It starts again here

AIF 2013

As we start out on the journey in the 2013 Championship, it worthwhile, I think, casting our collective minds back to last September. Aside from the match itself, what I remember most clearly from September 23rd, 2012, was the defiant attitude shown by James Horan, his players and supporters at the post-match banquet. Sure, we were all sick in the stomach at having had to endure yet another All-Ireland defeat but the mood that night was far from downbeat. And James did say, to a loud and earthy cheer, that it was only the beginning for his team.

And so, almost eight months on, we’re setting off again tomorrow at the start of another campaign, with another Game 1 to be won. It’s still fresh in our minds what it’s like to be involved all the way to September and that’s the scent we want in our nostrils again. Only this time without the sour taste of defeat at the end.

Any fool can tell us that our appearance in last year’s final is no guarantee that we’ll feature when it matters this year – our own forlorn 2007 campaign and Down’s failure in 2011 confirm this – which means that we have to go back and write the whole bloody book all over again. But that’s what has to be done if we’re ever to get our hands on Sam again.

Galway will always be a team we respect and tomorrow will be no different. Even more so because we’re facing them on their own ground, a venue where we haven’t had much cause for celebration down the years. Our paths have diverged a fair bit since we last locked horns with them in Salthill but Alan Mulholland is a good manager and his blend of older heads combined with several of the 2011 U21 All-Ireland team should have every confidence of putting it up to us. As someone remarked a few days ago (I can’t recall who it was now), worse teams than this Galway one got the better of their Mayo equivalents down the years. Maybe this one will too.

Connacht Final 2009

Our injury crisis certainly doesn’t help matters. We take the field tomorrow missing five players who, if they were 100% fit, would all be certain to start with a sixth, Chris Barrett, also very likely to have made the team.

Think about that for a minute: that’s 40% of our first team out of action tomorrow. If Donegal were to suffer that rate of attrition, Tyrone would have ten points at least to spare on them next weekend. Even Dublin, with their embarrassment of talent, might start to feel the pinch if they lost that many of their first fifteen. Fair play to James Horan, then, to paint this misfortune in a positive way, by pointing to the opportunities that have opened up for others to stake their claim on jerseys.

And, of course, as that awful saying goes, we are where we are. Tomorrow offers more established panel members like Kevin Keane, Alan Freeman, Enda Varley and, to a lesser extent, Seamus O’Shea the chance to show that they truly deserve a place on the first fifteen as well as giving new faces Cathal Carolan and Darren Coen the opportunity to make the step up to the championship team. All of them deserve our support, none of them need criticising here or anywhere else before the ball is thrown in at Pearse Stadium tomorrow.

It’s difficult to know what kind of game it’ll be tomorrow but I know what kind of contest I don’t want to see. Back in 2007, Galway took complete control around the middle from the start, hit us hard and often and scored two goals inside the first twenty minutes. That effectively did for us that day. Every team knows that early goals are still the way to unsettle us so we can, as James said in that piece linked above, expect Galway to come at us with everything they have right from the start. While I’d love to see us do likewise, it has to be more important for us instead to control the game’s tempo early on and then gradually seek to take control of the contest. So while we’re unlikely to win the match in the first twenty minutes, the more important thing is that we don’t lose it by then either.

Having not seen Galway play in the flesh since that horrible wet and cold day in McHale Park two summers ago, it’s difficult to know how well they’re fixed heading into tomorrow’s clash. Last year was meant to be a new start under Mulholland but after all the praise heaped on them following their sparkling destruction of Roscommon, their fall thereafter was rapid and far from pretty.

They’re better than that, surely, and by their own admission have been readying themselves for this challenge ever since the draw was made last October. But we’ve been girding ourselves for a test such as this even longer: that process surely began in the Regency the night of last year’s final and tomorrow provides us with our first opportunity to show the kind of business we mean in 2013.

I’m reasonably confident that we’ll have enough to get over this high, early hurdle tomorrow but only if we perform at the kind of level we displayed once we hit Croke Park last year. Anything less than that and the Tribesmen – stung, surely, by this long period in the doldrums – won’t need a written invitation to take advantage of any failings we display. I’d love to see us going to town on them but I can’t, in truth, envisage that happening. The important thing for us is to get the win and after a bit of a battle it’s a win I expect us to emerge with by the sea tomorrow.

29 thoughts on “It starts again here

  1. Agree with everything you say WJ especially about giving the new lads a chance.
    Six injuries means we have to have replacements and if only three of the front six play well, it should be enough based on the solidity of our defence.
    JH knows his panel by know and what they have been showing.
    If you have been reading the interviews during the week, two players have mentioned the amount of heavy training that they were doing during the league campaign so expect to see more pace, better timing and link up play tomorrow
    It will be a solid test of where we are with (hopefully) 5 months of action to play

  2. Best of luck to the mayo team tomorrow. This is my first time posting on this page but not my first visit.

    I am chairman of a new gaelic football club in sussex called crawley & brighton gaels. We are based in crawley near gatwick airport and play in the London junior league and championship. We have strong connections with mayo and would like to keep and build on that. So anyone who may be moving to sussex/surrey (even south london…we have lads working their that train in clapham twice a week) or if you would like to support in any way please contact gaainsussex@gmail.com.
    MAIGH EO ABU.

    Is mise le meas,
    Ronan O’Morain
    Caothairleach
    Crawley & Brighton Gaels

  3. Well said WJ and I fully agree that anything less than full-tilt intensity will see us on the Bus tour through the qualifiers. I would be hopeful that the games we had to win against Cork and Donegal in the league will stand to us because I expect this to be a down to the wire battle. Galway will throw everything at us in the belief that if they can turn us over they will become contenders, remember 1998 when they beat us in Castlebar and how they blossomed from there. I don’t think the current Galway team have the same outstanding individual players that that team had but they have home advantage and absolutely nothing to lose.

    The other thing Galway will surely take a lot of heart from is our injury crisis. Numbers one to seven are probably our best players in those positions but the missing players are from eight to fifteen where if all our panel was fit only three of those selected imo would be guaranteed a starting place, AOS, COC and KMcL. Dillon, the two Morans, Conroy and Doc would most likely be in the team which points to a much weakened midfield and attack.

    It’s a real test of the panel and if we can get through, it will auger well for the summer as hopefully we will get more of those players back. I foresee a hell of a battle with us getting over the line by the skin of our teeth provided we play with an all out intensity from the off.

    Let’s hope we can step over the banana skin and the porter will be sweet afterwards.

  4. Well done Ronan. Massive logistical task setting up a new club. I know you have a very close connection to the Mayo squad but don’t forget to use your Mohill connection as well! Good luck for the future

  5. Well lads, anybody know what the story with tickets is? Still haven’t got mine,do ye think they will be available down there tomorrow?Surely it is not going to be a sell out?

  6. Agree with you there WJ, along with most of the other comments.
    I’d be confident that we have enough to beat Galway, but it certainly won’t be easy. And of course because it is Galway, you just never know. That’s why I’m slightly more nervous than I would be if we were playing any other team in Connacht.

    The injuries are definitely a hindrance, but we should try and look at it in a positive light.
    If we do indeed win tomorrow, I think these injuries could yet act as a major help for the rest of the summer. We’d have fringe players that would have gained valuable big game experience and they’d have the added confidence boost of being part of a Mayo team (short 5 or 6 regular starters) that beat Galway in their own backyard.
    It would also push on the players coming back from injury, they’d have to try and shift the lads already there – could make for some very competitive training games.

    We’ve always wanted a strong and competitive squad, I think we’re getting there now.

    But of course all of this is dependent on one thing – beating Galway tomorrow.

    Good luck to James and the lads and safe journey for all of ye going.

    Up Mayo

  7. Hello All, Me thinks too much is being made of these 5 or 6 injuries both here and in the newspapers. It gives the latter a few lines to put in their column.

    No doubt, J.Hoan would be criticized if he had not given 1 or 2 new forwards a chance especially with Alan Dillom, Andy Moran able to come on and also maybe we will see something of Murphy?

    Without thse injuries the talk would probably be that the game would be decided on who wins midfield? The O’ Sheas would be the choice of many as would Keane in the backs.

    Freeman may be as good as Doherty on the day, Varley does very well to my eyes, and Coen must be showing up well. Without Conroy, the tactics may be varied a little but would they not have to do this anyway?. If this game is lost I doubt if it will be due to injuries. 3 Mayo goals would not surprise me.

  8. ciaran cahill says:
    May 18, 2013 at 5:32 pm
    Hello All, Me thinks too much is being made of these 5 or 6 injuries both here and in the newspapers. It gives the latter a few lines to put in their column.
    No doubt, J.Hoan would be criticized if he had not given 1 or 2 new forwards a chance especially with Alan Dillom, Andy Moran able to come on and also maybe we will see something of Murphy?
    Without thse injuries the talk would probably be that the game would be decided on who wins midfield? The O’ Sheas would be the choice of many as would Keane in the backs.
    Freeman may be as good as Doherty on the day, Varley does very well to my eyes, and Coen must be showing up well. Without Conroy, the tactics may be varied a little but would they not have to do this anyway?. If this game is lost I doubt if it will be due to injuries. 3 Mayo goals would not surprise me.

    ———————————–

    I agree with all of that apart from the 3 goals bit that would suprise me.

    Two much is made of the injuries. Dillion,Moran on the bench Dillion is rumoured to start if he does Mayo will be starting with 12 of the team that lined out v Donegal last September.

    Conry,jason doherty aren’t big scores whos to say that Coen,Freeman won’t score as much as them? SOS is a more than capable replacement for Barry Moran though it’s rumoured that Barry will now make the bench.

    All in all i expect a close game with Mayo pulling away in the final 10 mins.

  9. We will win if coc takes all our free kicks.
    Anyone who witnessed the shambles v Kildare at home, will know what I mean.

    Maigh Eo Abu

  10. Coc didn’t take the free kicks v Galway in 2011. That was some shambles everyone including the goalkeeper was missing them though Mayo still ran out 6 point winners.

  11. Horan’s team has not lost a match yet that it has been favourite win and I expect them to win tomorrow. A one point win and no fresh injury worries would be a great result.
    Hup Mayo

  12. Was Mayo not favourites to beat Kildare,Down during the league this year?

    Of all the injuries Barry Moran is biggest blow but as said already Seamie O’Shea isn’t a bad replacement. I think if the injuries were to Keith Higgins,AOS,O’Connor,McLoughlin it would hurt Mayo a lot more. Galway will be without their best defender in Hanley i think Freeman will have a good game with him not playing.

    It’s a solid back 6 Mayo have and they should hold Galway to about 0-10/12 and that should give Mayo the platform to win this game.

  13. Well here we go. Very proud that Keith, a gud ballyhaunis man ,is captain tomorrow. A grt lad from a grt family. Probably a seminal moment for this team. Its a big ask to go to salthill with all these injuries but what a win it would be. Mayo by three and a long year ahead. Hup mayo!

  14. I wonder is this the same defence that got skinned by the dubs twice this year! They will have to put in a very solid performance in salthill. I would hate to lose by a miserable point [two goals to nil) if you get my drift.
    We simply cannot afford to concede goals for the simple reason that we have not been scoring many ourselves.
    I have a notion that we could see last minute changes including alan dillon, cuniffe and even barry moran. If they are on the bench we have to assume they are ready for action ……so why not start them. That said I cannot see how andy moran could have any part to play tomorrow.

    I expect to win if we keep them goal-less but I expect one very tense 70 mins.

  15. Dillion and Cuniffe will start with Keane and Coen dropping to the bench.

    I cannot see Andy takin any part would be a huge risk.

    Except Conroy to start at full forward for galway with armstrong startin on the forty.

    Good start for mayo is vital and not to concede any early goals.

    Mayo to win by 3 points

  16. Hi Willie Joe,
    Its Martin the Dub here, just a quick message to wish you and all the Mayo gang the best of luck tomorrow. I am sure it will be a good game and its great that 2 great teams fight it out in the early stages, as the Championship usually starts unnoticed. Anyway best of luck to Mayo and have a great year.

    Kind Regards,
    Martin

  17. A lot will depend on the conditions during the game. I hope your just kidding with us about the possibility of a pp on the game mayo magic!
    Assuming it will be played, I expect a close enough game, back and forth. WJ brings up a good point on the first 20 minutes, we should tighten up at the back, and not concede any early goal. Galway wil for sure have studied the tapes and will target this vulnerability.
    They wil also have taken note of our midfield pairing and their ability to dominate so expect them to try and bypass that with short and quick kick outs, that may negate any influence the O’Shea’s may have. With a fairly experienced back line (me thinks Cunniffe to start?)I think we can hold off the Galway forwards.
    At the other end, yes we are missing a few veterans, but still, this is a great opportunity for Coen, Varley et al to make a huge impact and cement their c’ship spots.
    I’m still hopeful of ~1-15 scoring haul for us and I think this will be enough to see Galway off and for us to move on. Up Mayo!

  18. Lets see confidence, belief and determination from Mayo today. Underestimate Galway at your peril. Every good wish to James and the team today.

  19. Galway have a better looking team on paper, if they are up for this game; I think they will win. Looking forward to see O Curroin in midfield. Conroy needs to be closer to the goal, he destroyed us at full forward last year. Should be a good game.

  20. More interested in the Cunniffe and Dillon malarky. If this is true why not name them on the team from the off…who is codding who here?…if Garryedman has it and by the way I heard that rumor from a guy in Belfast last Thursday, it is safe to assume that Galway also know it and aren’t exactly going to go “oh dear, we never saw that one coming”. .

  21. Confirmed on Twitter that Cunniffe replaces Keane and Dillon replaces Coen. Doesn’t add any physicality to the side but hope it goes well for everyone.

  22. Jesus lads im dreaming. A serious marker for everyone else. Well done lads and welcome back andy.

  23. And someone pin all our comments on the wall before the next match. While its part and parcel of following the team to speculate and put forth our opinions on what might happen (although same phrase it as will), lets all remember, none of us really has a fecken clue 🙂

  24. john cuffe – Galway aren’t exactly going to go “oh dear, we never saw that one coming”. Well, they played like they did.

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