by the minimum margin too – we have to acknowledge that further progression would have left us open to the possibility of another Croke Park hiding. At least today’s defeat has saved us from that.

Mayo: David Clarke; Keith Higgins, Tom Cunniffe, Trevor Howley; Peadar Gardiner, James Nallen, Aidan Higgins; David Heaney, Tom Parsons; Andy Moran, Pat Harte, BJ Padden (0-2); Conor Mortimor (1-4, 3 frees), Alan Dillon (0-4, frees), Aidan Kilcoyne. Subs: Trevor Mortimor for Harte (half-time), Aidan Campbell for Kilcoyne, Pat Kelly for Howley, Ronan McGarritty for Moran.

Comments

  1. Spot on Willie Joe – we got what we deserved.

    I think we can say what we like about the ref but a somewhat respectable exit is a blessing. We could have really faced humiliation next week. It is sad that this is where we are at at the moment.

    I hope there is no talk of changing managers etc etc but some players need to ask themselves how badly do they want to succeed with Mayo.

    At least we have a nice easy one to start Championship 09 – there should be plenty for you to write about on the New York trip.

  2. The Buff says:

    Little Mort should have taken the goal chance and too many bad wides. Some things never change. Next year……. (again).

  3. I have to single out James Nallen for praise as the Crossmolina stalwart embarassed some of the younger players with his hungry faultless display after all these years. There are also what-if questions about what Ciaran Mcdonald would have contributed today.

  4. not at the races – not even a horse!

    worst fears came to light watching the game yesterday it was ironic however with all the talk about how fragile our defence was it was our attack the looked limp and dead in the water.

    where do we go from here – no doubt some of the lads might call it a day – nallen, heaney. felt the team lacked confidence and self belief like the galway game when the opportunity came to win the game nobody stood up and lead the way – since O’ Mahony has taken the reigns I really do feel that we have gone backwards in attitude and belief aside from the rebuilding process and blooding new players. O’ mahony hasnt built a spirit or a know how within the team and after two years at the helm you gotta ask the questions why the feck not, we might not have the best team in the land but why we cant even have a system and a sense of organisation stumps me (look at westmeath) – for this reason alone I feel O’ Mahony has failed big time. Great teams play to their strengths O’Mahony still doesnt know what they are.

    The last time I saw a Mayo team playing with belief, purpose and a plan was under mickey moran, okay we fell at the last hurdle but at least until then we looked like decent contenders with this team at no stage through the league or championship have we looked like we knew what we were doing or how to get from ‘a’ to ‘b.’

    Sorry that this is turning into a rant WJ but very frustrated with how we threw away another game. O’Mahony has to start making some hard and fast calls or this team will continue to spiral downwards when confidence is low its a hard thing to change – we are getting into a habit of losing

    players on the team obviously arent good enough – andy moran for one 3 x times yesterday he kicked passses that totally missed their target or went over the sideline, wrong choices bad decisions just not up for the task. players that we I thought were of a certain quality in my view have taken a step backwards McGarrity I feel has lost form completely from a man who came into the game from a basketball background you could see a couple of years ago how he valued possession of the ball its a key element of basketball and he translated it so well when he first came to the mayo team but now looking at him yesterday time and time again he gained possession and then threw it away needlessly when we needed to get into a scoring position.

    thought kilcoyne had a mare yesterday where is the confident under 21star was was throwing points over from impossible angles?? He missed 3 easy points yesterday why the feck could mort not take his goal?

    whatever o mahonys plan of re-building is i think he needs to re-look at his blueprints as the foundations of this team are faulty, i could go on but whats the point, we came, we saw, and we went home another bad day at the office.

    sorry that this is such depressing reading but as David Brady said on TV3 there are no fences to climb in Mayo all we have is stone walls and we have just hit another one!

    well WJ looks like you can take a break now after watching yesterdays game I’m sure you will be glad of it.

  5. Willie Joe says:

    I agree, Sean, Jimmy Nallen is one of the very few who can look back on a good championship campaign for us this year. He was excellent in all three matches and what he lacked in pace, he more than made up for in craft and intelligence.

    You’re not the only one who feels like a rant now, Nathan, and what you have to say chimes fairly well with how I feel right now. We’ve gone backwards alarmingly over the past two years and I for one have lost all confidence in Johnno’s ability to take the team forwards. I’ll be returning to this topic at more length later in the week, I think …

  6. hi wj, was in dublin yesterday and to be honest was left annoyed and a bit p***** off to be honest… I fully agree with everything you say and have to applaud the aptness at which you have caught the many Issues evident yesterday…
    In my opinion our backs were good … I mean 1 scores was not a bad score to concede… we still havent got a full back which disappoints me as that was a problem we knew of since 2006!
    Our forwards really let us down … I mean 14 yards out and hand passing the ball wide or kicking the ball wide … is just unacceptable at that level… In fairness you would be disappointed with same at a junior c match ,lets be honest.
    Mayo had ten competitive games this year … won 3, drew one and lost the rest… in any mans terms a failure
    A few questions if I may- Why have we no free taker ? … the importance of a good free taker is essential and honestly since maurice sheridan we have had none …
    We are regarded as being in a period of transition yet the team that finished the connaught final three weeks ago, there were only two guys who finished who didnt play in the all ireland final in 2006 ?
    Lets not mention the Mac Factor , as I see it we really do not have 6 good enough forwards to leave him out ….
    Cheers as always WJ – p.s. billy joe played well yesterday ! for a full back !!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. innocentbystander says:

    I don’t see why Jimmy Nallen or David Heaney should retire, they were among Mayos best performers yesterday. Kicking high balls into Mortimer was a poor tactic and I don’t see why they persisted with it, but he has the responsibility to at least go and make an honest effort to challenge for the dirty ball when it’s kicked into him- something I think he has never done. If it’s not a low ball he will make only a token effort to get it. That said, perhaps he has to shoulder too much of the scoring burden- Mayo need him to be more than he is- they need him to improve and be a Stevie McD, a Coulter or a Donaghy- a match winner- something he is not at the minute. Opposing teams don’t fear him, and if he is Mayos main forward, he needs to be able to panic defenders. Also, he’s just not able to kick the ball over forty yards, so he should not be taking 45’s. He will need to work hard for hours and hours to improve those parts of his game- and I don’t know if he has the stomach for it- not too many have.
    If the high ball tactic was to be stuck with, then why not have Austin O’Malley in there? I don’t understand why he cannot carry his impressive spring form into the summer. Perhaps he needs to be handled differently by management re training but I would have thought Johnno would have spotted this. No reason why handling errors should start to appear in his game in May.
    Too many lads underperformed yesterday- Dillon, Moran, Kilcoyne were poor, Pat Harte was sub par and although BJP and The Mort played well there are perhaps only 5 forwards in Ireland that can carry a team in such circumstances, they are not in that list so it was no suprise ye lost on that basis.
    Ronan McGarity did more harm than good when he came on- his foot passing is still too erratic. An honest and decent player but unfortunately limited.
    Peadar Gardiner aquitted himself well doing a job on Dooher, repeating the 2004 performance.

    So where now for Maigh Eo? For the first time in a while I don’t think there is an All-Ireland in this group of players- the forwards are just not good enough, and Johnno has unearthed no significant new players.
    Why no new players?
    Aidan Kilcoynes progress is particularly disappointing- I have a theory on this- no more than young Mort he probably spent hours practising from ages 10-20. Now he has made it to being a countyman and the committment with all the gymwork etc doesn’t allow him to put in the time working on the weaknesses in his game- hand passing and kicking with his weaker side. He is probably putting in more hours than ever- but most would be working on his strengths. I think most lads would benefit from taking out one of their gym sessions and taking themselves down to their club pitches with a mate and going back to what got them there in the first place- practising their skills. Alot of lads including the Mort, are one dimensional for the above reason, whereas the Gooch or Declan O’Sullivan have a much more balanced and well rounded game.
    I know you will think I am too hard on Conor Mort, but he is Mayos best forward and should be judged against other county’s best forwards.

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